The Fracking Boom, Local Labor Market Opportunities, and College Attainment” (Job Market Paper)

This paper examines the college educational, earnings, and employment responses to local labor demand shocks brought about by recent technological innovations in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Using the synthetic control method, I find that a boom in fracking production within a county causes a reduction in college enrollment rates at four-year institutions, an increase in earnings, and an increase in employment for both men and women, with stronger effects for men. The decline in college enrollment during a boom is largely reversed as fracking production slows within a county; educational attainment, however, remains persistently low for cohorts who experience the biggest enrollment declines. Workers who never attend college experience relatively larger earnings and employment gains, when compared to college educated workers. These findings reveal that fracking-induced shifts in labor demand raise the opportunity cost of, and reduce the relative returns to, college.

The Effect of Unilateral Divorce Laws on College Educational Attainment,” with Peter Blair

Exploiting state variation in the adoption of unilateral divorce laws, we show that both women and men are less likely to report having a bachelor's degree in states that adopted unilateral divorce laws. This reduction in human capital investment occurs in states with community property laws, where the law requires an even split of the couple's assets in the event of a divorce and is most pronounced for white women and men. We find no distortionary effects of unilateral divorce laws on the human capital decisions of black men or black women, even in states with community property laws.