Preference Heterogeneity and School Segregation. Journal of Public Economics (2021)

(joint with Hessel Oosterbeek and Bas van der Klaauw)

This paper examines heterogeneity of school preferences between ethnic and social groups and quantifies the importance of this heterogeneity for school segregation. We use rich data from the secondary-school match in Amsterdam. Our key findings are that heterogeneity of preferences for schools is substantial and that 40% of school segregation by ethnicity and close to 25% of school segregation by household income, can be attributed to it. Ability tracking is the other main determinant of school segregation. Results from policy simulations indicate that minority quotas reduce segregation within ability tracks considerably, but this comes at the cost of many students receiving less-preferred assignments and a higher share of unassigned students.


Media: Vox Podcast

Working Papers

Need vs. Merit: The Large Core of College Admissions Markets

(joint with Péter Biró, Avinatan Hassidim, Assaf Romm, and Ran I. Shorrer)

This paper studies the set of stable allocations in college admissions markets where students can attend the same college under different financial terms. The stable deferred acceptance mechanism implicitly allocates funding based on merit. In Hungary, where the centralized mechanism is based on deferred acceptance, an alternate stable algorithm would change the assignment of 9.3 percent of the applicants, and increase the number of assigned applicants by 2 percent. Low socioeconomic status applicants and colleges in the periphery benefit disproportionately from moving to this non-merit-based algorithm. These findings stand in sharp contrast to findings from the matching (without contracts) literature.


Dominated Choices in a Strategically Simple College Admissions Environment: The Effect of Admission Selectivity

(joint with Ran I. Shorrer)

Although many centralized school assignment systems use the strategically simple Deferred Acceptance mechanism, applicants often make dominated choices. Using administrative data from Hungary, we show that many college applicants forgo the free opportunity to receive a tuition waiver. Using two empirical strategies, we provide causal evidence that applicants make more such dominated choices when applying to programs where tuition waivers are more selective. Our results suggest that dominated choices are more common when their expected utility cost is lower. But, a non-negligible share of these dominated choices are consequential and when they are, the cost is significant, averaging more than 3,000 dollars.


Do Elite Schools Benefit their Students?

(joint with János Divényi)

This paper studies how enrollment in an elite school affects elite-school students' academic achievement in Hungary. Enrollment in a Hungarian elite school entails having academically stronger peers, a more-advanced, higher-paced curriculum, and teachers of high-qualification. Using non-parametric bounds, we show that enrollment in an elite school decreases female and low-ability students' mathematics test scores two years after enrollment. School value-added estimates, which lie within our non-parametric bounds, show that the negative short-run effects reverse four years after enrollment. These positive effects are concentrated at the upper end of the outcome distribution and they are stronger for high-ability students.


Book Chapters

Oorzaken van schoolsegregatie in Amsterdam (in Dutch)

(joint with Hessel Oosterbeek and Bas van der Klaauw)

Hoofdstuk 8 in H. van de Werfhorst en E. van Hest, Gelijke kansen in de stad, Amsterdam University Press.

Work in Progress

Measuring students’ cardinal preferences for schools

(joint with Monique de Haan, Pieter Gautier, Hessel Oosterbeek, and Bas van der Klaauw)

This paper compares different approaches to express cardinal preferences of students in terms of their willingness-to-travel to schools. A good measure for cardinal utility is crucial for ranking school assignment mechanisms in terms of expected student welfare. We directly measure willingness-to-travel in a survey and compare this to a structurally estimated willingness-to-travel measure using non-manipulated survey-based ordinal rankings and a measure based on subjective preference points. Only when the ordinal rankings coincide, the different measures are strongly correlated (also within students). For all measures, deferred acceptance yields higher average student welfare than the adaptive immediate acceptance mechanism. Finally, we show that when actual choice data from a non-strategy proof mechanism are used to estimate willingness-to-travel, the absence of information on the rank-ordered lists causes a low correlation in willingness-to-travel with directly measured willingness-to-travel.

Strategic mistakes in school assignment: Biased beliefs vs. optimization errors

(joint with Monique de Haan, Pieter Gautier, Hessel Oosterbeek, and Bas van der Klaauw)

Firm Consolidations and Labor Market Outcomes

(joint with Sabien Dobbelaere, Grace McCormack, Daniel Prinz)