Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Jaeger

Committee Members

Neil Bennett

Michael Grossman

Theodore Joyce

Subject Categories

Labor Economics


college distance, cost of commuting, divorce, custody, teen birth, school absences


This dissertation consists of three chapters:

1. The Effect of College Distance on Economic Opportunity for Low-Income Youth

This chapter studies the impact of one obstacle to college completion among low-income youth: geographic distance to the nearest four-year public college. The chapter's main results show that cutting the distance to a public four-year college from its mean value of 18 miles to half of that, 9 miles, is associated with a 4 percentage point increase in the college graduation rate of low-income women. Reducing the distance to public community college also increases the probability of completing college for low-income women. These effects are robust to controlling for socioeconomic background, environment, and standardized test scores.

Low-income men, who have much lower college graduation rates than their female counterparts, do not appear to be affected by distance to a public college. Policymakers should consider this finding when deciding whether to establish new campuses of public college systems or to consolidate two existing campuses.

2. A Cross-National Study of the Gender Gap in the Economic Consequences of Divorce: Decomposing the Effects of Custody, Wage Rates, and Tax and Transfer Programs

This chapter estimates the economic consequences of divorce by gender in six different developed economies. Across all countries studied, women fare worse than men, due to lower average labor income and a higher likelihood of being responsible for children post-divorce. For each country we test the impact on the economic consequences of divorce of: (a) equalizing average wage rates between men and women of similar levels of education, (b) re-assigning custody of all children to men, and (c) imposing the tax and transfer programs of other countries on the United States. We find that divorcing women in the United States experience worse levels of economic well-being on average than men, and that the discrepancy is larger in the United States than in the other countries we study. The gap between the United States and other countries is mostly due to differences in tax and transfer policies and fertility rates prior to divorce.

3. Maternity Leave for Teen Mothers: The Impact of Short-Run Interruptions in Schooling

This chapter examines a previously unexplored causal mechanism determining the impact of teen motherhood on educational outcomes. Specifically, I identify the impact of the short-term disruption to school attendance induced by child birth and recovery, as opposed to the ongoing burden of raising a young child. Using administrative data on teen mothers in the New York City public school system, I exploit exogenous variation in the timing of births relative to the academic year to identify the impact of a marginal absence on standardized test scores and the likelihood of successfully graduating.