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 document a strong and negative relationship between changes in cohort size and marriage rates for both women and men. We provide the most convincing evidence on this relationship by using variation in cohort size due to differences across states in sale bans on oral contraceptives. This empirical pattern is puzzling if interpreted using insights derived from the previous literature and standard matching models which indicate that an increase in cohort size should reduce the marriage rate of women, but increase the marriage rate of men. We then investigate the mechanism behind the negative relationship using a standard dynamic search model of the marriage market. We first show that the model we consider is rejected by the data for the same reason the standard matching model is rejected: it predicts that a rise in cohort size should reduce the marriage rate of women, but increase the marriage rate of men. We then develop two variations of the search model and show that they are both able to generate the observed relationship between cohort size and marriage rates. Lastly, we derive a testable implication for the two models based on the relationship between cohort size and divorce rates and provide evidence that only one model is not rejected by the data.

  • A More Measured Approach: An Evaluation of Different Measures of Marriage Rates and Implications for Family Economics (with Maurizio Mazzocco) [PDF]
We provide evidence that the measures of marriage rates most commonly used to study marriage behaviors generally lead to misleading inference about the probability that someone marries during his or her life or fertile lifetime, its evolution, and differences across populations. We also document that year-on-year changes in marriage probabilities of singles are poorly captured by the most commonly used measures. The data indicate that a less popular cohort-based measure and age-specific marriage hazards provide more reliable descriptions of those variables. Lastly, we discuss implications of our findings for studies of the drivers and consequences of marriage formation.

Work In Progress

  • Joint vs. Individual Taxation and Lifecycle Human Capital Investments
  • The Source of Gender Wage Differentials over the Life-Cycle: Evidence from Employer-Employee Matched Data  (with Jim Albrecht, Susan Vroman and Peter Skogman)

  • Work-Family Flexibility Policies in a General Equilibrium Model (with Jim Albrecht, Susan Vroman and Peter Skogman)