University of Illinois at Chicago

Incentive Programs in the Public Sector

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posted on 2022-08-01, 00:00 authored by Katherine Ann McElroy
The first two chapters of my dissertation investigate how public policies can influence teacher incentives to attract and retain effective teachers and school leaders. Chapter 1 explores teacher decisions to move into school leadership and the role salary plays in those decisions. Using a performance-based pay policy with discontinuities in teacher salary because of performance, I look at teachers becoming assistant principals (APs) and APs becoming principals. I find teachers are more likely to become APs if they just miss the cutoff for a higher evaluation bin. To isolate the effect of salary on job transitions, I employ a difference-in-discontinuity methodology and conclude the main result is driven by salary and not because of other factors such as motivation or demand-driven factors. The second chapter studies the long-run effects of school accountability on educational attainment. I exploit two sources of variation: staggered implementation of accountability across states and individuals' exposure to accountability. I find 12 years of exposure to accountability increases the likelihood of graduating high school by 2.1 percentage points on average but has no statistically significant effect on college attendance or receiving a Bachelor’s degree. I rule out changes in school expenditures and teacher characteristics as potential mechanisms and present suggestive evidence that schools are classifying more students as learning disabled. Lastly, accountability is more effective in conjunction with promotion gates. The third chapter, a joint work with Dr. Erik Hembre and Shogher Ohannessian, investigates how Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility and benefits affect food expenditures by exploiting the California ``cash-out'' policy, which made Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients ineligible for SNAP. We find affected SSI recipients increased their ``food-at-home'' budget share by 2.5 to 4.3 percentage points ($120 to $206 per quarter). The cash-out effect on total food expenditures is dampened by a decrease in ``food-away-from-home'' and driven by extra-marginal households. Comparing the consumption of in-kind versus cash transfers, we find an increase in SNAP benefits leads to a greater increase in food-at-home expenditures compared to SSI cash benefits. These findings suggest that SNAP is effective in increasing food at home consumption among its lowest income.



Rivkin, Steve


Rivkin, Steve



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Ost, Ben Hembre, Erik Lubotsky, Darren Phelan, Gregory

Submitted date

August 2022

Thesis type



  • en

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