Choosing Differently? College Application Behavior and the Persistence of Educational Advantage

48 Pages Posted: 19 May 2020

See all articles by Judith Delaney

Judith Delaney

Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)

Paul J. Devereux

University College Dublin - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Abstract

We use administrative data from Ireland to study differences in college application behavior between students from disadvantaged versus advantaged high schools. Ireland provides an interesting laboratory for this analysis as applicants provide a preference-ordering of college programs (majors) and marginal applications are costless. Also, college admission depends almost completely on grades in the terminal high school examinations. Thus, we can compare the application choices of students who have equal chances of admission to college programs. Conditional on achievement and college opportunities, we find that students from advantaged high schools are more likely to apply to universities and to more selective college programs.They are also more likely to have preferences that cluster by program selectivity rather than by field of study. Our results suggest that, alongside differences in achievement, differences in college application behavior also cause persons from advantaged high schools to be more likely to enroll in selective colleges and enter more selective programs. Importantly, we find that enrollment gaps for equally qualified applicants are smaller than differences in application behavior; the relatively meritocratic centralized admissions system based on achievement undoes much of the effect of the differences in application behavior.

Keywords: college applications, high school advantage, centralized admissions system, college major choice, higher education, educational mismatch

JEL Classification: I24, J24

Suggested Citation

Delaney, Judith and Devereux, Paul J., Choosing Differently? College Application Behavior and the Persistence of Educational Advantage. IZA Discussion Paper No. 13251, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3602427 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3602427

Judith Delaney (Contact Author)

Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) ( email )

Whitaker square Sir john Rogerson's Quay
Dublin 2
Dublin
Ireland

Paul J. Devereux

University College Dublin - Department of Economics ( email )

Belfield
Dublin 4, 4
Ireland

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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