Why it’s harder than before to get into your favorite college

Caroline Hoxby reports:

This paper shows that although the top ten percent of colleges are
substantially more selective now than they were 5 decades ago, most
colleges are not more selective. Moreover, at least 50 percent of
colleges are substantially less selective now than they were then. This
paper demonstrates that competition for space–the number of students
who wish to attend college growing faster than the number of spaces
available–does not explain changing selectivity. The explanation is,
instead, that the elasticity of a student's preference for a college
with respect to its proximity to his home has fallen substantially over
time and there has been a corresponding increase in the elasticity of
his preference for a college with respect to its resources and peers.
In other words, students used to attend a local college regardless of
their abilities and its characteristics. Now, their choices are driven
far less by distance and far more by a college's resources and student
body. It is the consequent re-sorting of students among colleges that
has, at once, caused selectivity to rise in a small number of colleges
while simultaneously causing it to fall in other colleges. I show that
the integration of the market for college education has had profound
implications on the peers whom college students experience, the
resources invested in their education, the tuition they pay, and the
subsidies they enjoy. An important finding is that, even though tuition
has been rising rapidly at the most selective schools, the deal
students get there has arguably improved greatly. The result is that
the "stakes" associated with admission to these colleges are much
higher now than in the past.

Here is one summary of the paper.  The ungated version is here.  Note that the incomplete nature of globalization for higher ed means this process still has a long way to run.

By the way, does this logic also apply to romance?  To really good sporting events?  To meeting and befriending celebrities?  Is this a more general prediction in a superstars model?


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