The Effects of Universal Free Lunch Provision on Student Achievement: Evidence from South Korea (job market paper)


This paper examines the impact of the Universal Free Lunch Program (UFLP) on student achievement in South Korea. I leverage the staggered rollout of the UFLP across South Korean provinces and employ difference-in-differences strategies to estimate the causal effects of the program. Taking advantage of rich school-level data, I find that providing free lunch to all students leads to improvements in academic achievement on average. I also test for heterogeneous effects and find that the benefits of the UFLP exhibit universally across different baseline participation in the means-tested lunch subsidy. After exploring numerous potential mechanisms including changes in school lunch participation, I find suggestive evidence of the increased participation in and expenditures on the after-school programs that are not free. These results suggest that parents used the saved lunch fees for educational investment and highlight the importance of mental accounting.

Presented at: Association for Mentoring & Inclusion in Economics (AMIE) 1st Workshop in Applied Microeconomics (2021), Western Economic Association International (WEAI) March Virtual international conference (2021), WEAI Virtual 96th Annual Conference (2021), Southern Economic Association 91th Annual Meeting (2021, scheduled), North East Universities Development Consortium (2021, scheduled)

Quasi-Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Expanding Cash Welfare (joint with Matthew Freedman) [R&R at Journal of Policy Analysis and Management]

We study the labor supply and consumption responses to cash assistance delivered through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program in the United States. Exploiting a sharp increase in cash benefit generosity for low-income single-parent families in New Hampshire due to a legislative revision to payment calculations, we implement difference-in-differences and triple-differences to estimate the impacts of greater benefits on work behavior as well as on food expenditures and food security. Our results suggest that more generous cash assistance reduces labor supply among likely TANF-eligible individuals, but also increases family food spending and reduces the incidence of food insecurity. Our findings speak both to the moral hazard costs and to the standard-of-living improvements associated with expanded cash assistance in an era in which cash welfare is at historically low levels, is time limited, and imposes work requirements.

Presented at: APPAM Fall Research Conference (2020), Southern Economic Association 90th Annual Meeting (2020), Population Association of America Annual Meeting (2021), The Society of Labor Economists 21st Annual Meeting (2021)

The Effects of Old-Age Pension Receipt on Elderly Employment and Health: Evidence from South Korea

Public old-age pensions are an important component of the social safety net in many countries. The objective of this paper is to estimate the causal effect of pension receipt on employment and health by exploiting exogenous changes in the full retirement age under South Korea’s public pension system. South Korea is experiencing one of the most rapid and severe aging society problems, which makes it a good example for studying this issue. When I account for the endogeneity of employment and health with respect to pension receipt, I find that receiving a pension decreases employment and improves self-reported health.

Presented at: APPAM Fall Research Conference (2020), Southern Economic Association 90th Annual Meeting (2020)

Policing and Prosecuting Drug Offenses in Nashville: Drug Free School Zones (joint with Aria Golestani and Jaclyn Rosenquist)

Drug free school zones (DFSZs) increase penalties for drug crimes committed near schools or places where children gather. In this study, we utilize a unique data set to estimate the causal effect of DFSZ enhancements on court sentencing outcomes in Nashville, TN. We exploit the variation of arrestees’ location and use the instrumental variable two-stage least squares estimator to study the causal effect of being charged with the DFSZ enhancement. Our estimates suggest that being charged with the DFSZ enhancement increases the likelihood of an individual being found guilty by 11 percentage points and increases the sentence length by roughly 1 year. Notably, we find that enhancement charges against eligible offenders are more likely to be applied to Black arrestees than White arrestees, leading to lasting impacts across races in sentencing outcomes.

Presented at: Urban Economics Association 15th North American Meeting (scheduled, 2021)