Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Chapter 1: Need-Based Aid from Selective Universities and the Achievement

Gap between the Rich and Poor

I study the role of need-based aid from selective universities in closing the achievement gap between the rich and poor high school students. I focus on the incentive aspect of need-based aid that can change high school student's effort choices. The impact of increasing need-based aid depends on the extent of borrowing constraints and how competition affects the relative performance of low- and high-income students. I develop a structural model of students' learning, application, and admission processes, and estimate it with the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, a nationally representative sample. I control for other types of barriers for low-income students such as a lack of information or low high school quality. I use a geographic variation in costs of attending home-state nonselective universities to control selection biases driven by an unobservable characteristic correlated with family income. I find that 6.9% of high-ability low-income students do not apply to selective universities because of borrowing constraints. If selective universities double the amount of grants per attending student from the bottom quintile of the income distribution, the effort gap, as measured by the number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes taken, decreases by 33.4%, the achievement gap, as measured by the SAT score, by 20.2%, and the wage gap by 10.2% among students with the initial test scores in the top 20th percentile in 10th grade. The aggregate achievement score also increases because elevated competition raises the effort level of high-ability applicants from all income backgrounds.

Chapter 2: Returns to College Education for Women, Assortative Marriage

Matching, and Home Production

I estimate returns to college education for women, accounting for how assortative marriage matching and the home production affect labor supply and fertility choice, based on the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 and the NLSY79 Child/Young Adults 1986-2012. First, the gain from home production, as measured by the average educational outcome of children, explains more than 80% of the total return. The direct impact of women's college education on children's outcome is much larger than the indirect effect through the household income and time investment. Women's college attainment rates would decrease by 8% without assortative marriage matching and by 17% without the direct impact on children's educational attainment. Second, assortative marriage matching accounts for 21% of returns to college education for women with average characteristics. High-ability students benefit more from the assortative marriage matching than low-ability students. For low-ability students, assortative marriage matching increases the inequality in college attainment rates by family backgrounds. Finally, women's labor force participation rates would increase by 24% if the marginal productivity of household income on children's outcome increases by 10%. As a comparison, if the wage structure of women were to be the same as men, the labor force participation rate would increase by 8%.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Limor B. . Golan Ravikumar

Committee Members

Georgy-Levi Gayle, Juan Pantano, Carl Sanders,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7862DRC

Available for download on Friday, May 15, 2116

Included in

Economics Commons