Dissertation Defense: “Essays in and for Applied Microeconomics“, Allegra Cockburn

Date and Time
North Hall 2212


Allegra Cockburn, University of California, Santa Barbara


Allegra is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, interested in Education, Development and Labor Economics. Her work has focused on quantifying the causal impact of groups that student's identify with, exploiting a novel natural experiment in South Africa. She also works on developing an estimator to estimate enumerator amplifying effects in Randomized Controlled Trial settings. More broadly, her work has focused on barriers to implementation, take-up and scale up of programs and interventions. Currently, she is particularly interested in using empirical techniques to examine ways to facilitate better education and employment outcomes with identity priming.

Allegra has experience teaching Econometrics at the graduate and undergraduate level, and experience designing surveys, managing field teams and fieldwork, liaising with partners and conducting analysis for large Randomized Controlled Trials. Allegra's work has been supported by the Fulbright Program and the National Research Foundation in South Africa.


This dissertation consists of two essays which use econometric methods to investigate topics in education, health and development economics, as well as a third essay which seeks uses econometric theory to improve treatment effect estimation for Randomized Controlled Trials. In the first chapter, I leverage a novel natural experiment in which incoming high school students are randomly assigned to be members of one of four groups, all of which share a common environment and common resources, to test whether manufactured identity can affect high-stakes student outcomes. This setting overcomes challenges to identification in applied work in identity economics: individual identities are often fixed over long periods of time or chosen endogenously. Using a dataset, I collect from the yearbooks of a South African school and student's; LinkedIn and Instagram profiles, I find robust causal evidence that social identity plays an important role in determining student outcomes, including grades on high-stakes senior year exams, sports participation, tertiary education, labor market and social outcomes. I use text analysis to investigate the traits and behaviors groups emphasize to shed light on which group prescriptions drive outcomes in certain directions.

In the second chapter, I exploit state-level variation in the adoption of Automatic Express Lane Eligibility (ELE) for Medicaid for children and CHIP in order to test whether the absence of administrative burden has an effect on self- perceived enrollment. Administrative costs associated with applications are thought to deter eligible recipients of public programs and, unsurprisingly, Automatic ELE led to an increase in program enrollment. However, advocates for administrative burden claim that it filters out recipients who would not make use of the associated service. I therefore test whether ELE has an effect on self-reported enrollment, using data from the American Community Survey (ACS). I find, in conflict with its effect on actual enrollment, ELE has a negative effect on self-reported enrollment, suggesting that, in the absence of application costs, recipients are not as aware of their own enrollment and providing evidence of the value that administrative burden can provide.

In the third chapter, based on joint work with Antoine Deeb, we leverage random assignment of enumerators to respondents to develop an estimator for enumerator amplifying effects in Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) with binary treatment. Although enumerators are widely used in RCTs to implement and track interventions, meaningful interactions with enumerators and their potential effect on outcomes are ignored when interpreting results and generalizing conclusions outside of experimental settings. Our proposed method provides researchers with a simple way to quantify and test for the presence of enumerator amplifying effects.

JEL Codes: J24, I25, Z13, O15

Event Details

Join us to hear Allegra’s dissertation defense. She will be defending her dissertation, “Essays in and for Applied Microeconomics“. To access a copy of the dissertation, you must have an active UCSB NetID and password.