The lawsuit Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard University provided an unprecedented look at how an elite school makes admissions decisions. Using publicly released reports, we examine the preferences Harvard gives for recruited athletes, legacies, those on the dean's interest list, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs). Among white admits, over 43% are ALDC. Among admits who are African American, Asian American, and Hispanic, the share is less than 16% each. Our model of admissions shows that roughly three-quarters of white ALDC admits would have been rejected if they had been treated as typical white applicants. Removing preferences for athletes and legacies would significantly alter the racial distribution of admitted students, with the share of white admits falling and all other groups rising or remaining unchanged.
New York Times
Inside Higher Ed
Washington Center for Equitable Growth
The College Fix
538's Significant Digits
The Daily Pennsylvanian
Atlanta Black Star
The Cavalier Daily
New York Magazine
The Harvard Crimson (x2)
The Daily Princetonian
The Brown Daily Herald
The Hechinger Report
The Logical Indian
Affirmative Action, Transparency, and the SFFA v. Harvard Case
with Peter Arcidiacono and Josh Kinsler
University of Chicago Law Review Online, October 2020.
Note: Not peer-reviewed
Changes across Cohorts in Wage Returns to Schooling and Early Work Experiences
with Jared Ashworth, V. Joseph Hotz, and Arnaud Maurel
Journal of Labor Economics, Forthcoming.
Guest column at VoxEU
This paper investigates the wage returns to schooling and actual early work experiences, and how these returns have changed over the past twenty years. Using the NLSY surveys, we develop and estimate a dynamic model of the joint schooling and work decisions that young men make in early adulthood, and quantify how they affect wages using a generalized Mincerian specification. Our results highlight the need to account for dynamic selection and changes in composition when analyzing changes in wage returns. In particular, we find that ignoring the selectivity of accumulated work experiences results in overstatement of the returns to education.
Understanding Migration Aversion using Elicited Counterfactual Choice Probabilities
with Gizem Koşar and Wilbert van der Klaauw
Journal of Econometrics, Accepted.
This paper investigates how migration and location choice decisions depend on a large set of location characteristics, with particular focus on measuring the importance and nature of non-monetary costs of moving. We employ a stated-preference approach to elicit respondents' choice probabilities for a set of hypothetical choice scenarios, using two waves from the NY Fed's Survey of Consumer Expectations. Our stated probabilistic choice approach allows us to recover the distribution of individual-level preferences for location and mobility attributes without concerns about omitted variables and selection biases that hamper analyses based on observed mobility choices alone. We estimate substantial heterogeneity in the willingness-to-pay (WTP) for location characteristics and in moving costs, both across and within demographic groups. We find moving costs to be strongly associated with attachment to the current neighborhood and dwelling and to social networks. Our results indicate evidence of sorting into current locations based on preferences for location attributes as well as a strong negative association between respondents' non-monetary moving costs and their moving expectations and actual mobility decisions.
Do Foreigners Crowd Natives out of STEM Degrees and Occupations? Evidence from the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990
with John V. Winters.
ILR Review, Forthcoming.
This paper examines effects of the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990 on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and labor market outcomes for nativeborn Americans. The Act increased the inflow and stock of foreign STEM workers in the U.S., potentially altering the relative desirability of STEM fields for natives. The authors examine effects of the policy on STEM degree completion, STEM occupational choice, and employment rates separately for black and white men and women. The novel identification strategy measures exposure to foreign STEM workers of age-18 native cohorts immediately before and after the policy change via geographic dispersion of foreign-born STEM workers in 1980, which predicts subsequent foreign STEM flows. The Act affected natives in three ways: (1) black male students moved away from STEM majors; (2) white male STEM graduates moved away from STEM occupations; and (3) white female STEM graduates moved out of the workforce.
Has the College Wage Premium Continued to Rise? Evidence from Multiple U.S. Surveys (with Jared Ashworth)
Economics of Education Review, 2019, 69 (1): 149–154.
This paper examines trends in the college wage premium (CWP) by birth cohort across the five major household surveys in the United States: the Census/ACS, CPS, NLSY, PSID, and SIPP. We document a general flattening in the CWP for birth cohorts 1970 and onward in each survey and even a decline for birth cohorts 1980–1984 in the NLSY. We discuss potential reasons for this finding and show that the empirical discrepancy is not a function of differences in composition across surveys. Our results provide crucial context for the vast economic literatures that use these surveys to answer important policy questions about intertemporal changes in the returns to skill.
