Segregation, ethnic disparities in university application choices, and educational stratification: Evidence from revealed choice data
Racial and ethnic disparities in educational trajectories and outcomes continue to be central concerns for stratification scholars and policymakers worldwide. A key contributor to these disparities lies in ethnic and racial variations in college application behaviors, which lead to higher rates of academic mismatch among disadvantaged applicants. This paper delves deeper into the role of decision-making processes in generating ethnic and racial disparities in college application choices. We propose that application considerations anchored in an unequal and segregated opportunity structure can generate systematic group differences in college application choices, resulting in suboptimal outcomes for disadvantaged minorities. We evaluate this argument using unique administrative records detailing the revealed choices of Jewish and Arab applicants to universities in Israel, recognizing the high levels of ethnic segregation, education, and labor market stratification in this country. The data and context allow us to pinpoint group differences in decision-making because we can discount costs, geographic proximity, or information constraints—factors often cited as reasons for disparities in application choices. Results from conditional logit (choice) models uncover ethnic differences in how applicants weigh program characteristics. This leads to substantial variation in the rate of academic mismatch and accounts for the bulk of the ethnic gap in university admission. Results demonstrate the importance of decision-making processes in understanding ethnic-racial stratification.