Jack Mountjoy
Assistant Professor of Economics and Robert H. Topel Faculty Scholar
University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Primary Research Fields
  • Labor Economics
  • Applied Econometrics
  • Economics of Education

Curriculum Vitae

PublicationsReview of Economic Studies, forthcoming (with Ivan Canay and Magne Mogstad)Abstract: The decisions of judges, lenders, journal editors, and other gatekeepers often lead to significant disparities across affected groups. An important question is whether, and to what extent, these group-level disparities are driven by relevant differences in underlying individual characteristics, or by biased decision makers. Becker (1957,1993) proposed an outcome test of bias based on differences in post-decision outcomes across groups, inspiring a large and growing empirical literature. The goal of our paper is to offer a methodological blueprint for empirical work that seeks to use outcome tests to detect bias. We show that models of decision making underpinning outcome tests can be usefully recast as Roy models, since heterogeneous potential outcomes enter directly into the decision maker’s choice equation. Different members of the Roy model family, however, are distinguished by the tightness of the link between potential outcomes and decisions. We show that these distinctions have important implications for defining bias, deriving logically valid outcome tests of such bias, and identifying the marginal outcomes that the test requires.
American Economic Review, 112(8), August 2022Abstract: Two-year community colleges enroll nearly half of all first-time undergraduates in the United States, but to ambiguous effect: low persistence rates and the potential for diverting students from 4-year institutions cast ambiguity over 2-year colleges' contributions to upward mobility. This paper develops a new instrumental variables approach to identifying causal effects along multiple treatment margins, and applies it to linked education and earnings registries to disentangle the net impacts of 2-year college access into two competing causal margins: significant value-added for 2-year entrants who otherwise would not have attended college, but negative impacts on students diverted from immediate 4-year entry. 
Journal of Labor Economics, 39(4), October 2021 (with Marianne Bertrand and Magne Mogstad)Abstract: We study the impacts of a major reform to vocational secondary education that aimed to move beyond the tradeoff between providing occupational skills and closing off academic opportunities. Norway’s Reform 94 integrated more general education into the vocational track, offered vocational students a pathway to college, and increased access to apprenticeships. We identify reform impacts through a difference-in-discontinuity research design applied to linked population registries. The reform substantially increased initial vocational enrollment, but with divergent consequences by gender. Overall, the reform succeeded at improving social mobility, particularly for disadvantaged men, but it somewhat exacerbated the gender gap in adult earnings.

Working PapersAbstract: This paper studies the causal impacts of public universities on the outcomes of their marginally admitted students. I use administrative admission records spanning all 35 public universities in Texas, which collectively enroll 10 percent of American public university students, to systematically identify and employ decentralized cutoffs in SAT/ACT scores that generate discontinuities in admission and enrollment. The typical marginally admitted student completes an additional year of education in the four-year sector, is 12 percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor's degree, and eventually earns 5-10 percent more than their marginally rejected but otherwise identical counterpart. Marginally admitted students pay no additional tuition costs thanks to offsetting grant aid; cost-benefit calculations show internal rates of return of 19-23 percent for the marginal students themselves, 10-12 percent for society (which must pay for the additional education), and 3-4 percent for the government budget. Finally, I develop a method to disentangle separate effects for students on the extensive margin of the four-year sector versus those who would fall back to another four-year school if rejected. Substantially larger extensive margin effects drive the results.
Abstract: Students who attend different colleges in the U.S. end up with vastly different economic outcomes. We study the role of relative value-added across colleges within student choice sets in producing these outcome disparities. Linking administrative high school records, college applications, admissions decisions, enrollment spells, degree completions, and quarterly earnings spanning the Texas population, we identify relative college value-added by comparing the outcomes of students who apply to and are admitted by the same set of institutions, as this approach strikingly balances observable student potential across college treatments and renders our extensive set of covariates irrelevant as controls. Methodologically, we develop a framework for identifying and interpreting value-added under varying assumptions about match effects and sorting gains, generalizing the constant treatment effects assumption typically employed in the value-added literature. Empirically, we estimate a relatively tight, though non-degenerate, distribution of relative value-added across the wide diversity of Texas public universities. Selectivity poorly predicts value-added within student choice sets: a fleeting selectivity earnings premium fades to zero after a few years in the labor market, and more selective colleges tend to have lower value-added on STEM degree completion. Non-peer college inputs like instructional spending more strongly predict value-added, especially conditional on selectivity. Educational impacts predict labor market impacts: colleges with larger earnings value-added also tend to be colleges that boost persistence, BA completion, and STEM degrees along the way. Finally, we probe the potential for (mis)match effects by allowing each college's relative value-added to vary flexibly by student characteristics. At first glance, Black students appear to face small negative returns to choosing more selective colleges, but this pattern of modest "mismatch" is entirely driven by the availability of two large historically Black universities with low selectivity but above-average value-added. Across the non-HBCUs, Black students face similar returns to selectivity, and indistinguishable value-added schedules more generally, compared to their peers from other backgrounds.

Work in Progress
  • Long-Run Impacts of Charter Schools
(with Joshua Angrist and Parag Pathak)
  • Non-Pecuniary Returns to College 
(with Jeff Denning, Emily Leslie, and Cody Tuttle)
  • Private Scholarships: Access and Impact 
(with Joshua Angrist, Raymond Han, Maggie Liu, and Andrew Whitten)
  • Pay vs. Productivity 
(with Thibaut Lamadon, Magne Mogstad, and Gaute Torsvik)