Economics Department Dissertations Collection

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  • Publication
    A Knife Hidden in Roses: Development and Gender Violence in the Dominican Republic
    (2013-09-01) Bueno, Cruz Caridad
    On September 30, 2012, Jonathan Torres stabbed his wife, Miguelina Martinez, fifty-two times in a beauty salon in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Ms. Martinez, 33 years-old, went to the district attorney's office eighteen times in the two weeks prior to her murder to report that because of her husband's violent threats she left her home. He killed her because she no longer wanted to be with him; the knife he used was hidden in a bouquet of roses. This three-essay style dissertation interrogates the state of development and gender violence in the Dominican Republic. The first chapter examines the implications of racial, gender, and class stratification on the economic and social opportunities of low-income women, predominantly of African descent, working in the export processing zones and as domestic workers. The second chapter explores the correlation between women's economic, political, and social characteristics and the incidence domestic violence using data from the Demographic and Health Survey. Further, I test which model--the household bargaining model (HBM) or the male backlash model (MBM)--best explains gender violence. I find that the HBM better predicts physical violence, while the MBM better predicts sexual violence. However, when I disaggregate asset-poor women and asset-rich women, I find that the HBM is more adept at explaining gender violence for asset-rich women and the MBM for asset-poor women. The third chapter explores the role of women's and men's endogenous preferences on the justifications of gender violence. In both the female and male specifications, there is a positive correlation between men making more decisions and the justification of gender violence. Women that support gender equity are less likely to justify gender violence; while husbands that are less gender progressive are more likely to justify gender violence. Based on my findings, I conclude that the Dominican government's economic policies of the last thirty years are the knife hidden in the government's roses or rhetoric of human development and women's rights. To promote human development and foster women's rights, the Dominican government must embark on a new trajectory focused on human capital formation and a more equitable distribution of income, wealth, and power.
  • Publication
    The Political Economy of Cultural Production: Essays on Music and Class
    (2013-09-01) Seda Irizarry, Ian J.
    Overview As an activity that produces wealth, musical production and its effects have largely been neglected by the economics profession. This dissertation seeks contribute to a small but growing literature on the subject by analyzing musical production through a particular class analytical lens of political economy. A first problem that has encountered many within political economy, specifically within its radical variant of Marxism, is how to understand music in relation to the social totality. In the first essay of this work I provide a critical review of the literature that approaches music through the "base-superstructure metaphor", a tool of analysis well known within the Marxian theoretical tradition. In it I show how assigning elements to either one or the other of these spheres and understanding the forces of production in terms of its technical dimension (i.e. technology) limits the analytical possibilities provided by Marx's original insights. In the second part of this essay I review the ways the concept of class has been ued to analyze topics related to music within the Marxian tradition. I highlight how the essentialist moments of those particular class concepts lead to analyzes that obscure and sometimes contradict one of the main purposes Marx's original intent: to show the various guises that exploitation might take in a capitalist society. In the second essay of the dissertation I theorize musical production with the aid of a class qua surplus analysis that highlights the process of the production, appropriation, and distribution of surplus labor in relation to the production and dissemination of meaning associated with music as a cultural process. I identify various musical scenes and show the dialectic of aesthetics and musical labor. In the third and final essay, I compare and contrast two discourses of theft: those of exploitation and of piracy. I focus my attention on the music recording industry and show how the adoption of a discourse of exploitation by musicians that are not exploited and their support in anti-piracy campaigns hamper, marginalize, and contribute to eliminating none-exploitative class structures. This result is important to the literature that explores how intellectual property poses constraints to economic growth and development in the so-called Third world where most of the pirate production takes place.
  • Publication
    The Economics of Same-Sex Couple Households: Essays on Work, Wages, and Poverty
    (2013-09-01) Schneebaum, Alyssa
    Since Badgett's (1995a) landmark study on the wage effects of sexual orientation, interest in and production of scholarly work addressing the economics of sexual orientation has grown tremendously. Curious puzzles have emerged in the literature on the economics of same-sex couple households, three of which are addressed in detail in this dissertation. Most studies of the wages of women in same-sex couples versus different-sex couples find that the former earn more, even controlling for differences in present labor market supply, education, experience, area of residence, and occupation. However, most previous studies of the sexual orientation wage gap omit the role of motherhood in the lesbian-straight women wage gap, and most take the sample of lesbians to be a homogenous group compared to straight women. Chapter 1 uses American Community Survey data from 2010 to study the wage gap between lesbians and straight women, putting motherhood in intra-household differences at the center of the analysis. The analysis shows that in terms of earnings, lesbian couples are quite heterogeneous; one partner has a large wage premium over straight women, and the other faces a large wage penalty. These findings are enhanced when a child is present in the lesbians' home, possibly suggesting a household division of labor in lesbian homes. Chapter 2 considers the possibility that same-sex couples, like many different-sex couples, have one person who specializes in paid work while the other specializes in unpaid work for the household, such as housework and childcare. Chapter 2 presents a study which uses American Time Use Survey Data pooled from 2003-2011 to analyze the time spent in household, care, and paid work for members of different couple types and finds that in same-sex as well as different-sex couple households, some personal characteristics, such as being the lower earner in the household, are correlated with spending more time in household and care work. Chapter 3 offers a study of poverty in same-sex versus different-sex couple households, exploring which characteristics are correlated with poverty for same-sex and different-sex couple households. When controlling for a couple's education level, area of residence, race and ethnicity, age, and household composition, same-sex couples are more likely to be in poverty than their different-sex counterparts.
