Applied Microeconometrics  ·  Economics of Education  ·  Labor Economics  ·  Applied Microeconomics

Working Papers

"The Efficacy of Attending Competitive Magnet Schools: Evidence from a Large Urban School District in the Southwest"  (Job Market Paper link to paper

Magnet schools are, by a wide margin, the most popular form of school choice. Despite the prevalence of magnet schools, there is little reliable evidence that speaks to the efficacy of magnet schools, in particular those which are competitive or do not use a random lottery to admit students. This study presents causal evidence on the efficacy of competitive magnet high schools with regards to academic performance for a large urban school district in the southwestern portion of the United States. I use a fuzzy regression discontinuity design that exploits variation in a rank based admissions policy to examine the effects of magnet school attendance on grades, course taking, AP exams, standardized end of course exam scores, SAT scores, and ACT scores. I find that marginally admitted competitive magnet school students choose to take a more rigorous course load relative to their counterparts in traditional public schools during their first three years of high school. The results show relative decreases in course grade averages in conjunction with relative and absolute increases in advanced course enrollment, suggesting that more rigorous course loads lead to lower course grade averages. These findings underscore the importance of understanding what students actually do while attending magnet schools.

"Less Support and More Interest: The end of Subsidized Stafford Loans for Graduate Students"  (with Greg Phelan and John Thompson)  link to paper 

This paper examines the impacts of a major federal policy on borrowing decisions of graduate students, a group who are underrepresented in the literature regarding these topics. Because graduate students hold a disproportionately large fraction of total student debt (40% of student debt is held by graduate students, who make up 16% of post-secondary students), it is important to understand the impact of policies on their borrowing decisions. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) eliminated access to Subsidized Stafford loans for students pursuing graduate degrees. Using administrative data housed at the University of Texas at Dallas's education research center, this study evaluates the effects of eliminating graduate student access to Subsidized Stafford loans. Our preliminary results demonstrate that graduate students take out substantially more Unsubsidized loans after the law change, averaging $5,569 more in unsubsidized loans in the post-BCA period. We find that the elimination of Subsidized Stafford Loans increases the cost of financial aid for graduate students by $2,121 over the lifetime of the loan, representing a 22.4% increase in the lifetime cost of attending graduate school.

Ongoing Projects

College Access and Success  (with Rodney Andrews, Greg Phelan, and John Thompson)