Three essays in labour economics and the economics of education

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Gender Wage Gap
Glass Ceiling
Inter-Firm Gender Segregation
Test-Based School Achievement Measures
School Choice
Transitory Factors

This thesis consists of three empirical essays. The first chapter is focused on the economics of gender, and the other two chapters are focused on the economics of education. A common theme in all these three chapters is studying the outcomes of disadvantaged groups in society, with an eye to policy interventions that could improve these outcomes. The first chapter examines whether women face a glass ceiling in the labour market, which would imply that they are under-represented in high wage regions of the wage distribution. I also measure the extent to which the glass ceiling comes about because women are segregated into lower-paying firms (glass doors), or because they are segregated into lower-paying jobs within firms (within-firm glass ceilings). I find clear evidence that women experience a glass ceiling that is driven mainly by their disproportionate sorting across firm types rather than sorting across jobs within firms. I find no evidence that gender differences in sorting across firms can be accounted for by compensating differentials. However, my results are consistent with predictions of an efficiency wage model where high-paying firms discriminate against females. The second chapter estimates the effect of publicly-disseminated information about school achievement on school choice decisions. We find that students are more likely to leave their school when public information reveals poor school-level performance. Some parents’ respond to information soon after it becomes available. Others, including non-English-speaking parents, alter their school choice decisions only in response to information that has been disseminated widely and discussed in the media. Parents in low-income neighbourhoods are most likely to alter their school choice decisions in response to new information. The third chapter measures the extent to which cross-sectional differences in schools’ average achievement on standardized tests are due to transitory factors. Test-based measures of school performance are increasingly used to shape education policy, and recent evidence shows that they also affect families’ school choice decisions. There are, however, concerns about the precision of these measures. My results suggest that sampling variation and one-time mean reverting shocks are a significant source of cross-sectional variation in schools’ mean test scores.

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Simon Woodcock
Jane Friesen
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Economics
Thesis type: 
(Thesis/Extended Essays) Ph.D.