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Do Learning Communities Increase First Year College Retention? Testing Sample Selection and External Validity of Randomized Control Trials

Author

Listed:
  • Tarek Azzam

    (UCSB)

  • Michael Bates

    (Department of Economics, University of California Riverside)

  • David Fairris

    (UCR)

Abstract

Voluntary selection into experimental samples is ubiquitous and leads researchers to question the external validity of experimental findings. We introduce tests for sample selection on unobserved variables to discern the generalizability of randomized control trials. We estimate the impact of a learning community on first-year college retention using an RCT, and employ our tests in this setting. We compare observational and experimental estimates, considering the internal and external validity of both approaches. Intent-to-treat and local-average-treatment-effect estimates reveal no discernable programmatic effects, whereas observational estimates are significantly positive. The experimental sample is positively selected on unobserved characteristics suggesting limited external validity.

Suggested Citation

  • Tarek Azzam & Michael Bates & David Fairris, 2019. "Do Learning Communities Increase First Year College Retention? Testing Sample Selection and External Validity of Randomized Control Trials," Working Papers 202002, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucr:wpaper:202002
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    1. Black, Dan A. & Joo, Joonhwi & LaLonde, Robert & Smith, Jeffrey A. & Taylor, Evan J., 2022. "Simple Tests for Selection: Learning More from Instrumental Variables," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C).
    2. Ghanem, Dalia & Hirshleifer, Sarojini & Ortiz-Becerra, Karen, 2019. "Testing Attrition Bias in Field Experiments," 2019 Annual Meeting, July 21-23, Atlanta, Georgia 291215, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

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    Keywords

    External validity; college retention; selection on unobserved variables;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

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