Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Tania Barham

Second Advisor

Brian Cadena

Third Advisor

Terra McKinnish

Fourth Advisor

Jeronimo Carballo

Fifth Advisor

Fernando Riosmena


My first chapter investigates the effect of high-skilled immigration on the wages of US-born college graduates. Descriptive evidence suggests that workers with different college majors compete in separate labor markets. I adapt a standard labor market model, allowing for the imperfect substitutability of workers with different college majors. Because immigrants are more likely than natives to study STEM fields, the model predicts that the relative wages of native STEM majors should fall as skilled immigration increases. Using an IV strategy that leverages large changes in the cap of H-1B visas and controls for major- and age-specific unobservable characteristics, I find that workers most exposed to increased competition from immigration have lower wages than you would expect. A 10 percentage point increase in a skill group’s immigrant-native ratio decreases their relative wages by 1.2 percent. Overall, I estimate that the STEM wage premium decreased 4–12 percentage points because of immigration from 1990–2010.

In my second chapter, I extend the welfare magnets literature by using the 2014 expansion of Medicaid to test for welfare migration. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandated the expansion of Medicaid. However, a Supreme Court decision overturned this provision and allowed states to opt-out. As a result, childless adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level are eligible for Medicaid in states that have expanded coverage and are not eligible at any income level in the majority of states that opted to not expand. Using a difference-in-differences strategy which compares the log estimated low-income population of expansion and non-expansion states, before and after Medicaid expansion, I find that the low-income population increased by 1% in expansion states after 2012 relative to what one would expect given pre-existing trends and post-decision population changes in non-expansion states. This result is robust to the use of state-level synthetic control. I also find that Medicaid take-up in expansion states increased more along the border of the state relative to the interior, which is driven by portions of the state that neighbor non-expansion states.

My final chapter, written with Tania Barham and Randall Kuhn, estimates the long-term impact of a maternal and child health and family planning program on labor market and migration outcomes. Early childhood health and nutrition programs are believed to improve adult living standards in the long run in part through the effect of improved human capital on labor market opportunities. We take advantage of a quasi-randomly placed Maternal and Child Health and Family Planning program in a rural Bangladesh, Matlab, and the roll out of the program between 1977–1988 to examine the program effects on labor market outcomes and migrations 35 years after the program start. We focus on two cohorts: 30–34 year olds, born when family planning interventions were introduced in the treatment area; and 24–29 year olds, born when both family planning and child health interventions were available in the treatment area. Previous research shows the program improved human capital for the 24–29 year olds, but not the 30–34 year olds. For men, we find that the 24–29 age group is more likely have professional jobs, be entrepreneurial, and use more academic skills and less physical strength in their jobs. Despite having “better” jobs, however, these young men earned the same as those in the comparison group. This is surprising, but perhaps more surprisingly, this appears to be because they are more likely to be currently living and working at home in Matlab rather than migrating for work to urban areas of Bangladesh. Women in the 24–29 age group also benefited. They are more likely to work in paid agriculture activities such as raising ducks and hens and have more personal savings. Those in the 30–34 age groups did not fare as well, and in fact the men migrate