Date of Award

May 2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

Committee Member

Howard Bodenhorn

Committee Member

Peter Blair

Committee Member

Chungsang Tom Lam

Committee Member

Kevin K. Tsui

Abstract

This dissertation discusses the role of social network and labor market regulation in understanding racial and gender inequality. The first chapter contributes to the discussion on childhood exposure by investigating the extent to which the educational background of peers' parents is related to a child's future college attainment. I analyze the friendship networks of a nationally representative sample of high-school students in the US and find that the spillover from peers' parents of the same gender operates independently of peers' academic performance. The effects are robust in addressing friendship selection. The same gender pattern suggests either the transmission of gender identity or the presence of a role model effect. Furthermore, the same gender spillover is significant only for students from lower-educated families. A student whose father is absent or less caring also experiences significant influence from peers' fathers. The heterogeneity by own family background indicates the influences from parental and non-parental adults are substitutes. The second and third chapter examines the effect of occupational licensing on wage and employment. If the source of racial and gender wage gap is statistical discrimination, licensed minority and females should receive higher license premium since licensing provides information on workers' productivity to the labor market. The result of the second chapter shows that licensing provides signals on the non-felon status and completely closes the racial wage gap between black men and white men; licensing reduces the gender wage gap but the gender disparity on wages still persists among licensed workers. In the third chapter, I exploit state variation in licensing laws to study the effect of licensing on occupational choice using a boundary discontinuity design. I find that licensing reduces the equilibrium labor supply by an average of 17\%-27\%. The negative labor supply effects of licensing appear to be strongest for white workers and comparatively weaker for black workers.

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