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Implementing Quotas in University Admissions: An Experimental Analysis


Dwenger,  Nadja
Public Economics, MPI for Tax Law and Public Finance, Max Planck Society;

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Dwenger, N., Braun, S., Kübler, D., & Westkamp, A. (2012). Implementing Quotas in University Admissions: An Experimental Analysis. SFB 649 discussion paper, 2012-005.

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Quotas for special groups of students often apply in school or university admission procedures. This paper studies the performance of two mechanisms to implement such quotas in a lab experiment. The first mechanism is a simplified version of the mechanism currently employed by the German central clearinghouse for university admissions, which first allocates seats in the quota for top-grade students before allocating all other seats among remaining applicants. The second is a modified version of the student-proposing deferred acceptance (SDA) algorithm, which simultaneously allocates seats in all quotas. Our main result is that the current procedure, designed to give top-grade students an advantage, actually harms them, as students often fail to grasp the strategic issues involved. The modified SDA algorithm significantly improves the matching for top-grade students and could thus be a valuable tool for redesigning university admissions in Germany.