Date of Award

August 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Scott Drewianka

Committee Members

Scott Adams, Susan Davies, James Peoples, John Heywood


The goal of this dissertation is to apply theoretical and empirical methodologies used in the field of labor economics to analyze several topics which have clear policy implications.

Chapter 1 analyzes the relationship between domestic violence and welfare receipt in a more rigorous framework than has been previously possible. It is well documented that there is a strong relationship between abuse and welfare receipt and the assumption has predominantly been that welfare receipt affects the risk of victimization. I show that the direction of impact actually runs in the opposite direction. This finding is critical in light of the welfare reforms of the 1990's. I find that violence decreased the likelihood of using welfare services prior to the reforms, and that this effect is even larger after the reforms took place. However, this negative effect is drastically reduced in the presence of the Family Violence Option.

Chapter 2 broadens the analysis of domestic violence to include women of all income levels. Specifically, I look at how the decision to participate in the workforce affects abuse levels and vice versa. Because attitudes towards domestic violence and women's working status likely vary by income levels, I analyze the relationship in both low and high income households. I find that for women with low income spouses, employment increases the likelihood of abuse, however, for women with high income spouses, employment decreases the likelihood of abuse.

Chapter 3 attempts to reconcile the observed educational attainment gap between black and white workers with the monetary returns to education literature which predicts that black individuals have higher monetary incentives to invest. I examine the returns to education in a broader sense: the job satisfaction returns to education. I find that job satisfaction is actually declining in education for black workers. Further, it is found that education does not improve the ability of black workers to transition into new jobs that they like better. These results suggest that higher education may create expectations that are not being met by black workers, and one potential explanation for this is that covert discrimination still exists in the workplace.