Athletics and Admissions: The Impact of the Penn State Football Scandal on Student Quality

24 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2020

See all articles by Candon Johnson

Candon Johnson

West Virginia University - Department of Economics

Bryan C. McCannon

West Virginia University - College of Business & Economics

Date Written: December 11, 2019

Abstract

We ask whether a scandal in a university's athletics department affects the quality of the incoming, first-year student body. To do so, we evaluate the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University in 2011. The violations involved a former employee with the crimes occurring a decade prior. Thus, the plausibly-exogenous shock allows us to make a causal identification of the scandal's effect on the university. We use synthetic control methods establishing economically meaningful impacts. We find that the average high school GPA is 0.12 points less and the proportion of students with high SAT Math scores is down 4.8 percentage points.

Keywords: admissions, football, higher education, scandal, synthetic control

JEL Classification: Z20, I23, H40

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Candon and McCannon, Bryan C., Athletics and Admissions: The Impact of the Penn State Football Scandal on Student Quality (December 11, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3502550 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3502550

Candon Johnson (Contact Author)

West Virginia University - Department of Economics ( email )

Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

Bryan C. McCannon

West Virginia University - College of Business & Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 6025
Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

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