This dissertation consists of three chapters, which study issues of development within the context of China and India. The first two study the causes and consequences of one of the most important historical events in 20-th century Chinese history, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The third chapter reports findings from a field experiment focused on studying the role of self control in chronic illness management.
In Chapter 1, I investigate the determinants of political violence during the Cultural Revolution in rural China. With its purported goals of tackling inequality and forestalling a ``capitalist restoration,'' the decade of 1966-1976 witnessed widespread violence, much of it directed towards the educated elite. Using a unique county-level dataset on collective killings, coupled with original economic data collected from archives of regional gazetteers, I investigate the reasons why some regions experienced high levels of violence, while others did not. Empirical results show that the extent of violence is positively correlated with male/female gender ratio, as well as agricultural output at the time of conflict, while being negatively correlated with ethnoliguistic fractionalization.
In Chapter 2, I investigate the economic legacies of the Cultural Revolution in rural China. Building on the work from Chapter 1, I study the extent to which this historic event yielded different trajectories of development across regions in China. To address endogeneity concerns, I control for pre-revolution outcomes and exploit transitory shocks to agricultural income during the period of violence as an instrument. Empirical results show that more revolutionary regions were slower to industrialize, had lower levels of education and per-capita output. These effects are large in magnitude, detectable more than thirty years later, and in some cases begin to decline at longer time horizons. Trust-based informal lending appears to have been adversely affected, while the timing of policy reforms does not.
In Chapter 3, we study the issue of self control in the context of chronic illness management. In particular, we construct a simple model of preventive health behavior under present-biased time preferences, and show how beliefs about future time preferences (sophistication, partial naivete, and perfect naivete) affect how agents are predicted to use, under-use or misuse different types of commitment contracts. We propose a type of commitment contract that has the potential to benefit not just sophisticated agents, but also naifs. We conduct a field experiment in northern India, to evaluate the effectiveness of these contracts at increasing the share of patients who actively manage their hypertension by visiting a doctor regularly. Preliminary analysis reveals (i) the commitment contracts have a meaningful impact on preventive care utilization and (ii) that even with commitment contracts preventive health care utilization could still be substantially increased.