Working Papers

The Value of US College Education in Global Labor Markets: Experimental Evidence from China

[Current draft (September 2019)] (Submitted) Industrial Relations Section Working Paper No.627
Media coverage (selected): INSIDE HIGHER ED, SupChina, Global Times (Chinese), National Business Daily (Chinese) -- # with 200 million views on Weibo (Chinese "Twitter"), The PIE News

[Show/hide abstract]
  • One million international students study in the US each year and the majority of them compete in global labor markets after graduation. I conduct a large-scale field experiment and a companion employer survey to study how employers in China value US college education. I sent over 27,000 fictitious online applications to business and computer science jobs in China, randomizing the country of college education. I find that US-educated applicants are on average 18 percent less likely to receive a callback than applicants educated in China, with applicants from very selective US institutions underperforming those from the least selective Chinese institutions. The US-China callback gap is smaller at high-wage jobs, consistent with employers fearing US-educated applicants have better outside options and will be harder to hire and retain. The gap is also smaller at foreign-owned firms, consistent with Chinese-owned firms knowing less about American education. Controlling for high school quality, test scores, or US work experiences does not attenuate the gap, suggesting that it is not driven by employer perceptions of negative selection. A survey of 507 hiring managers at college career fairs finds consistent and additional supporting evidence for the experimental findings.

Best and Brightest? The Impact of Student Visa Restrictiveness on Who Attends College in the US
with Jessica Howell and Jonathan Smith

[Draft available upon request] (Submitted)

[Show/hide abstract]
  • The F-1 student visa is the immigration program that brings the largest number of educated foreigners to the US. Using data on the universe of SAT takers between 2004 and 2015 matched with college enrollment records, we document the academic ability of international students who attend (and do not attend) college in the US and examine how the expected F-1 visa restrictiveness influences that decision. We show that, on average, foreign students have higher SAT scores than domestic students, and the recent increase in foreign students is driven by those from China with high SAT scores. Using an instrumental variable approach, we find that higher anticipated F-1 visa refusal rates decrease the number of foreign SAT takers and the probability of sending an SAT score to a US college, which contributes to a decrease in the number of foreign students enrolled in the US. The decreases are larger for high-scoring students.

Are Public Universities Still Public? The Impact of Service Exports on the US Higher Education Market

[Draft available upon request]

[Show/hide abstract]
  • The education trade surplus accounts for about 14 percent of US services trade surplus in 2018. While international students bring additional tuition revenue to public universities, schools may either expand in-state enrollment or increase per-student spending. I examine the effect of education exports on various schools' behaviors and outcomes. I construct a shift-share instrument that exploits variation in economic growth, exchange rate fluctuations, and institutions' historical networks with different economies. I find that an increase in international students leads to public universities to increase in-state enrollment and graduate more domestic students. Per-student spending does not change and SAT score increases for enrolled students in the top quartile. More international students also lead to fewer state appropriations and lower published tuition price for in-state students at research institutions.


Can a Summer Make a Difference? The Impact of the American Economic Association Summer Program on Minority Student Outcomes
with Cecilia E. Rouse and Charles Becker
Economics of Education Review, 53, August 2016

[Published Version] [Pre-Publication Version]

[Show/hide abstract]
  • In the 1970s, the American Economic Association (AEA) was one of several professional associations to launch a summer program with the goal of increasing racial and ethnic diversity in its profession. In this paper we estimate the effectiveness of the AEA's program which, to the best of our knowledge, is the first to rigorously study such a summer program. Using a comparison group consisting of those who applied to, but did not attend, the program and controlling for an array of background characteristics, we find that program participants were over 40 percentage points more likely to apply to and attend a Ph.D. program in economics, 26 percentage points more likely to complete a Ph.D., and about 15 percentage points more likely to ever work in an economics-related academic job. Using our estimates, we calculate that the program may directly account for 17–21 percent of the Ph.D.s awarded to minorities in economics over the past 20 years.

Labor Mismatch in the Great Recession: A Review of Indexes Using Recent U.S. Data
with Maria Canon and Elise Marifian
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, 95(3), 2013

[Published Version]


Wearing New Shoes to Walk the Old Road: The Negotiation of Opposing Imperatives in High School New Curriculum Classes in China
with Tanja Sargent, Shelley Wu, and Chentong Chen
In International Perspectives on Education and Society, Vol 15, 2011

[Published Version]

Work in Progress

Capacity Constraints and Price Discrimination: A Two-Sided Matching Model for the US Higher Education Market for International Students
with Jessica Howell and Jonathan Smith

[Show/hide abstract]
  • A few states have passed regulations to cap foreign student enrollment, and some schools have started to charge additional tuition and fees for international students. While many US colleges benefit from tuition revenue and quality gains from admitting more foreign students, it is unclear how these policies would affect the equilibrium allocation of students with different levels of quality. We develop and estimate a two-sided matching model with heterogeneous preference on both sides to study the US college market for foreign undergraduates. Previous literature only allows limited heterogeneity on one side of the market in the case of many-to-one matching. We allow for heterogeneity on both sides by first estimating student demand for colleges using data on application behaviors of the universe of foreign SAT takers. We learn about how students trade off different school characteristics such as price and reputation. We then estimate college preference for students using the method of simulated moments. We conduct counterfactual analysis to study the impact of capacity constraints and price discrimination on the equilibrium allocation of foreign students. We evaluate to what extent colleges can increase foreign fares without driving away their best students.

Gender Differences in Job Characteristics Search
with Qinyue Luo

[Show/hide abstract]
  • Recent literature finds that job-specific characteristics such as soft skill requirements and work flexibility are important in explaining differences in earnings. By scraping data on millions of online job postings in China and their application compositions, we study whether female and male job seekers sort into positions with different characteristics. We analyze job characteristics from textual data on job descriptions using a structural topic model and find features that have the highest predictive power for the female-to-male application ratio using random forests. We link job characteristics to posted salaries and study the potential implications of differences in sorting on the gender wage gap.

The Value of Diversity on College Campuses: Evidence from Foreign Enrollment Shocks
with Jack Mountjoy


The Long-Term Impact of School Choice: Evidence from New York City

with Jennifer Jennings

Policy Articles (Non-refereed)

Okuns Law: A Meaningful Guide for Monetary Policy?
with Yi Wen
Economic Synopses, 2012 [Published Version]


Dewey Defeats Truman: Be Aware of Data Revisions
Page One Economics, 2012 [Published Version]


Oil Price Shocks and Inflation Risk
with Yi Wen
Economic Synopses, 2011 [Published Version]


RMB Appreciation and U.S. Inflation Risk
with Yi Wen
Economic Synopses, 2011 [Published Version]


The Mismatch between Job Openings and Job Seekers
with Maria Canon
The Regional Economist, 2011 [Published Version]