Three Essays in Labor Economics
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This dissertation contains three essays on topics including crime, credit constraints, education, athletics and health. Tying the works together is a set of empirical tools that have come to define the field of labor economics and the pursuit of causal inference. Chapter II contains an analysis of the effects of a school-based incentive program on children's exercise habits. The program offers children an opportunity to win prizes if they walk or bike to school during prize periods. I use daily child-level data and individual fixed effects models to measure the impact of the prizes by comparing behavior during prize periods with behavior during non-prize periods. Variation in the timing of prize periods across different schools allows me to estimate models with calendar-date fixed effects to control for day-specific attributes, such as weather and proximity to holidays. In Chapter III, I present evidence of the causal effects on crime of access to small, high cost, short term consumer credit, known as payday lending. Using within-state geographic as well as inter-temporal variation in access to payday loans, I estimate the effect of access to payday lending on all types of crime. I find a substantial effect only for financially motivated offenses, with access to payday lending leading to approximately five additional arrests per 100,000 residents monthly. The estimated effects are concentrated in larceny, fraud, and forgery. The final chapter turns back to education to assess high school athletics' role in affecting athletes' attendance patterns. The key result that emerges from the analysis is that in-season athletes miss significantly less school relative to athletes out-of-season. School absences in boys decline by nearly 8% as a result of being in-season, though the effects are much larger for black boys, particularly with respect to unexcused absences. Paying careful attention to issues of identification, this dissertation presents three essays contributing to the literature broadly categorized as labor economics. Each seeks to understand the role of changing incentives and opportunities on individuals' decision making processes, in order to inform policy makers wishing to craft effective public policies. This dissertation includes previously published co-authored material.