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.

"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.

"Prestige Concerns in College Major Choice" (with Yeon-Koo Che, Jinwoo Kim, Se-jik Kim, Olivier Tercieux)

Draft available on request.

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, students "sacrifice" their fits for programs in application 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.

"Sorting, Commuting, and School Choice" (with Minseon Park)

Draft available on request.

Abstract: This paper studies how families use two margins to get a seat in their preferred school under school choice - 1) sorting into neighborhoods (choosing where to live) and 2) commuting to school (choosing which school to apply to). Using New York City student-level data, we present the evidence of both margins. We find a sharp discontinuity at school district boundaries: middle school applicants residing on the side of the boundary with better schools are 5pp less likely to be eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch compared to their peers on the other side. At the same time, students take advantage of choice options actively with significant heterogeneity. 24% of Black students commute across school district boundaries while 12% of White students do. We build and estimate a structural model where a household chooses where to live and then which school to apply to. Location and schools are tied through commuting cost and geography-based priority. We extend the Expectation-Maximization algorithm with Sequential Maximization step (Arcidiacono and Jones, 2003) to estimate the model. We incorporate Boundary Discontinuity Design to deal with the endogeneity of school characteristics. We find that families sort into neighborhoods based on both observable/unobserved taste over school characteristics. There is large individual heterogeneity in terms of which neighborhood gives the higher expected utility. The decomposition exercise shows that heterogeneity in location demand explains 80 percent of the gap in the mean test score of schools Black and White students are assigned to. Both extending the bus service across school districts and adopting free borough-wide choice undo the gap by 10 percent.

"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.