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The effects of cognitive ability and high school quality on college entry decisions: nonparametric estimation of parameters of interest

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The decisions to attend college are analysed and nonparametric predictions compared to those obtained from the widely used logit model. The impacts of measured cognitive ability and proxies for high school quality on the decisions to attend college are examined for a sample of white and black males and females from the USA. Two different parameters of interest which isolate the effects of ability and high school quality on college entry decisions are described and estimated by 'integrating out' the effect of other covariates. It is found that measured cognitive ability is an extremely important determinant of college entry for all race and gender groups. At the same point in the ability distribution, blacks are more likely to select into college than whites, and females more likely than males of the same racial group. Proxies for high school quality such as teacher education, student teacher ratios, school enrolment and library size are shown to have little or no effects on the likelihood of college entry for all race and gender groups. Further, predictions obtained from the flexible nonparametric analysis are found to be quite similar to those obtained from the logit model, suggesting that simpler fully parametric binary choice models perform quite well as modelling college entry decisions.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Economics, University of California-Irvine, 3151 Social Science Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100, USA. E-mail:

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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