Christopher Neilson

First name
Christopher
Last name
Neilson
Abstract

This paper studies the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses between March and November 2020 using new survey data on 35,000 small businesses in eight Latin American countries. We document that the pandemic had large negative impacts on employment and beliefs regarding the future, which in turn predict meaningful economic outcomes in the medium-term. Despite the unprecedented amount of aid, policies had limited impact for small and informal firms. These firms were less aware of programs, applied less, and received less assistance. This may have lasting consequences, as businesses that received aid reported better outcomes and expectations about the future.

Number
651
Date Published
10/2021
Citation Key
COVID-19, small business, Latin America
Neilson, C., Guerrero, M. E., Humphries, J. E., Shimberg, N., & Ulyssea, G. (2021). Small Firms and the Pandemic: Evidence From Latin America. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01g732dd130 (Original work published 10/2021AD)
Working Papers

Year of Publication
2021
Abstract

Many school districts with centralized school choice adopt strategyproof assignment mechanisms to relieve applicants of the need to strategize on the basis of beliefs about their own admissions chances. This paper shows that beliefs about admissions chances shape choice outcomes even when the assignment mechanism is strategyproof by influencing the way applicants search for schools, and that “smart matching platforms” that provide live feedback on admissions chances help applicants search more effectively. Motivated by a model in which applicants engage in costly search for schools and over-optimism can lead to under-search, we use data from a large-scale survey of choice participants in Chile to show that learning about schools is hard, that beliefs about admissions chances guide the decision to stop searching, and that applicants systematically underestimate non-placement risk. We then use RCT and RD research designs to evaluate live feedback policies in the Chilean and New Haven choice systems. 22% of applicants submitting applications where risks of non-placement are high respond to warnings by adding schools to their lists, reducing non-placement risk by 58%. These results replicate across settings and over time. Reducing the strategic burden of school choice requires not just strategyproofness inside the centralized system, but also choice supports for the strategic decisions that inevitably remain outside of it.

Number
650
Date Published
06/2021
Neilson, C., Arteaga, F., Kapor, A., & Zimmerman, S. (2021). Smart Matching Platforms and Heterogeneous Beliefs in Centralized School Choice. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01gb19f889g (Original work published 06/2021AD)
Working Papers
Abstract

A growing body of evidence shows that differences in firm-specific pay premiums account for a large share of the gender pay gap. This paper asks how a common form of pre-labor market skill specialization, college major, mediates access to high-paying firms, and what this means for the gender earnings gap. Using employer-employee tax data from Chile matched to educational records, we show that differences in college major account for more than two-thirds of the firm contribution to the gender earnings gap among college admits. Degrees in Technology, which are numerous, male-dominated, and associated with high firm premiums, drive these effects.

Number
649
Date Published
05/2021
Neilson, C., Huneeus, F., Miller, C., & Zimmerman, S. (2021). Firm Sorting, College Major, and the Gender Earnings Gap. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01j6731685w (Original work published 05/2021AD)
Working Papers
Abstract

This paper studies how increasing teacher compensation at hard-to-staff schools can reduce structural inequality in the access to high-quality teachers. We first document dramatic inequities in schooling inputs and teacher quality to which students have access in the context of a large and diverse developing country: Peru. We then leverage a change in teacher compensation to show causal evidence that increasing salaries at less desirable public schools attracts better quality applicants and improves subsequent student test scores. We finally estimate a model of teacher preferences over local community amenities, school characteristics and wages using detailed job posting and application data from the country-wide centralized teacher assignment system. The fitted model is able to replicate the main features in the data, including the sorting patterns of teachers around the policy change in teacher wages. Model estimates indicate that while current pay bonuses in less desirable regions are helpful, the current policy is woefully insufficient to compensate teachers for the lack of school and community amenities, especially in school vacancies that are distant to the teachers’ home town or the location of their current job. Counterfactual experiments taking into account equilibrium sorting show that budget-neutral changes in the current wage schedule can achieve a remarkably more equitable distribution of teacher quality across regions.

