Essays on Human Capital, the Labor Market, and Social Interaction

Murphy, Francis, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Castleman, Benjamin, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines individual decision-making in higher education and the workforce by using the detailed nature of military personnel data and natural experiments that occur within the military. Investments in human capital – particularly in higher education – are among the most consequential made in a person’s lifetime. The underlying decision processes are complex and merit rigorous analysis. While the military and its members are an important subject of study outright, the military experience additionally provides sources of quasi-experimental variation that support the causal study of these topics.

In the first chapter of the dissertation, I examine social influences and the new employee’s decision to participate in a generous subsidized continuing education program – the US Army’s Tuition Assistance program. I rely on the random assignment of soldiers to companies with varying participation rates in order to identify a causal effect. In the second chapter, my co-authors and I consider an employee’s decision to transfer to a family member a generous education benefits package – from the post-9/11 GI Bill – in exchange for continued labor supply in a hazardous profession. In the third chapter, I extend the random assignment methodology used in the first chapter to study the effects of randomly-assigned exposure to peers with adverse characteristics, caused by a temporary surge in the granting of morality waivers to enlist in the US Army.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
human capital, peer effects, military manpower
Sponsoring Agency:
US Army
Issued Date: