Empirical Essays in the Economics of Education

Stijn Broecke

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In the UK, recent advances in data linking and matching have enabled education economists to shed new light on old questions. This thesis builds on these data developments to investigate three separate questions in the economics of education. The chapters all have a geographical focus on the UK and all touch upon issues related to higher education in some capacity or other.

The first chapter deals with the determinants of subject choice and attainment. More specifically, it estimates the effects of an education policy (Triple Science) in England aimed at increasing the take-up and attainment of young people in science subjects. The results suggest some large and significant effects of the policy on later subject choice and attainment, and these appear to be particularly strong for boys and pupils from more deprived backgrounds.

The second chapter considers the question of whether it pays to attend more selective universities in the UK. I compare students who indicated preferences for, and were conditionally accepted to, the same universities - but who attended different ones because some failed to meet the conditions of their preferred offer. The results suggest that the university you attend matters to your earnings, with one standard deviation in selectivity leading to a 7% increase in earnings three and half years after graduation.

The third and final chapter explores the effect changes in university rankings have on applicant and institution behaviour in the UK. Universities that fall down the rankings experience small but statistically significant drops in the number of applications received, as well as in the average tariff score of applicants and accepted applicants. Although the effects found are stronger for certain types of students and institutions, they tend to be modest overall, and suggest that other factors play a more important role in attracting applicants to universities.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Chevalier, Arnaud, Supervisor
Award date1 Feb 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011


  • Economics of Education

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