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Evolution of Wealth and Consumption in the Aftermath of a Major Natural Disaster

By Ralph Lawton   

Natural disasters can have catastrophic personal and economic effects, particularly in low-resource settings. Major natural disasters are becoming more frequent, so rigorous understanding of their effects on long-term economic wellbeing is fundamentally important in order to mitigate their impacts on exposed populations. In this paper, I investigate the effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on real consumption and assets at the individual level. I also examine the heterogeneity of those impacts, and the related effects on inequality. Taking individual-specific heterogeneity into account with fixed effects, I find individuals living in heavily damaged areas experience major declines in real consumption and assets, and do not recover in the long term. These results are strikingly different than results that do not consider price effects, as well as previously published macroeconomic results. I also find significant heterogeneity by age, education-level, pre-tsunami socioeconomic status, and whether an individual went into a refugee camp. The tsunami resulted in large, long-term declines in asset inequality, and a temporary increase in consumption inequality that returns to near pre-tsunami levels in the long run.

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Advisors: Professor Duncan Thomas, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: D1, D15, H84

Measuring the Long-term Effects of Orphanhood

By Nicholas Thomas Gardner

This paper works towards developing the narrative of orphans whose parent or parents died from natural disaster. By taking advantage of the unanticipated nature of death from the 2004
Indonesian tsunami, orphanhood can be treated as much closer to random than similar literature using data centered on HIV/AIDS related deaths. We use a community level fixed effects model to attempt to derive a causal relationship between orphanhood and both education and log wages. Our models suggest that orphaned males aged 14 and older at baseline complete 1-2 fewer years of education than their cohorts. The adverse effects persist in the long-term, as these orphans earn 26% less than non-orphan cohorts.

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Advisors: Duncan Thomas and Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: I24, I25, I31, J24, J31

24K Magic: Evidence on Maternal Asset Ownership and Children’s Long Term Outcomes in Indonesia

By Maya Durvasula

Household resource allocation in response to economic shocks is of central importance for policy makers, especially given widely documented evidence of gender biases. In this paper, I exploit a
plausibly exogenous shock to maternal asset holdings in Indonesia to examine gender biases in resource allocation in the wake of the 1998 East Asian Financial Crisis. Using insights from
anthropology, I separate assets in the hands of women from those controlled by men and interpret findings in the context of a household decision-making framework that allows preferences of parents to differ. Taking household-specific heterogeneity into account with fixed effects, I find significant evidence of efforts to shield male children from the effects of the crisis in both contemporaneous educational attainment and longer-term labor market outcomes, a remarkable trend given minimal evidence of a pro-son bias in Indonesia prior to the crisis. Finally, inferring preferences from maternal resource allocation, I find suggestive evidence of an old age security motive in women’s investment decisions.

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Advisor: Duncan Thomas | JEL Codes: D13, I0, J13, J16

Protecting Long Term Human Capital in a Financial Crisis: Evidence from the Indonesian Family Life Survey

By Sachet Bangia

The East Asian Financial crisis of the late nineties made its way to Indonesia in January 1998. Using longitudinal data from the Indonesian Family Life Survey (1993-2015), this paper studies the impact of the crisis on education attainment. In the midst of economic upheaval, households with liquid assets at hand, particularly gold, were better able to maintain per capita expenditures. Tracing out the impact of gold ownership on completed education, I find that the effect is most apparent on 7 to 12 year olds in Indonesia. Using within-household variation in completed education, I find that a divergence in the use of gold to protect child education: urban households direct it towards older children, while rural households do the opposite. This result is best understood by considering the effect of the crisis on opportunity costs of schooling. In urban areas, wages declined sharply, while in rural areas, the return to food production increased dramatically. Thus older children in rural areas would be more likely to exit schooling during the crisis, and consequently not benefit from gold ownership in the household. The evidence examined indicates that families sought to protect their children’s long-term human capital, but in households with fewer resources, the children suffered permanent consequences.

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Advisor: Duncan Thomas | JEL Codes: D1, I2, O0

The Pen or the Sword: Determining the Effects of Different Types of Coups D’état on Income Inequality

By Jie Wei Chia

Existing literature on the relationship between income inequality and coup d’états focus on how the former cause the latter. No research has yet been done on how coup d’états affect income inequality after their occurrence. This study uses crosscountry panel data and fixed effects with instrumental variables models to examine the impact of successful armed coups, successful unarmed coups, failed armed coups and failed unarmed coups. I find that, on average, none of these coups have a significant impact on the Gini coefficient and the income share of the poorest quintile of a population relative to the richest quintile, save for successful armed coups when the subsample of data from 19912013 was used.

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Advisor: Duncan Thomas, Timur Kuran | JEL Codes: D7, D74 | Tagged: Coups, Inequality, Political Economy


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