Divergent: The Time Path of Legacy and Athlete Admissions at Harvard

40 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2019

See all articles by Peter Arcidiacono

Peter Arcidiacono

Duke University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Josh Kinsler

University of Georgia

Tyler Ransom

University of Oklahoma; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

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Abstract

Applications to elite US colleges have more than doubled over the past 20 years, with little change in the number of available seats. We examine how this increased competition has affected the admissions advantage that legacies and athletes (LA) receive. Using data on Harvard applications over 18 years, we show that non-legacy, non-athlete (NLNA) applications grew considerably and that LA applications remained at. Yet, the share of LA admits remained stable, implying substantial increases in admissions advantages for legacies and athletes. We develop a simple theoretical model of university admissions to frame our empirical analysis. Viewed through the lens of the model, stability in the share of LA admits implies that elite colleges treat the number of LA admits and overall admit quality as complements. Our empirical analysis reveals that, if the admissions advantages for LA applicants had been constant throughout this period, there would have been a large increase in the number of minority admits.

Keywords: higher education, college admissions, legacy, admissions preference

JEL Classification: I23, I24, J15

Suggested Citation

Arcidiacono, Peter and Kinsler, Josh and Ransom, Tyler, Divergent: The Time Path of Legacy and Athlete Admissions at Harvard. IZA Discussion Paper No. 12634, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3468582

Peter Arcidiacono (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Josh Kinsler

University of Georgia ( email )

Tyler Ransom

University of Oklahoma ( email )

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United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) ( email )

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