Yang SongFollow

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date


JEL Codes

I21, I24, I25, I28

Working Paper Number



School choice reforms give talented students the option to sort out of low-performing schools but often leave disadvantaged students behind. This study shows how a Chinese city was successful in helping its low-performing schools to catch up by encouraging talented students to sort into these schools. The city identified eleven low-performing middle schools and guaranteed elite high school admission to their top ten-percent graduates. This study documents that the policy improved school performance by 0.19-0.26 standard deviations. Using data on lottery middle school assignment, I further test for potential mechanisms, including strategic sorting and improvement in school value-added.


I am grateful to Daniel Berkowitz, Thomas Rawski, Werner Troesken and Randall Walsh for their advice and support. I also wish to thank Susan Dynarski, John Bound, Eric Chyn, Lixin Colin Xu, Marc Law, Sebastian Galiani, Paul Glewwe, Tate Twinam, as well as participants at 2016 ASSA, CIERS, Xiamen Ronald Coase Institute Workshop, 2nd Summer School of Socioeconomic Inequality at the University of Chicago, and Applied Micro Seminar at the University of Pittsburgh for helpful comments. I thank Andrew Mellon Pre-doctoral Fellowship for financial support.