Do Rural Students Really Perform Worse than Urban Students Do? Empirical Evidence from a University Entrance Program in Taiwan



Despite a major expansion in the number of students in higher education, students from rural areas continue to be underrepresented at selective universities. To reduce the urban-rural imbalance of entry to selective universities, institutions in many countries of the world have implemented admission policies favoring rural students. Previous evidence has shown that rural students have lower academic performance than their urban peers, which leads to concern that rural students will reduce the academic excellence of selective universities. Using the introduction of a university admission policy favoring rural students in Taiwan and a unique administrative data set of students' academic records, we compare the academic performance of students from rural areas with that of their urban counterparts during their college years. The results show that rural students have consistently outperformed urban students in semester grade point averages and class rank percentile across time; however, the differences in academic performance are mainly attributed to the rural students' initial outperformance in the first semester of the freshman year.