The Search: The Effect of the College Scorecard on Interest in Colleges (2016). PDF.
Abstract: The College Scorecard is a website launched by the U.S. Department of Education in September 2015 that provides information about different colleges. This paper studies the effects of the website on interest in colleges, calculating both intent-to-treat and a local average treatment effect estimates of the effect of the College Scorecard. Interest is measured using Google search activity. The Scorecard led to more searches for keywords associated with high-earnings, high-graduation rate, and low-tuition colleges. However, the size of the effect is very small.
Diverging Prices Among Novel Goods with Alasdair Young (2017). CSUF Department of Economics Working Paper 2017/002. PDF.
Abstract: It is well-established that many markets exhibit price dispersion in equilibrium. However, relatively little attention is paid to how dispersion might be expected to change over time. The presiding assumption is that if dispersion is not already in equilibrium, it should naturally decrease over time. We develop a model in which shifts in demand combined with menu costs lead dispersion to naturally rise for some novel goods. We test the predictions of the model in the online market for collectible cards and find that price dispersion increases over time for more than half of the goods in the market.
College Curricular Dispersion: More Well Rounded or Less Well Trained? with Dan Goldhaber, Mark Long, and James Cowan (CEDR Working Paper 2015-6). PDF.
Students are typically given a large amount of freedom to choose the level of “curricular dispersion”: the tight focus or lack thereof in the courses they elect to take while in college.There is little evidence about what predicts students' curricular dispersion, whether it affects later college or labor force outcomes, or, in fact, how to measure of curricular dispersion. In this paper we develop a measure of curricular dispersion and use data from Washington State to explore its predictors and associated outcomes. We find that prior dispersion predicts future dispersion but not subsequent changes in college major. We report mixed findings on the associations between curricular dispersion and overall college GPA, the probability of graduation, and early career wages.
Consumption Value and the Demand for College Education (2016) PDF.
Abstract: The author estimates student demand for college education as a function of expectations of future earnings and consumption value using a detailed measurement of the non-financial consumption value of college education. Consumption value drives the educational plans of high school students more than does future earnings. Student responses to direct experiential utility and the avoidance of psychic costs are especially strong, but background and social encouragement are also important. Investment-focused economic models of educational choice focus on a relatively small part of the decision.
Are College-Bound Students Aware of What's "Promised" to Them? Evidence from Washington State with Grant H. Blume (2013). PDF.
Abstract: Students making decisions about their education must learn about the costs of attending a given college and the financial aid available to them. However, previous research demonstrates that students and parents have a poor understanding of the actual amount of aid available. Institutional promise scholarships, which advertise and ensure the availability of full tuition funding to low-income students, are an example of a policy designed to affect behavior largely by changing the information that students have about financial aid. We look for evidence that these policies relate to student information about financial aid. Using a data set of aid expectations from high school students in Washington State we find that low-income students expect more funding than their middle- and high-income peers, but that low-income students' expectations of aid do not fully incorporate all available information and are not sensitive to the presence of an institutional promise scholarship.