Affirmative Action and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment

47 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014

See all articles by Christopher Cotton

Christopher Cotton

Queen's University, Department of Economics

Brent Richard Hickman

University of Chicago

Joseph Price

Brigham Young University

Date Written: August 2014

Abstract

Pre-College human capital investment occurs within a competitive environment and depends on market incentives created by Affirmative Action (AA) in college admissions. These policies affect mechanisms for rank-order allocation of college seats, and alter the relative competition between blacks and whites. We present a theory of AA in university admissions, showing how the effects of AA on human capital investment differ by student ability and demographic group. We then conduct a field experiment designed to mimic important aspects of competitive investment prior to the college market. We pay students based on relative performance on a mathematics exam in order to test the incentive effects of AA, and track study efforts on an online mathematics website. Consistent with theory, AA increases average human capital investment and exam performance for the majority of disadvantaged students targeted by the policy, by mitigating so-called "discouragement effects." The experimental evidence suggests that AA can promote greater equality of market outcomes and narrow achievement gaps at the same time.

Suggested Citation

Cotton, Christopher and Hickman, Brent Richard and Price, Joseph, Affirmative Action and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment (August 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20397, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2486387

Christopher Cotton (Contact Author)

Queen's University, Department of Economics ( email )

Dunning Hall 230
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.christophercotton.ca

Brent Richard Hickman

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Joseph Price

Brigham Young University ( email )

130 FOB
Provo, UT 84604
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://economics.byu.edu/directory/joseph-p-price

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
10
Abstract Views
176
PlumX Metrics