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

Judith Delaney, Paul Devereux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomics of Education Review
Early online date15 Jul 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • college applications
  • disadvantaged schools
  • centralized admissions

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