Nicole Fortin


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Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

An empirical and economic analysis of high school peer effects (2013)

Parents are concerned about the influence of friends during adolescence. Using the gender composition of schoolmates in an individual's close neighbourhood as an instrument for the gender composition of an individual's self-reported friendship network, Chapter 2 of this dissertation finds that the share of opposite gender friends has a sizeable negative effect on high school GPA. The effect is found across all subjects for students over the age of sixteen, but is limited to mathematics and science for younger students. Self-reported difficulties getting along with the teacher and paying attention in class are important mechanisms through which the effect operates. The subject-specific effects for younger students and larger estimates for females in general are consistent with a gender socialization hypothesis in which young females conform to traditional gender roles in the presence of males.Chapter 3 investigates the extent to which course repeaters in high school mathematics courses exert negative externalities on their course-mates. Using individual and school-specific course fixed effects to control for ability and course selection, it shows that doubling the number of repeaters in a given course (holding the number of course-takers constant) results in a 0.15 reduction in GPA scores for first-time course-takers. Further results suggest that the negative effect is only evident when the share of repeaters reaches a threshold of five to ten percent of the total number of course-takers.Chapter 4 provides evidence that part-time work during high school affects the college attendance and labour market entry decisions of young adults: 8-10th grade students working more than five hours per week are less likely to attend college and more likely to enter the labour market upon high school graduation than other students. The part-time working behaviour of same-grade schoolmates is used as an instrument for individual part-time working behaviour.

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Essays on immigrant assimilation (2013)

This dissertation examines immigrants (to Canada) assimilation problems from a perspective of imperfect human capital transferability. Chapter 2 discusses how much of the immigrant wage gap can be explained by the undervaluation of foreign human capital (education and work experience). The identification of the human capital source (using information available in the 2006 Canadian census) can explain up to 70% of the native-immigrant wage gap. The foreign-born dummy coefficient goes from around -11% to closeto -3%. Education acquired in Asia tends to be valued less than education from South America, Africa and East Europe; which in turn is less valued than education from Oceania, the U.S. and the rest of continental Europe. Studying in the UK consistently appears more beneficial than studying in Canada. When incorporating country of origin fixed effects, the different specifications visibly reduce the heterogeneity of country coefficients. The reduction is sizeable for Pakistan, India, China and the Philippines; though their coefficients remain negative. A smaller reduction for Europe, South-East Asia, Hong Kong and the US drives their coefficients close to zero. The UK country of origin dummy has the only persistently positive coefficient. Chapter 3 describes the occupational assimilation process of 2000-2001 immigrants in their first four years. The results show that those with high levels of education experience a more significant decline in their first occupation. Education, though, has a positive and significant effect on occupational improvement; which reduces the size and significance of the negative effect of education on the second occupational gap. It, however, does not change its sign. The same pattern is observed when analyzing occupational gaps through time. Chapter 4 focuses on immigrants' English proficiency improvement. Overall, immigrants show relatively small improvements in language proficiency in the first four years in Canada. Still, those arriving under the family immigrant category with an intermediate or advanced level are less likely to improve and more likely to decrease their English proficiency. Human capital variables (age and education) are also consistently relevant for English proficiency improvement.

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Essays on the Task Content of Occupations and Occupational Mobility (2012)

This dissertation studies the effects of technological change on workers' occupational choices and wages, as well as the human capital costs associated with occupational transitions. The first part of the dissertation focuses on the interaction between technological change and tasks. Over the past three decades technological improvements have led to a dramatic reduction in the employment share of occupations with a high content of routine tasks in the United States and other developed countries. This dissertation provides a novel perspective on this phenomenon by focusing on the individual-level effects of this type of technological change in terms of occupational switching patterns and wage changes. I formalize the predicted effects within the context of a model of occupational sorting based on comparative advantage, and I test them using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) from 1976 to 2007. Consistent with the predictions of the model, I find strong evidence of selection on ability in the occupational mobility patterns of workers in routine occupations, with those of relatively high (low) ability switching to non-routine cognitive (non-routine manual) occupations. In terms of wage growth, also consistent with the prediction of the model, workers in routine jobs experience significant declines in their wage premia relative to workers in any other type of occupation. Switchers from routine to either type of non-routine job (cognitive or manual) experience significantly higher wage growth than stayers over long-run horizons. The second portion of the dissertation analyzes the role of the task content of occupations. I develop a measure of task distance between occupation pairs and study its impacts from two different perspectives: At a microeconomic level, I analyze the wage changes for workers experiencing occupational transitions of different distances. At a macroeconomic level, I analyze the impacts of task distance on the aggregate flows of workers across occupations. The aggregate-level evidence suggests that the cost of switching occupations is increasing in distance, but only for switches occurring across broad occupation groups. The individual-level evidence suggests that there is a negative correlation between wage changes and distance, but only for certain subsets of workers.

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