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Aspirations and Education

Raising Aspirations and Higher Education:
Lessons from the UK Widening Participation Policies.


A growing literature establishes that non financial constraints may lie behind the observed inequality in educational outcomes between youths from different socioeconomic backgrounds. This paper investigates in particular the role of aspirations, by estimating the impact of a nation-scale UK policy intervention aimed at raising the aspirations of pupils from low socioeconomic background to increase their participation in college education. The policy prescribes that colleges should involve the target pupils in outreach activities such as meetings with graduate students and visits to colleges. By using a regression discontinuity design, I show that the policy successfully raised the aspirations towards higher education of the target students and their participation in post compulsory education, but increased enrollment in college only for students from the most affluent families and for those in the central part of the ability distribution.