Associate Professor Jiang Ming Publishes an International Cooperative Paper in PNAS

Office of Alumni and External Relations    2020-11-25

Recently, the associate professor Jiang Ming of ACEM, in cooperation with Professor Chen Yan from University of Michigan and Professor Onur Kesten from University of Sydney, published a paper titled “An Empirical Evaluation of Chinese College Admissions Reforms Through A Natural Experiment” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), aiming at studying the impact of Chinese college admission reforms on the students' college ranking strategies and admission results. Associate professor Jiang Ming is the corresponding author of this article.

While college admission decisions impact the educational experiences and labor market outcomes for millions of students each year, the method to promote the reform of college admission mechanism in a practical and effective way has been vigorously debated by academics and policymakers. Using the college admission data (anonymous) from a certain county in China in 2008 and 2009, the paper evaluated the sequential and parallel mechanisms of college admission through the empirical analysis of natural experiments.

The difference-in-differences method is used in this study for analysis: students are randomly selected into the different years by birth, but statistics show that students from different demographic backgrounds are similarly distributed across years; and the reform of the county's admission mechanism only aims at tier 1, while the tier 2 and tier 3 remain unchanged, so admission data of different types of colleges in different years can be compared.

According to the findings of the paper, the parallel mechanism reduces the risk of student’s college ranking. Compared with the sequential mechanism, students believe that the parallel mechanism will provide a way out for rejection of their first choice. Therefore, on the one hand, they are more inclined to fight for the first choice and try to apply for a better school; on the other hand, they will also list more schools in their rank-ordered lists (ROL), so as to provide adequate assurance for themselves. The parallel mechanism reduces the negative consequences of the college ranking errors, and allows the applicants to be more willing to apply for the schools they like. Although the tier 1 admission ratio is reduced, the probability of missing the first choice requiring a lower score than the student's score is also reduced significantly. In addition, the analysis conclusion of the paper also indicates that the parallel mechanism improves the fairness of college admission results; in other words, there is less chance that a student with higher score is admitted by a less preferred college.

In previous studies, although the advantages of parallel mechanism have been fully proved in theory, most of the empirical tests were carried out in the laboratory environment. Therefore, one of the important contributions of this paper is to verify the theoretical results of admission mechanism design with more authentic empirical data. This paper not only introduces the experience of Chinese college admissions reforms to the world and proves the effectiveness of the parallel mechanism in the nationwide promotion with scientific methods, but also tests the correctness of the theoretical research on college admission mechanism with natural experimental data, which provides an empirical basis for the follow-up research and policy-making.

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