Essays in development economics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Economics.
Esther Duflo and Benjamin Olken.
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This thesis consists of three essays in development economics. The first chapter investigates urban form in India. I focus on one of the determining factors of urban commuting efficiency, highlighted by urban planners but overlooked by economists: city shape. I retrieve the geometric properties of urban footprints in India over time, using satellite data on nighttime lights and historic maps. I propose an instrument for urban shape based on the interaction between topographic obstacles arid mechanically predicted city growth. I then investigate how city shape affects the location choices of consumers and firms, in a spatial equilibrium framework. More compact cities are characterized by larger population, lower wages, and higher rents, consistent with compact shape being a consumption amenity. The welfare cost of deteriorating city shape is estimated to be sizeable. The effects of unfavorable topography appear to be exacerbated by building height restrictions, and mitigated by infrastructure. The second chapter examines the human capital effects of inheritance law in Kenya. I study a 1981 statutory law reform granting Kenyan women equal inheritance rights. I employ a difference-in-differences strategy, exploiting variation in pre-reform inheritance rules across religious groups. Women exposed to the reform are more educated, less likely to undergo genital mutilation and more likely to be medically assisted during childbirth; they also tend to delay childbearing and to have better marriage market outcomes. These effects are more pronounced for women with fewer siblings, for whom the absolute inheritance share is potentially larger. In the third chapter, my coauthor Eliana La Ferrara and I conduct a disaggregated empirical analysis of civil conflict at the sub-national level in Africa over 1997-2011, using new gridded data. We construct an original measure of agriculture-relevant shocks exploiting within-year variation in weather and in crop growing season, and spatial variation in crop cover. Temporal and spatial spillovers in conflict are addressed through spatial econometric techniques. Negative shocks during the growing season of local crops affect conflict incidence persistently, and local conflict then spills over in space. We use our estimates to trace the dynamic response to shocks and predict how future warming may affect violence.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Economics, 2016.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 149-159).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Economics.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology