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Essays in applied econometrics

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This thesis includes three essays in applied econometrics. The first and third chapters focus on labor market outcomes of minority group members, while the second focuses on education. Chapter 1 deals with the relationship between sexual orientation, gender, partnership, and labor outcomes. I suggest that if there are compensating differentials and a gender gap in potential wages, an income effect can lead partnered gay men to jobs with lower wages and higher amenities than partnered straight men. The same mechanism would lead partnered lesbians to lower amenity and higher wage jobs than partnered straight women, and we would expect no differences between singles. I present results on estimated wages and new data on stressfulness of one's working environment that are largely consistent with these predictions, and then I discuss possible alternative explanations for my findings. Chapter 2 focuses on the effect of open enrollment policies on students' academic achievement. The introduction of open enrollment may improve student achievement by providing access to better schools and by increasing inter-school competition. We use measures of the local scope for school choice and competition before and after the policy change to investigate its effect on test scores. We find the policy's effect depends on the quality of public schools that are located in proximity to a student's residence. Students who are already guaranteed access to the locally top-ranked school earn lower scores under open enrollment, while those who gain access to higher-ranked schools earn higher scores. All students experience a small positive effect from increased competition. Chapter 3 explores the role of initial housing conditions on labor outcomes of new immigrants to Canada. We focus on whether immigrants arranged housing before landing. Within the framework of a dual search model, this variable can be interpreted as capturing the opportunity cost of searching for a job. We find that not pre-arranging housing is associated with temporary worse labor outcomes among unskilled immigrants. The remainder of the chapter is spent looking for evidence that these results are due to an unobserved variable driving both housing arrangements as well as labor outcomes, but no such evidence is found.
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