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Divergent: The Time Path of Legacy and Athlete Admissions at Harvard

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  • Peter Arcidiacono
  • Josh Kinsler
  • Tyler Ransom

Abstract

Applications to elite US colleges have more than doubled over the past 20 years, with little change in the number of available seats. We examine how this increased competition has affected the admissions advantage that legacies and athletes (LA) receive. Using data on Harvard applications over 18 years, we show that non-legacy, non-athlete (NLNA) applications grew considerably and that LA applications remained flat. Yet, the share of LA admits remained stable, implying substantial increases in admissions advantages for legacies and athletes. We develop a simple theoretical model of university admissions to frame our empirical analysis. Viewed through the lens of the model, stability in the share of LA admits implies that elite colleges treat the number of LA admits and overall admit quality as complements. Our empirical analysis reveals that, if the admissions advantages for LA applicants had been constant throughout this period, there would have been a large increase in the number of minority admits.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26315
    Note: ED LE
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Stacy B. Dale & Alan B. Krueger, 2014. "Estimating the Effects of College Characteristics over the Career Using Administrative Earnings Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(2), pages 323-358.
    3. repec:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/694654 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Brian Jacob & Brian McCall & Kevin Stange, 2018. "College as Country Club: Do Colleges Cater to Students’ Preferences for Consumption?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 309-348.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination

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