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Jockeying for Position: Strategic High School Choice Under Texas' Top Ten Percent Plan

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  • Julie Berry Cullen
  • Mark C. Long
  • Randall Reback

Abstract

Beginning in 1998, all students in the state of Texas who graduated in the top ten percent of their high school classes were guaranteed admission to any in-state public higher education institution, including the flagships. While the goal of this policy is to improve college access for disadvantaged and minority students, the use of a school-specific standard to determine eligibility could have unintended consequences. Students may increase their chances of being in the top ten percent by choosing a high school with lower-achieving peers. Our analysis of students' school transitions between 8th and 10th grade three years before and after the policy change reveals that this incentive influences enrollment choices in the anticipated direction. Among the subset of students with both motive and opportunity for strategic high school choice, as many as 25 percent enroll in a different high school to improve the chances of being in the top ten percent. Strategic students tend to choose the neighborhood high school in lieu of more competitive magnet schools and, regardless of own race, typically displace minority students from the top ten percent pool. The net effect of strategic behavior is to slightly decrease minority students' representation in the pool.

Suggested Citation

  • Julie Berry Cullen & Mark C. Long & Randall Reback, 2011. "Jockeying for Position: Strategic High School Choice Under Texas' Top Ten Percent Plan," NBER Working Papers 16663, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16663
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Benjamin Elsner & Ingo E. Isphording, 2017. "A Big Fish in a Small Pond: Ability Rank and Human Capital Investment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 787-828.
    2. De Fraja, Gianni & Martínez-Mora, Francisco, 2014. "The desegregating effect of school tracking," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 164-177.
    3. Figlio, D. & Karbownik, K. & Salvanes, K.G., 2016. "Education Research and Administrative Data," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    4. Kalena E. Cortes & Andrew I. Friedson, 2014. "Ranking Up by Moving Out: The Effect of the Texas Top 10% Plan on Property Values," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 67(1), pages 51-76, March.
    5. Fernanda Estevan & Thomas Gall; Patrick Legros; Andrew F. Newman, 2014. "College Admission and High School Integration," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2014_26, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
    6. Baicker, Katherine & Clemens, Jeffrey & Singhal, Monica, 2012. "The rise of the states: U.S. fiscal decentralization in the postwar period," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1079-1091.
    7. Dario Cestau & Dennis Epple & Holger Sieg, 2017. "Admitting Students to Selective Education Programs: Merit, Profiling, and Affirmative Action," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(3), pages 761-797.
    8. Rodney Andrews & Omari Swinton, 2014. "The Persistent Myths of “Acting White” and Race Neutral Alternatives to Affirmative Action in Admissions," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 41(3), pages 357-371, September.
    9. Peter Arcidiacono & Michael Lovenheim, 2016. "Affirmative Action and the Quality-Fit Trade-Off," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(1), pages 3-51, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H73 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Interjurisdictional Differentials and Their Effects
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J60 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - General
    • J78 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Public Policy (including comparable worth)

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