Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Christian A. Vossler

Committee Members

Celeste K. Carruthers, James S. Holladay, Jonathan D. Ritschel


This dissertation presents one essay that utilizes an experiment and two essays that use observational data to causally examine important economic questions. In the first essay, I describe a laboratory experiment with human participants designed to test key theoretical predictions related to the effects of using public and secret reserve prices in independent private value, first-price sealed bid auctions. The results support theoretical predictions related to bidding in public reserve auctions and predicted revenue differences between public and secret reserve auctions. Predictions regarding buyer bidding in secret reserve auctions, and that public and secret reserves generate higher revenue than no reserve auctions, is not supported by the data.

The second essay investigates the relationship between air quality and human endurance and strength. I utilize a database of physical fitness scores from members of the United States Air Force and merge this with particulate matter measures from the Environmental Protection Agency. I exploit daily variation in particulate matter and the random assignment of members to work locations to identify a causal effect of particulate matter on member run times, push-ups, and crunches. I find that particulate matter exposure results in significant decreases in push-up and crunch repetitions and increases run times. Furthermore, I find that the physical fitness test failure rate increases with exposure to high particulate matter concentrations.

The third essay, a joint project with Celeste K. Carruthers (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Michael Koefed and Aaron Phipps (United States Military Academy), and Jenna Webb Kramer (RAND Corporation), estimates the causal effects of providing free community college on military enlistments and aptitude. To identify these relationships we employ a two-way fixed effects model and exploit the staggered rollout of the Tennessee Promise scholarship program, which is a last-dollar aid program that became available to graduating high school seniors in a subset of Tennessee counties in 2009 and by 2015 was implemented statewide. Our quantitative analysis complements the findings of Dr. Kramer’s qualitative analysis and shows that Tennessee promise led to a significant decrease in military enlistments. We also find that Tennessee Promise motivated more technically adapt persons to enlist.

Available for download on Friday, August 08, 2025

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."