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The Effect of Housing Wealth on College Choice: Evidence from the Housing Boom

  • Michael F. Lovenheim
  • C. Lockwood Reynolds

The higher education system in the United States is characterized by a large degree of quality heterogeneity, and there is a growing literature suggesting students attending higher quality universities have better educational and labor market outcomes. In this paper, we use NLSY97 data combined with the difference in the timing and strength of the housing boom across cities to examine how short-run home price growth affects the quality of postsecondary schools chosen by students. Our findings indicate a $10,000 increase in a family's housing wealth in the four years prior to a student becoming of college-age increases the likelihood she attends a flagship public university relative to a non-flagship public university by 2.0 percent and decreases the relative probability of attending a community college by 1.6 percent. These effects are driven by relatively lower and middle-income families. We show that these changes are due to the effect of housing wealth on where students apply, not on whether they are admitted. We also find that short-run increases in home prices lead to increases in direct quality measures of the institutions students attend. Finally, for the lower-income sample, we find home price increases reduce student labor supply and that each $10,000 increase in home prices is associated with a 1.8% increase in the likelihood of completing college.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18075.

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Date of creation: May 2012
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Publication status: published as Michael F. Lovenheim & C. Lockwood Reynolds, 2013. "The Effect of Housing Wealth on College Choice: Evidence from the Housing Boom," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 1-35.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18075
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  12. Babcock, Phillip & Marks, Mindy, 2010. "The Falling Time Cost of College: Evidence from Half a Century of Time Use Data," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt7rc9d7vz, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  13. Michael F. Lovenheim & Kevin J. Mumford, 2013. "Do Family Wealth Shocks Affect Fertility Choices? Evidence from the Housing Market," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 464-475, May.
  14. Black, Dan A. & Smith, J.A.Jeffrey A., 2004. "How robust is the evidence on the effects of college quality? Evidence from matching," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 99-124.
  15. Rodney J. Andrews & Jing Li & Michael F. Lovenheim, 2012. "Quantile Treatment Effects of College Quality on Earnings: Evidence from Administrative Data in Texas," NBER Working Papers 18068, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1995. "Democratization or Diversion? The Effect of Community Colleges on Educational Attainment," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 217-24, April.
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  26. Terry Long, B.Bridget, 2004. "How have college decisions changed over time? An application of the conditional logistic choice model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 271-296.
  27. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2009. "The Consequences of Mortgage Credit Expansion: Evidence from the U.S. Mortgage Default Crisis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1449-1496.
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  29. Pallais, Amanda & Turner, Sarah, 2006. "Opportunities for Low–Income Students at Top Colleges and Universities: Policy Initiatives and the Distribution of Students," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(2), pages 357-86, June.
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