kitchen table math, the sequel: who gains from attending a highly selective college?

Monday, July 4, 2011

who gains from attending a highly selective college?

Is the Ivy League Worth It?
July 1, 2011, 12:13 PM ET
Christopher Shea | WSJ

Estimating the Return to College Selectivity over the Career Using Administrative Earnings Data (pdf file)
Stacy Dale, Alan B. Krueger
NBER Working Paper No. 17159
Issued in June 2011

from the abstract:
We find that the return to college selectivity is sizeable for both cohorts in regression models that control for variables commonly observed by researchers, such as student high school GPA and SAT scores. However, when we adjust for unobserved student ability by controlling for the average SAT score of the colleges that students applied to, our estimates of the return to college selectivity fall substantially and are generally indistinguishable from zero.
Not having read the paper, I don't understand how controlling for average SAT score of the colleges students applied to, as opposed to simply controlling for SAT scores of the students, makes a difference.

I'm going to download and take a look.


Anonymous said...

Anyone smart enough to get into the Ivy League (or into many of our flagship state universities, for that matter) is not going to starve. If becoming an investment banker or supreme court justice is your goal (already, at age 17 or 18), then yes, go to the Ivy. But, out here in the hinterland of Illinois, I know so darn many completely brilliant people who went to U of I at Champaign (or even U of I at Chicago). They knew they'd be able to get a great education there (depending, of course, on their major), and they had no desire to funnel themselves into the elite. And I say this as an Ivy grad. Yes, I was surrounded by super-bright people, but really you get out of your education what you put into it.

Hainish said...

Analyses that focus on the "return to" college selectivity work on the assumption that the value of selectivity should be reflected in income. A more-selective college may provide other, non-income benefits (e.g., the quality of the experience over the period of attendance, the establishment of residence in a desirable location, a "better" pool of potential spouses to select from).

(No, i didn't read the articles. Not yet, anyway.)

Catherine Johnson said...

A more-selective college may provide other, non-income benefits

yes, definitely

Catherine Johnson said...

Still and all, I find the idea that the quality of the schools that rejected you is a better predictor of income than the quality of the school you actually attended to be pretty interesting.

Catherine Johnson said...

Anyone smart enough to get into the Ivy League (or into many of our flagship state universities, for that matter) is not going to starve.

That depends!

Anyway, as I just said, the interesting thing here is that getting rejected by the Ivies was the big predictor of future income for kids who didn't go to Ivies.

Kids who got rejected by Ivies and went to less-selective schools earned more income than kids who went to less-selective schools and never applied to Ivies in the first place -- and that's holding other factors constant, I believe.

Anonymous said...

Right, Catherine. I remember reading that study. The driving factor would be, I think, that competitiveness (of personality, not of the college) differentiates those who apply to ivies from those of the same accomplishment level who do not. And competitiveness of personaltiy is certainly tied to income.

Catherine Johnson said...

I was thinking about it some more, and I'm pretty sure I understand the jist of the study.

Although I only skimmed, I don't think they suggest a mechanism; I'm equally sure that they think personal ambition could be the mechanism.

I assume, based in what they said about blacks & Hispanics, that they may also think it's possible that the kids who apply to more selective schools than they can get into may have 'higher' social circles or social capital.

But I don't think they say that.

cranberry said...

Your assessment of your fit with a college's stated admissions standards is more accurate than a college admissions committee's decision. It makes sense to me. When some colleges' admissions rates are in the single digits, many kids aren't admitted who would fit into the student body.

To look at it another way, there's probably a sweet spot for selectivity. Past that point, being rejected by (HYPMS, etc.) doesn't reflect your qualifications.