Working Papers

The Value of U.S. College Education in Global Labor Markets: Experimental Evidence from China
Job Market Paper

: One million international students study in the U.S. each year and the majority of them compete in global labor markets after graduation. I conduct a large-scale field experiment to study how employers in China value U.S. 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 U.S.-educated applicants are on average 18 percent less likely to receive a callback than applicants educated in China, with applicants from very selective U.S. institutions underperforming those from the least selective Chinese institutions. The U.S.-China callback gap is smaller at high-wage jobs, consistent with employers fearing U.S.-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 U.S. work experiences does not attenuate the gap, suggesting that it is not driven by employer perceptions of negative selection. A companion employer survey of 260 hiring managers finds consistent and additional supporting evidence for the experimental findings.

Are Public Universities Still Public? The Impact of Education Exports on American Higher Education
Draft coming soon!

Abstract: Public universities in the U.S. experienced severe state funding cuts during the Great Recession. Over the same period, many increased their enrollment of foreign students, who pay full tuition and fees. While media outlets and legislators argue that foreign students crowd out in-state students and have advocated for caps on foreign enrollment, revenue from foreign students may allow schools to maintain in-state enrollment levels in the face of decreased public spending. I instrument for foreign student enrollment using a measure of foreign demand shocks exploiting variation in economic growth, exchange rate fluctuations, and institutions’ historical networks with different countries. I find that public universities with more exposure to foreign demand shocks increase in-state enrollment and educational spending. They also benefit from higher peer quality and more degrees awarded to domestic students. These results suggest that public institutions have not deviated from serving local residents, and foreign students play an important role in schools’ operations.

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

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.

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

Abstract: The only legal defense today for affirmative action in college admissions is the argument that students benefit from engaging with a diverse student body on campus. Causal evidence supporting the relationship between campus diversity and student outcomes is limited due to the luck of exogenous variation in student exposure to different types of diversity. Enrolling more foreign students is an important dimension along which schools can increase student diversity, and the increase in foreign students has reshaped the diversity of American college campuses in the last two decades. By combining the plausibly exogenous variation in exposure to foreign students with the panel structure and richness of several college surveys, we estimate causal impacts of having more international peers on a wide range of student attitudes, social behaviors, and educational outcomes. We assess how these impacts vary by student backgrounds using newly developed methods in machine learning. Our results contribute clarifying quantitative evidence to longstanding debates over the value of different types of diversity on college campuses.

Gender Differences in Job Characteristics Sorting
with Qinyue Luo

: Recent literature find that job-specific characteristics such as soft skill requirement and work flexibility are important in explaining differences in earnings. We study whether female and male job seekers sort into jobs with these features differently. We scrape data on millions of online job postings and their application composition by gender. We use machine learning methods to analyze textual data and look for job characteristics that have the highest predictive power for the female-to-male application ratio. We link these characteristics to posted salaries and study the implication of differences in sorting on gender wage gap.

Best and Brightest? International Students’ Decision to Attend College in the U.S.
with Jessica Howell and Jonathan Smith

Labor Market Concentration, Wage, and Gender Discrimination


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

: 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, 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 Huang and Wiseman (ed.) The Impact and Transformation of Education Policy in China (International Perspectives on Education and Society, Volume 15), 2011
Published Version

Policy Publications (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