Job Market Paper:

Student Aid and the Distribution of Educational Attainment (11/2017) [Summary from Economics and Policy Blog]

Abstract: This paper uses cutbacks to a post-secondary funding program for Indigenous peoples in Canada to understand how increases in the costs of higher education affect the educational attainment and labour market outcomes of marginalized groups. I exploit variation in exposure to student aid across cohorts and ethnicities to show that increasing the costs of post-secondary education not only affects post-secondary attainment but also leads to a sizeable decrease in high school graduation rates. This result is in line with a theoretical model that embeds the expected costs of higher education in the high school decision. The model predicts that high school graduation is affected by the cost of higher education in environments where students face low labour market returns to completing high school, and thus where it may only be optimal to complete high school if there is an option to attend a post-secondary institution. I show that after reductions in targeted student aid in the late 1980s, high school graduation rates declined by four percentage points on Indian reserves, where the return to a high school degree is low. Post-secondary attainment also responded to changes in the availability of student aid, although the exact magnitudes and levels of post-secondary education affected vary across genders. In the long-run, the cutbacks to student aid explain approximately ten percent of the contemporary difference in hours worked between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.


Jaworski, T., M. E. C. Jones, and Mario Samano (2017). Entry and Pricing on Broadway.  Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming.

Jones, M. E. C., M. Ø. Nielsen, and Michal K. Popiel (2014). A Fractionally Cointegrated VAR Analysis of Economic Voting and Political Support.  Canadian Journal of Economics 47(4), 1078-1130. (Note: a working paper version can be found here)

Rosenblum, D., and Maggie Jones (2013). Did the Taliban’s Opium Eradication Campaign Cause a Decline in HIV Infections in Russia? Substance Use and Misuse 48(6), 470-476.

Working Papers:

The Slaughter of the Bison and Reversal of Fortunes on the Great Plains (08/2017) – with Donna Feir and Rob Gillezeau  [repec version]

Abstract: In the late 19th century, the North American bison was slaughtered to near-extinction in just over a decade.  We show that the bison’s slaughter led to a reversal of fortunes for the Native Americans who relied on them.  Once the tallest people in the world, the generations of bison-dependent people born after the slaughter were amongst the shortest.  Today, formerly bison-dependent societies have between 20-40% less income per capita than the average Native American nation.  We argue that federal restrictions limiting the mobility and employment opportunities for Native Americans hampered their ability to adjust in the long-run. 

Educational Investments and Cross-Cultural Differences in the Structure of Information (05/2017)

Abstract: There is considerable variation in educational attainment across cultures that cannot be fully accounted for by traditional explanations like stratification of labour markets, differences in educational institutions, and differences in the inputs into education production functions. This paper incorporates information frictions into a model of educational choice to understand how differences in the structure of information across cultural groups contributes to the educational underachievement of disadvantaged groups. I allow individual students to vary in their academic ability, which is known to them, as well as an unknown portion of their labour market returns that is orthogonal to academic ability. In doing so, I show that increasing students’ knowledge about their return to education affects students differently depending on where they lie in the distribution of academic ability. This result reconciles the different findings in existing empirical work that examines how information provision affects students’ educational attainment.

Illuminating Economic Development in Indigenous Communities (10/2017) – with Donna Feir and Rob Gillezeau (revise and resubmit at Canadian Journal of Economics)

Abstract: There are over 1,000 First Nations and Inuit communities in Canada. However, the most comprehensive public data source on economic activity, the Community Well-Being (CWB) database, only includes consistent data for 357 of these communities every five years between 1991 and 2011. We propose an alternative measure of economic well-being that is available annually since 1992 for all First Nations, Inuit, and non-Indigenous communities in Canada: nighttime light density from satellites. Nighttime light data have been used by development economists to measure economic activity elsewhere and have been shown to be a flexible alternative to traditional measures of economic activity. We find that nighttime light density is a useful proxy for per capita income in the Canadian context and provide evidence of sample selection issues with the pre-existing indicators of well-being in First Nations and Inuit communities. We suggest that using nighttime light density overcomes the biased selection of communities into the CWB samples and thus may present a more complete picture of economic activity in Canada.

Inequalities in Test Scores Between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Youth in Canada (11/2017) – with Michael Barber

Abstract: This paper examines the test gap in math scores between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in Canada.  Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth we show that after controlling for a rich set of observables, students who self-identify as Indigenous perform 0.33 standard deviations lower on a standardized math test compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.  We find that this test gap emerges at age 12, and it has not declined between 1996 and 2008, despite a focus from policy makers to address educational disparities during this time period.  Counterfactual estimates from the decomposition method of Lemieux (2002) suggest that the test gap is more than eliminated after accounting for the differences in the returns to and levels of observable characteristics.  This result is primarily driven by differences in the returns to observables. 

The Intergenerational Legacy of Indian Residential Schools (11/2017)

Abstract: From the late nineteenth century until the end of the twentieth century, the Canadian government, in collaboration with Christian churches, operated a nation-wide school system for Indigenous children.  Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in live-in boarding schools where they were to be converted into the Eurocentric culture of the dominant society. Using data from the Aboriginal People’s Surveys, the Canadian Vital Statistics Birth Database, and a historical dataset that I collect from secondary sources, I exploit regional variation in the intensity of recruitment by Indian Agents, as well as the timing of school closures and the differential resistance to closures by the Catholic church to compute causal estimates of the intergenerational effects of residential schools. Preliminary OLS results show that the children of residential school survivors are less likely to complete high school, despite the fact that the schools increased high school graduation among the generations who attended the schools themselves. Although I cannot immediately rule out that this result is an artifact of selection, I provide suggestive evidence that these findings may be a result of the schools breaking family ties between parents and children which has persisted intergenerationally.

Work in Progress:

Jim Crow and Discrimination in Public Accommodations – with Lisa Cook, Trevon Logan, and David Rosé

Abstract: Recent unrest following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and the subsequent evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement has thrust the pervasiveness of racial inequality into the public’s eye.  We study discrimination in public accommodations during Jim Crow to better understand the issues underlying discrimination today.  We construct a new measure of discrimination based on establishment counts listed in the “Negro Motorist Green Books”.  The Green Books were annual travel guides that listed restaurants, gas stations, hotels, and bars that were friendly to African Americans during the 1937-1964 time period.  We combine these non-discriminatory establishment counts with secondary data sources to address a variety of questions relating to discrimination in public accommodations prior to the Civil Rights Act.  This project is ongoing.

Historical Treaty Making and Long-Term Economic Prosperity of Indigenous Peoples – with Donna Feir and Rob Gillezeau

Culture and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital