Apply Yourself: Racial and Ethnic Differences in College Application
Access to higher education begins with a student’s decision whether and where to apply to college. This paper examines racial and ethnic differences in college application behavior of high school graduates, using two recent graduation cohorts from Texas. We estimate racial and ethnic differences in the probability of applying to college, controlling for a student’s college readiness, high school quality, certainty of college admissions, and high school fixed effects. We then investigate racial and ethnic differences in the choice of where to apply. We enhance the typical model of college matching by considering the social setting and high school feeder patterns of state universities. We find that racial and ethnic gaps in application rates, particularly for Hispanic students, are not explained by differential levels of college readiness, high school quality, or information regarding college admission processes. When applying to college, minorities are influenced by more than just matching their academic ability to the institution, and prefer institutions with a large proportion of same race students and campuses where same race students from their high school have been successful in the past.
The authors are grateful to the Texas Workforce Data Quality Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin’s Ray Marshall Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. The research presented here utilizes confidential data from the State of Texas supplied by the Texas Education Research Center (ERC) at the University of Texas at Austin. The authors gratefully acknowledge the use of these data. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the ERC or any of the funders or supporting organizations mentioned herein, including the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, the State of Texas, or the study’s sponsor. Any errors are attributable to the authors. Special thanks for helpful comments from Daniel Hamermesh, Darrick Hamilton, Laura Dague, Jonathan Meer, as well as seminar and conference participants at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, Southern Economic Association, American Economic Association, UT-Austin’s Economics Department, Texas A&M’s Bush Schools Quantitative Brown Bag Series, Teachers College Columbia University, and Stanford Graduate School of Education. The authors thank Jenna Cullinane, Matt Farber, Katherine Keisler, Chester Polson, Emily Weisburst, and Alan Blanch who provided outstanding research assistance. Institutional support was provided by the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, Tulane University, and Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, Center for Education Policy Analysis. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Sandra E. Black & Kalena E. Cortes & Jane Arnold Lincove, 2020. "Apply Yourself: Racial and Ethnic Differences in College Application," Education Finance and Policy, vol 15(2), pages 209-240. citation courtesy of