NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Affirmative Action and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment

Christopher Cotton, Brent R. Hickman, Joseph P. Price

NBER Working Paper No. 20397
Issued in August 2014
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS

Pre-College human capital investment occurs within a competitive environment and depends on market incentives created by Affirmative Action (AA) in college admissions. These policies affect mechanisms for rank-order allocation of college seats, and alter the relative competition between blacks and whites. We present a theory of AA in university admissions, showing how the effects of AA on human capital investment differ by student ability and demographic group. We then conduct a field experiment designed to mimic important aspects of competitive investment prior to the college market. We pay students based on relative performance on a mathematics exam in order to test the incentive effects of AA, and track study efforts on an online mathematics website. Consistent with theory, AA increases average human capital investment and exam performance for the majority of disadvantaged students targeted by the policy, by mitigating so-called "discouragement effects." The experimental evidence suggests that AA can promote greater equality of market outcomes and narrow achievement gaps at the same time.

download in pdf format
   (484 K)

email paper

This paper was revised on September 22, 2015

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20397

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Carrell, Hoekstra, and West w16518 Is Poor Fitness Contagious? Evidence from Randomly Assigned Friends
Acemoglu, Autor, Dorn, Hanson, and Price w20395 Import Competition and the Great U.S. Employment Sag of the 2000s
Levinson w20399 A Direct Estimate of the Technique Effect: Changes in the Pollution Intensity of US Manufacturing 1990 - 2008
Hansen w20394 Uncertainty Outside and Inside Economic Models
Jackson, Johnson, and Persico w20118 The Effect of School Finance Reforms on the Distribution of Spending, Academic Achievement, and Adult Outcomes
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us