Number
648
Date Published
03/2021
Neilson, C., Bobba, M., Ederer, T., Leon-Ciliotta, G., & Nieddu, M. (2021). Teacher Compensation and Structural Inequality: Evidence from Centralized Teacher School Choice in Peru. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01nv935592w (Original work published 03/2021AD)
Working Papers

Year of Publication
2020
Abstract

In markets with private options, the optimal level of public provision may require balancing a tradeoff between reducing private options’ market power with the possibility of crowding out potentially high-quality products. These considerations are particularly relevant in many developing countries’ education systems where state capacity is increasing but low levels of past public provision mean many private schools already exist. We study the equilibrium effects of public provision in the context of a large expansion of public schools in the Dominican Republic. Over a five-year period, the government aimed to increase the number of public school classrooms by 78%. Using an event study framework, we estimate the effect of a new public school on neighborhood outcomes and competing private schools, where we instrument for how quickly the public school construction project finished with the characteristics of the contractor randomly assigned to build the project. We find that a new public school increased public sector enrollment significantly. As public enrollment increased, a large number of private schools closed while the surviving schools lowered prices and increased school quality. To study how the level of public provision affects the overall level of quality in the market, we specify and estimate an empirical model of demand (students choosing schools) and supply (schools choosing whether to enter, stay open and what price to charge). We use the model estimates to calculate the level of public provision that maximizes learning. Due to equilibrium competitive effects, we find that the optimal level is non-monotonic in the quality of the increased public schooling.

Number
645
Date Published
11/2020
Publication Language
eng
Neilson, C., Dinerstein, M., & Otero, S. (2020). The Equilibrium Effects of Public Provision in Education Markets: Evidence from a Public School Expansion Policy. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp0170795b707 (Original work published 11/2020AD)
Working Papers

Year of Publication
2020
Abstract

In many settings, market designers must contend with the presence of firms who participate in the broader game surrounding a market but do not participate in the portion under the designer’s control. In this paper, we study the empirical relevance of the configuration of on- and off-platform options in the context of a centralized college-major choice system. We quantify significant negative externalities generated by off-platform options and measure the aftermarket frictions that contribute to generating them in practice. Our empirical application uses administrative data from the centralized assignment system for higher education in Chile and leverages a recent policy change that increased the number of on-platform slots by approximately 40%. We first present a policy analysis which shows that expanding the centralized platform leads students to start college sooner and raises the share of students who graduate within six years. We develop an empirical model of college applications, aftermarket waitlists, and matriculation choices. We estimate the model using students’ ranked-ordered applications, on- and off-platform enrollment, and on-time graduation outcomes. We use the estimated model to quantify welfare impacts, decompose different mechanisms and to con-duct counterfactual exercises. We find that when more programs are available on the centralized platform, welfare increases substantially. These externalities are driven by students who receive and decline on-platform offers, and are amplified by substantial frictions in waitlists. Our results indicate that expanding the scope of a higher education platform can have real impacts on welfare and human capital. Importantly, the effects are larger for students from lower SES backgrounds, suggesting the design of platforms can have effects on both efficiency and equity.

Number
635a
Date Published
10/2020
Publication Language
eng
Neilson, C., Kapor, A., & Karnani, M. (2020). Aftermarket Frictions and the Cost of Off-Platform Options in Centralized Assignment Mechanisms. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp017s75dg424 (Original work published 10/2020AD)
Working Papers
Abstract

This paper introduces a simple school choice model in which all students have the same ordinal preferences over schools but only some have access to an outside option. Our model predicts that, under a manipulable school choice mechanism, students with the outside option are more likely to apply to popular schools. We show that while students with the outside option benefit from manipulable systems, students without the outside option may experience either welfare gains or welfare losses. We evaluate the positive predictions of the model using a difference-in-differences design that leverages a change from the Boston mechanism to a deferred acceptance mechanism in the New Haven, Connecticut school district. Consistent with the theoretical predictions, students with an outside option are more likely to list popular, highly-rated schools under the manipulable mechanism, but this gap disappears after the switch to the deferred acceptance mechanism.

