Jockeying for Position: Strategic High School Choice Under Texas' Top Ten Percent Plan

39 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2011 Last revised: 14 Jul 2011

See all articles by Julie Berry Cullen

Julie Berry Cullen

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Mark C. Long

University of Washington - Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs

Randall Reback

Columbia University, Barnard College - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2011

Abstract

Beginning in 1998, all students in the state of Texas who graduated in the top ten percent of their high school classes were guaranteed admission to any in-state public higher education institution, including the flagships. While the goal of this policy is to improve college access for disadvantaged and minority students, the use of a school-specific standard to determine eligibility could have unintended consequences. Students may increase their chances of being in the top ten percent by choosing a high school with lower-achieving peers. Our analysis of students' school transitions between 8th and 10th grade three years before and after the policy change reveals that this incentive influences enrollment choices in the anticipated direction. Among the subset of students with both motive and opportunity for strategic high school choice, as many as 25 percent enroll in a different high school to improve the chances of being in the top ten percent. Strategic students tend to choose the neighborhood high school in lieu of more competitive magnet schools and, regardless of own race, typically displace minority students from the top ten percent pool. The net effect of strategic behavior is to slightly decrease minority students' representation in the pool.

Suggested Citation

Berry Cullen, Julianne (Julie) and Long, Mark C. and Reback, Randall L., Jockeying for Position: Strategic High School Choice Under Texas' Top Ten Percent Plan (January 2011). NBER Working Paper No. w16663, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1737211

Julianne (Julie) Berry Cullen (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Mark C. Long

University of Washington - Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs ( email )

Seattle, WA 98125
United States

Randall L. Reback

Columbia University, Barnard College - Department of Economics ( email )

3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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