Essays on the Economics of Education

par Margaret Leighton

Thèse de doctorat en Sciences économiques

Sous la direction de Stéphane Straub.

Soutenue le 06-07-2015

à Toulouse 1 , dans le cadre de Toulouse School of Economics , en partenariat avec Toulouse School of Economics (équipe de recherche) .

  • Titre traduit

    Essais sur l'économie de l'éducation


  • Résumé

    Le résumé en français n'a pas été communiqué par l'auteur.


  • Résumé

    This thesis is composed of three chapters. The first two chapters consider specific aspects of the educational path and how these relate to, in the first case, earnings and occupation choice and, in the second, progress through school. The third chapter studies how variations in municipal finance affect investments in education. The first chapter of this thesis estimates the importance of two aspects of human capital accumulation: the acquisition of job-related skills, and the student's discovery of his relative abilities across disciplines. Specifically, we measure whether additional years of multi-disciplinary education help students make a better choice of specialization, and at what cost in foregone specialized human capital. We document that, in the cross section, students who choose their major later are more likely to change fields on the labor market. We then build and estimate a dynamic model of college education which captures the tradeoff between discovering comparative advantage and acquiring occupation-specific skills. Estimates suggest that delaying specialization is informative, although noisy. Working in the field of comparative advantage accounts for up to 20% of a well-matched worker's earnings. While education is transferable across fields with only a 10% penalty, workers who wish to change fields incur a large, one-time cost. The second chapter considers the impact of automatically promoting young children from one grade level to the next on retention and grade progression in primary school. Exploiting variation in grade repetition practices in Brazil, we study the effect of automatic promotion cycles on grade attainment and academic persistence of primary school children. The dynamic policy environment allows us to estimate the impact of the policy when applied at different times during schooling, both in the short term and as children exposed to the policy progress through primary school. We find that automatic promotion increases grade attainment: one year of exposure to the policy is associated with 3 students out of 100 studying one grade level above where they would be absent the policy. This effect persists over time, and cumulates with further exposure to the policy. The third chapter moves away from students to focus on education infrastructure. In the paper we seek to answer the question of how transfers from the federal government in Brazil affect both education spending and the resources available for education at the municipal level. We find that increased transfers lead to an immediate rise in current and capital spending. These increases are focused on education and welfare expenditure in poorer municipalities, while richer municipalities expand capital spending in the transport and housing sectors. Furthermore, particularly in wealthier municipalities, increases in transfers cause a short-term increase in local tax revenues. Positive transfer shocks are associated with increases in the number of teachers and, to a lesser extent, the number of classrooms. Transfers are also associated with substantial re-allocation of resources across schools offering classes at different levels, with secondary schools and schools teaching senior primary grades expanding at the expense of junior primary schools.


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