Agent-Based Simulation Models of the College Sorting Process

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We develop and implement an agent-based model that can be used to explore how dynamic processes related to socioeconomic inequality stratify students among colleges. The model simulates a stylized version of college sorting processes in order to explore how factors related to family resources might influence college application choices and college enrollment. We include two types of “agents”—students and colleges—to simulate a two-way matching process that iterates through three stages: application, admission, and enrollment. Within this model, we examine how five mechanisms linking students’ socioeconomic background to college sorting might influence socioeconomic stratification between colleges including relationships between student resources and: 1) academic achievement; 2) the quality of information applicants have about colleges and their own chances of admission; 3) the number of applications students submit; 4) how students value college quality; and 5) the students’ ability to enhance their (apparent) academic preparation. We find that the resources-achievement relationship explains much of the student sorting by resources, though other factors also have non-trivial influences.

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APA Citation

Reardon, S.F., Kasman, M., Klasik, D., & Baker, R. (2016). Agent-Based Simulation Models of the College Sorting Process.