Do High School Sports Build or Reveal Character? Bounding Causal Estimates of Sports Participation (with Michael R Ransom)
Economics of Education Review, 2018, 64 (1), 75–89.
We examine the extent to which participation in high school athletics has beneficial effects on future education, labor market, and health outcomes. Due to the absence of plausible instruments in observational data, we use recently developed methods that relate selection on observables with selection on unobservables to estimate bounds on the causal effect of athletics participation. We analyze these effects in the US separately for men and women using three different nationally representative longitudinal data sets that each link high school athletics participation with later-life outcomes. We do not find consistent evidence of individual benefits reported in many previous studies—once we have accounted for selection, high school athletes are no more likely to attend college, earn higher wages, or participate in the labor force. However, we do find that men (but not women) who participated in high school athletics are more likely to exercise regularly as adults. Nevertheless, athletes are no less likely to be obese.
College Attrition and the Dynamics of Information Revelation
with Peter Arcidiacono, Esteban Aucejo, and Arnaud Maurel
R & R, Journal of Political Economy (updated May 31, 2016)
This paper investigates the role played by informational frictions in college and the workplace. We estimate a dynamic structural model of schooling and work decisions, where individuals have imperfect information about their schooling ability and labor market productivity. We take into account the heterogeneity in schooling investments by distinguishing between two- and four-year colleges, graduate school, as well as science and non-science majors for four-year colleges. Individuals may also choose whether to work full-time, part-time, or not at all. A key feature of our approach is to account for correlated learning through college grades and wages, whereby individuals may leave or re-enter college as a result of the arrival of new information on their ability and productivity. Our findings indicate that the elimination of informational frictions would increase the college graduation rate by 9 percentage points, and would increase the college wage premium by 32.7 percentage points through increased sorting on ability.
NBER Working Paper No. 22325 (June 2016)
Labor Market Frictions and Moving Costs of the Employed and Unemployed
2nd Round Revised & Resubmitted, Journal of Human Resources (updated November 25, 2020)
Search frictions and switching costs may grant monopsony power to incumbent employers by reducing workers' outside options. This paper examines the role of labor market frictions and moving costs in explaining worker flows across labor markets in the US. Using data on non-college-educated workers from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), I estimate a dynamic model of job search and location choice. I find that moving costs are substantial and that labor market frictions primarily inhibit the employed. Reducing these frictions would result in a higher wage elasticity of labor supply to the firm.
IZA Discussion Paper No. 12139 (February 2019)
The Effect of Business Cycle Fluctuations on Migration Decisions (February 25, 2016)
Selective Migration, Occupational Choice, and the Wage Returns to College Majors
R & R, Annals of Economics & Statistics (updated June 12, 2020)
I examine the extent to which the returns to college majors are influenced by selective migration and occupational choice across locations in the US. To quantify the role of selection, I develop and estimate an extended Roy model of migration, occupational choice, and earnings where, upon completing their education, individuals choose a location in which to live and an occupation in which to work. In order to estimate this high-dimensional choice model, I make use of machine learning methods that allow for model selection and estimation simultaneously in a non-parametric setting. I find that OLS estimates of the returns to business and STEM majors relative to education majors are biased upward by 15% on average. Using estimates of the model, I characterize the migration behavior of different college majors and find that migration flows are twice as sensitive to occupational concentration as they are to wage returns.
IZA Discussion Paper No. 13370 (June 2020)
Asian American Discrimination in Harvard Admissions
with Peter Arcidiacono and Josh Kinsler
(updated June 10, 2020)
Detecting racial discrimination using observational data is challenging because of the presence of unobservables that may be correlated with race. Using data made public in the SFFA v. Harvard case, we estimate discrimination in a setting where this concern is mitigated. Namely, we show that there is a substantial penalty against Asian Americans in admissions with limited scope for omitted variables to overturn the result. This is because (i) Asian Americans are substantially stronger than whites on the observables associated with admissions and (ii) the richness of the data yields a model that predicts admissions extremely well. Our preferred model shows that Asian Americans would be admitted at a rate 19% higher absent this penalty. Controlling for one of the primary channels through which Asian American applicants are discriminated against|the personal rating|cuts the Asian American penalty by less than half, still leaving a substantial penalty.
