Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Holger Sieg


This dissertation consists of two essays. The common theme is Public Economics: to understand the effects of government policies in order to improve their design and to understand how special interest groups affect the local fiscal policies.

In the first chapter, I study the impact of student debt on the education, career, and marriage choices of female lawyers. Law students quite often take on substantial amounts of debt to finance their graduate education. There has been much concern in the legal profession and among policy-makers that this debt burden distorts career choices. The empirical analysis is based on a novel, nationally representative, longitudinal data set. In contrast to the previous literature that has largely focused on males and finds only small effects, these new data suggest that debt has large and significant negative effects on female career and marriage outcomes. To explore the likely causes of these negative debt effects, I develop and estimate a dynamic model of education, labor, and marriage markets. My findings suggest that a large part of the debt effect on schooling and career choices comes from the diminished marriage prospects associated with the debt burden. I then focus on policies that aim to reduce the debt burden while also encouraging female lawyers to pursue careers in the public sector. My policy experiments show that subsidizing student debt repayment earlier in the career is more effective than doing so later.

In the second chapter, I study the impact of unions on municipal elections and urban fiscal policies. The efficient decentralized provision of public goods requires that special interest groups, such as municipal unions, do not exercise undue influence on the outcome of municipal elections and local fiscal policies. I have assembled a unique data set that is based on union endorsements that are published in leading local newspapers. My empirical analysis focuses on municipal elections in the 150 largest cities in the U.S. between 1990 and 2012. I find that challengers strongly benefit from endorsements in competitive elections. Challengers that receive union endorsements and successfully defeat an incumbent also tend to adopt more union friendly fiscal policies.

Included in

Economics Commons