Asked about the cafeteria at Bowdoin College, students are rhapsodic. In their dining menu I saw coconut quinoa kale, a pasta bar and Maine beef hamburgers.
Below is a banana chocolate chip pancake waffle with a Bowdoin seal:
Bowdoin says that a prospective student’s good meal could mean an application.
Where are we going? To ranking colleges.
College Ranking Systems
Long ago in The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell decimated college ranking systems. Pointing out that a rating number obscures the inaccuracies on which it is based, he trashed the U.S. News and World Report college issue. Meanwhile, others have shown that colleges even distort the admissions process to get a higher matriculation rate.
Saying there has to be a better way, scholars from Harvard, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania suggested revealed preference. A student focused system, revealed preference tallies where applicants were accepted and where they went. By compiling the data for thousands of students, statisticians can create a ranking that reflects what students believed were the best colleges.
Revealed preference in a 2004 paper:
Our Bottom Line: College Markets
Like the market provides the “Wisdom of the Crowd” by aggregating the decisions of many individuals, so too does revealed preference. Here though, we have student data creating a ranking that equates to price. And like price, those rankings send a message to the demand and supply sides of the market.
Might revealed preference include food?
My sources and more: Always a solid source of new research, the NBER digest alerted me to the paper on revealed preference. However, for the best explanation of revealed preference, this Cass Sunstein blog and this ranking website were ideal. Then for good reads, I recommend the Gladwell article and James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of the Crowd.