Number
644
Date Published
09/2020
Neilson, C., Akbarpour, M., Kapor, A., van Dijk, W., & Zimmerman, S. (2020). Centralized School Choice with Unequal Outside Options. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp015d86p323r (Original work published 09/2020AD)
Working Papers
Abstract

While it is a widely held belief that family and social networks can influence important life decisions, identifying causal effects is notoriously difficult. This paper presents causal evidence from three countries at different stages of economic development that the educational trajectories of older siblings can significantly influence the college and major choice of younger siblings. We exploit institutional features of centralized college assignment systems in Chile, Croatia, and Sweden to generate quasi-random variation in the educational paths taken by older siblings. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show that younger siblings in each country are significantly more likely to apply and enroll in the same college and major that their older sibling was assigned to. These results persist for siblings far apart in age who are unlikely to attend higher education at the same time. We propose three broad classes of mechanisms that can explain why the trajectory of an older sibling can causally affect the college and major choice of a younger sibling. We find that spillovers are stronger when older siblings enroll and are successful in majors that on average have higher scoring peers, lower dropout rates and higher earnings from graduates. The evidence presented shows that the decisions, and even random luck, of your close family members and peer network, can have significant effects on important life decisions such as the choice of specialization in higher education. The results also suggest that college access programs such as affirmative action, may have important spillover effects through family and social networks.

Number
633
Date Published
11/2019
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
11466
Neilson, C., Altmejd, A., Barrios-Fernandez, A., Drlje, M., & Kovac, D. (2019). Siblings’ Effects on College and Major Choices: Evidence from Chile, Croatia and Sweden. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01h128nh58q (Original work published 11/2019AD)
Working Papers

Year of Publication
2019
Abstract

We study the efficiency of a centralized college admissions platform that operates jointly with a decentralized “off-platform” aftermarket. We exploit a policy change in 2012 in which a significant number of off-platform higher education options joined a centralized assignment system for higher-education programs in Chile. We show evidence that this policy change had impacts on real outcomes finding that the share of students declining their placed spot de-creased by 8% and dropout rates at the end of the first year of college dropped by 2 percentage points (a 16% drop) following this event. To quantify the welfare impacts of the aftermarket on the efficiency of the match, we develop and estimate an empirical model of college applications, aftermarket waitlists and matriculation choices, using individual-level administrative data from Chile on almost half a million applications, including test scores and enrollment decisions at all on- and off-platform higher education options. According to model estimates, welfare increases substantially, students begin their studies sooner, and fewer students drop out by the end of the first year of study when top off-platform programs join the platform. These benefits are greater for less advantaged students and for women. Counterfactual analysis suggests that more desirable options generate larger negative externalities when not on the platform. These externalities are mostly driven by students admitted on on-platform options that decline their spots to pursue off-platform programs; and are amplified by frictions in waitlists that yield socially inefficient allocations. Our results indicate that platform design can have real impact on outcomes of interest. Specifically, our findings suggest policymakers need to consider the implications of off platform options and their characteristics when designing regulation surrounding centralized assignment systems.

Number
635
Date Published
12/2019
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
11546
Kapor, A., Neilson, C., & Karnani, M. (2019). Negative Externalities of Off Platform Options and the Efficiency of Centralized Assignment Mechanisms. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp016t053j863 (Original work published 12/2019AD)
Working Papers

Year of Publication
2019
Abstract

This paper studies screening and recruiting policies that use pre-college academic achievement to restrict or incentivize entry to teacher-colleges. Using historical records of college entrance exam scores since 1967 and linking them to administrative data on the population of teachers in Chile, the paper first documents a robust positive and concave relationship between pre-college academic achievement and several short and long run measures of teacher productivity. We then evaluate the effectiveness of two policies that used pre-college achievement to recruit or screen out students entering teacher-colleges. Using a regression discontinuity design based on the government’s recruitment efforts, we evaluate the effective-ness of targeted scholarships at shifting career choices of high achieving students at the individual level as well as the effect on the overall stock of teachers predicted effectiveness. We then evaluate the effects of a recent screening policy that forces teacher colleges to exclude below-average students. We quantify the policies effectiveness by retroactively simulating the policy rule and evaluate its success at screening out low performing teachers and mistakenly high performing teachers. We compare this benchmark policy rule to a series of potential data-driven policy rules and we find that even simple screening policies can identify a significant portion of ex-post low performing teachers. In both policies studied, screening low performing students is more effective than targeting recruitment efforts to only very high achieving students. Taken together, these findings suggest that the combination of better administrative data and flexible prediction methods can be used to implement practical screening and recruiting policies in some contexts and allow for better targeting of investments in future teachers.

Number
636
Date Published
12/2019
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
11551
Neilson, C., Gallegos, S., & Calle, F. (2019). Screening and Recruiting Talent At Teacher Colleges Using Pre-College Academic Achievement. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp013197xp935 (Original work published 12/2019AD)
Working Papers