Affirmative Action and Pre-College Human Capital

80 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2019

See all articles by Mitra Akhtari

Mitra Akhtari

Harvard University

Natalie Bau

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Jean-William Laliberté

University of Calgary - Department of Economics

Date Written: November 2019

Abstract

Race-based affirmative action policies are widespread in higher education. Despite the prevalence of these policies, there is limited evidence on whether they affect students before they reach college. We exploit the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, which overturned affirmative action bans in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, but not in other states, to study the effect of affirmative action on high school students' outcomes. We analyze four data sets, including nationwide SAT data and administrative data for the state of Texas. The SAT data allow us to leverage state and time variation in difference-in-differences and synthetic control group analyses. Within Texas, variation in race, time, and ex ante ability further help us to isolate the effects of the policy change on secondary school grades, attendance, and college applications. Across data sets, outcomes, and identification strategies, the results all point toward gains for underrepresented minority students and reductions in the racial achievement gap. These gains were concentrated among students in the top of the ability distribution, who also experienced the largest increases in the returns to pre-college human capital in college admissions due to the policy change. This suggests that students increased their human capital investment in response to increases in the returns to effort.

Keywords: affirmative action, Human capital investment, racial achievement gaps

JEL Classification: I24, I28, J15

Suggested Citation

Akhtari, Mitra and Bau, Natalie and P. Laliberté, Jean-William, Affirmative Action and Pre-College Human Capital (November 2019). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14109, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3496598

Mitra Akhtari (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Natalie Bau

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

Jean-William P. Laliberté

University of Calgary - Department of Economics ( email )

2500 University Dr. N.W.
Calgary, Albetra T2N 1N4
Canada

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