Working Papers

"The labor market impacts of America's first paid maternity leave policy." Under review.

Abstract: This paper provides new evidence on the effect of a national expansion of paid maternity leave on the labor-market outcomes of women in the United States. I develop a new identification strategy that exploits the expansion of paid leave through short-term disability insurance in the 1960s and 1970s. The policy expanded leave-taking among new mothers but also precipitated a decrease in hourly wages, employment, and family income among women of child-bearing age. The results suggest that even modestly generous, widespread expansions of paid family leave policies have the potential to widen gender gaps in the labor market.

"Prep school for poor kids: The long-run impact of Head Start on human capital and productivity" (with Martha Bailey and Shuqiao Sun). Conditionally accepted, American Economic Review.

Abstract: This paper evaluates the long-run effects of Head Start using large-scale, restricted 2000-2018 Census-ACS data linked to the SSA’s Numident file, which contains exact date and county of birth. Using the county rollout of Head Start between 1965 and 1980 and age-eligibility cutoffs for school entry, we find that Head Start generated large increases in adult human capital and economic self-sufficiency, including a 0.65-year increase in schooling, a 2.7-percent increase in high-school completion, an 8.5-percent increase in college enrollment, and a 39-percent increase in college completion. These estimates imply sizable, long-term returns to public investments in large-scale preschool programs.

"When Sarah Meets Lawrence: The Effects of Coeducation on Women's College Major Choices" (with Avery Calkins, Ariel J. Binder, and Dana Shaat). Under review.

Abstract: We leverage variation in the timing of U.S. women's colleges' transitions to coeducation to study how exposure to a gendered collegiate environment affects women's human capital investments. Event study analyses of newly collected historical data show a 2.0 percentage-point (24%) decline in the share of women majoring in STEM after ten years of coeducation. We find little evidence of a change in the composition of the faculty or female student body, suggesting women’s decisions were influenced by the presence of male classmates. A simple extrapolation suggests gendered peer effects can account for 31% of the gender gap in STEM.

Selected Works in Progress

"Is Economics a Dismal Science for Women? A Survey of Graduate Students in Economics" (with Ann Mari May, Mary G. McGarvey, and Muazzam Toshmatova).

"The long-run effects of America's first paid maternity leave policy" (new version coming soon).

Published Research

"Hope for America's Next Generation" (with Martha Bailey). Science 352(6286), May 2016. PMCID: PMC4900691

"The effect of parental Medicaid expansions on children's health insurance outcomes" (with Sarah Hamersma and Matthew Kim). Contemporary Economic Policy, April 2019, 37(2), 297-311.

"Weathering, Drugs, and Whack-a-Mole: Fundamental and Proximate Causes of Widening Educational Inequity in U.S. Life Expectancy by Sex and Race, 1990-2015" (with Arline T. Geronimus, John Bound, Timothy A. Waidmann, and Javier M. Rodriguez). Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2019, 60(2), 222-239.