How High Schools Explain Students' Initial Colleges and Majors (Update)

Author(s): 
Rajeev Darolia

We use statewide administrative data from Missouri to examine the role of high schools in explaining students’ initial college and major placements at 4-year public universities. To facilitate our investigation of postsecondary sorting, we develop a “preparation and persistence index” (PPI) for each university-by-major cell in the Missouri system to measure the quality of that cell. The PPI depends on the pre-college academic qualifications of degree completers. Our analysis of high schools shows that the high school attended predicts the quality of the initial university, as measured by PPI, conditional on a student’s own academic preparation. Consistent with previous research, we further show that students from lower-SES high schools systematically enroll at lower-quality universities relative to their similarly-qualified peers from higher-SES high schools. However, high schools offer little explanatory power over major placements within universities. Correspondingly, there are not meaningful differences in the quality of these placements by high-school SES.

 

Published: 
Feb 2017
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