Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This dissertation employs applied economic analysis techniques to three topics of public policy interest: the impact of cadastral surveying systems on the efficient allocation of land property rights, the impact of hurricanes on two-year postsecondary educational institutions, and the impact of reclassifying English learners as English proficient. First, I exploit variation in cadastral surveying systems in Louisiana arising from idiosyncrasies between French, English, and American settlement patterns to test for the persistence of original land allocations in both the shape of modern-day land parcels as well as differences in the price per acre of land parcels. I find that historical cadastral systems have persistent impacts on the shapes of modern-day parcels, but I also find that the rectangular surveying system tends to produce lower values than the arpent or metes-and-bounds system. These results suggest that high transactions costs do impede the re-definition of land property rights through Coasian bargaining in a way that lowers economic inefficiency, and that initial allocations matter. Second, I show that severe hurricanes result in declining enrollment, completions, and funding for two-year schools. I show that these effects are highest at schools with a low share of their students receiving federal financial aid grants. These results suggest that expanded financial aid after a severe hurricane may help mitigate the negative effects on educational attainment. Third, my coauthor and I evaluate the process for reclassifying English learner (EL) students as English proficient. Exploiting the threshold-based reclassification policy in Minnesota, we use a regression discontinuity design to recover counterfactuals— how much would EL students who were not reclassified due to the reclassification policy have improved in academic achievement had they been reclassified? We find that reclassification had no discernible effect on math and reading scores for 3rd-grade EL students, while reclassification increased the math scores of 6th-grade EL students. Our subgroup analysis finds that the positive effects of reclassification mostly depend on the large estimates in the first-year cohort of EL students. Taken altogether, these results imply that reclassification was unlikely to harm the 3rd- and 6th-grade EL students.



Committee Chair

Keniston, Daniel



Available for download on Tuesday, April 03, 2029

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Economics Commons