Recruit to Reject? Harvard and African American Applicants
with Peter Arcidiacono and Josh Kinsler
(updated July 16, 2020)
Guest column at VoxEU
Over the past 20 years, elite colleges in the US have seen dramatic increases in applications. We provide context for part of this trend using detailed data on Harvard University that was unsealed as part of the SFFA v. Harvard lawsuit. We show that Harvard encourages applications from many students who effectively have no chance of being admitted, and that this is particularly true for African Americans. African American applications soared beginning with the Class of 2009, with the increase driven by those with lower SAT scores. Yet there was little change in the share of admits who were African American. We show that this change in applicant behavior resulted in substantial convergence in the overall admissions rates across races yet no change in the large cross-race differences in admissions rates for high-SAT applicants.
Divergent: The Time Path of Legacy and Athlete Admissions at Harvard
with Peter Arcidiacono and Josh Kinsler
(updated July 16, 2020)
Applications to elite US colleges have soared over the past 20 years, with little change in available seats. We examine how this increased competition affected the admissions advantage that legacies and athletes (LA) receive. Using 18 years of Harvard admissions data, we show that non-legacy, non-athlete (NLNA) applications expanded while LA applications remained flat. Yet, the share of LA admits remained stable, implying substantial increases in LA admissions advantages. Viewed through the lens of an admissions model, stability in the share of LA admits implies a strong degree of complementarity in the number of LA admits and overall admit quality.
Learning during the COVID-19 pandemic: It is not who you teach, but how you teach
with George Orlov, Doug McKee, James Berry, Austin Boyle, Thomas J. DiCiccio, Alex Rees-Jones, and Joerg Stoye
Under Review (updated October 24, 2020)
We use standardized end-of-course knowledge assessments to examine student learning during the disruptions induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Examining seven economics courses taught at four US R1 institutions, we find that students performed substantially worse, on average, in Spring 2020 when compared to Spring or Fall 2019. We find no evidence that the effect was driven by specific demographic groups. However, our results suggest that teaching methods that encourage active engagement, such as the use of small group activities and projects, played an important role in mitigating this negative effect. Our results point to methods for more effective online teaching as the pandemic continues.
Beating the Heat: Temperature and Spatial Reallocation over the Long Run
with Christos Makridis.
Does temperature affect real economic activity? Using the annual Current Population Survey between 1963 and 2015, we show that there is no association between temperature and earnings, hours, or output after controlling for time-invariant spatial heterogeneity and time-varying demographic factors. These results are robust to five separate sources of micro-data, different sampling horizons, functional forms, spatial measures of temperature, and subsets of the data. This paper studies the relationship between temperature and productivity across space and time. Motivated by these null results, we develop a spatial equilibrium model where temperature can affect not only firm productivity, but also individual locational choice. After calibrating the model, we use it to disentangle the role of reallocation versus actual productivity losses in the U.S. economy between 1980 and 2015. Nearly all of the variation is driven by reallocation. We subsequently use the model to evaluate a counterfactual climate scenario and recover a new spatial equilibrium for the U.S. economy by 2050.
This paper examines the impact of a heretofore relatively unexplored input in the educational process—language environment at home—on student academic achievement during early childhood. Using the confidential data from Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class (1998-99), we are able to exploit cross-sectional geographic variation in local language environment, augmented with the recently developed instrumental variable strategy in Lewbel (2012), to identify the causal effect. We reach several conclusions. First, we find that in the third grade, speaking a language other than English at home has a statistically significant, negative effect on reading test scores, but the effect does not exist for math test scores. Second, the pattern persists through the fifth grade. However, the negative effect on reading test scores appears to be a result of the initial gap in the third grade because we do not find the language environment at home has any effects on the growth rates in the test scores, regardless of subjects. Third, the pattern in the effects of language environment remains unchanged whether the foreign language is Spanish or not. Finally, we find that the pattern differs across gender. The language environment appears to have a negative effect on both reading and math scores among girls, while it has an effect only on reading scores among boys.
The Spatial Distribution of College Majors
with Joel McGuire.
This paper examines location as an outcome of college major choice. We document substantial differences in the spatial availability of college majors. These differences explain much of the cross-major variation in unemployment and migration, but not earnings. Using a natural experiment, we show that migration differences across majors appear to be driven by labor demand and not labor supply.
Minorities in STEM: The Role of Ability Revelation
with Nick Huntington-Klein.
Machine Learning for Sample Selection Models: A First Report
with Owen McDevitt and Le Wang.