Labor Economics, Economics of Education.
“The signal quality of grades across academic fields.” Journal of Applied Econometrics, 34(4) (June/July, 2019): 566-587. (Working paper version)
“The effects of Greek affiliation on academic performance,” with Andrew De Donato. Economics of Education Review, 57 (April, 2017): 41-51. (Working paper version)
University decisions can have lasting effects on students in the labor market; however, little is known about how these decisions are made. This paper develops a new framework for empirically analyzing course offerings at a sample university. The framework is based on the idea that course offerings directly affect student utilities and the probabilities that students choose courses in a given field. As such, administrators deciding which courses to offer are always implicitly trading off the number of students choosing courses in each field and total student utility. By measuring the marginal effects of offering additional sections of courses in each field on field enrollments and student utility, one can quantify these implicit tradeoffs between student utility and field enrollments. In my empirical application, I find that a marginal dollar of spending on social science course sections produces 2.5 times as much student utility as a marginal dollar of spending on business or occupational course sections at a sample university. From this, I conclude the university is implicitly sacrificing student utility to draw students out of social science courses and into business or occupational courses. If this is intentional, then the university has a preference for business and occupational enrollment which may affect how their course offerings respond to changes in policies or student composition. Counterfactual analyses show that ignoring these responses can lead to understating the effects of changes in student composition on field enrollments by a factor of three.
“Equilibrium Grade Inflation with Implications for Female Interest in STEM Majors,” (with Thomas Ahn, Peter Arcidiacono, and Amy Hopson).
We estimate an equilibrium model of grading policies where professors set grading policies and students register and study for classes, in part, based on these policies. Professors value enrollment, learning, and student study time, and set policies taking into account how other professors grade. Male and female students value course types, the benefits associated with higher grades, and effort costs differently. We calculate how much of the differences in grading policies across fields is driven by differences in demand for courses in those fields and how much is due to differences in professor preferences across fields. We also decompose differences in female/male course taking across fields driven by differences in i) cognitive skills, ii) valuation of grades, iii) cost of studying, and iv) field preferences. We then run counterfactual simulations to evaluate changes to grading policies. Restrictions on grading policies that equalize grade distributions across classes result in higher (lower) grades in science (non-science) fields but more (less) work being required. As women are willing to study more than men, this restriction on grading policies results in more women pursuing the sciences and more men pursuing the non-sciences.