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Category Archives: D1

Navigating the Maize of Poverty: Intra-Household Allocation and Investment in Children’s Human Capital in Tanzania

By Saheel Chodavadia  

Intra-household resource allocation influences investment in children’s human capital and hence influences long-term poverty levels. I study how climate shocks in Tanzania shift intra-household bargaining power and investment in children’s human capital. Past empirical work finds that bargaining power is associated with income, assets, education, and other often unobservable factors. Anthropological evidence from Tanzania suggests that male decision-makers in poor households control most income and own most assets. Conditioning on changes in total household resources due to climate shocks, I find evidence consistent with climate shocks increasing female bargaining power through a reduction in male decision-maker’s income. Specifically, climate shocks in households with more educated women increase investment in children’s education and improve anthropometric measures of health. Lastly, I comment on the usefulness of relative education as a proxy for bargaining power in contexts of data and cultural limitations on distinct assets and income streams for decision-makers.

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Advisors: Professor Robert Garlick, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: D0, D13, I20

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

The Effect of Marriage on the Wages of Americans: Gender and Generational Differences

By William Song and Theresa Tong

A substantial body of literature on the wage effects of marriage finds that married American men earn anywhere from 10% to 40% higher wages than unmarried men on average, while married American women earn up to 7% less than unmarried women, even after controlling for traits such as background, education, and number of children. Because this literature focuses heavily on men born in a single time period, we study both men and women in two different generational cohorts of Americans (Baby Boomers and Millennials) from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth to examine how the wage effects of marriage differ between genders and across time. Using a fixed effects approach, we find that Millennial women—but not Baby Boomer women—experience an increase in wages after marriage, and we replicate the finding from the literature that men experience an increase in wages after marriage as well. However, after controlling for wage trajectory-based selection into marriage by using a modified fixed effects approach that allows wage trajectories to vary by individual, we find that the wage effects of marriage are no longer statistically significant for any group in our data, suggesting that the wage differences between married and unmarried individuals found in previous studies are primarily a result of selection.

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Advisors: Professor Marjorie McElroy, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: C33; D13; J12; J13; J22; J30

Is Inclusionary Zoning a Proper Remedy for the Affordable Housing Crisis? —A Case Study of IZ Programs in New Jersey and North Carolina

By Xinchen Li

The recent decade witnessed a worsening of the affordable housing crisis across the
country. Inclusionary zoning (IZ) has been a popular municipal remedy for the crisis.
However, it is unclear whether IZ actually adds to the affordable housing stock, and
whether it achieves its goal at the expense of average homeowners. Through a case
study of New Jersey and North Carolina, this paper aims to address these two questions.The results suggest that there is no statistically significant positive relationship between the presence of IZ and the housing price in the two states, but its beneficiary effects are also debatable.

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Advisors: Professor Christopher Timmins | JEL Codes: D10 ; R2; R21

Social Capital and Financial Development after Economic Shocks: Evidence from Italy after the Financial Crisis of 2007-2009

By Sujay Rao & Ethan Lampert

Like traditional forms of capital, social capital – an intangible measure of an individual’s social networks, trust in institutions, and participation in civic life – has implications for personal and financial behavior. Individuals from educated, well established backgrounds with fruitful family ties may be more amenable to opening new lines of credit or investing in stock markets due to their trust in and connectedness with society. But what happens after a major economic shock, such as the financial crisis of 2008? Using Italy as a case study and panel data from the Survey of Household Income and Wealth, we find that social capital has significant effects on an individual’s credit card usage, informal borrowing, and choice to invest in securities.

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Advisors: Professor Grace Kim, Professor Michelle Connolly, Professor Giovanni Zanalda | JEL Codes: G01, G2, O1, D1, D14

The Impact of Originality in a Transitioning Movie Industry

By Jacob Graber-Lipperman

The thesis explores the increasing success of non-original films distributed through traditional theatrical releases, and asks whether new distributors, such as Netflix, may serve as better platforms for original content. A dataset incorporating the top 100 highest-grossing films at the domestic box office each year from 2000 to 2018, as well as a smaller subset including 82 titles distributed by Netlix, was utilized to investigate these issues. The results confirm non-original content has performed increasingly well over time for theatrical releases, especially within the past four years, while original content has performed poorly, especially during this recent time period. Additionally, the research suggests the stark difference in performance observed for non-original and original content in traditional distribution models may not appear for titles released through the newer streaming platforms. This paper thus hopes to motivate future study into the effect of streaming platforms on consumer purchasing behavior of films as new distribution technology within the movie industry continues to proliferate.

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Advisor: Professor Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: D1, D10, D19

The Impact of Violence in Mexico on Education and Labor Outcomes: Do Conditional Cash Transfers Have a Mitigating Effect?

By Hayley Jordan Barton

This research explores the potential mitigating effect of Mexico’s conditional cash transfer program, Oportunidades, on the education and labor impacts of increased homicide rates. Panel data models are combined with a difference-in-differences approach to compare children and young adults who receive cash transfers with those who do not. Results are very sensitive to specification, but Oportunidades participation is shown to be positively associated with educational attainment regardless of homicide increases. Homicides are associated with decreases in likelihood of school enrollment and compulsory education completion; however, they also correspond with increases in educational attainment, with a larger effect for Oportunidades non-recipients.

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Advisors: Dr. Charles Becker, and Dr. Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: C23; D15; I20; I38; J24

Sister competition and birth order effects among marriage-aged girls: Evidence from a field experiment in rural Bangladesh

By Stephanie Zhong

Early marriage before the age of 18 is prevalent among adolescent girls in Bangladesh, but the timing of marriage is not uniform across daughters within a household, with some sisters marrying earlier than others. Using survey data from a novel field experiment from rural Bangladesh, I find that girls ages 10-21 with lower birth order tend to be married at a younger age, even when controlling for confounding nature of household size on birth order. Additionally, girls with younger sisters are more likely to be married and at a younger age than girls with younger brothers. The findings on dowry are inclusive.

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Advisors: Dr. Erica Field and Dr. Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: D13, J13, O15

The Toll of Commuting: The Effects of Commute Time on Well-Being

By M. Thomas Marshall Jr.

When deciding on housing location, people theoretically optimize for the best location given their commute time, housing cost, income, as well as other factors. Stutzer and Frey (2008) suggest that this is not true in some nations, such as in their investigation of Germany, with their results showing that the cost of an average commute is equivalent to 35.4% of the average income. This paper investigates the impact of commute time on the well-being of individuals in the United States, correcting for various other factors that determine housing choice such as race,
age, and whether they have a child living at home. The results of this study are clearly that the relationship found between commuting time and well-being cannot be proven to be statistically significant from zero, so there is not any evidence against optimization.

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Advisor: Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: D12, D61, R31, R41

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


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