Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2014

Strategic Disclosure: The Case of Business School Rankings

by Michael Luca and Jonathan Smith

Abstract

We empirically analyze disclosure decisions made by 240 MBA programs about which rankings to display on their websites. We present three main findings. First, consistent with theories of countersignaling, top schools are least likely to disclose their rankings, whereas mid-ranked schools are most likely to disclose. Second, schools that do poorly in the U.S. News rankings are more likely to disclose their Princeton Review certification, suggesting that schools treat different certifications as substitutes. Third, conditional on displaying a ranking, the majority of schools coarsen information to make it seem more favorable. The stark patterns in the data help to provide empirical evidence on the strategic elements of voluntary disclosure and marketing decisions.

Keywords: Voluntary Disclosure; Shrouded Attributes; Information Unraveling; Rankings; Journals and Magazines; Strategy; Corporate Disclosure; Web Sites; Rank and Position; Business Education; Education Industry; United States;

Citation:

Luca, Michael, and Jonathan Smith. "Strategic Disclosure: The Case of Business School Rankings." Working Paper. (Revised and resubmitted, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.)