Mary Ann Bronson
CV | Working Papers | Work in Progress

Assistant Professor, Economics
Georgetown University

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests
Labor Economics, Applied Microeconomics, Development


Working Papers

  • Degrees are Forever: Marriage, Educational Investment, and Lifecycle Labor Decisions of Men and Women [PDF]
Women attend college today at much higher rates than men. They also select disproportionately into low-paying majors, with almost no gender convergence along this margin since the mid-1980s. In this paper, I explain the dynamics in the gender differences in college attendance and choice of major from 1960 to 2010. I document first that changes in returns to skill over time and gender differences in wage premiums across majors cannot explain the observed gender gaps in educational choices. I then provide reduced-form evidence that two factors help explain the observed gender gaps: first, degrees provide insurance against very low income for women, especially in case of divorce; second, majors differ substantially in the degree of "work-family flexibility" they offer, such as the size of wage penalties for temporary reductions in labor supply. Based on the reduced-form evidence, I construct and estimate a dynamic structural model of marriage, educational choices, and lifetime labor supply. I use the model to quantify the relative importance of changes in wages and changes in the marriage market over time for the observed educational investment patterns. Finally, I test the effects of two sets of policies on men's and women's choice of major: a differential tuition policy that charges less for science and technical majors, as has been proposed in some states; and interventions intended to improve work-family flexibility. My results show that the effects of family-friendly policies differ significantly depending on the program. Some policies, like part-time work entitlements, increase the share of women in science and business majors, while others, like paid maternity leave, further widen both college gender gaps. 

  • Cohort Size and the Marriage Market: Explaining a Century of Changes in U.S. Marriage Rates (with Maurizio Mazzocco) [PDF]
We propose an explanation for almost a century of changes in U.S. marriage rates in three steps. First, we show that changes in cohort size alone can account for 50 to 70% of the variation in marriage rates since the 1930s for both black and white populations. Next, we provide evidence that the relationship between cohort size and marriage rates is causal. An implication of our empirical findings is that a standard matching model is rejected. We therefore develop and test a search model of the marriage market and show that a version of it can explain all our empirical results.

Work In Progress

  • Returns to Drip Irrigation in Rural India: A Randomized Experiment (with Aprajit Mahajan and Maurizio Mazzocco)
Evidence suggests that rainfall risk leads farmers to use suboptimal quantities of agricultural inputs, like fertilizer, and to invest in lower-risk but less productive crop and seed varieties. Irrigation can address this type of risk directly and thus may affect farmer responses along these dimensions. We conduct a randomized controlled trial to measure the return to switching to drip irrigation for small-scale, low-income farmers in India, including effects on farmer decisions about crop varieties and complementary agricultural inputs. As part of a larger study, we also examine barriers to adoption and effects on water usage. 

  • Supply and Demand in the Market for Higher Education

  • Dynamic Effects of Taxation Structure on Human Capital Investments