Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Jean Kimmel, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christine Moser, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Brad Hershbein, Ph.D.


College major, education, labor market, STEM, STEM major, wage


This dissertation explores three distinct topics in the economics of education. These topics explore the relationship between factors such as race, gender, national origin, and educational and labor market outcomes. Educational attainment in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) areas receives a major focus in this dissertation; a college-level specialization in STEM areas generally leads to high incomeyielding career tracks. Below I briefly explain the research objectives and findings of each chapter.

The first chapter focuses on the impact of teacher-student demographic mismatch on student success in classrooms at the high school level. When students, particularly those of disadvantaged backgrounds, are assigned to teachers with different racial and/or gender identities, they may become subject to the “Golem effect”; lower expectations and biases the teachers may have. In this paper, using restricted-access data from the High School Longitudinal Survey of 2009 (HSLS:09), I investigate whether demographic mismatch between teachers and students in high schools has a negative impact on achievement. I find consistent evidence that having a different-sex teacher is disadvantageous for students of all racial backgrounds. Having a different-sex and different-race teacher is associated with achievement loss, especially for Black female students.

The second chapter focuses on the impact of parental occupation in STEM fields on the child’s selection of a STEM major at the post-secondary level. For empirical analysis, I use data from HSLS:09 again. The economic literature suggests that parental occupational identities can influence children’s selection into different fields of major through different channels. Parents may provide positive feedback on children’s educational decisions at multiple stages throughout the children’s school life. I find that having at least one parent in the fields of computer science and engineering positively impacts the child’s selection into college majors in computer science, IT, and Engineering. Moreover, I find that in two-parent households, both the mother’s and father’s occupations in STEM positively impact the child’s selection into STEM college major sections.

The third chapter examines the historical positive wage gap between U.S. natives and international college graduates in STEM and non-STEM fields participating in the U.S. labor force. I show that between 1993 and 2019, in STEM occupations, naturalized citizens and permanent residents earned on average higher than U.S. natives; temporary workers consistently earned less on average than U.S. natives, and permanent residents consistently earned more on average than temporary workers. The evidence shows that the wage gap is not just due to differences in factors such as primary activities on the job, highest degree attained, and working in STEM fields, but also because of “unexplained” factors; one of them could be the labor market laws restricting the entry of foreign-born workers into the U.S. labor market. In a panel data analysis, I find that the effect of naturalization and gaining permanent residency, both are positive on ln(wage).

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Economics Commons