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Essays in labor economics


This dissertation consists of three unrelated papers in labor economics. The first chapter documents the role of norms, both cultural and religious, in the fertility decisions of second-generation women in the US. Using two cohorts of immigrants (1970 and 2000s), I find that fertility declines among second-generation immigrants in the US are highly correlated with contemporaneous falls in total fertility rates (TFR) in Europe, implying that changes in the origin countries after parental emigration are still mirrored among current immigrants. This cross- country correlation is stronger for women from predominantly Catholic countries, which is consistent with immigrants from Catholic Europe sharing the Church's pro- natalist theology. The second chapter estimates the extent to which factor bias within manufacturing affects productivity growth across countries in the last two decades of the 20th Century. Skill-biased technological change (SBTC) implies that countries with more skilled labor and capital experience higher growth in total factor productivity (TFP), which is the case in both developed and developing countries in the 1980s. Labor-biased technological change is especially strong among the "newly industrializing countries" in the 1990s. These results are consistent with the empirical literature on skill-biased technological change, and may explain why "conditional convergence" of per capita income across countries is so slow. The final chapter examines the violence-reducing effect of development spending in Afghanistan. Using data from three distinct reconstruction programs and military records of insurgent-initiated events, the analysis finds that overall spending has no clear effects on the frequency of rebel attacks. Moreover, the types of development program most effective at reducing violence in Iraq -small CERP projects--does not appear to do so in Afghanistan

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