Essays in Development Economics
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CitationHolland, Abraham. 2019. Essays in Development Economics. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation explores three developing world public administration challenges. In chapter 1, I examine the potentially puzzling preferences of participants in Nepalese village relocation program. A significant share of program beneficiaries preferred policies that gave individuals no choice over where they would ultimately live in resettled communities. Beyond the existence of a preferences puzzle, I establish that participants choices will impact welfare and that many popular economic theories cannot explain individuals' behavior. I conclude by demonstrating the ability to influence individuals' preferences for choice-driven allocation mechanisms. I accomplish this through changes in the perceived benefits, as well as a separate randomized information intervention. The second chapter shifts to Zambia, where I investigate the social and economic consequences of interruptions in municipal water supply. I find that water outages increase the incidence of diarrheal disease, upper respiratory infections, typhoid fever, and measles. I also match outages to geolocated microdata on financial transactions from the largest electronic cash transfers provider in Zambia, and find that outages cause a reduction in financial transactions. Outages also increase the time that young girls spend at their chores, possibly at the expense of time they spend doing schoolwork. In my final chapter, I partnered with the Zambian Police Service to explore the potentially varied consequences of urban sexual violence. I document gendered changes in economic activity following reported sexual violence in Lusaka, Zambia. Using a differences-in-differences approach, I observe a 15% decrease in female transaction activity at over-the-counter money transfer kiosks within the locality of the reported assault. This effect is concentrated in the later business hours, and is significantly different than contemporaneous local male transaction activity. For the periods prior to a reported assault, there are some indications that female transaction activity between kiosks located near and further away from a reported assault may not follow parallel trends. As a consequence, I cautiously interpret these results as suggestive evidence of urban sexual violence continuing to disrupt women's economic lives. In a revealed preference sense, these distortions represent a welfare loss and reinforce the need to consider potential heterogeneous consequences of public service delivery failures within the policy-making process.
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