School Tracking and Access to Higher Education Among Disadvantaged Groups

Ofer Malamud, Cristian Pop-Eleches

NBER Working Paper No. 16914
Issued in March 2011
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education

When students are tracked into vocational and academic secondary schools, access to higher education is usually restricted to those who completed an academic track. Postponing such tracking may increase university attendance among disadvantaged students if additional time in school enables them to catch up with their more privileged counterparts. However, if ability and expectations are fairly well set by an early age, postponing tracking during adolescence may not have much effect. This paper exploits an educational reform in Romania to examine the impact of postponing tracking on the proportion of disadvantaged students graduating from university using a regression discontinuity (RD) design. We show that, although students from poor, rural areas and with less educated parents were significantly more likely to finish an academic track and become eligible to apply for university after the reform, this did not translate into an increase in university completion. Our findings indicate that simply postponing tracking, without increasing the slots available in university, is not sufficient to improve access to higher education for disadvantaged groups.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16914

Published: Malamud, Ofer & Pop-Eleches, Cristian, 2011. "School tracking and access to higher education among disadvantaged groups," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1538-1549. citation courtesy of

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