RECENT RESEARCH ACTIVITIES

Alon, Sigal. “The Expansion of the Postsecondary System and Economic Inequality: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Israel.” In Progress.

This study explores whether the increased access to higher education amplified the variation of education quality, and whether this between-institutions and between-fields stratification changed the structure and the drivers of economic inequality. I exploit a natural experiment produced by the Israeli Government’s 1995 decision for an instantaneous expansion of the postsecondary education system. Preliminary results suggest that the expansion of the postsecondary education system reshaped the structure of inequality in labor market earnings, from one based on the level of educational attainment to one that is sensitive to education quality, specifically to field of study. Further analyses will expand these findings by following these workers into the next decade, when they are at the peak of their career, and assess whether and how this growing importance of education quality transformed the reproduction of class-based gaps.

 

Alon, Sigal and Dafna Gelbgiser. “Collective Logic in Decision-Making.” In Progress.

Every day, we make decisions that involve choosing from multiple alternatives in areas as diverse as relationships, health, education, employment, and housing. Yet we lack a full perspective on how these decisions are actually made. Classical decision-making theory places the individual at the center of the decision making process, and largely neglects the influence of social context and the group’s opportunity structure. Conversely, stratification scholarship postulates that interests and ambitions are shaped by social identity, socioeconomic resources, and the structure of opportunity, but brushes aside the way positional inequality shapes individual decision-making and the role played by these choices in the fanning out of socioeconomic trajectories. We develop a conceptual framework that highlights collective logic to capture the influences of social context and positional inequality on individuals’ decision-making. Using a unique case study, we test this framework.

 

Gelbgiser, Dafna and Sigal Alon. “A Big Fish in a Small Pond: Academic Undermatching and College Outcomes.” In Progress.

Academic “mismatch”—the degree of incompatibility between students’ academic aptitude and the demands of their educational unit— is central to many streams of research on inequality in higher education. Yet, nearly all research on academic mismatch focuses on overmatched students, whose qualifications are lower than those of their classmates. In this paper we assess the implications of different types of academic mismatch on students’ retention, focusing explicitly on over- and under-matched students. We use complete administrative data on the applications, academic careers and outcomes of all students at four elite universities in Israel in 1998-2003 to accurately gauge academic mismatch and retention. Results from multinomial logit models suggest that academic undermatching is especially consequential for students’ retention, more so than overmatching: Undermatched students are more likely than their matched and overmatched peers to transfer and graduate in another field, or to leave college without a degree altogether.