We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2020 dissertation prize: Winnie van Dijk, Roni Pener-Tessler, and Laia Navarro-Sola.

Roni Pener-Tessler's paper, "The Development of Self-control in Children: Genetic and Parental Influences and the Interplay of Parenting and Genetics," provides one of the first longitudinal investigations of gene-parenting interplay in self-control, studying the role of children's genes in the parenting they receive, through the child's self-control. Using a large twin sample, she focuses on the understudied period of early childhood to preadolescence, shedding light on the developmental patterns of self-control, the interplay between parental and genetic influences on individual differences, and possible parent-child bidirectional effects. Results showed: that middle childhood is a period of transition in self-control, which may be genetically driven; a longitudinal effect of early parenting on children's self-control dependent on children's genotype, even when considering multiple interfering elements; a process of evocative gene-environment correlation by which children's genotype affects parenting through the mediation of children's self-control.

Pener-Tessler is a clinical psychologist at the Macabi Pediatric Mental Health Clinic in Tel-Aviv, and a research fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She studies individual differences in the development of personality, with a focus on self-control, and on the interplay between genetics, parenting, schooling, and other environmental agents in the processes shaping the trait. Currently, she is particularly interested in interventional studies regarding low to extremely high self-control, examining how changes in parental practices may facilitate change in children's self-control over time, and whether this process is moderated by children's genetics and temperament. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2019.
In the first chapter of Winnie van Dijk's dissertation, "Essays on Rental Housing Market Policies and the Socio-Economic Mobility of Low-Income Households," she analyzes the effect of Europe's largest public housing program on socio-economic outcomes. Her findings suggest that well-targeted public housing in high-income neighborhoods can increase economic self-sufficiency. The second chapter studies the consequences of eviction. Evictions are common the U.S ̧ and sociologists have documented research strong associations between being evicted and subsequent adverse economic outcomes. As a result, evictions play a prominent role in public policy debates, yet they have not been studied much by economists, and the consequences of eviction for low-income households and society more broadly are not well-understood. This study offers new causal evidence on how eviction affects financial distress, residential mobility, and neighborhood quality. The paper employs two approaches to draw causal inference on the effect of eviction, and find that eviction negatively impacts credit access and durable consumption forseveral years. However, the effects are small relative to the financial strain experienced by both evicted and non-evicted tenants in the run-up to an eviction filing.
Van Dijk is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Economics at Harvard, a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a Research Affiliate at the UChicago Poverty Lab, and a Research Principal at Opportunity Insights. Previously, she was a Saieh Family Fellow at the Becker Friedman Institute. Her primary research fields are labor economics, public economics, and applied econometrics. She studies the evaluation and design of social policies, with a particular interest in housing assistance policy and the effects of regulation in rental housing markets. In recent work, she has studied the design of public housing programs and their consequences for beneficiaries’ socio-economic outcomes, and the incidence and consequences of residential evictions. Van Dijk received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago in 2019, and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics.
In "Essays in Human Capital in Developing Countries," Laia Navarro-Sola examines three empirical questions related to human capital in developing countries. The first two chapters study the educational and labor market impacts of the telesecundarias, Mexican secondary schools that use televisions to deliver instruction. Exploiting their staggered rollout, she showa that for every additional telesecundaria per 50 children, ten students enroll in junior secondary education and two pursue further education. Using the telesecundaria expansion as an instrument, she finds that an additional year of education increases average income by 17.6%, which comes partly from increased labor force participation, a shift away from the agricultural sector, and a transition to the formal sector. Since schooling decisions are sequential, the estimated returns combine the direct effect of attending telesecundarias and the effects of further schooling. She decomposes these two effects by exploiting the baseline access to upper secondary institutions, finding that 84% of the estimated returns come directly from junior secondary education. Chapter 3 examines the multidimensionality of school output and parental preferences in Trinidad and Tobago by exploiting quasi-random school assignments, constructing instruments for each individual school, and estimating the causal impacts of individual schools on several short- and longer-run outcomes. She also links estimated school impacts to parents' ranked lists of schools and implements a modified multinomial logit model. Most parents' preferences for school impacts on labor-market and crime outcomes are, as strong, or stronger than those for test scores.
Navarro-Sola’s research is at the intersection of topics related to human capital and development economics. Her questions are broadly motivated by the desire to understand the returns to education in developing countries, the barriers to human capital accumulation, and the policies that mitigate them and improve the labor market prospects of children and youth. Recently, she has studied the labor market returns of providing secondary education through schools that use televised lessons in Mexico. She has also investigated whether the impacts of a school are multidimensional, and what academic and nonacademic factors parents value when they choose a school. Navarro-Sola will be an Assistant Professor at the Institute for International Economic Studies at Stockholm University. She received her Ph.D. in Economics from Northwestern University in 2020.
As the HCEO dissertation prize winners, van Dijk, Pener-Tessler, and Navarro-Sola will each receive a monetary award, and will present their work either virtually later this year or in person in early 2021 to the Center for the Economics of Human Development, HCEO directors, and the University of Chicago community.