Working paper

Perceived Ability and School Choices

Matteo Bobba, and Veronica Frisancho


This paper studies how youths’ self-perceptions of ability affect their sorting patterns across schools. We design and implement a field experiment in which ninth-graders from less advantaged backgrounds in Mexico City are provided with individualized feedback about their performance on an achievement test. The treatment shifts both the mean and the variance of the subjective distributions of academic ability. This variation is embedded into a discrete choice model that characterizes the channels through which perceived ability shapes individual preferences over school characteristics. Follow-up data on schooling outcomes suggest that the information intervention improved the match between students and education choices.


Information; Subjective expectations; Beliefs updating; Biased beliefs; School choice; Discrete choice models; Control function; Stable matching;

JEL codes

  • D83: Search • Learning • Information and Knowledge • Communication • Belief
  • I21: Analysis of Education
  • I24: Education and Inequality
  • J24: Human Capital • Skills • Occupational Choice • Labor Productivity


Matteo Bobba, and Veronica Frisancho, Perceived Ability and School Choices, TSE Working Paper, n. 16-660, June 2016, revised May 2019.

See also

Published in

TSE Working Paper, n. 16-660, June 2016, revised May 2019