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Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition

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  • John Bound
  • Brad Hershbein
  • Bridget Terry Long

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • John Bound & Brad Hershbein & Bridget Terry Long, 2009. "Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition," NBER Working Papers 15272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15272
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pia M. Orrenius & Madeline Zavodny, 2015. "Does Immigration Affect Whether US Natives Major in Science and Engineering?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(S1), pages 79-108.
    2. Brad J. Hershbein, 2013. "Worker Signals among New College Graduates: The Role of Selectivity and GPA," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 13-190, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    3. Garey Ramey & Valerie A. Ramey, 2010. "The Rug Rat Race," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 41(1 (Spring), pages 129-199.
    4. Takao Kato & Chad Sparber, 2013. "Quotas and Quality: The Effect of H-1B Visa Restrictions on the Pool of Prospective Undergraduate Students from Abroad," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 109-126, March.
    5. Hurwitz, Michael, 2011. "The impact of legacy status on undergraduate admissions at elite colleges and universities," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 480-492, June.
    6. Chung, Keunsuk & Lee, Dongryul, 2017. "Inefficient competition in shadow-education investment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 152-165.
    7. Brian G. Knight & Nathan M. Schiff, 2019. "Reducing Frictions in College Admissions: Evidence from the Common Application," NBER Working Papers 26151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Estrada, Ricardo, 2016. "The Effect of the Increasing Demand for Elite Schools on Stratification," Economics Working Papers MWP2016/02, European University Institute.
    9. Joshua Goodman & Michael Hurwitz & Jonathan Smith, "undated". "Access to Four-Year Public Colleges and Degree Completion," Working Paper 175226, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    10. John Bound & Breno Braga & Gaurav Khanna & Sarah Turner, 2019. "Public Universities: The Supply Side of Building a Skilled Workforce," NBER Working Papers 25945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. W. Bentley MacLeod & Evan Riehl & Juan E. Saavedra & Miguel Urquiola, 2017. "The Big Sort: College Reputation and Labor Market Outcomes," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 223-261, July.
    12. James A. Dearden & Suhui Li & Chad D. Meyerhoefer & Muzhe Yang, 2017. "Demonstrated Interest: Signaling Behavior In College Admissions," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(4), pages 630-657, October.
    13. Sevilla, Almudena & Borra, Cristina, 2015. "Parental Time Investments in Children: The Role of Competition for University Places in the UK," IZA Discussion Papers 9168, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. 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 119-146, Fall.
    15. Liu, Liqun & Neilson, William S., 2011. "High scores but low skills," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 507-516, June.
    16. Ressler, Robert W., 2020. "What village? Opportunities and supports for parental involvement outside of the family context," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 108(C).
    17. Peter Arcidiacono & Josh Kinsler & Tyler Ransom, 2019. "Divergent: The Time Path of Legacy and Athlete Admissions at Harvard," NBER Working Papers 26315, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Carpenter, Kathie, 2015. "Childhood studies and orphanage tourism in Cambodia," Annals of Tourism Research, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 15-27.
    19. Nicholas A. Bowman & Michael N. Bastedo, 2018. "What Role May Admissions Office Diversity and Practices Play in Equitable Decisions?," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 59(4), pages 430-447, June.
    20. repec:hrv:hksfac:34298861 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Goodman, Joshua & Hurwitz, Michael & Smith, Jonathan, 2015. "College Access, Initial College Choice and Degree Completion," Working Paper Series rwp14-030, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    22. Holzer, Harry J., 2019. "The US Labor Market in 2050: Supply, Demand and Policies to Improve Outcomes," IZA Policy Papers 148, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    23. Michael Kaganovich & Sinan Sarpca & Xuejuan Su, 2020. "Competition in Higher Education: A Survey," CESifo Working Paper Series 8220, CESifo.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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