Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Petra E. Todd


This dissertation deals with two different aspects of human capital accumulation: early childhood development and tertiary education. Specifically, it analyzes the role that public policies or changes in regulations affect incentives of agents in a way that ends up affecting the aggregate endowment of human capital in an economy.

The first chapter is related to early childhood development. Recent literature has shown that skills shaped during childhood have long lasting consequences later in life. This fact has promoted a large number of programs aimed at stimulating the skill formation process for children in disadvantage. However, little is known about how cost-effective are these policies. In this chapter I evaluate the cost-effectiveness of three alternative policies aimed at improving the living standards of families in disadvantage: cash transfers, childcare subsidies, and subsidies for child investments. I find that subsidies promoting child investments are much more productive than the other two alternatives.

In the second chapter, co-authored with David Zarruk, we analyze the consequences that subsidized loans for higher education have on the quality of education offered by colleges in the context of a developing country. We find that subsidized student loan policies lead to a widening gap in the quality of services provided by higher education institutions. This happens because the demand for elite institutions unambiguously increases when individuals can borrow. This does not happen in non-elite institutions, since relaxing borrowing

constraints makes some individuals move from non-elite to elite institutions. The higher increase in demand for elite institutions allows them to increase prices and investment per student. If investment and average student ability are complementary inputs in the quality production function, elite universities also increase their acceptance cut-offs. In this new equilibrium, the differentiation of the product offered by colleges increases, where elite universities provide higher quality education to high-ability students and non-elite universities offer lower quality to less-able students. We calibrate the model to Colombia, which implemented massive student loan policies during the last decade and experienced an increase in the gap of quality of education provided by elite and non-elite universities. We show that the increase in the quality gap can be a by-product of the subsidized loan policies. Such results show that, when analyzed in a general equilibrium setting, subsidized loan policies can have negative effects in equilibrium.