Panel Paper: Oh Brother, Where Start Thou? Sibling Spillovers in College Enrollment

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Soldier Field (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Joshua Goodman, Harvard University

Abstract: Does one person’s college choices affect another’s and, if so, why? We connect the literatures on educational peer effects and on college choice determinants by estimating the impact of older siblings college choices on the college choices of their younger siblings. We observe the college choices of all SAT-takers from 2004-15 and those of any younger siblings in the data. We identify colleges that hide from applicants the use of SAT thresholds in the admissions process. A regression discontinuity design shows such thresholds generate exogenous variation in older siblings college access and enrollment, primarily changing the quality of the four-year college they attend. We then show that older siblings increased college quality raises younger siblings college enrollment rates and quality of college chosen, particularly for families with low ex ante probabilities of college enrollment. Such within-family spillover effects suggest that college-going behavior is transmissible between peers, likely because of information sharing about the college experience itself.