Yusuke Narita (Yale University)
Kalai Family Workshop in Econometrics
Oct 24 2019
Back to All Events
Meritocracy and Its Discontents: Evidence from Repeated School Admission Reforms
We investigate the impacts of changing school admissions systems in higher education. In doing so, we take advantage of the world’s first known implementation of nationally centralized admissions and its subsequent reversals in early twentieth-century Japan. This centralization was designed to make the school seat allocation more meritocratic, but we find a tradeoff between meritocracy and equal regional access to higher education and career success. Specifically, in the short run, in line with theoretical predictions, the meritocratic centralization led students to apply to more selective schools and make more inter-regional applications. However, as high ability students were located disproportionately in urban areas, the centralization caused urban applicants to crowd out rural applicants from higher education. Moreover, these impacts were persistent: Four decades later, compared to the decentralized system, the centralized admissions increased the number of urban-born career elites (e.g., high income earners) relative to rural-born ones.