How do Students Respond to Partial Information on Graduation Chances? Evidence from University Admissions in France

Gabrielle Fack (Paris School of Economics)

March 5, 2024, 15:30–16:50

Room Auditorium 4

Econometrics and Empirical Economics Seminar


This paper tests if and how students react to partial information provision in France’s centralized university admissions. We exploit the Orientation Active policy, which provides applicants to some non-selective programs with a negative, positive, or mixed assessment of their program-specific graduation chance, based on the students’ past academic performance and the programs’ cutoffs. We use these cutoffs to develop a regression discontinuity design and analyze how students adjust their higher education choices upon the reception of new information. Our results reject the hypothesis that students have full information about their graduation chances at all programs, as they change their application behavior and/or enrollment decision upon receiving a positive or negative assessment. We show that the reaction to a positive message differs by gender, as it induces women to enroll more often in non-selective programs, while it encourages men to apply to more selective programs. These differential reactions reinforce the existing gender gap in the application to selective programs. Our results also show a small deterrent effect on application to specific programs upon the reception of a negative message for all students. These behavioral responses, however, do not lead to improved student outcomes in the first two years of higher education. These results uncover the potential pitfalls of partial information provision that need to be taken into account in the design of interventions in education settings. with Julien Grenet, Yinghua He and Marion Monnet.