Essays in Applied Microeconomics

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The first two chapters of my thesis are related to health economics, and explore how individual decisions affecting health can be impacted by different factors, including by government policy. The third chapter of my thesis (coauthored with Heyu Xiong) focuses on public economics in the Chinese context. >In the first chapter, I study the causal impact of neighborhoods on health. Through exploiting variation in the number of years individuals have lived in their neighborhood, I examine the causal effects of exposure to high and low body mass index (BMI) neighborhoods on one's own BMI. The identifying assumption is that there are no unobserved individual level characteristics correlated with both BMI and moving, after controlling for observables. I find that neighborhoods do not have a causal impact on health. In the second chapter, I study the effect of information provision on consumer welfare in the context of the 2006 trans fat labeling legislation. I develop and estimate a structural discrete choice model, featuring heterogeneity in the valuation of information from the label and taste for trans fats. Revealed preference estimates indicate that consumers would be better off in a labeling regime than a ban regime, though the gains in consumer surplus are small. However, a normative approach, informed by the health costs of trans fats found in the medical literature, suggests that a ban would lead to higher welfare gains than a label. In the final chapter, Heyu and I study the role of media in the transmission of ideology in the context of the Cultural Revolution. We develop a novel identification strategy by interacting the strength of radio signals and linguistic compatibility of local dialects to the broadcast language, Mandarin. A stronger signal is found to increase revolutionary intensity in counties where Mandarin was better understood. Through investigation of participation in the Send Down Movement, we provide evidence that one mechanism underlying our findings is differential individual responses rather than differences in top-down policy. The effects of propaganda are persistent, as evidenced by Communist Party membership in later life.

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  • 03/07/2019
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