Peer-Reviewed Publications
Online Appendix: Sub-Discipline Level Estimates   


Working Papers
(Revisions requested at  American Economic Journal: Economic Policy) 
Abstract: Community colleges are an important postsecondary sector, yet there are few causal estimates of their effect on student earnings. I estimate the labor market returns to a particularly important degree, the Associate’s Degree in Nursing, by leveraging random variation from admissions lotteries. I use student-level academic and earnings records across two decades for community college students in California. I find that enrolling in the program increases earnings by 55 percent. I also document substantial heterogeneity in these effects across nursing programs. I estimate that the benefits of expanding a program far outweigh the costs and are close to revenue neutral.
(Revisions requested at Journal of Policy Analysis and Management)
We analyze how Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application behavior was affected by iClaim, a 2009 innovation that streamlined the online application process and lowered costs to apply and appeal. We compare application rates before and after 2009 between counties with differential changes in application costs due to high speed internet access. While higher exposure to the online application led to a small increase in applications and more appeals, it decreased award rates. These results suggest that in counties with higher internet access, iClaim may have increased the share of marginal SSDI applicants or affect the quality of initial applications.

The Effect of Local Labor Market Downturns on Postsecondary Enrollment and Program Choice, with Andrew Foote (under review)
We examine the response of postsecondary enrollment to local labor market downturns. We use institution-level data on enrollment and credential completion for most two-year colleges across the country over the past two decades. We leverage local area counts of mass layoffs as a measure of discrete and acute labor market shocks. We find that for every 100 workers involved in a mass layoff, first-time fall enrollment increases by 3 students within three years. We also find heterogenous responses by field of study: the largest responses to mass layoff events are in fields with higher expected labor market returns. 

Abstract: Given dramatic long-term changes in the occupational structure of the labor market in recent decades, it is important to understand whether postsecondary training programs have followed suit. Using administrative records from the nation's largest community college system, I first compare trends in the distribution of degrees and certificates to trends in employment. I then estimate that an occupation whose share of employment grows by one percentage point has its share of community college completions grow by 0.47 percentage points. I show that this relationship is primarily due to increases in student demand rather than to colleges expanding their capacity.

Long-term Effects of Head Start: New Evidence from the PSID, with Doug Miller and Na'ama Shenhav 
Abstract: The best available evidence of the long term impact of Head Start suggests that the program has a positive impact on participants’ economic and health outcomes.  However, many of these studies are limited by small sample size and are only able to examine outcomes during early adulthood. This study takes advantage of one of the largest longitudinal samples of Head Start participants, and the detailed information collected in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, to identify the effects of Head Start on an index of economic and health outcomes up to age 40. Using a family fixed effects approach, we find that Head Start increases the likelihood of completing some college.  However we find little evidence for a strong effect on overall economic or physical well-being. In our discussion, we identify and discuss new methodological limitations of the family fixed effects approach with a binary independent variable. Our findings imply that our results reflect a local average treatment effect among “switcher” families - that may not be generalizable to the population - and therefore that alternative approaches should be taken to gain additional evidence about the long term impact of Head Start.

In Progress
  • School Infrastructure Spending and Academic Outcomes, with Ross Milton
  • Community College Capacity Constraints and Malleable Factors, with Michal Kurlaender and Ann Stevens
  • The Effect of Tuition Policy Changes on Academic Outcomes, with Annie Hines
  • Does Specific Labor Market Information Affect Major Choice? with Matt Naven