kitchen table math, the sequel: highly selective colleges and lifetime earnings

Monday, July 4, 2011

highly selective colleges and lifetime earnings

following up on Who gains from attending a highly selective college? :
...[T]he average SAT score of schools that rejected a student is more than twice as strong a predictor of the student’s subsequent earnings as the average SAT score of the school the student attended...

Estimating the Return to College Selectivity over the Career Using Administrative Earnings Data
Stacy Dale, Alan B. Krueger
NBER Working Paper No. 17159
Issued in June 2011
Assuming I'm following the argument, Dale and Krueger are saying that when you account for unmeasured factors such as a student's level of ambition, the selectivity of a school has no effect on the earnings of white children raised by educated parents. In other words, more ambitious students file more ambitious applications; they apply to more highly selective schools than do students who are less ambitious. Same SAT scores, different set of college applications.

I think.

I can email a copy of the article to anyone who'd like to read.

also from the paper:
The high selectivity of the colleges within the C&B [College and Beyond Survey] database make it particularly well-suited for this analysis, because the majority of students that attend selective colleges submit multiple applications, which is necessary for our identification strategy. In contrast, many students who attend less selective colleges submit only one application, because many less selective colleges accept all students who apply. For example, according to data from the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972, only 46 percent of students who attended college applied to more than one school.
Nearly two-thirds of the 1976 cohort and 71 percent of the 1989 cohort submitted at least one additional application (in addition to the school they attended). For both cohorts, of those students submitting at least one additional application, over half applied to a school with a higher average SAT score than that of the college they attended, and nearly 90 percent of students were accepted to at least one additional school. Of those accepted to more than one school, about 35 percent were accepted to a more selective school than the one they ended up attending. The data for black and Hispanic students (shown in columns 2 and 4) are similar, though blacks and Hispanics were somewhat more likely than students in the full sample to be accepted to at least one additional school, and to be accepted to a more selective school than the one they attended.


Catherine Johnson said...

I don't have the patience to work through the paper word by word, so take this summary with a grain of salt.

SteveH said...


This is true for meeting students and professors. It depends on the kind of department you go into. If you want to be at the leading edge, you have to look at the department, not the college. Younger professors might be more at the leading edge, and they most likely won't be at the big name colleges. Then again, they might not be the mentoring types. When I look at a college, I go directly to the department page and look at faculty and research. Also, look at who is doing the leading research in a field and find out where they teach.

Some of the leading people in a field might also be the nicest. I remember being fed homemade soft pretzels at the home of Bert Herzog, a leader in computer graphics even though I was an ignorant undergraduate. I visited him years later when he was associated with Brown University.

I also look for other things. One department I was in had a student study area surrounded by the professors' offices. Many would leave their doors open and you could come in, sit down and talk about anything. We had department picnics and students would socialize with their families. (We used to have faculty/student drinking contests, but that didn't last.) When I go back to visit, I stay at their houses.

In another department I was in, however, there was zero interaction between students and professors. The difference between the two departments was amazing. Although I was at the U. of Michigan, my world was the department. Michigan didn't do something for me; the department and the people did, and that can vary dramatically.

There is also the issue of being a small fish in a big pond. The big name college might not be so great if all you get are crumbs. Then there is the idea that where you go for graduate work and who you work with there are much more important.