Three lessons for labor economics from history
Tan, Hui Ren
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This dissertation uses big data constructed from census record linkage to study the long-run effects of different circumstances and shocks in the United States. The first chapter considers how the place one resides in, both as a child and as an adult, affects intergenerational mobility. I show that during the early 20th Century, intergenerational mobility was higher for those growing up in the coastal and industrial regions of the country. Exploiting differences in when children moved across neighborhoods, I demonstrate that the historical spatial patterns were not due to differences in childhood environment. Rather, they were driven by differences in the local labor market structure. Over time, human capital became more important for success in the labor market, shifting the landscape of intergenerational mobility in favor of places that were more conducive to a child's development. The second chapter focuses on the demographic transition in the United States and asks how family size when young affects the education outcomes of individuals. Using twin births to isolate exogenous variation in family size, I find that each additional sibling reduces the likelihood that a child attends school and lowers the level of human capital accumulated by adulthood. However, these effects are quantitatively small. The third chapter seeks to determine whether military service during World War I affected the economic outcomes of American veterans who survived the war. Making use of differences in the likelihood of military service by cohort and a difference-in-discontinuities strategy, I conclude that serving in the army during World War I did not have any meaningful effects on the labor market outcomes of veterans.