Essays on determinants of disparity in education and labor market outcomes




Verma, Anjali Priya

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This dissertation examines the determinants of disparity in education and labor market outcomes. The first chapter, co-authored with Imelda, examines the impact of clean energy access on adult health and labor supply outcomes by exploiting a nationwide roll-out of clean cooking fuel program in Indonesia. This program led to a large-scale fuel switching, from kerosene, a dirty fuel, to liquid petroleum gas, a cleaner one. Using longitudinal survey data from the Indonesia Family Life Survey and exploiting the staggered structure of the program rollout, we find that access to clean cooking fuel led to a significant improvement in women’s health, particularly among those who spend most of their time indoors doing housework. We also find an increase in women’s work hours, suggesting that access to cleaner fuel can improve women’s health and plausibly their productivity, allowing them to supply more market labor. For men, we find an increase in the work hours and propensity to have an additional job, mainly in households where women accrued the largest health and labor benefits from the program. These results highlight the role of clean energy in reducing gender disparity in health and point to the existence of positive externalities from the improved health of women on other members of the household. The second paper studies the labor supply response of women to changes in expected alimony income. Using an alimony law change in the US that significantly reduced the post-divorce alimony support among women, I first show that this led to an increase in divorce probability. Second, consistent with the theoretical prediction from a simple model of labor supply, the reform led to an increase in the female labor force participation, with a larger increase among ever-married and more educated samples of women. As a result, the average female wage income increased after the reform. While labor supply increased, I show that most of this increase was concentrated in part-time employment, which may not be sufficient to compensate for the expected loss in alimony income. In light of the recent movement in the US to reform alimony laws, these findings are pertinent to understand its implications on women’s labor supply and economic well-being. The third chapter, co-authored with Akiva Yonah Meiselman, studies the long-run effects of disruptive peers in disciplinary schools on educational and labor market outcomes of students placed at these institutions. Students placed at disciplinary schools tend to have significantly worse future outcomes. We provide evidence that the composition of peers at these institutions plays an important role in explaining this link. We use rich administrative data of high school students in Texas which provides a detailed record of each student’s disciplinary placements, including their exact date of placement and assignment duration. This allows us to identify the relevant peers for each student based on their overlap at the institution. We leverage within school-year variation in peer composition at each institution to ask whether a student who overlaps with particularly disruptive peers has worse subsequent outcomes. We show that exposure to peers in highest quintile of disruptiveness relative to lowest quintile when placed at a disciplinary school increases students’ subsequent removals, reduces their educational attainment, and worsens labor market outcomes. Moreover, these effects are stronger when students have a similar peer group in terms of the reason for removal, or when the distribution of disruptiveness among peers is more concentrated than dispersed around the mean. Our findings draw attention to an unintended consequence of student removal to disciplinary schools, and highlights how brief exposures to disruptive peers can affect an individual’s long-run trajectories.



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