52 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2004
Date Written: December 2005
We show how to construct a ranking of U.S. undergraduate programs based on students' revealed preferences. We construct examples of national and regional rankings, using hand-collected data on 3,240 high-achieving students. Our statistical model extends models used for ranking players in tournaments, such as chess or tennis. When a student makes his matriculation decision among colleges that have admitted him, he chooses which college "wins" in head-to-head competition. The model exploits the information contained in thousands of these wins and losses. Our method produces a ranking that would be difficult for a college to manipulate. In contrast, it is easy to manipulate the matriculation rate and the admission rate, which are the common measures of preference that receive substantial weight in highly publicized college rating systems. If our ranking were used in place of these measures, the pressure on colleges to practice strategic admissions would be relieved. We show how to deal with tuition discounts, alumni preferences, early decision programs, specialty schools, and similar issues.
JEL Classification: I2, C11, C25
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Avery, Christopher and Glickman, Mark E. and Hoxby, Caroline M. and Metrick, Andrew, A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Universities (December 2005). NBER Working Paper No. W10803. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=601105 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.601105
By Bridget Long
By Robert Lowry