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From epidemic to pandemic: Effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on high school program choices in Sweden (with Aino-Maija Aalto and Dagmar Müller, accepted at Labour Economics)

We study whether the onset of the COVID-19 crisis affected the program choices of high school applicants in Sweden. Our analysis exploits the fact that the admission process consists of two stages: a preliminary round in which applicants initially rank programs in order of preference and a final round in which they can alter their preliminary rankings. In 2020, the timing of the two rounds happened to provide a unique pre- and post-crisis snapshot of applicants' field-of-study choices. Using school-level data on applicants' top-ranked programs for all admission rounds between 2016 and 2020, we implement a difference-in-differences method to identify the immediate effect of the crisis on demand for programs. We find no change in demand for academic programs, but a decline in top-ranked applications to some of the vocational programs. The declines are most pronounced and robust for programs related to the Accommodation and Food Services sector, which was the most adversely affected industry during the crisis. This finding suggests that labor market considerations influence the study choices made by relatively young students.

Link to latest version: Click here. Media coverage in Swedish: Sveriges Radio P4 Jönköping.


The effect of higher-stakes grades on student achievement (revised version expected by summer 2023)

Educational interventions that increase the quality or quantity of school resources may have a limited impact on student achievement if students lack sufficient effort or motivation. A more effective way of raising achievement could be incentivizing students to perform well in school.  In this paper, I study whether students respond to non-financial incentives for higher grades, exploiting a reform in Stockholm that made compulsory school grades the sole criteria for admission to high school.  Using a difference-in-differences design, I find that the reform increased students’ grade point average in compulsory school by 10% of a standard deviation on average. Estimates of the unconditional quantile treatment effects show that the largest shifts occurred just above the middle of the grade distribution, where the performance incentives were strongest. I perform a variety of checks to support the hypothesis that these effects were driven by changes in student effort rather than changes in school grading practices.  My findings suggest that behavioral responses from students drive the results. Thus, strengthening the performance incentives implicit in the design of the education system can have a positive effect on student achievement.

Link to latest version: Click here.  Media coverage in Swedish: SkolportenSveriges Radio P4 UpplandUppsala University.

School resources, peer inputs, and student outcomes in adult education (revised and resubmitted to Economics of Education Review)

This paper studies a large-scale educational expansion to evaluate whether shocks to school and peer inputs have an impact on the academic achievement of adult education students. I analyze the spillover effects of a Swedish policy that temporarily doubled enrollment in adult education, thus putting considerable strain on school resources. First, I establish that students in regions subject to larger enrollment shocks also experienced stronger negative shocks to peer quality and school inputs like teacher credentials and per-pupil expenditure. Second, I show that the stronger negative shocks to peer and school inputs coincided with stronger increases in course dropout. Taken together, the two sets of results suggest a causal link between school inputs and course dropout.

Link to latest version: Click here.

Degree selectivity and teachers' initial job placements  (revised version expected by summer 2023)

Teachers with stronger academic credentials tend to work in schools with students from more advantaged backgrounds. This paper contributes to an emerging literature on the mechanisms that drive these sorting patterns. With register data covering all college graduates and teachers in Chile between 2007 and 2020, I examine whether earning a more selective teaching degree has a causal effect on the type of schools where graduates teach at the start of their career. For identification, I exploit a college placement mechanism that generates hundreds of admission cutoffs around which access to more selective teaching programs is essentially random. Using the variation around these cutoffs in a regression discontinuity design, I find suggestive evidence that graduating from a more selective teacher program has an effect on teachers' initial job placements. In particular, it increases the probability of working in more urbanized areas and in publicly-subsidized private schools.

Link to latest version: Click here and go to chapter 3 of the thesis manuscript.


  1. School and parental responses to changes in student performance: evidence from school entry rules
    (with Peter Fredriksson and Björn Öckert)


  2. Peer gender composition and student outcomes in high school
    (with Aino-Maija Aalto)


  3. Talking about my genderation: The economics of gender transitions in Sweden
    (with Ian BurnEmma von Essen, and Ylva Moberg)

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