Event Detail

Affirmative action, college access and major choice: Redistribution and opportunity for social mobility

Presented by:
Ana Paula Melo
Practice Job Talk
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Friday, January 29, 2021
On-line via Zoom
12:00 pm-1:00 pm

College admissions and field of study are central in the social mobility debate. In this paper,I study the effects of an affirmative action policy targeting low-socioeconomic applicants at a flagship university in Brazil. Results show the quota-type affirmative action policy redistributed college seats towards targeted applicants, mostly by increasing their representation in selective, high-return majors. This gain in cross-field diversity happened with only a marginal decrease in the average achievement of the incoming cohort. The policy also reduced the gap in applications to selective majors between high and low-socioeconomic status individuals by more than 50 percent. However, most of the effects on major-choice happened among individuals less likely to be accepted to a selective major, suggesting an increase in strategic mistakes. My findings contribute to our understanding of policy interventions that can mitigate the socioeconomic gap in both college attendance and field of study. Encouraging individuals to apply to higher return majors may be an important channel through which affirmative action policies increase economic mobility.

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