Consequences of Poor Housing : Essays on Urban and Health Economics
Abstract: Essay I: Research shows that low fetal doses of radiation from nuclear catastrophes and atmospheric test bombings of nuclear weapons cause cognitive birth defects. These events are uncommon and the radioactive isotopes they create rarely reach harmful levels in nature. The findings would have greater external validity if they could be extrapolated to other more common isotopes and sources of everyday radiation exposure. Two such isotopes are uranium and radon, which exist in various concentrations across the globe. In this paper, I study the in utero impact of indoor radiation from radon gas and uranium rich concrete on cognitive ability. The results show no evidence suggesting that everyday levels of indoor radiation may affect children’s human capital development.Essay II: This paper studies if indoor radiation from uranium and radon is capitalized into housing prices. Using detailed measurements on the level of radiation, I estimate housing price elasticities with respect to radiation among both single-family detached homes and apartments in multi-story buildings. The results for the single-family homes show that both uranium in the bedrock and indoor radon levels are negatively correlated with the housing price. While the estimates for the single-family homes might be biased due to omitted geographical variables that are correlated with the level of radiation, the capitalization of radiation among apartments in multi-story buildings can be estimated using only within-building variation in the level of radiation. I use building-fixed effects to test for the existence of a vertical pollution price component to the vertical rent curve. Radon gas is heavier than average indoor air and higher concentrations are mostly found on lower floors in areas with high uranium concentrations in the bedrock. Theory predicts that apartments on higher floors will be priced higher relative to the first floor in more polluted areas, but I find no empirical support for this hypothesis.Essay III: This paper tests for asymmetric effects of changes in population and hous-ing prices on subjective well-being among homeowners and renters. I first look at some descriptive facts and find that housing is an important determinant of subjective well-being and that residents in suburbs are slightly less happy than both inner city and countryside residents once homeownership and individual characteristics are controlled for. Looking at subjective well-being across cities, I analyze the effect of population growth on happiness and show that homeowners and renters experience asymmetric happiness effects from city growth. This leads me to test the hypothesis that the asymmetric effect is due to differences in wealth from migration-induced increases in housing prices and rents. The findings suggest that unexpected dynamic fluctuations in housing prices and asymmetric wealth effects among homeowners and renters cause spatial differences in subjective well-being that persist over time and space.
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