Congratulations to Dr. Minghao Li!

Dissertation Abstract

The first essay uses cross-sectional county-level mobility data to study the determinants of intergenerational mobility, measured by income levels and teen birth rates. Following Solon’s mobility model, this essay evaluates the impacts of public investment in human capital, returns to human capital, and taxation. The results show that better school quality and higher returns to education increase upward mobility for children from low income families. By comparing urban and non-urban counties, this study finds that urban upward mobility is sensitive to parents’ education while non-urban upward mobility is sensitive to migration opportunities.

The second essay employs court-ordered school finance reforms (SFRs) as quasi-experiments to quantify the effects of education equity on intergenerational mobility within commuting zones. First, reduced form difference-in-difference analysis shows that 10 years of exposure to SFRs increases the average college attendance rate by about 5.2% for children with the lowest parent income. The effect of exposure to SFRs decreases with parent income and increases with the duration of exposure. Second, to directly model the causal pathways, a measure for education inequity is constructed and exposure to SFRs is used to instrument for it. 2SLS analysis suggests that one standard deviation reduction in education inequality will cause the average college attendance rate to increase by 2.2% for children at the lower end of the parent income spectrum.

The third essay studies the Intergenerational Persistence of Self-employment in China across the Planned Economy Era. It finds that children whose parents were self-employed before China’s socialist transformation (1960) were more likely to become self-employed themselves after the economic reform (1980) even though they had no direct exposure to their parents’ businesses. The effect is found in both urban and rural areas, but only for sons. Furthermore, asset holding data indicate that households with self-employed parents before the socialist transformation are more risk tolerant. These findings suggest that the taste for self-employment could an important conduit of parents’ effects on self-employment.

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