Winners and Losers? The Effect of Gaining and Losing Access to Selective Colleges on Education and Labor Market Outcomes
Selective college admissions are fundamentally a question of tradeoffs: Given capacity, admitting one student means rejecting another. Research to date has generally estimated average effects of college selectivity, and has been unable to distinguish between the effects on students gaining access and on those losing access under alternative admissions policies. We use the introduction of the Top Ten Percent rule and administrative data from the State of Texas to estimate the effect of access to a selective college on student graduation and earnings outcomes. We estimate separate effects on two groups of students. The first--highly ranked students at schools which previously sent few students to the flagship university--gain access due to the policy; the second--students outside the top tier at traditional “feeder” high schools--tend to lose access. We find that students in the first group see increases in college enrollment and graduation with some evidence of positive earnings gains 7-9 years after college. In contrast, students in the second group attend less selective colleges but do not see declines in overall college enrollment, graduation, or earnings. The Top Ten Percent rule, introduced for equity reasons, thus also seems to have improved efficiency.
The conclusions of this research do not necessarily reflect the opinion or official position of the Texas Education Research Center, the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Workforce Commission, or the State of Texas. This work was partially supported by the Research Council of Norway through its Centres of Excellence Scheme, FAIR project No 262675. We thank Eleanor Golightly, Akiva Yonah Meiselman, and Tomas Monarrez for excellent research assistance. We thank Zach Bleemer, Joshua Goodman, Sarena Goodman, and participants in seminars at Brigham Young University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Texas at Austin, Yale, NBER Labor Studies, and the Society for Labor Economists, for their helpful comments. We also thank Rodney Andrews, Scott Imberman, and Mike Lovenheim for sharing their data on the Century/Longhorn Scholars. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Texas’s Top 10 Percent rule raised college attendance, graduation, and earnings for students from underrepresented high schools who...