Research Fields

Labor Economics, Economics of Education.

Published Articles

“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)

Working Papers

“What do course offerings imply about university preferences?”  Second Revise and Resubmit at Journal of Labor Economics.

This paper develops a framework for analyzing university course offerings. Course offerings affect student utilities and course choices. As such, course offerings implicitly trade off the number of students choosing courses in each field and total student utility. Marginal effects of offering different courses can quantify the implicit tradeoffs between student utility and field enrollments. At a sample university, the marginal effect of business and occupational spending on student utility is 23% lower than the effect of humanities and arts spending. This implies course offerings implicitly sacrifice student utility to move students from humanities and arts to business and occupational courses.

“Equilibrium Grade Inflation with Implications for Female Interest in STEM Majors,” (with Thomas Ahn, Peter Arcidiacono, and Amy Hopson).  Revise and Resubmit at Econometrica.

Substantial earnings differences exist across majors with the majors that pay well also having lower grades and higher workloads. We show that the harsher grading policies in STEM courses disproportionately affect women. To show this, we estimate a model of student demand courses and optimal effort choices of students conditional on the chosen courses. Instructor grading policies are treated as equilibrium objects that in part depend on student demand for courses. Restrictions on grading policies that equalize average grades across classes helps to close the STEM gender gap as well as increasing overall enrollment in STEM classes.

“Improving the Signal Quality of Grades,” (with Adam Chilton, Peter Joy, and Kyle Rozema).  Revise and Resubmit at Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization.

We investigate how improving the signal quality of grades could enhance the matching of students to selective opportunities that are awarded early in academic programs. To do so, we develop methods to measure the signal quality of grades and to estimate the impact of changes to university policies on the identification of exceptional students for these opportunities. We focus on law schools, a setting where students are awarded important academic and professional opportunities after just one year of a three-year program. Using transcript data from one top law school over a 40-year period, we document large gains in identifying exceptional students if reasonable changes were made to certain personnel, course, and grading policies. Our findings provide motivation and a blueprint for how universities could leverage their internal records to ensure that fewer exceptional students miss out on selective opportunities.