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A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Universities

  • Christopher Avery
  • Mark Glickman
  • Caroline Hoxby
  • Andrew Metrick

We show how to construct a ranking of U.S. undergraduate programs based on students' revealed preferences. We construct examples of national and regional rankings, using hand-collected data on 3,240 high- achieving students. Our statistical model extends models used for ranking players in tournaments, such as chess or tennis. When a student makes his matriculation decision among colleges that have admitted him, he chooses which college "wins" in head-to-head competition. The model exploits the information contained in thousands of these wins and losses. Our method produces a ranking that would be difficult for a college to manipulate. In contrast, it is easy to manipulate the matriculation rate and the admission rate, which are the common measures of preference that receive substantial weight in highly publicized college rating systems. If our ranking were used in place of these measures, the pressure on colleges to practice strategic admissions would be relieved.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10803.

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Date of creation: Oct 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Christopher N. Avery & Mark E. Glickman & Caroline M. Hoxby & Andrew Metrick, 2013. "A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Universities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 425-467.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10803
Note: ED
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  1. Christopher Avery & Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2004. "Do and Should Financial Aid Packages Affect Students' College Choices?," NBER Chapters, in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 239-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. James Monks & Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 1999. "The Impact of US News and World Report College Rankings on Admission Outcomes and Pricing Decisions at Selective Private Institutions," NBER Working Papers 7227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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