IZA DP No. 7899: Can You Leave High School Behind?
revised version published in: Economics of Education Review, June 2015
In recent years, many states, including California, Texas, and Oregon, have changed admissions policies to increase access to public universities for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. A key concern, however, is how these students will perform. This paper examines the relationship between high school quality and student success at college. Using newly available administrative data from the University of Texas at Austin, we take advantage of the unique policy environment provided by Texas's Top Ten Percent automatic admissions law, which has not only increased the diversity of high schools in the state that send students to the university, but also provides an admission criteria based on a sole observable characteristic: high school class rank. We find that high school characteristics do affect student performance, and these effects seem more pronounced for women and low-income students. In addition, there is little evidence that the effects of high school characteristics decay over time.