  • Publication
    Essays on the Rising Demand for Convenience in Meal Provisioning in the United States
    (2013-05-01) Ohler, Tamara
    Household food budgets offer a window on consumers' demand for convenience. During the 1980s and 1990s, three shifts likely promoted an increase in the share of the food budget devoted to convenient meal options, namely meals out and prepared foods: the growing number of hours that women spent in paid work, the growing opportunity cost of women's time spent doing housework, and the drop in the price of food relative to all other goods. I test whether the impact of these economic trends (on food budget allocation) was mediated by a change in the impact of children on household meal allocation. I find support for this hypothesis in a model of food away expenditures, which likely reflects two unmeasured shifts. First, (own) child care and household production of meals apparently became substitutes rather than complements. Second, a range of both prepared foods and family-friendly restaurants became available. The growing demand for time-saving meal options, including frozen food and meals out, has important implications for a core determinant of living standards: the ability to harness scale economies from home production of meals. I test whether greater reliance on convenient meals reduced household-level economies of scale. Other factors could mediate against, or even offset such a loss, including technological advances in the production and distribution of food. Using Engel curve analyses, I find that scale economies fell from 1980 to 2000, thereby reducing living standards; my lower- and upper-bound estimates of the drop are 44 percent and 110 percent respectively. Economies of scale are not simply a function of household size and composition, as standard equivalence scaling techniques suggest; they are affected by the ways that households trade non-market work and market substitutes. This dissertation contributes to the small literature that challenges the validity of fixed-parameter equivalence scales, such as the per capita scale, which ignore household production. I first attach plausible values to scale parameters and then compare equivalent-income trajectories of parents and non-parents across (standard) fixed parameter and (non-standard) time-varying equivalence scales. I present plausible lower- and upper-bound estimates of the rise in income inequality between parents and non-parents.
  • Publication
    Social Emulation, the Evolution of Gender Norms, and Intergenerational Transfers: Three Essays on the Economics of Social Interactions
    (2013-05-01) Oh, Seung-Yun
    In this dissertation, I develop theoretical models and an empirical study of the role of social interactions, the evolution of social norms, and their impact on individual behavior. Although my models are consistent with individual utility maximization, they generally emphasize social factors that channel individual decisions and/or shape individuals' preferences. I apply this approach to three different issues: labor supply, fertility decisions, and intergenerational transfers, generating predictions that are more consistent with observed empirical patterns of behavior than standard neoclassical approaches that assume independent preferences, perfect information, and efficient markets. In the first essay, I explain the long-run evolution of working hours during the 20th century in developed countries: the substantial decline for the first three quarters of the 20th century and the deceleration or even reversal of the fall in working hours in the last quarter. I develop a model of the determination of working hours and how this process is affected by both the conflict between employers and employees and the employees' desire to emulate the consumption standards of the rich reference group. The model also explores the effects of direct and indirect policies to limit hours advocated by political representations of workers such as trade unions or leftist parties. In the second essay, I study the coevolution of gender norms and fertility regimes. Since the 1990s, a new pattern of positive correlation between fertility rates and female labor force participation emerged in developed countries. This recent trend seems inconsistent with conventional economic approaches that explain fertility decline as a result of the increasing opportunity costs of childrearing, predicting a negative correlation between fertility and women's labor force participation. To address this puzzle, I develop a model of the evolution of gender norms and fertility in various economic environments influenced by the level of women's wages. Randomly matched spouses make choices related to fertility - labor supply and the division of household labor - based on their preferences shaped by gender norms. In the model, norm updating is influenced by both within-family payoffs and conformism payoffs from social interactions among the same sex. The model shows how changes in economic environments and the degree of conformism toward norms can alter fertility outcomes. The results suggest that the asymmetric evolution of gender norms between men and women could contribute to very low fertility, explaining the positive correlation between fertility and women's labor force participation. Finally, I estimate the effect of exogenously introduced public pensions for the elderly on the amount of private transfers they receive. There has been a long debate whether public transfers crowd out private transfers. Previous empirical studies on this issue suffer from the endogeneity of income that contaminates estimates. I use an exogenously introduced public transfer, the Basic Old Age Pension in Korea, to test the crowding out hypothesis. A considerable proportion of the elderly population, especially women living without a spouse, do not experience the crowding out effect and moreover, among those who do, the size of the effect is relatively small. The results support the redistribution effect of the Basic Old Age Pension targeting the poor elderly in Korea.