*Names in bold indicate Presenter
In order to test this hypothesis, I use the National Study of College Experience’s data on the set of all applicants to ten academically selective institutions for the entering cohort of 1997, and merge on to this zip-code level Census data. Controlling for individual/family demographics, high school academic performance, standardized test scores, and high school quality, I run logistic regression analysis predicting whether or not an applicant in question is admitted as a function of neighborhood income and educational attainment levels.
Preliminary findings show that as neighborhood income and educational attainment levels increase, the odds of being admitted to a selective institution rise, all else equal. This means that students who may be well-prepared academically, but do not live in affluent neighborhoods appear to be at a disadvantage. Given the returns to attending a selective college—including a higher probability of graduating (Long 2007), a higher likelihood of entering leading graduate and professional schools (Bowen and Bok 1998), and higher labor market earnings (Zhang 2005)—this finding is concerning and calls for research on the mechanisms through which the disadvantage occurs. Identification thereof can then lead to specific policy suggestions. If, for example, the mechanism is that applicants in less affluent places interact less with alumni from selective colleges, programs should be implemented to give these students the necessary interaction. If, on the other hand, the mechanism is that admissions officers are biased towards applicants from more affluent neighborhoods, the ball is in the court of the colleges.