Students deciding where to apply to college are strongly influenced by a college's racial makeup, according to new research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The new study suggests that racial differences in college application rates are largely explained by the proportion of same race students at a college and how many same race students from a potential applicant's high school have been successful at the college. Blacks and Asians are particularly likely to prefer campuses with higher rates of black and Asian students, respectively.
The study revealed several surprising things. Black students are more likely to apply to college than other races when college readiness and high school quality are held equal. Hispanic students have a higher college readiness than black students, but they apply to college at lower rates, causing low Hispanic college enrollment.
"Inequality in college access and quality begins with the decision to apply to college and is influenced by college factors including student demographics and past high school feeder patterns," the study's authors wrote.
The study was authored by three professors: Sandra Black and Jane Lincove from the University of Texas at Austin, and Kalena Cortes from Texas A&M University.
"When applying to college, minorities are influenced by more than just matching their academic ability to the institution," the authors wrote. "We find that racial and ethnic gaps in application rates, particularly for Hispanic students, are not explained by differential levels of college readiness, high school quality, or information regarding college admission processes."
The authors examined application patterns by recent Texas high school graduates to the 37 four-year public colleges in the state.