Working Papers

Submitted, Extended Abstract in EC 2022.

Abstract: We explore how students' previously attended schools influence their subsequent school choices and how this relationship affects school segregation. Using administrative data from New York City, we document the causal effects of the middle school a student attends on her high school application/assignment. Motivated by this finding, we estimate a dynamic model of middle and high school choices. We find that the middle schools' effects mainly operate by changing how students rank high schools rather than how high schools rank their applications. Counterfactual analysis shows that policymakers can design more effective policies by exploiting the dynamic relationship of school choices.

Abstract: We develop a signaling model of prestige seeking in competitive college applications. A prestigious program attracts high-ability applicants, making its admissions more selective, which in turn further increases its prestige, and so on. This amplifying effect results in a program with negligible quality advantage enjoying a significant prestige in equilibrium. Furthermore, applicants “sacrifice” their fits for programs in pursuit of prestige, which results in misallocation of program fits. Major choice data from Seoul National University provides evidence for our theoretical predictions when majors are assigned through competitive screening—a common feature of college admissions worldwide.

Abstract: We explore the impact of centralized school assignment reforms with a unified framework of households’ residential location choice, school choice, and enrollment decisions. We model households deciding where to live by considering that residential locations determine access to school---admissions probabilities and commuting distances to schools. Households are heterogeneous both in observed and unobserved characteristics, generating rich residential and school segregation patterns. We estimate the model using administrative data from New York City's middle school choice system. Variation from a boundary discontinuity design separately identifies access-to-school preferences from other location amenities. Residential sorting based on access-to-school preference explains 30% of the cross-race gap in test scores of schools students attend. If households' residential locations were fixed, a reform that equalizes admissions probabilities to schools in lower Manhattan would reduce the cross-racial gap by 7%. However, households’ endogenous location choices dampen the effect by half. Households’ opting out of public schools to outside schooling options play a smaller role in evaluating how effectively the reform would reduce the cross-racial gap.

Work in Progress

"Leveraging Uncertainties to Infer Preferences: Robust Analysis of School Choice" (with Yeon-Koo Che and Yinghua He)

Draft available on request, Recording of presentation at ESWC 2020

Abstract: Recent evidence suggests that market participants make mistakes even in a strategically straightforward environment but seldom with significant payoff consequences. We explore the implications of such payoff-insignificant mistakes for inferring students' preferences from school-choice data. Uncertainties arise from the use of lotteries or other sources in a typical school choice setting; they make certain mistakes more costly than others, thus making some preferences---those whose misrepresentation would be more costly and would thus be avoided by students---more reliably inferable than others. We propose a novel method of exploiting the structure of the uncertainties present in a matching environment to robustly infer student preferences under the Deferred-Acceptance mechanism. We then apply our method to estimate student preferences from New York City's high school assignment data. We then evaluate the effects of an affirmative action policy on disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students.

"What Makes NYC Specialized High Schools So Special?: Relating School Effectiveness and Student Preferences"

Draft available on request.

Abstract: New York City (NYC) specialized high schools are highly selective and popular among students and parents. Nevertheless, the reason why those schools are so popular compared to non-specialized high schools has not been studied yet. This paper aims to answer the question in the context of academic performance, by studying the relationship among three factors: preference of specialized high schools applicants, peer qualities and causal effectiveness of those schools. First, a unique feature of NYC public high school admission system enables me to link preferences on specialized high schools and non-specialized high schools and hence to jointly estimate those using students' rank-ordered lists. Next, I estimate the value-added of schools that corrects endogenous selection following Abdulkadiroglu et al. (2017), and finally link them to the estimated preference in the first step. I preliminarily find the additional valuation that students and parents put on specialized high schools relative to non-specialized high schools is mostly related with higher peer quality at specialized high schools.