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Essays in Education Economics


Summary, in English

This dissertation consists of three self-contained papers in the economics of education. The first chapter examines the effect of more informative feedback on student performance. Using a difference-in-discontinuity research design and data on the population of Swedish school children, we exploit a reform which introduced a more granular grading scale and thus provided students with more informative feedback on their performance. Students exposed to more informative grading were less likely to graduate from high school, from an academic high school track and from STEM high school tracks, in addition to reduced STEM enrollment at university. These results appear to be driven by a negative shock to students' self-belief and increased stress.

The second chapter studies whether individuals have a demand for signaling. Using Swedish administrative data, I exploit a merger between two higher education institutions that provided incumbent students with an opportunity to adjust their behavior and thus influence from which institution to graduate and receive a diploma. The merger did not affect the human capital requirements for receiving a diploma nor the education offered to the students. Behavioral changes caused by the merger can therefore be taken as evidence that students perceive the institutional seal on their diploma as a valuable signal. Using a difference-in-difference design, I compare students in affected institutions to students in non-affected institutions. I find that students who need to complete their studies faster to receive a diploma from the more prestigious institution enroll in 7\% and complete 14\% more credits. Furthermore, earned income while studying drops by 16\%, indicating a shift of attention away from part-time work and toward studies. I estimate that the merger caused the share of students completing their degree on time to increase by 25\%. My results show that students’ educational decisions are affected by a demand for signaling and not only a human capital investment motive---which, in turn, can result in productivity losses on the individual and aggregate level.

The third chapter investigates the effect of student aid to parents on participation in formal education. Using Swedish administrative data, I exploit a reform that introduced a supplementary student grant for parents to show that a lower financial threshold for university increases enrollment and completion rates among parents, especially for mothers. Furthermore, a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that the reform resulted in a much larger earnings gain for the average treated mother compared to the average treated father. My results therefore suggest that student aid counteracts the unequal impact of parenthood on men and women. Examining the impact of the reform on participation in adult education at the high school level, I also show that the reform led to an increase in both enrollment and completion rates among high school dropouts with children.






Lund Economic Studies






Lund University


  • Economics


  • grading
  • feedback
  • education outcomes
  • natural experiment
  • HBSC
  • signaling
  • human capital
  • student aid
  • parents





  • ISSN: 0460-0029
  • ISBN: 978-91-8039-535-9
  • ISBN: 978-91-8039-534-2


17 mars 2023






  • Gabrielle Fack (Professor)