Choosing a Proxy for Academic Aptitude
18 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2013
Date Written: March 27, 2013
Although academic ability is the most important explanatory variable in studies of student learning, researchers control for it with a wide array of proxies and combinations thereof. We investigate how the proxy choice affects estimates of undergraduate student learning by testing over 150 specifications of a single model, each including a different combination of 11 scholastic aptitude measures — high school GPA and rank and variants of college GPA and SAT scores. Proxy choices alone cause the magnitude of the estimated learning gains to vary by large and meaningful amounts, with increases ranging from a C to less than a B- or to a B. We find that collegiate GPA data offer the best proxy for students’ individual propensities to learn economics — a result that runs counter to researchers’ actual proxy choices. Our results suggest that scholars should control for academic aptitude with college grades and either SAT scores or high school GPA or rank.
Keywords: methodology, proxy variables, student learning, undergraduate economics
JEL Classification: A22, C81, I21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation