Research Fields

Labor Economics, Economics of Education.

Published Articles

“The signal quality of grades across academic fields.” Forthcoming in Journal of Applied Econometrics. (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)

Working Papers

“Measuring implied field preferences from a university’s course offerings”

Universities are important social institutions yet little is known about how they make institutional decisions. 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 courses in each field on field enrollments and total utility, one can quantify the tradeoffs between total utility and field enrollments which are implied by observed course offerings. In my empirical application, I find that a marginal dollar of spending on social science courses produces 2.5 times as much student utility as a marginal dollar of spending on business or occupational courses. 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. Under stronger assumptions, these implied tradeoffs can be treated as parameters of a university’s objective function in a two-sided model of a university and students. With this framework, I conduct counterfactual analyses which predict how course offerings and field enrollments will change in various alternative scenarios.

“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 both an intercept and a returns to studying and ability. Professors value enrollment, learning, and student study time and set their policies taking into the account the policies of the other professors. Students respond to grading policies in their selection of courses and how much to study conditional on enrolling. Men and women are allowed to have different preferences over course types, the benefits associated with higher grades, and the cost of exerting more effort. Two decompositions are performed. First, we separate out 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. Second, we separate out differences in female/male course taking across fields is driven by i) differences in cognitive skills, ii) differences in the valuation of grades, iii) differences in the cost of studying, and iv) differences in field preferences. We then use the structural parameters to evaluate restrictions on 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.

Works in Progress

“Admission decisions and University Preferences for Student Body Composition,” with Peter Arcidiacono and Arnaud Maurel.

“The Labor Market Returns to Spending on College Instruction,” with Joseph Altonji and Seth Zimmerman.