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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Essays on Ethnicity and Economic Choices

  • Author(s): Zhan, Yi Crystal
  • et al.

This dissertation addresses three broad economic choices within the field of labor economics and public economics: the choice of educational attainment, occupational choice, and household's residential location choice. The dissertation particularly focuses on the behaviors of immigrants and their decedents in the United States so as to understand the ethnic disparities in these economics outcomes as well as the policy implications. The first two chapters are both related to the cultural identity of immigrants. The first chapter, Scholarly Culture and Educational Attainment, examines second-generation immigrants in the United States who face the same market conditions and institutions but have inherited different cultural preferences for education. Using average educational attainment among the adult population in the second generation's country of origin as the cultural proxy, I find a significant positive association between scholarly culture and the second generation's educational attainment conditional on family resources. The second chapter, Money v.s. Prestige : Cultural Attitudes and Occupational Choices, studies the role that cultural norms play in occupational selection. I analyze the occupational choices of highly educated native-born American males and link their choices to relative preferences for pecuniary rewards vs. social prestige in their ancestral countries, as reported in the World Values Survey. These preferences help to explain the occupational choices of native-born Americans when their opportunities and advantages are taken into account. Moreover, a greater proportion of the population from the same ancestry in the residential area magnifies the effects of cultural attitudes, suggesting ethnic enclave is a mechanism for cultural transmission and reservation for migrants. The third chapter, Schools and Neighborhoods : Residential Location Choice of Immigrant Parents in Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, studies how immigrant parents value school quality for their offspring in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. The parental valuation of education is identified through the differential effects of school quality on the residential location choices of households with and without children. The results suggest that immigrant parents value school quality positively, and the weight assigned to school quality varies by income, education, and race/ethnicity. Low-income immigrants value school quality significantly more than low-income natives. Higher potential returns to education for their children and selective migration may explain why immigrant parents emphasize school quality in choosing where to live

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