Essays on the Ramifications of American Youths' Postsecondary Schooling Decisions
Zachary Bleemer

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Berkeley

Primary Discipline

My dissertation employs rigorous quasi-experimental research designs and massive novel applicant- and student-level data to estimate how each of three pivotal decisions made by American youths?how much tuition it's worth paying to attend a university, which university to attend, and which field to major in?impacts their educational success and postgraduate employment outcomes. My first chapter uses detailed financial aid records covering all 2000-2016 UC Berkeley undergraduates?linked to their households and siblings, student surveys, course enrollment and grades, and graduate and postgraduate socioeconomic outcomes?to examine the impact of quasi-random year-over-year variations in financial aid provision arising from discontinuous administrative formulas. In the second chapter, I use difference-in-difference, regression discontinuity, and event study designs combined with a comprehensive application, graduation, and postgraduate labor market database to estimate returns to university selectivity for the lower-preparation applicants admitted to various University of California campuses under affirmative action and percent plan policies. Initial results suggest that disadvantaged applicants' public research university enrollment provided them with substantial education and employment benefits, rejecting the so-called ``mismatch hypothesis``. The third chapter digitizes and exploits a comprehensive database of 1960s-1980s undergraduate student transcripts covering most UC campuses and linked to 2000-2017 annual employment records, estimating the impact of major choice (identified using quasi-random first-year role model and peer effects as instrumental variables) on students' long-run labor market outcomes. Each chapter provides rigorous new evidence delineating the personal ramifications of college students' educational decisions, informing both those choices and university administrators' policy objectives.
About Zachary Bleemer
Zachary Bleemer is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at UC Berkeley. He is also the director of the UC ClioMetric History Project at Berkeley's Center for Studies in Higher Education, which has accumulated and constructed one of the largest repositories of computer-readable historical and contemporary university records in the United States, spanning students, faculty, curriculum, and budgetary allocations at many California universities since 1890. Zach's research combines these data with quasi-experimental research designs to examine the long-run ramifications of young Americans' post-secondary education and specialization decisions, with a particular focus on university policies?like affirmative action, percent plans, and holistic review?that promote socioeconomic mobility by encouraging enrollment by disadvantaged applicants. He has published studies on the consequences of student debt accumulation, perceived university costs, state disinvestment in public higher education, and youth natural disaster exposure in outlets including the Journal of Public Economics and the Journal of Urban Economics. Zach is a Research Analyst at the UC Office of the President and a member of The Campaign for College Opportunity's Policy Research Advisory Board. He earned a B.A. in Economics, Mathematics, and Philosophy from Amherst College and previously held research positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Mathematica Policy Research.

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