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The Impacts of Building Elite High Schools for Students from Disadvantaged Areas

Prashant Loyalka, Jianguo Wei, Yingquan Song, Weiping Zhong and James Chu

Economic Development and Cultural Change, 2015, vol. 63, issue 2, 393 - 422

Abstract: Although thousands of studies in developing countries have evaluated whether specific interventions improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged students, few have focused on comprehensive reforms. The goal of this study is to examine how a comprehensive package of demand- and supply-side educational interventions--namely, the building of free, elite high schools targeted toward students from poor areas--affects the educational outcomes of disadvantaged students. Specifically, we use a unique administrative data set that includes information on all students in one northwestern province in China over 10 years, in combination with short interrupted time series with comparison group designs, to estimate the causal effects of this intervention on the college admission outcomes of students from poor areas. Our results show that the intervention improves the likelihood that a "typical" (or average) student from a poor area can gain admission to nonelite colleges but not to elite colleges. Furthermore, by discussing the mechanisms through which the intervention can improve the (nonelite) college admission outcomes of the typical student, we argue that expanding the capacity of existing high schools may be a more cost-effective option than building new elite high schools.

Date: 2015
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