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Essays in labor economics and the economics of education

  • Author(s): Thomas, Jaime Lynn
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation addresses three broad issues within the fields of labor economics and the economics of education: the accumulation of human and information capital, school quality, and policy-relevant analysis of classroom organization. At the secondary-school level, I document the importance of information capital, or accurate information about postsecondary and labor-market alternatives. At the elementary-school level, I analyze the effect of combination classes and discuss different ways to measure school quality and the importance of these measures to parents of school-aged children. In the first chapter, "Information Capital and Early-Career Wages," I define one measure of information capital acquired by students during high school and develop a framework through which I analyze the effect of this measure on educational attainment, job tenure, and wages. I also investigate the school-level characteristics that influence an individual's stock of information capital. In the second chapter, "Combination Classes and Educational Achievement," I measure the effect of membership in a combination class in first grade on student achievement. I address the selection that occurs when implementing a combination class and find that first graders in 1-2 combinations can be expected to outperform single-grade students on math tests by one-seventh of a standard deviation. In addition, I find no evidence that first graders in schools offering combination classes perform worse than first graders in schools that do not offer such classes. Therefore, I conclude that combination classes may be a Pareto-improving option for school administrators. In the last chapter, "Neighborhood Demographics, School Effectiveness, and Residential Location Choice," I investigate how neighborhood demographics and school effectiveness influence the residential location decisions of parents of different income levels. I find that low-income parents in the San Francisco Bay Area respond more strongly to school effectiveness than to neighborhood demographics, but that the reverse is true for high-income parents

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