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Essays in Applied Economics


Summary, in English

This dissertation consists of four self-contained empirical papers. Three of the papers rely on the usage of Swedish administrative data, while the fourth one is an experimental study. In these papers, I study economic behavior and preferences along with their implications for mental health. In the first paper, we investigate how the gender composition in one’s classroom in primary school affects their mental health outcomes. We find
that a higher share of girls increases the likelihood of a mental health diagnosis, particularly among boys. These effects also persist into high school and after graduation. This indicates that peer composition and its gender makeup are important determinants of mental health.

In the second paper, we link the same composition on the cohort level to the pay gap between men and women in their careers. We find that women exposed to more girls in primary schooling have higher subsequent earnings, which results in a reduction of the gap. A large explanatory factor of this result is that these women select into less female-dominated educational tracks and occupations at later stages. Again, this underlines the importance of peer composition in shaping life outcomes.

In the third paper, we conduct two online experiments to study the demand for affirmative action. We document that around one third of our subjects who act as employers consistently choose a to hire workers using a female quota, which guarantees that at least one of two vacant positions is filled with a woman. Surprisingly, this result is stable across three treatment conditions despite varying costs to employ the quota and varying beliefs about the productivity of workers. We interpret this finding as evidence for an inelastic demand and more intrinsic preferences for affirmative action.

In the final paper, I study the effect of relative income in families on their mental health outcomes. Firstly, I document that one’s mental health is positively related to both own and spousal income. At the same time, it is negatively related to the relative income of the wife. Crossing the threshold where the wife starts to out-earn the husband increases the likelihood of a mental health diagnosis, particularly so among the husbands. This
effect is likely no caused by divorced or by being on a lower income trajectory than one’s spouse.

Publishing year





Lund Economic Studies



Document type



Media-Tryck, Lund University, Sweden


  • Economics


  • gender
  • peer effects
  • mental health
  • socialization
  • school environment
  • occupational sorting
  • affirmative action
  • beliefs
  • discrimination
  • information
  • relative income




  • ISSN: 0460-0029
  • ISBN: 978-91-8039-345-4
  • ISBN: 978-91-8039-346-1

Defence date

15 September 2022

Defence time


Defence place



  • Beatrix Eugster (Professor)