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Title: Essays on the Timing of Human Capital Policies
Resulting in 1 citation.
1. Tsai, Jeffrey K.
Essays on the Timing of Human Capital Policies
Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California - Irvine, 2008
Cohort(s): NLSY79
Publisher: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT)
Keyword(s): Affirmative Action; Census of Population; Economics of Minorities; Education; Educational Returns; Family Studies; GED/General Educational Diploma/General Equivalency Degree/General Educational Development; Labor Economics; Labor Market Outcomes

Permission to reprint the abstract has not been received from the publisher.

This dissertation consists of three related essays in labor economics and the economics of education; affirmative action in law school, the economic returns to the GED credential, and the importance of family investment on child outcomes. This dissertation applies econometric tools to empirically assess these questions.

The first chapter of my dissertation, "Does Affirmative Action Help or Hurt the Production of Black Lawyers?," considers whether affirmative action actually harms the production of black lawyers in the U.S. Affirmative action has been a controversial policy since its inception in the 1960's as it relates to both the labor market and the education system. The central question focuses on how affirmative action affects minorities, specifically in law schools and in the production of black lawyers. Using a detailed survey of law students conducted by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) from 1991 to 1996, I examine whether affirmative action caused black law students to be mismatched to the wrong school and whether mismatch reduced the number of black lawyers in the U.S. According to the mismatch hypothesis, students would have obtained better outcomes if they were not mismatched and had attended a lower-level school that more closely matched their ability level. Opponents of affirmative action believe that mismatch is one of the direct consequences of the policy (Wilkens, 2005). I present evidence that mismatch caused at least a 5.5 percent reduction in the number of black lawyers, but as Rothstein and Yoon (2006) conclude, this effect may be more negative.

The second chapter of my dissertation, "Decoding the GED Signal: The Role of Non-Cognitive Ability and Measurement Error," considers the role of non-cognitive ability in explaining the low and negative returns to a GED credential. Bowles, Gintis, and Osborne (2001) have shown that non-cognitive ability actually explains much more of the wage variation than cognitive ability. It is clear that abilities besides intelligence are rewarded in the labor market, but identifying clear measures of non-cognitive ability and considering its effect on education and labor market outcomes are relatively new questions in economics (Heckman and Rubinstein, 2001). I find that GED recipients do have lower non-cognitive abilities and that it explains their relatively low economic returns. However, the observable measures of non-cognitive ability are at best proxies for unobserved ability, so I utilize instrumental variables and a latent variable model to consider the effect of measurement error.

The third chapter of my dissertation, "The Effect of Unilateral Divorce Laws on Incentives to Invest in Children and the Behavioral Outcomes of Children," utilizes state-variation in unilateral divorce laws to consider the law's effect on family investment on an important type of marriage-specific capital; children. I also consider how a reduction in family investment in "marriage-specific capital" impacts children by examining their behavioral and labor market outcomes using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the NELS data sets. Unilateral divorce laws were passed in many states primarily in the 1960's and 1970's. The policy provides an exogenous shock that may affect divorce rates, household bargaining, and children's future outcomes. Previous research has primarily focused on two specific issues: the impact of these laws on divorce rates using Census data and the implications of divorce laws on bargaining power within the household. This chapter focuses on the latter question.

Bibliography Citation
Tsai, Jeffrey K. Essays on the Timing of Human Capital Policies. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California - Irvine, 2008.