This paper examines one type of assortative matching in college markets: students with high socioeconomic status (SES) are more likely to attend high quality colleges. Assortativity matters if SES and college quality are complementary educational inputs. I develop an econometric framework that provides tests for the existence and sign of this complementarity. I implement these tests by exploiting a 2000 reform of the national college admission exam in Colombia, which caused a market-wide reduction in assortative matching in some regions of the country. I find that the reform lowered average graduation rates and post-college earnings in affected regions, consistent with a positive complementarity between SES and college quality. I also find evidence of mismatch: part of these negative effects came from the low SES students who were shifted into higher quality colleges. However, both the market-wide and mismatch effects die out several cohorts after the exam reform, which suggests that complementarity may evolve with large-scale changes in assortativity.
We explore how college reputation affects the "big sort," the process by which students choose colleges and find their first jobs. We incorporate a simple definition of college reputation—graduates' mean admission scores—into a competitive labor market model. This generates a clear prediction: if employers use reputation to set wages, then the introduction of a new measure of individual skill will decrease the return to reputation. Administrative data and a natural experiment from the country of Colombia confirm this. Finally, we show that college reputation is positively correlated with graduates' earnings growth, suggesting that reputation matters beyond signaling individual skill.
Forgiving education systems create churning by allowing students to defer the completion of their schooling. This paper asks if time gaps in academic careers can lower educational attainment. I study an academic calendar shift in Colombia that created a one semester gap between high school and potential college entry. This brief gap reduced college enrollment rates relative to unaffected regions. Low SES students were more likely to forgo college, and individuals who did enroll after the gap chose higher paying majors. Thus academic time gaps can affect both the mean and the distribution of schooling, with implications for wage inequality.
This paper explores the implications of measuring college productivity in two different dimensions: earning and learning. We compute system-wide measures using administrative data from the country of Colombia that link social security records to students' performance on a national college graduation exam. In each case we can control for individuals' college entrance exam scores in an approach akin to teacher value added models. We present three main findings: 1) colleges' earning and learning productivities are far from perfectly correlated, with private institutions receiving relatively higher rankings under earning measures than under learning measures; 2) earning measures are significantly more correlated with student socioeconomic status than learning measures; and 3) in terms of rankings, earning measures tend to favor colleges with engineering and business majors, while colleges offering programs in the arts and sciences fare better under learning measures.