Income-Based Affirmative Action in College Admissions
47 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2015 Last revised: 31 Jan 2023
Date Written: March 18, 2019
We study whether college admissions should implement quotas for lower-income applicants. We develop an overlapping-generations model and calibrate it to data from Brazil, where such a policy is widely implemented. In our model, parents choose how much to invest in their child’s education, thereby increasing both human capital and likelihood of college admission. We find that, in the long run, the optimal income-based affirmative action increases welfare and aggregate output. It improves the pool of admitted students but distorts pre-college educational investments. The welfare-maximizing policy benefits lower- to middle-income applicants with income-based quotas, while higher-income applicants face fiercer competition in college admissions. The optimal policy reduces intergenerational persistence of earnings by 5.7% and makes nearly 80% of households better off.
Keywords: Affirmative Action, Intergenerational Mobility, Educational Investment
JEL Classification: I2, E24, J62
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