Professor, The University of Texas at Austin
A key goal of education policy is to help remediate the existing educational inequities across racial groups and socioeconomic status in the United States. However, to develop better policy, one needs to understand the underlying causes of these disparities. This paper examines one possible mechanism—the college application decision. Specifically, we investigate racial and ethnic differences in college applications using the population of recent Texas high school graduates. First, we find a lower propensity to apply to college among Hispanic students at all college readiness levels. Hispanics have lower college application rates than black students despite better average college readiness and similar high school quality. These results are robust to controls for student-level college readiness measures, high school characteristics, and high school fixed effects. Second, black students are more likely to apply to college than similar students of other races, but this effect is concentrated among students who are less prepared for college. Finally, we examine the role of college characteristics in the decision to apply.