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Essays on Immigration & Education Economics

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posted on 30.04.2022, 01:01 authored by Town OhTown Oh

My three chapters are all related to the study of immigrants in how they impact the US

economy. The first two chapters look at international students in particular and how they

impact their domestic peers and the local college towns they reside in. The third chapter

looks at immigrant workers and their effect on native workers’ propensity to consolidate to

form labor unions.

To be specific, the first chapter, titled How International students Affect Domestic Students’

Achievement: evidence from the OPT STEM-extension, looks at the role of immigrants

in shaping the educational outcome of domestic students pursuing STEM degrees

in the United States. By utilizing the mass influx of international students after an immigration

policy change (OPT-STEM-extension) in 2008, I investigate the peer effects that

international students have on grades, attrition, and first-year salary of STEM graduates.

I account for the common selection issues present in the peer-effects literature by looking

at the yearly exogenous change in international student share in a specific course-instructor

pair and controlling for rich individual ability and demographics. This was made possible

by having access to administrative data of a land-grant university with one of the highest

international student enrollments in the US. I find that international students tend to lower

grades and persistence of domestic students in STEM. Still, this negative effect is more than

compensated for in the increase in salary due to spill-over effects in learning for those who

persist and graduate.

My research aims to eventually aid policymakers in both the local educational institutions

and the federal government. To this end, I have extended my analysis of international

students by shifting my focus outside the classroom to the local economies of the college

campuses. In my second chapter, titled International Students’ Effect on Local Businesses, I

use the zip code-level Census data on small businesses to see how the influx of international

students affected the regional college campuses. I find that international students have a

significantly positive effect on job creation in the local economy. To my knowledge, this is

the first data-driven-causal analysis of international students on local businesses in the US.


My third chapter is a co-authored work with Alex Nowrasteh and Artem Samiahulin

titled Immigrants Reduce Unionization in the US. Here we attempt to relate immigrants to

a more traditional labor economics topic: labor unions. Although there is a vast amount of

literature on unions, we found that the literature that causally estimates immigrants’ effect

on unions is severely lacking in the US setting. Using a combination of representative data

such as the CPS, Census, and the ACS, we show that immigrants accounted for about onethird

of the decline in unions since the 1980s. We based our paper on the theoretical model

of Naylor and Cripps  1993  and borrowed George Borjas’s skill-cell method for our empirical

method.(Borjas  2003 )


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy



Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Kevin J. Mumford

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Victoria Prowse

Additional Committee Member 2

Jillian Carr

Additional Committee Member 3

Miguel Sarzosa