Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Socioeconomic inequality, Intergenerational mobility

Major Advisor

Nishith Prakash

Associate Advisor

Eric Brunner

Associate Advisor

Gautam Rao

Associate Advisor

Stephen Ross

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


This dissertation investigates three different sources of inequality and policy tools to deal with the issues. The first chapter examines whether an increase in public school spending can enhance equality of opportunity as measured by intergenerational mobility. To identify the causal impact of school spending, I exploit the plausibly exogenous variation in spending induced by the court-mandated school finance reforms in the United States. I find that a ten percent increase in school spending raises college attendance rates by about five percentage points for disadvantaged children and about two percentage points for advantaged children. Despite substantial school spending effects on college attendance rates, there is little evidence that spending increases boost income ranks of disadvantaged children in the national distribution. For advantaged children, I find a marginally significant increase in income ranks. The second chapter examines whether the removal of racial preferences improves college access for low-income students and upward mobility. In recent years, many states in the U.S. have banned race-based affirmative action in college admissions. Public universities in these states have put more weight on socioeconomic factors, such as family income, to ensure a diverse student body without the explicit consideration of race. I find that the elimination of race-based preferences increases the enrollment share of low-income and first-generation students at selective public universities. The positive impact on college access is driven by low-income Asian students. Banning the use of race in admissions also raises the upward mobility rate, which measures the extent to which an institution contributes to intergenerational income mobility. In the third chapter, S Anukriti (Boston College), Nishith Prakash (University of Connecticut), and I examine the impacts of dowry expectations on households’ decisions in contemporary rural India. Dowry, a bride-to-groom marriage payment, is often cited as a factor behind gender inequality. Exploiting variation in firstborn gender and heterogeneity in dowry amounts across marriage markets, we find that the prospect of paying higher dowry increases household savings, which are primarily financed through increased paternal labor supply. However, we find no impacts of dowry expectations on son-preferring fertility behaviors and child investments.

Available for download on Friday, July 10, 2020