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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Essays in Education and Labor Economics

  • Author(s): Chehras, Nanneh
  • Advisor(s): Neumark, David
  • et al.

This dissertation studies educational attainment and immigrant assimilation using applied econometric methods.

The first chapter estimates the effect of high school counselors on dropout rates using difference-in-differences methods and a large-scale policy change. I exploit within school student-to-counselor ratio variation in California’s public high schools between 2003 and 2015. The analysis finds that decreases in the student-to-counselor ratio are associated with decreases in dropout rates. For example, a 100-student decrease in the student-to-counselor ratio would decrease the overall dropout rate by 1.7 percentage points. I further show that under conservative assumptions, the costs associated with decreases in the student-to-counselor ratio are offset by the social benefits.

The second chapter provides a novel measure of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics gender gap. Using data science methods, I construct a dataset of high school and middle school science fair projects and use project choices of over 17,000 students to measure gender gaps. I find large gender gaps favoring males in technology, engineering, and mathematics fields that increase across age. For example, the gender gap among middle school math participants is 34 percentage points, increasing to 40 percentage points in high school. Similarly, the gender gap among engineering participants increases from a substantial 26 percentage points in middle school to 29 percentage points in high school.

The third chapter explores the role of child-sex composition preferences on fertility assimilation outcomes for Chinese, Indian, and South Korean women in the United States. Using Census and American Community Survey data, I first determine the sex-composition preferences among immigrant and native women. I then introduce these preferences in the assimilation framework, employing ordinary least squares regressions to determine the fertility differential between immigrants and natives. I show that once second-generation immigrants adopt the native preference for mixed-sex children, their childbearing behavior becomes similar to natives and fertility assimilation occurs.

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