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School Tracking and Access to Higher Education Among Disadvantaged Groups


  • Ofer Malamud
  • Cristian Pop-Eleches


When students are tracked into vocational and academic secondary schools, access to higher education is usually restricted to those who completed an academic track. Postponing such tracking may increase university attendance among disadvantaged students if additional time in school enables them to catch up with their more privileged counterparts. However, if ability and expectations are fairly well set by an early age, postponing tracking during adolescence may not have much effect. This paper exploits an educational reform in Romania to examine the impact of postponing tracking on the proportion of disadvantaged students graduating from university using a regression discontinuity (RD) design. We show that, although students from poor, rural areas and with less educated parents were significantly more likely to finish an academic track and become eligible to apply for university after the reform, this did not translate into an increase in university completion. Our findings indicate that simply postponing tracking, without increasing the slots available in university, is not sufficient to improve access to higher education for disadvantaged groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Ofer Malamud & Cristian Pop-Eleches, 2011. "School Tracking and Access to Higher Education Among Disadvantaged Groups," NBER Working Papers 16914, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16914
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    Cited by:

    1. Piopiunik, Marc, 2014. "The effects of early tracking on student performance: Evidence from a school reform in Bavaria," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 12-33.
    2. Martina Zweimuller, 2013. "The Effects of School Entry Laws on Educational Attainment and Starting Wages in an Early Tracking System," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 111-112, pages 141-169.
    3. Huebener, Mathias & Marcus, Jan, 2017. "Compressing instruction time into fewer years of schooling and the impact on student performance," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 1-14.
    4. Bart H. H. Golsteyn & Anders Stenberg, 2017. "Earnings over the Life Course: General versus Vocational Education," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(2), pages 167-212.
    5. Bastian Ravesteijn & Hans van Kippersluis & Mauricio Avendano & Pekka Martikainen & Hannu Vessari & Eddy van Doorslaer, 2017. "The Impact of Later Tracking on Mortality by Parental Income in Finland," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 17-030/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    6. Klara Gurzo, 2014. "The long term effects of early selection – a quasi natural policy experiment from Hungary," Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación volume 9,in: Adela García Aracil & Isabel Neira Gómez (ed.), Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación 9, edition 1, volume 9, chapter 21, pages 407-427 Asociación de Economía de la Educación.
    7. Christian Dustmann & Patrick A. Puhani & Uta Schönberg, 2012. "The Long-term Effects of School Quality on Labor Market Outcomes and Educational Attainment," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1208, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    8. Lange, Simon & von Werder, Marten, 2016. "Tracking and the Intergenerational Transmission of Education: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145784, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    9. Gruber, Lloyd & Kosack, Stephen, 2014. "The tertiary tilt: education and inequality in the developing world," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 54202, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    10. G. Brunello & M. Fort & G. Weber & C. T. Weiss, 2013. "Testing the Internal Validity of Compulsory School Reforms as Instrument for Years of Schooling," Working Papers wp911, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    11. Christian Dustmann & Patrick A. Puhani & Uta Schönberg, 2017. "The Long‐term Effects of Early Track Choice," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(603), pages 1348-1380, August.
    12. repec:spr:reihed:v:58:y:2017:i:8:d:10.1007_s11162-017-9451-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Gruber, Lloyd & Kosack, Stephen, 2014. "The Tertiary Tilt: Education and Inequality in the Developing World," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 253-272.
    14. Simon Lange & Marten von Werder, 2014. "The Effects of Delayed Tracking: Evidence from German States," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 163, Courant Research Centre PEG.
    15. Werner Eichhorst & Núria Rodríguez-Planas & Ricarda Schmidl & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2015. "A Road Map to Vocational Education and Training in Industrialized Countries," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 68(2), pages 314-337, March.

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    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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