Strategic Disclosure: The Case of Business School Rankings

25 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2013 Last revised: 25 Nov 2014

See all articles by Michael Luca

Michael Luca

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University

Date Written: November 24, 2014


We empirically analyze disclosure decisions made by 240 MBA programs about which rankings to display on their websites. We present three main findings. First, consistent with theories of countersignaling, top schools are least likely to disclose their rankings, whereas mid-ranked schools are most likely to disclose. Second, schools that do poorly in the U.S. News rankings are more likely to disclose their Princeton Review certification, suggesting that schools treat different certifications as substitutes. Third, conditional on displaying a ranking, the majority of schools coarsen information to make it seem more favorable. The stark patterns in the data help to provide empirical evidence on the strategic elements of voluntary disclosure and marketing decisions.

Keywords: Voluntary Disclosure, Information Unraveling, Marketing, Countersignaling, Rankings

Suggested Citation

Luca, Michael and Smith, Jonathan, Strategic Disclosure: The Case of Business School Rankings (November 24, 2014). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 14-010, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Luca (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States


Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University ( email )

United States

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