Working Papers“Is Paid Family Leave a Pro-Natal Policy? Evidence from California” (Job Market Paper)

This paper provides the first evidence of the effect of paid family leave on fertility in the United States. I exploit variation in access to paid leave introduced by the first paid family leave mandate in the country, which was implemented in California in 2004. By guaranteeing six weeks of paid leave to new parents, this policy, while not necessarily intended as pro-natal, could encourage increased childbearing. I use data containing the universe of U.S. births from Vital Statistics alongside survey data from the March Current Population Survey. I compare probability of childbirth and state fertility rates before and after policy implementation, and between California and other states. Because the policy was introduced in only one state at one time, I employ various methods of inference, including synthetic control methods, to infer causality. Additionally, I exploit variation in county female labor force participation in an intensity-of-treatment framework. I find that as a result of the policy, probability of childbirth increases by up to 15 percent. Birth effects are concentrated amongst women in their 30s, and women are primarily responsive on the intensive margin. Moreover, women likely to be eligible for leave at the time of their first childbirth are more likely to have a second child as a result of paid leave. Heterogeneity analyses suggest that effects may be pronounced for married women and women with below median family income. Finally, I present evidence of improved health at birth of infants born to eligible women.

“Does College Access Increase High School Effort? Evaluating the impact of the Texas Top 10% Rule on Disadvantaged Students” (Revise and Resubmit at Journal of Public Economics)

I study how the Texas Top 10% rule, which guaranteed state college admission to all Texas high school students in the top decile of their graduating classes, affected student effort and achievement in high school. The new admissions regime not only increased access to Texas flagships for top students at disadvantaged schools, but potentially made college seem more attainable for all students at these schools by providing increased information about the college admissions process and increasing the incidence of college-going among peers. Using administrative data from Texas and a difference-in-differences framework, I show that the admissions regime change significantly impacted high school student effort. As a result of the policy, students at disadvantaged high schools increase their attendance and are more likely to graduate. These students also perform better on high school exit exams, fail fewer courses in high school, and become more likely to enroll in a state higher education institution. Notably, positive effects are not concentrated only among students likely to qualify for automatic admission but throughout most of the achievement distribution.