School tracking and access to higher education among disadvantaged groups

Ofer Malamud, Cristian Pop-Eleches

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When students are tracked into vocational and academic secondary schools, access to higher education is usually restricted to those who complete an academic track. Postponing such tracking may increase university attendance among disadvantaged students if additional time in school enables them to catch up with their more privileged counterparts. However, if ability and expectations are fairly well set by an early age, postponing tracking during adolescence may not have much effect. This paper exploits an educational reform in Romania to examine the impact of postponing tracking on the proportion of disadvantaged students graduating from university using a regression discontinuity (RD) design. We show that, although students from poor, rural areas and with less educated parents were significantly more likely to finish an academic track and become eligible to apply for university after the reform, this did not translate into an increase in university completion. Our findings indicate that simply postponing tracking, without increasing the slots available in university, is not sufficient to improve access to higher education for disadvantaged groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1538-1549
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Disadvantaged groups
  • Education
  • Tracking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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