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. We find suggestive evidence that some of the mechanisms behind these results include job referrals and gender-specific information transmission. These findings highlight the role of social connections in reducing the gender gap in senior management positions.

  • Undergraduate Gender Diversity and Direction of Scientific Research [PDF] with Ashley Wong

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? Diverse researchers can bring new questions and perspectives, but exposure to diversity may also inspire scientists, regardless of demographic identity, to pursue new topics. This paper studies a new determinant of research ideas: the diversity of the academic environment. 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 document a 42% increase in the number of gender-related research publications authored by scholars at newly coed universities. This increase is explained by a combination of a more diverse researcher pool in terms of gender and prior research interests, as well as a shift in the research focus of individual scientists towards more gender-related topics. A bounding exercise suggests that the direct effects of the policy on scientists' research focus can account for more than half of these gains. These findings suggest that a diverse academic environment can influence the direction of scientific research.

  • 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 more than 32% of mothers that gave birth between 1975 and 2017 received UI benefits, concentrated in the months after the expiration of paid maternity leave. We then exploit a reform in Germany to show that extensions of maternity leave reduce mothers' UI take-up by 19% and total unemployment benefits by 21% in the first five years after childbirth. The timing of the reduction suggests mothers use UI as a substitute for income replacement in the absence of paid leave. Importantly for 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: Search and contracting frictions can hinder the creation of business partnerships and the effectiveness of business collaborations. In developing countries, these relationships are often informal and conducted with family members and friends, suggesting that search costs and contracting frictions can be important barriers to firm growth. We conduct an RCT in Ghana on a sample of 1,772 female entrepreneurs to investigate the effect of an online matching service combined with access to legal information and advisory services on collaborations and firm performance. Specifically, we hypothesized that access to the matching service can alleviate search frictions. In addition, access to legal advisory may help mitigate contracting frictions by formalizing interfirm relationships and lowering risks of collaboration. The results of this study will shed light on the potential collaboration barriers faced by female entrepreneurs.

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.

  • Effect of Beliefs and Gender Roles on Girls' Math Education with Ashley Wong

Registered in the AEA RCT Registry, unique identifying number: AEARCTR-0003054 [Data collection completed]