Dissertation Defense: “Three Essays in Education and Labor Economics”, Eunseo Kang

Date and Time
North Hall 2111


Eunseo Kang, PhD Candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara


Eunseo Kang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Economics at UC Santa Barbara. She graduated from Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea, with a BA in Economics. She is also pursuing an MA degree in the Statistics department with a specialization in Data Science. She has diverse work experience, including an internship as an Amazon Economist, where she analyzed large employee data. Before coming to UCSB, she worked in the fixed assets investment department at NH Life Insurance in Seoul, Korea.


This dissertation contains three chapters in education and labor economics. In Chapter 1, I study whether relative age effects among fourth graders on math and science test scores exist in developing countries and investigate whether they are similar across all countries with different levels of development. Students with different birthdays who are subject to the same school-entry cutoff date have different ages at school entry. This difference in maturity may affect a child’s outcomes in school because we might expect that students who are more mature relative to their peers will perform better; a phenomenon called `relative age effects'. While the focus of previous studies has been limited to developed countries, this study aims to provide evidence of relative age effects in the context of developing countries. Using Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study data and assigned relative age as an instrumental variable that is formed exogenously by this cutoff, I find that positive relative age effects on test scores exist in developing countries, but they are smaller than those in developed countries. I also explore the educational factors correlated to the magnitude of relative age effects using cross-country data.

In Chapter 2, I examine the impact of the inflow of international students on the first-time, full-time enrollment of domestic minority students in US Higher Education using data from IPEDS. Since foreign enrollment is an endogenous variable, I employ the instrumental variables approach, using the institution's historical share of international students and the year's non-immigrant visa issuance. I find that there is no significant effect of the influx of international students on the new enrollment of domestic minorities as a whole. However, when I divide the institutions by the level of state funding per student, I find that an additional influx of international students increases domestic minority FTFT enrollment by 0.65. I suggest that this is because institutions with relatively little reliance on government funding are more sensitive to the financial resources that international students bring in terms of determining the supply and demand of domestic minority enrollment.

In Chapter 3, we study how the academic achievement gap between different genders and socioeconomic groups within OECD countries has evolved over the years. Using TIMSS data for eighth graders from seventeen OECD countries from 1995 to 2019, we first confirm that trends in academic achievement have progressed towards gender equality, especially in science. Conversely, we find widening socioeconomic gaps, with high socioeconomic status (SES) groups showing greater improvements than low SES groups in both math and science test scores. When we examine the interaction between gender and socioeconomic groups to identify patterns driving these trends, we find that in many countries the low SES group shows greater improvements in the gender gap than the high SES group. While a widening SES achievement gap is observed for both genders, boys show a more pronounced increase in inequality than girls in many countries.

Event Details

Join us to hear Eunseo’s dissertation defense. She will be defending her dissertation, “Three Essays in Education and Labor Economics “. To access a copy of the dissertation, you must have an active UCSB NetID and password.