Choosing a Proxy for Academic Aptitude

18 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2013

See all articles by Wayne A. Grove

Wayne A. Grove

Le Moyne College - Department of Economics

Tim Wasserman

Syracuse University

Andrew Grodner

East Carolina University - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 27, 2013

Abstract

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

Grove, Wayne A. and Wasserman, Tim and Grodner, Andrew, Choosing a Proxy for Academic Aptitude (March 27, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2240342 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2240342

Wayne A. Grove (Contact Author)

Le Moyne College - Department of Economics ( email )

1419 Salt Springs Road
Syraucse, NY 13214

HOME PAGE: http://webserver.lemoyne.edu/grovewa/

Tim Wasserman

Syracuse University ( email )

900 S. Crouse Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2130
United States

Andrew Grodner

East Carolina University - Department of Economics ( email )

A423 Brewster Building
Greenville, NC 27858
United States
2523286742 (Phone)

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