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Seth Sanders Ph.D.

Seth Sanders, Ph.D.

Professor of Economics, Duke University

Off Campus
213H Social Sciences Building
Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy

Durham , NC 27708-0239
Office Phone: 919-660-1898


  1. PhD (Economics), University of Chicago, 1993
  2. MA (Economics), University of Chicago, 1985
  3. AB (Economics), University of Chicago, 1984


Sanders has focused on four broad research programs: (1) the economic consequences of teenage childbearing on women and children, (2) economic shocks and the effects on workers and families, (3) gay and lesbian families and their performance in the U.S. economy, and (4) gender and racial wage differences among the highly educated. In the first research program, Hotz, McElroy and Sanders, in their Journal of Human Resource article, examined the impact of teenage childbearing on the adult outcomes of women, exploiting the fact that some teen pregnancies end in a spontaneous miscarriage. Using miscarriages as an instrument, they find teenage childbearing has intertemporal impacts on earnings and welfare receipt. Labor supply is lowered and the receipt of public assistance is raised for a few years after the teen gives birth, but subsequently labor supply rises and public assistance falls. For the second research question, Sanders and co-authors have written a number of papers that demonstrate how the availability of high-skilled jobs for low-skilled workers affects the use of disability and welfare, how it affects incentives to complete high school and how it affects marriage and fertility ?the “Wilson Hypothesis.? Using the deindustrialization of steel producing areas and the rise and fall of coal areas in Appalachia, they show that disability and AFDC receipt rose with the fall in the steel and coal mining industries and fell when coal mining boomed during the OPEC oil embargo. At least part of these changes comes through changes in marriage and fertility. They also showed that high-paying jobs for low-skilled men lowered high school completion rates, the downside of a buoyant economy. These papers have appeared in the American Economic Review, Economic Journal, Public Economics, and Industrial and Labor Review. Sanders’s third research program investigates gay and lesbian families. Sanders has completed a series of papers on the earnings, family structure and location decisions of gays and lesbians in the U.S. These have been published in Demography and Industrial Labor Relations Review. The emergence of solid demographic studies describing the gay and lesbian population is valuable for the public policy debate as well as for helping social scientists understand a wide range of important theoretical questions—questions about the general nature of labor market choices, human capital accumulation, specialization within households, discrimination, and geographic location decisions. Finally, Sanders has published a series of papers on earnings differentials among highly educated workers. These papers have been published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of the American Statistical Association, and Economic Inquiry. These papers show that among the highly educated, much of the differences in earnings between majority and minority groups can be attributed to a small number of pre-market factors - measurement error in the recording of education, language skills and college major.


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