Dissertation Research

From School Boards to State Politics: De-Unionization and the Labor Market for Teachers

How does the labor market for teachers react to a prohibition of collective bargaining? I compare teachers in Tennessee who lost bargaining rights in 2011 to their colleagues within the state whose districts never negotiated within a differences-in-differences framework. De-unionization modestly reduced teacher compensation and school administrators responded with increased demand for teachers. Salaries grew one percentage-point less, cumulatively over five years, while employer-paid health insurance premiums grew five percentage-points less. School administrators reduced class sizes by half a student on average. Nevertheless, de-unionization had no impact on student test scores in the short run. In contrast, teachers' unions lost 30 percent of pre-prohibition revenue because contracts no longer stipulate automatic payroll deduction of union dues.

How Tax Overrides Affect Teacher Employment and School Choice

I examine how local referendums to override state-legislated tax and expenditure limits affect teacher employment and student enrollment in U.S. public schools. Regression discontinuity estimates based on close votes indicate that district administrators use override revenue to decrease class size and that parents respond by enrolling their children in funded schools. Conversely, teacher compensation does not benefit substantially from relaxing the budget constraint. These results help arbitrate between a view of tax and expenditure limits where administrators protect instruction in favor of one where budget constraints restrict all activities proportionally. They also explain why tax caps are more salient in some school districts than others.

Pay for Seniority: Do Civil Servants Value Deferred Compensation?

I estimate the impact of seniority pay on workers' career trajectories in the U.S. public sector. State government employees in Michigan participate in either a defined-benefit or a defined-contribution pension plan depending on their date of hire. Defined-benefit members must remain at least a decade in state government to receive any payments, whereas defined-contribution members vest immediately. Regression discontinuity estimates show that older workers were willing to remain an additional four years in government service to receive at least twice their salary at separation. Those in highly skilled occupations were 30 percentage points more likely to persist when offered deferred compensation. In contrast, younger workers did not persist to earn deferred compensation worth an additional year's salary. Governments contemplating pension reform should consider the benefits and costs of a younger workforce with less firm-specific human capital.