Jonathan Smith

Andrew Young School of Policy Studies
Georgia State University
P.O. Box 3992
Atlanta, GA 30302-3992

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

November 2016Shifting College Majors in Response to Advanced Placement Exam Scores
with Christopher Avery, Oded Gurantz, Michael Hurwitz: w22841
Mapping continuous raw scores from millions of Advanced Placement examinations onto the 1 to 5 integer scoring scale, we apply a regression discontinuity design to understand how students’ choice of college major is impacted by receiving a higher integer score despite similar exam performance to students who earned a lower integer score. Attaining higher scores increases the probability that a student will major in that exam subject by approximately 5 percent (0.64 percentage points), with some individual exams demonstrating increases in major choice by as much as 30 percent. These direct impacts of a higher score explain approximately 11 percent of the unconditional 64 percent (5.7 percentage points) gap in the probability of majoring in the same subject as the AP exam when attaining a...
October 2015A New Measure of College Quality to Study the Effects of College Sector and Peers on Degree Attainment
with Kevin Stange: w21605
Students starting at a two-year college are much less likely to graduate with a college degree than similar students who start at a four-year college but the sources of this attainment gap are largely unexplained. In this paper we simultaneously investigate the attainment consequences of sector choice and peer quality among over 3 million recent high school graduates. This analysis is enabled by data on all PSAT test-takers between 2004 and 2006 from which we develop a novel measure of peer ability for most two-year and four-year colleges in the United States- the average PSAT of enrolled students. We document substantial variation in average peer quality at two-year colleges across and within states and non-trivial overlap across sectors, neither of which has previously been documented. ...

Published: Jonathan Smith & Kevin Stange, 2016. "A New Measure of College Quality to Study the Effects of College Sector and Peers on Degree Attainment," Education Finance and Policy, vol 11(4), pages 369-403. citation courtesy of

May 2015Giving College Credit Where it is Due: Advanced Placement Exam Scores and College Outcomes
with Michael Hurwitz, Christopher Avery: w21147
We implement a regression discontinuity design using the continuous raw Advanced Placement (AP) exam scores, which are mapped into the observed 1-5 integer scores, for over 4.5 million students. Earning higher AP integer scores positively impacts college completion and subsequent exam taking. Specifically, attaining credit-granting integer scores increases the probability that a student will receive a bachelor’s degree within four years by 1 to 2 percentage points per exam. We also find that receiving a score of 3 over a 2 on junior year AP exams causes students to take between 0.06 and 0.14 more AP exams senior year.

Published: Jonathan Smith & Michael Hurwitz & Christopher Avery, 2017. "Giving College Credit Where It Is Due: Advanced Placement Exam Scores and College Outcomes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 67-147. citation courtesy of

February 2015Access to Four-Year Public Colleges and Degree Completion
with Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz: w20996
Does access to four-year colleges affect degree completion for students who would otherwise attend two-year colleges? Admission to Georgia’s four-year public sector requires minimum SAT scores. Regression discontinuity estimates show that access to this sector increases four-year college enrollment and college quality, largely by diverting students from two-year colleges. Access substantially increases bachelor’s degree completion rates for these relatively low-skilled students. SAT retaking behavior suggests students value access to four-year public colleges, though perhaps less than they should. Our results imply that absolute college quality matters more than match quality and suggest potential unintended consequences of free community college proposals.
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