Diversity and Student Social Interactions: Evidence from an Elite College and Turnstiles
Tatiana Velasco Rodriguez

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Teachers College, Columbia University

Primary Discipline

The efforts to desegregate schools by helping low–income students to attend elite institutions have spread around the world. However, the evidence on how students’ social networks respond to such policies remains scant. While there is evidence indicating that school integration fosters upward mobility and more positive views towards others (Chetty al., 2020; Fryer, 2011; Rao, 2019), there is little evidence on how students’ interactions within schools respond to such policies. Importantly, there is a concern that school integration benefits may be undermined if social interactions within schools remain segregated. My dissertation provides evidence on this gap by asking: What happens to students’ social interactions when a desegregation policy forces socio-economic integration? Are low–income and wealthy students more likely to interact with one another? Moreover, if social interactions change, how does that reflect on academic achievement? To answer these questions, I study a natural experiment at an elite university that experienced a sharp and unexpected increase in its enrollment of low–income students. To measure social interactions, I assemble a novel dataset based on over a hundred million records of students’ movements across campus as recorded by turnstiles guarding all campus entrances. I derive an indicator of students’ interactions, which I validate against a social network survey. I combine these data with student-level records and implement a difference–in–differences approach that exploits the plausibly random variation in the share of low–income peers within degree programs (i.e., majors) and across cohorts.
About Tatiana Velasco Rodriguez
Tatiana Velasco is a Ph.D. candidate in the Economics and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research studies the relation between education policies and economic inequality, with a focus on higher education and the transition to the labor market. Her work centers in Latin America and leverages administrative data with policy evaluation methods. Tatiana is particularly interested in the role of financial aid policies and their impacts on segregation and student behaviors as determinants of academic success and social mobility. In her dissertation, Tatiana uses novel administrative data to build students’ social networks and study how desegregation policies can affect students’ social interactions.Prior to her Ph.D. at Columbia, Tatiana worked as a researcher at the School of Economics at Universidad de Los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). During this time, Tatiana studied several education policies in Colombia and participated in multiple policy evaluation projects. Her research has been published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness and in World Development. Tatiana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master’s degree in Economics from Universidad de Los Andes.

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