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NBER Working Papers and Publications
|November 2016||Shifting College Majors in Response to Advanced Placement Exam Scores|
with Christopher Avery, Oded Gurantz, Jonathan Smith: 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...
|May 2015||Giving College Credit Where it is Due: Advanced Placement Exam Scores and College Outcomes|
with Jonathan Smith, 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 2015||Access to Four-Year Public Colleges and Degree Completion|
with Joshua Goodman, Jonathan Smith: 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.