Research papers

Job Market Paper

“The value of information in centralized school choice systems’’. 2017.

Draft (pdf version)

Abstract: Centralized assignment mechanisms based on the deferred acceptance algorithm (DA) are used by many school districts around the world to assign students to schools. Theoretical analyses of the DA consider that students are allowed to list all the alternatives of the choice set in their application rankings. However, in virtually all places where these mechanisms are implemented, students are restricted to list only a small number of choices. As a consequence, applicants need to take into account their admission chances to the programs, and be strategic in their choice. This paper uses administrative data from Tunisia, where high school graduates are assigned to university programs using a sequential variant of the DA, to empirically examine the effect of enabling students to update their expectations about their admissions probabilities. The sequential implementation induces quasi-experimental variation in the information available to students about remaining vacancies, and grounds the identification of students’ preferences and expected admission probabilities. When students cannot revise their expectations, and relative to a benchmark situation in which students are given perfect information about which programs would admit them, their average indirect utility is decreased by the equivalent of a 41km-increase in the distance home-university —40% of the median distance traveled by students in the data. While easy to implement, the sequential implementation of the DA procedure reduces this expected utility loss by 67% in Tunisia. The increase in expected welfare is driven by a decrease in the share of students rejected by all their listed choices. Gains disproportionately accrue to low-ability and low-SES students, and counterfactuals suggest that a better targeting of low-priority students by the information provision would increase welfare gains.

Working Papers

“Do selective high schools improve students’ outcomes? Evidence from Tunisia’’. Joint with Meryam Zaiem. 2016. Under review.

Draft (pdf version)

AbstractAlthough documented in many papers, the impact of attending a better school on future achievement is unclear and varies greatly depending on the context. We examine the impact of being admitted to a high school with high achieving peers in Tunisia, particularly on post-secondary choices. In Tunisia, the selection mechanism of students into elite schools creates admission cutoffs that can be exploited in a sharp regression discontinuity (RD) design. However, we show that despite the validity of the RD design, average and quantile treatment effects are not immune to biases resulting from sample selection and missing outcome data. We propose and estimate bounds for the true effects. We find that admission to an elite high school increases student performance at the end of high school. In addition, it increases the selectivity level of post-secondary programs students in the higher end of the distribution get assigned to. These conclusions differ significantly from those that would be drawn from naive RD estimates.


Work in Progress

“Educational inputs and timing: how do elite schools affect students’ outcomes?’’. Joint with Meryam Zaiem. 2016.

Abstract (coming soon)