Empirical Essays in Labor and Development Economics

Abstract: This thesis consists of three self-contained empirical essays in labor and development economics.Diverse Expertise, Peer Effects, and Research Productivity: Does diversity in idea space matter? We empirically explore whether the cognitive distance between collaborators affects peer effects and productivity in creating knowledge. We measure the cognitive distance between two researchers based on their publication distributions and citation relations across academic journals in which they have publications. Using individual-level panel data from the Web of Science databases of academic papers published from 1980 to 2013, we estimate the changes in productivity of the coauthors of active and eminent life scientists who passed away unexpectedly and prematurely to examine whether the impacts on coauthors differ with the cognitive distance. The results show that cognitively close coauthors are more likely to experience a lasting decrease in research productivity for both quantity and quality measures, while cognitively distant coauthors are affected mainly in output quantity. The findings suggest that both knowledge spillovers and skill complementarity play a role in collaborations. The loss of an irreplaceable source of ideas seems to have a more adverse impact on a scientist's productivity than the potentially imperfect skill substitution that follows such a loss.Public Health Insurance and the Labor Market: Evidence from China's Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance provides empirical evidence on labor market effects of public health insurance, using evidence from a national public health insurance program in China, the Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance (URBMI), which targeted residents in urban areas, who were not insured by the pre-existing employment-based health insurance. I find that the URBMI did not have a significant average causal effect on employment for the sample as a whole. However, URBMI increased self-employment among workers who used to be employees in the formal sector, indicating a reduction in job lock.  After the program was implemented, employment in the informal sector among women and the lower-educated increased, while labor supply among people with more schooling decreased. The results are consistent with evidence of the labor market impacts of public health insurance on reducing job lock, increasing informality, and affecting labor supply for different sub-populations.Higher Education and Women's Empowerment: Evidence from China's Higher Education Expansion studies the impact of higher education on women’s empowerment, taking advantage of China’s higher education expansion in the late 1990s. Higher education may potentially foster women’s empowerment by reducing gender stereotyping and promoting women in the labor market. I estimate the impacts on educational attainment, attitudes on gender norms, labor market outcomes, and marital matching. The empirical results show that the reform has significantly increased higher educational attainment for women. However, it did not change traditional gender norms and marital matching patterns concerning labor market outcomes. The results may be attributed to the fact that there was no improvement of women’s disadvantaged status in the labor market and households after the expansion. The findings suggest that it is critical to promote gender equality in the labor market and help women to overcome the dilemma between career and family to foster female empowerment.

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