This thesis uses the tools of applied econometrics to study the impact of economic incentives on household welfare and decision-making and health and risk behaviors in the U.S. and in developing countries.
The first chapter studies the impact of increasing access to credit among low-income households in Mexico. Banco Azteca opened 815 branches simultaneously in a popular retail chain store, Grupo Elektra, in October 2002. Although access to credit increased, affected households experience negative or null impacts on consumption expenditures and asset holdings. I argue that this because the bank encourages individual borrowers to use loans for consumption use at Grupo Elektra. This research demonstrates that the package within which the loan is offered is as important as the loan itself.
The second chapter focuses on the impact of job loss to dual-earner married couples on household fertility decisions, drawing upon the recent experience of job loss during the Great Recession. I build two datasets, covering the years 2003-2011 that match job losses due to mass layoff events to fertility rates among married couples at the county-year and state-quarter level. I find that job losses have a negative impact on fertility. However, areas with more dual-earner households experience lesser declines in fertility rates in response to job losses, suggesting that dual-earner households are more likely to substitute toward child-rearing in response to job loss compared to single-earner households.
The third chapter, joint with Lisa Cameron and Manisha Shah, exploits the criminalization of sex work in a district in East Java, Indonesia, and utilizes a unique dataset comprised of the first panel data on female sex workers and the first data on clients to estimate the impact of criminalizing sex work on health and risk behaviors. Criminalization increased STI rates among female sex workers by 58 percent. The main mechanism driving this increase is decreased access to condoms and increased non-condom use during commercial sex transactions. We rule out other mechanisms, such as increased transactions or clients per sex worker. This research presents new evidence that criminalizing sex work can put an already vulnerable population in a more precarious situation.