Three Essays in Labor Economics

Brian Towell, Purdue University


Chapter 1 investigates whether son preference influences the male-female wage gap in the United States. I compare fertility rates of families who have had only daughters to those who have had only sons and analyze the correlation between this difference and the gender wage gap. Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and American Community Survey (ACS), I construct a wage regression that reduces the commonly cited wage gap of twenty-three cents by over half, and show that inclusion of son preference can further reduce the wage gap by approximately eight percent. Chapter 2 examines how the minimum wage impacts the incentive to unionize for low-wage workers. I suggest a mechanism whereby increases in the minimum wage effectively crowd out unions, as low-wage workers do not need to collectively bargain for higher wages if the government simply mandates that firms must pay more to each worker. Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), I estimate that a $1 increase in the minimum wage will decrease unionization rates by .7 percentage points within low-wage occupations. These estimates are robust to controls for spurious time trends. In Chapter 3, I analyze the impact that government employment has on income inequality. When discussing income inequality, the focus has largely been centered on the efficacy of taxation and transfer payments, and whether it is beneficial for governments to utilize these practices with income inequality in mind. However, the level of employment a government chooses, the people it chooses to hire, and the wages that they pay can also have a substantial effect on inequality. Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) Outgoing Rotation Group, I find evidence that historically, increases in the proportion of people employed by the federal government has contributed towards a greater level of inequality, while hiring by state governments has contributed towards lessened inequality.




Mumford, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Economics|Labor economics

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