Frictions in the Social and Economic Lives of Underprivileged People

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Frictions in the Social and Economic Lives of Underprivileged People

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In the last century, standards of living around the world have improved. However, thisprogress has not been equal across, nor within countries. This dissertation consists of threechapters that aim to contribute to answering the question of why this has been the case, inthree separate contexts.Chapter 1: I test whether the implementation of the California Paid Family Leave Actincreased young women’s human capital investment, specifically college enrollment. Using asynthetic control approach, I estimate that the policy increased the probability that womenenroll in college by about 2 percentage points. This effect is statistically significant at the5% level and persists for at least several years. I present a simple human capital modelof women’s schooling choices that characterizes these results as the effect of an expecteddecrease in the effects of motherhood on labor supply. Finally, I present evidence fromsurvey data and Internet searches that provides support to the hypothesized mechanism:women are more likely to enroll in college because they expect that the policy will increasetheir future labor supply.Chapter 2: Directly eliciting individuals’ subjective beliefs via surveys is increasinglypopular in social science research, but doing so via face-to-face surveys has an importantdownside: the interviewer’s knowledge of the topic may spill over onto the respondent’srecorded beliefs. Using a randomized experiment that used interviewers to implement aninformation treatment, we show that reported beliefs are significantly shifted by interviewerknowledge. Trained interviewers primed respondents to use the exact numbers used in thetraining, nudging them away from higher answers; recorded responses decreased by about0.3 standard deviations of the initial belief distribution. Furthermore, respondents withstronger prior beliefs were less affected by interviewer knowledge.Chapter 3: Governments across the world subsidize soup kitchen programs, but thereis little evidence on whether these improve food security. I study a soup kitchen programfunded by the Mexican government in 2013 to examine whether it has caused an improve-ment in food security. I find no mean municipal effects for six different measures of foodsecurity. I analyze a sub sample of the most food insecure and identify some positive effectswithin that sector of the population. My results suggest that the effect of the programon food security is concentrated in the lower end of the food security distribution, butchallenge the assumption that subsidizing prepared food will mechanically improve meanfood security significantly. I also estimate that the presence of soup kitchens in the mostex-ante food insecure municipalities decreases average food expenditures. This result pointsto diverse effects of soup kitchen programs


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2021. Major: Applied Economics. Advisors: Paul Glewwe, Marc Bellemare. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 106 pages.

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Ordaz Reynoso, Natalia. (2021). Frictions in the Social and Economic Lives of Underprivileged People. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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