The Capability Approach to Understanding Student Outcomes: Expanding the Concept of Human Capital
Degree awarded: Ph.D. Economics. American University
I study whether the Texas Top 10 Percent law provides students with the freedom to realize the educational outcomes they desire and whether the law increases the likelihood of college enrollment particularly for minorities and individuals from a low socioeconomic status. The research draws on A.K. Sen's capability approach to contribute to the literature on the benefits of higher education by considering a broader scope of benefits. The Texas Higher Education Opportunity Project (THEOP) data set offers a unique opportunity to use Amartya Sen's capability approach to understanding both the value of an education as well as the formal and informal constraints faced by students in attaining a higher education. I use a propensity score matching strategy to identify the impact of the law on students. I find that in fact the Texas Top 10 Percent law does increase the freedom of white and Mexican American students by increasing the probability of realization of college expectation. Specifically, I find that in the first few years the Texas Top 10 Percent law increased the freedom of Mexican American students by increasing the probability of realization of college expectation by 19.85 percent. Further, I find the law increases the probability of realizing the expectation to go to college for whites by 8.89 percent.