Essays in Social Economics

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Essays in Social Economics

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Title: Essays in Social Economics
Author: Greenwood, Elizabeth
Citation: Greenwood, Elizabeth. 2012. Essays in Social Economics. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation consists of three essays using economic methods to understand social policy issues. The first chapter uses a regression discontinuity framework to understand how teen birth rates respond to the first college opening in a county. The predicted effect of a college opening on teen births is ambiguous. Teen births could fall if college and motherhood are substitutes, but they could rise if a local college allows teen mothers to attend college or if teen mothers are not on the margin for attending college. Using data on teen births and college openings from 1969-1988, I find that teen births do not fall and may increase following a college opening. The effect is strongest among older teens, lending support to the notion that a local college allows more women to simultaneously become a mother and go to college. The second chapter examines why whites tend not to support welfare programs to the extent that blacks do. I recruited a racially and economically diverse set of subjects in Chicago Heights, IL and Boston and collected an original dataset combining survey questions and preferences for redistribution plans with economic consequences. Black subjects were not systematically more risk or inequity averse than white subjects and were only less confident when the task was a trivia quiz.
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