NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Universities

Christopher Avery, Mark Glickman, Caroline Hoxby, Andrew Metrick

NBER Working Paper No. 10803
Issued in October 2004
NBER Program(s):   ED

We show how to construct a ranking of U.S. undergraduate programs based on students' revealed preferences. We construct examples of national and regional rankings, using hand-collected data on 3,240 high- achieving students. Our statistical model extends models used for ranking players in tournaments, such as chess or tennis. When a student makes his matriculation decision among colleges that have admitted him, he chooses which college "wins" in head-to-head competition. The model exploits the information contained in thousands of these wins and losses. Our method produces a ranking that would be difficult for a college to manipulate. In contrast, it is easy to manipulate the matriculation rate and the admission rate, which are the common measures of preference that receive substantial weight in highly publicized college rating systems. If our ranking were used in place of these measures, the pressure on colleges to practice strategic admissions would be relieved.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10803

Published: Christopher N. Avery & Mark E. Glickman & Caroline M. Hoxby & Andrew Metrick, 2013. "A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Universities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 425-467.

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