Publication Date


Award Type

Honorable Mention

Dissertation Advisor

Richard B. Freeman


The author studies the collapse of the Soviet Union to shed light on the behavior of workers and the human capital they embody. The first two essays concern the behavior of scientists. Using information from the earliest large-scale grant program for Soviet scientists, the author employs a regression discontinuity design to obtain causal estimates of the impact of grants. Findings show that the grants more than doubled researcher publications and induced scientists to remain in the science sector. The second essay studies the unprecedented exodus westward of scientists after the end of the USSR and examines both the selection of emigrants and the impact of emigration on their subsequent productivity. Scientists who emigrated after the end of the USSR were more productive after they left Russia compared to scientists who did not emigrate. The third essay analyzes immigrant selection before and after the USSR within a Roy Model framework. With microlevel data from Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria, along with data for immigrants in the United States, Spain, and Greece, immigrants’ predicted wages in the source country are compared with the predicted wages of their native counterparts. This thesis informs policymakers in the areas of labor, science, and immigration. The evidence in this dissertation suggests that after sharp economic changes, workers make important occupation and location decisions. Targeted policies can impact the size and productivity of the labor force during these times of transition, which can have lasting impacts on innovation, economic growth, and well-being.

Link to dissertation full text