Elira Kuka

Department of Economics
Southern Methodist University
3300 Dyer Street, Umphrey Lee Center
Dallas, TX 75275

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NBER Program Affiliations: CH
NBER Affiliation: Faculty Research Fellow

NBER Working Papers and Publications

February 2018Do Human Capital Decisions Respond to the Returns to Education? Evidence from DACA
with Na'ama Shenhav, Kevin Shih: w24315
This paper studies the human capital responses to a large shock in the returns to education for undocumented youth. We obtain variation in the benefits of schooling from the enactment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy in 2012, which provides work authorization and deferral from deportation for high school educated youth. We implement a difference-in-differences design by comparing DACA eligible to non-eligible individuals over time, and we find that DACA had a significant impact on the investment decisions of undocumented youth. High school graduation rates increased by 15 percent while teenage births declined by 45 percent. Further, we find that college attendance increased by 25 percent among women, suggesting that DACA raised aspirations for education above and...
September 2016Child Poverty, the Great Recession, and the Social Safety Net in the United States
with Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes: w22682
In this paper, we comprehensively examine the effects of the Great Recession on child poverty, with particular attention to the role of the social safety net in mitigating the adverse effects of shocks to earnings and income. Using a state panel data model and data for 2000 to 2014, we estimate the relationship between the business cycle and child poverty, and we examine how and to what extent the safety net is providing protection to at-risk children. We find compelling evidence that the safety net provides protection; that is, the cyclicality of after-tax-and-transfer child poverty is significantly attenuated relative to the cyclicality of private income poverty. We also find that the protective effect of the safety net is not similar across demographic groups, and that children from mo...

Published: Marianne Bitler & Hilary Hoynes & Elira Kuka, 2016. "Child Poverty, the Great Recession, and the Social Safety Net in the United States," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, . citation courtesy of

February 2016The Long-Run Effects of Disruptive Peers
with Scott E. Carrell, Mark Hoekstra: w22042
A large and growing literature has documented the importance of peer effects in education. However, there is relatively little evidence on the long-run educational and labor market consequences of childhood peers. We examine this question by linking administrative data on elementary school students to subsequent test scores, college attendance and completion, and earnings. To distinguish the effect of peers from confounding factors, we exploit the population variation in the proportion of children from families linked to domestic violence, who were shown by Carrell and Hoekstra (2010, 2012) to disrupt contemporaneous behavior and learning. Results show that exposure to a disruptive peer in classes of 25 during elementary school reduces earnings at age 26 by 3 to 4 percent. We estimate tha...
January 2014Do In-Work Tax Credits Serve as a Safety Net?
with Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes: w19785
The cash and near cash safety net in the U.S. has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past fifteen years. Federal welfare reform has led to the "elimination of welfare as we know it" and several tax reforms have substantially increased the role of "in-work"' assistance. In 2010, we spent more than 5 dollars on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for every dollar spent on cash benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), whereas in 1994 on the eve of federal welfare reform these programs were about equal in size. In this paper, we evaluate and test whether the EITC satisfies a defining feature of a safety net program--that it responds to economic need. In particular, we explore how EITC participation and expenditures change with the business cycle. The fact that t...

Published: Marianne Bitler & Hilary Hoynes & Elira Kuka, 2017. "Do In-Work Tax Credits Serve as a Safety Net?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 52(2), pages 319-350. citation courtesy of

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