Valuing Identity in the Classroom: What Economics Can Learn from Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education

with Susan Sajadi, Sarah Jacobson, Marionette Holmes. Forthcoming Journal of Economic Perspectives. 

The Racial/Ethnic Gap in Financial Literacy in the Population and by Income 

with Luisa Blanco, Salvador Contreras, and Marcos Angrisani. Contemporary Economic Policy. September 2020.

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An Investigation of Toxicities and Survival in Hispanic Children and Adolescents with ALL: Results from ALL Consortium Protocol 05-001 

with Justine Kahn, Peter Cole, Traci Blonquist, et al. Pediatric Blood and Cancer. November 2017.

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Working Papers

The Relationship Between Teen Social Environment and Beliefs of Own Education, Criminal Justice, Early Parenthood, and Mortality Outcomes

November 2023 (Under Review)

I investigate how a teen’s social environment is related to their beliefs of future outcomes by merging the NLSY97 with census tract outcomes from the 2000 Decennial Census. Holding ability, family resources, and traumatic events constant, I find more exposure to crime or sex at young ages is positively correlated with belief of death, arrest, and early parenthood, and negatively correlated with belief of education attainment. While more exposure to more education attainment is positively correlated with belief of own education attainment. Furthermore, holding the same controls and social environment constant, beliefs strongly predict teen’s later education, arrest, and early parenthood outcomes.

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Understanding the Effects of a Math Placement Exam on Calculus 1 Enrollment and Engineering Persistence

with Olivia Ryan, Susan Sajadi, Reza Tavakoli

April 2024

Using internal data from a heavy research university in the South Atlantic US, we examine the impacts of using a math placement exam to sort students intending to major in engineering into Calculus I or Pre-Calculus. First we find that differential rates of scoring above the eligibility threshold explains a significant portion of inequality in Calculus I enrollment between first generation and second generation and above students, as well as black, Native American, and Hispanic students versus white and Asian students.  Additionally we find a significant portion of these differential placement rates can be explained by pre-college academic preparation as well as education and income levels in home zip codes, but not any differences in test taking behavior. Then using a regression discontinuity analysis we then evaluate how taking the remedial pre-Calculus course impacts students short term academic progress measured by continuation, eventual enrollment in Calculus I, and Calculus I grade conditional on enrollment. We find that pre-Calculus leads to less overall Calculus I enrollment and more dropout during the first semester. However we find no evidence that enrolling in pre-Calculus I negatively impacts Calculus I grade. Our overall findings suggests relying on placement exam sorting mechanisms can amplify socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequality in major declaration and degree progress. This is due to two facts. First, underrepresented minority students and first generation students are more likely to come from backgrounds with less academic preparation which explains a lower likelihood of placing into Calculus I. Second although there is no evidence that the remedial pre-Calculus hurts performance, our results are consistent with the additional requirement of taking pre-Calculus before Calculus I may lead students to quit their studies or delay Calculus I enrollment.

Racial Inequities Among World War II Veterans in the Labor Market 

with Andreas Ferrara, Price Fishback, and Misty Heggeness

April 2024

We link the 1940 Census to World War II (WWII) enlistment records from the National Archives and tax return data to evaluate how WWII service differentially impacted the future income and mobility of white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American veterans relative to same race non-veterans. We examine effects related to wage and investment income, as well as geographic mobility.  Serving in WWII led to higher income for Black veterans, while WWII service led to lower income for white and Asian veterans. WWII service led to a lower likelihood of moving to a different county, state, and Census Region for white and Hispanic veterans, and a higher likelihood of moving counties and states for Black veterans compared to same race non-veterans. Black veterans were also more likely to reside in neighborhoods with higher median earnings and more segregation, while white and Asian veterans lived in neighborhoods with lower median earnings than same race non-veterans. We suggest that WWII service improved Black veteran incomes relative to Black non-veterans by allowing Black veterans to move to areas with better economic opportunities, while veterans of other races were less likely to benefit from moving.

Exposure to the Military and Later Life Outcomes

March 2024

I use a series of military base closures that occurred during the late 1980s and 1990s under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process to investigate the effect of adolescent exposure to adults with military service history on later life outcomes using two-stage least squares.  I find that a one percentage point increase in exposure to same gender adults with a military service history leads to between a 1 and 2 percentage point increase in own probability of joining the military and graduating high school, but also being arrested future in life and not going to college. Additionally, there is substantial heterogeneity in the effect of exposure to the military. I find that the effect of exposure to the military on future military service is statistically significantly larger for youth who turned 18 before 9/11 and for youth who had above median math-verbal scores on the ASVAB.  Since exposure also effected education attainment, this suggests that exposure to the military could have lead youth with the most to gain from education into more high school completion but less overall college attainment.

Labor Market Shocks and Immigration Enforcement

with Brianna Felegi and Sarina Heron

March 2024

Does increased labor market scarcity lead to more local anti-immigration enforcement? We answer this question by evaluating the impact of three national economic shocks on the likelihood that a county sheriff forms a partnership with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the form of 287(g) contracts. Looking at the universe of signed county-level agreements between 2002 and 2020, we separately use a long-difference, instrumental variables approach and a difference-in-differences design to evaluate the effects of the rise of automation, import competition from China, and the Great Recession. We find that effects of economic shocks on immigration policy depends on their nature. While increased exposure to the rise in automation and import competition did not lead to differential adoption of a 287(g), commuting zones severely impacted by the Great Recession saw large increases. A possible mechanism to explain the differing results is the differential migration response of foreign-born individuals. The results of this paper highlight that general economic anxiety can lead to the enactment of anti-immigration policy; therefore, it is an important channel to consider when discussing the forces that drive sentiment towards immigrants.

Is College Worth It For Me? Beliefs, Access to Funding and Inequality in Higher Education (Click for Draft)

In the US, the bachelor's attainment rate of White high-socioeconomic status youth is much higher than the bachelor's attainment rate of Hispanic, Black, and low-socioeconomic status youth. This is true even among students with high academic scores. For high-scorers, how much of these gaps in bachelor's attainment can be explained by differences in subjective beliefs about own academic ability?  Relatedly, Is targeting information and funding to low socioeconomic status high-scorers more efficient at narrowing overall bachelor's attainment gaps than universal policies like free college for all, or a tracking system in the US? To answer these questions, I  estimate the distribution of subjective prior beliefs about own ability using self reported beliefs about college outcomes from the NLSY97 and a dynamic discrete choice model with heterogeneous financial support and beliefs about ability. I find that for Black high-scorers beliefs play almost no statistically significant role in explaining gaps. However, for Hispanic and low socioeconomic status youth, differences in beliefs explain 38-49% of the gap relative to White high-socioeconomic status high-scorers. In the policy analysis I show that the targeted policy is the most efficient at closing gaps and that it closes overall gaps in bachelor's attainment  by 25% to 42% depending on the comparison group. This suggests representation in higher education can be increased through recruiting low socioeconomic high scorers, but inequality will persist with differences in early childhood human capital stock and non pecuniary utility.

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