Determinants of the match between student ability and college quality

Eleanor Wiske Dillon, Jeffrey Andrew Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


We examine how students of varying abilities sort (and are sorted) into colleges of varying qualities. Our data indicate substantial amounts of both academic under match (high-ability students at low-quality colleges) and academic overmatch (low-ability students at high-quality colleges). Student application and enrollment decisions, rather than college admission decisions, drive most deviations from academic assortative matching. Financial constraints, information, and the public college options facing students all affect this sorting, but mainly via college quality rather than the match between ability and quality. More informed students attend higher-quality colleges, even when doing so involves overmatching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-66
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Labor Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • Economics and Econometrics


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