Essays on the Effects of Labor Market Policies

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Altonji, Joseph


In this dissertation, I study the effects of two types of policies that aim to improve the labor market outcomes of workers from underrepresented groups. “Coding Bootcamps for Female Digital Employment: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Argentina and Colombia” Women are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) sector, at both the educational and occupational level. In particular, the gender gap in computer science careers is the most salient of all STEM fields. In the first chapter of this dissertation, my coauthors and I design a high-quality computer coding training — a bootcamp — that aims to address the main barriers to participation for young women, and evaluate its short-term causal effects on skill acquisition and labor market outcomes. Taking advantage of an oversubscription in the course, we offered a spot in the bootcamp to a random subset of female applicants in Argentina and Colombia, together with a scholarship that covered most of the tuition costs. Using follow-up data collected shortly after the training ended, we show that the bootcamp increased participants’ coding skills by 46% relative to the mean of the control group, and their probability of finding a job in the technology sector by 38%. Compared with other jobs, technology jobs are 43% more likely to offer flexible hours and work-from-home arrangements — an attractive amenity for young women of childbearing age, — and generate 12% higher job satisfaction. Even though the pay rate in technology jobs is similar to other jobs (at least in this short-term analysis), we interpret the increase in flexibility and job satisfaction as a net improvement in overall job quality. We also compare the employment status of the sample before and during the first months of the COVID-19 outbreak, and show that the program increased participants’ resilience to the downturn in the labor market. Taken together, these short-term effects indicate that the training appears to help participants quickly overcome an entry barrier into technology sector employment, and that the jobs that the treatment group receives are better. Future research will explore whether the positive effects are sustained and participants enjoy enhanced medium- and long-term career progression, the cost-effectiveness of the intervention, and whether the impacts hold if implemented at scale. This will allow us to ultimately estimate the effectiveness of providing subsidized access to training programs like this as a larger-scale policy. “The Declining Effects of Employment-Based Affirmative Action During the 2000s” Racial disparities in employment and earnings in the U.S. are large. The unemployment rate for Black workers is, and has persistently been, about twice that of whites, and the average hourly earnings for Blacks is 78% that of whites. To combat these disparities, employer-based affirmative action policies promote equal opportunity in the workplace. In the second and third chapters of this dissertation, my coauthors and I study the effects of Executive Order 11246, the oldest and most widespread employment affirmative action regulation in the U.S. We focus our analysis on the 2000s, which is a period that has not been analyzed in previous literature. In Chapter 2, we start by showing that the positive impacts of affirmative action the literature has documented during and before the 1990s do not continue in the 2000s: The policy is no longer effective in increasing the share of Black employees in regulated establishments. In Chapter 3, we construct a novel and rich dataset that allows us to explore alternative sources of identification, additional dimensions of the policy, and outcomes that were unexplored by previous literature. We show that the policy is not effective in increasing the share of Black, minority, or female employees in regulated establishments, even for the subset of firms that are subject to a more stringent element of the regulation. Our results show that the policy is also not effective in increasing the wages of minority workers. We point to weak enforcement and compliance with the policy as our main hypothesis to explain the lack of effects during the 2000s. We show that this lack of effects is concomitant with strong budget cuts in the enforcement agency during the 2000s, which resulted in a significant decrease in activities in some central areas related to compliance evaluations. Additionally, we show that a very small percentage of regulated establishments had affirmative action practices in place when they were randomly evaluated during the period of analysis. We present an empirical analysis that goes against an alternative hypothesis related to the possibility that the lack of effects is due to firms’ already being compliant with the regulation. In sum, our results highlight the importance of oversight and monitoring activities to improve the effectiveness of this large-scale affirmative action regulation.

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