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Abstract

This dissertation explores gender issues in three distinct and important life decisions: education, fertility, and labor supply. The first chapter examines whether legislation affected female human-capital investment decisions. It finds a sharp and dramatic convergence between female and male graduate-degree fields coincident with the 1972 passage of Title IX, which banned gender discrimination in graduate admissions. Using a well-known convergence measure in Computer Science called the Earth Mover's Distance Algorithm, I find that the distributional change occurred as females predominantly moved into male-dominated fields. In addition to providing evidence of successful anti-discrimination legislation, this chapter sheds new light on the factors responsible for the college gender gap reversal.,The second chapter examines how career concerns affect fertility-timing decisions differently by gender. A growing literature reveals that the adverse effect of children on career advancement falls disproportionately on women. This raises the possibility that women respond to career concerns by delaying family formation more than men. Using a novel dataset on lawyers, we find that females are less likely to have their first child before the promotion decision. The results imply that the focus on the gender wage gap understates gender inequality in the labor market.,The last chapter examines how economic conditions affect labor-supply decisions of married couples. Exploiting variation in local housing demand shocks from the recent U.S. housing crisis, it finds that wives of construction workers were more likely to join the labor force and be employed in areas that experienced larger housing busts. The study of the added worker effect is especially interesting in light of advancements made by women in the labor market.,These chapters relate to each other as human capital investments are closely tied to occupational choices. To the extent that there is gender-based sorting into educational decisions (e.g., types of degrees, fields of study), this may in part explain the observed gender-sorting into occupations and the gender pay gap. Chapter 1 explores this relationship. Even with the same training and within the same occupation, however, gender disparities may arise in the labor market. Chapter 2 examines this question with respect to fertility. Last, growing similarity between male and female human-capital attainment and occupational choices have important implications for household labor supply. Chapter 3 examines the value of marriage as a risk-sharing device. Another common thread among the three chapters is the comparison of male and female decisions. This dissertation provides insight into how and why decisions pertaining to human capital attainment and the labor market may differ by gender.

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