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Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition

  • John Bound
  • Brad Hershbein
  • Bridget Terry Long

Gaining entrance to a four-year college or university, particularly a selective institution, has become increasingly competitive over the last several decades. We document this phenomenon and show how it has varied across different parts of the student ability distribution and across region, with the most pronounced increases in competition being found among higher-ability students and in the Northeast. Additionally, we explore how the college preparatory behavior of high school seniors has changed in response to the growth in competition. We also discuss the theoretical implications of increased competition on longer-term measures of learning and achievement and attempt to test them empirically; the evidence and related literature, while limited, suggests little long-term benefit.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15272.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Publication status: published as John Bound & Brad Hershbein & Bridget Terry Long, 2009. "Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 119-46, Fall.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15272
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  1. John Bound & Sarah Turner, 2007. "Understanding the Increased Time to the Baccalaureate Degree," Discussion Papers 06-043, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  2. John Bound & Brad Hershbein & Bridget Terry Long, 2009. "Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 119-46, Fall.
  3. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
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  7. McDuff, DeForest, 2007. "Quality, tuition, and applications to in-state public colleges," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 433-449, August.
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  12. Winston, G.C., 2000. "Economic Stratification and Hierarchy Among U.S. Colleges and Universities," Williams Project on the Economics of Higher Education DP-58, Department of Economics, Williams College.
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  15. Gordon C. Winston, 1999. "Subsidies, Hierarchy and Peers: The Awkward Economics of Higher Education," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 13-36, Winter.
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