Research

Working Papers




Recipient of the Susan Schmidt Bies Prizes for Doctoral Student Research on Economics and Public Policy, 2019.

Recipient of the UniCredit Foundation Best Paper Award on Gender Economics, 2021.

Recipient of the 2nd Discrimination and Diversity Workshop Outstanding Paper Award, 2022.


Abstract: Women continue to be underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. This paper studies the role of social connections in women's career advancement. We investigate whether access to a larger share of female peers in business school affects the gender gap in senior managerial positions. Merging administrative data from a top-10 US business school with public LinkedIn profiles, we first document that female MBAs are 24 percent less likely than male MBAs to enter senior management within 15 years of graduation. Next, we use the exogenous assignment of students into sections to show that a larger proportion of female MBA section peers increases the likelihood of entering senior management for women but not for men. This effect is driven by female-friendly firms, such as those with more generous maternity leave policies and greater work schedule flexibility. A larger proportion of female MBA peers induces women to transition to these firms where they attain senior management roles. Qualitative interviews reveal that some of the mechanisms behind these results include emotional support and information transmission. These findings highlight the role of social connections in reducing the gender gap in senior management positions.



  • Undergraduate Gender Diversity and the Direction of Scientific Research [PDF] with Ashley Wong (Submitted)


Recipient of the Susan Schmidt Bies Prizes for Doctoral Student Research on Economics and Public Policy, 2019.


Abstract: Can diversity lead to greater research focus on populations underrepresented in science? Between 1960 and 1990, 76 all-male US universities, including many elite and prominent research institutions, transitioned to coeducation. Using a generalized difference-in-differences design, we find that the increase in undergraduate gender diversity led to a 42% increase in gender-related research publications. After coeducation, universities hired more female faculty and researchers with prior interests in gender-related topics. In addition, incumbent researchers, who were mostly male, shifted their research focus toward gender-related topics. The results support interaction with more diverse students and peers as the key underlying mechanisms.



  • The Spillover Effects of Maternity Leave Extensions on Unemployment Insurance [PDF] with Ashley Wong


Abstract: This paper presents new evidence on the relationship between motherhood, maternity leave policies, and unemployment insurance (UI) participation. Using German administrative data, we show that over 32% of mothers received UI benefits, concentrated in the months after the expiration of paid maternity leave. We show that extensions of maternity leave in Germany reduce mothers' UI take-up by 19%. The timing of the reduction suggests mothers use UI as income replacement in the absence of paid leave. Importantly for our welfare calculations, the reduction in UI benefits is substantial and represents 68% of the increase in maternity leave benefits.



Work in Progress



Registered in the AEA RCT Registry, unique identifying number: AEARCTR-0006439 [Data collection in progress]


Abstract: Networking and contracting frictions can hinder the formation of interfirm relationships and may limit firm growth. We conduct an RCT in Ghana on a sample of 1,771 growth-oriented female entrepreneurs to investigate the effect of online networking groups combined with legal support on business collaborations and firm performance. We find that access to online networking opportunities (i) does not increase total business collaborations, but (ii) shifts business collaborations from friends and family members to business network members in the intervention, and (iii) leads to greater innovation, better business practices and higher profits by 21%. The increase in profits is concentrated in the upper tail of the distribution. We find the largest effects for those in groups with more-educated, higher-quality, and more diverse entrepreneurs. While legal support leads to a decline in overall collaborations due to a greater reduction in collaborations within pre-existing networks (e.g., friends and family), it does not have additional impacts on business outcomes, suggesting that legal contracting barriers are unlikely to be the key barrier to growth for these firms. Our findings reveal that a low-cost, light-touch online intervention that increases networking opportunities can effectively improve outcomes of female-owned firms.



Abstract: We study a 2001 pension insurance reform in Germany that introduced additional caregiver credits for working mothers with children between the ages of 3 and 10. Using administrative social security data from Germany combined with a difference-in-differences design, we find that the reform leads to a 66.5% increase in yearly retirement contributions during the eligibility period. 66% of the total effect can be explained by a change in the labor market outcomes of eligible mothers, while the remaining 34% is the mechanical effect of the reform. We find a significant increase in employment earnings, driven by both an increase in employment and a switch from marginal to employment subject to social security contributions. This translates into a 9.1 percentage point (18.3%) reduction in the gender gap in lifetime non-marginal earning points. Finally, a simple life-cycle model predicts that the pension reform leads to a 9.8% increase in retirement income and a 12% reduction in the gender gap in old-age income.



  • Saving for a (not so) Rainy Day: A Randomized Evaluation of Savings Groups in Mali with Lori Beaman, Dean Karlan and Bram Thuysbaert


Abstract: High transaction and contracting costs are often thought to create credit and savings market failures in developing countries. The microfinance movement grew largely out of business process innovations and subsidies that reduced these costs. We examine an alternative approach, one that infuses no external capital and introduces no change to formal contracts: an improved “technology” for managing informal, collaborative village-based savings groups. Such groups allow, in theory, for more efficient and lower-cost loans and informal savings, and in practice have been scaled up by international non-profit organizations to millions of members. Individuals save together and then lend the accumulated funds back out to themselves. In a randomized evaluation in Mali, we find improvements in food security, consumption smoothing, and buffer stock savings. Although we do find suggestive evidence of higher agricultural output, we do not find overall higher income or expenditure. We also do not find downstream impacts on health, education, social capital, and female decision-making power. Could this have happened before, without any external intervention? Yes. That is what makes the result striking, that indeed there were no resources provided nor legal institutional changes, yet the NGO-guided, improved informal processes led to important changes for households.




  • How Female Representation Changes Science: Evidence from College Coeducation with Ashley Wong