Essays in Applied Microeconomics
This dissertation contains three essays on topics in applied microeconomics. The first essay addresses effective pedagogical tools, and the latter two essays estimate the effects of two distinct tax policies on nutrient consumption. In Chapter 1, we study a novel video-based textbook for intermediate microeconomics. Using a field experiment involving about 400 undergraduates, we estimate the effectiveness of watching videos on exam scores. We find that students experimentally induced to watch more videos perform significantly better on the midterm and final exams. We find no negative spillovers to other courses within the quarter of the experiment, and we find sustained takeup of the videos in the following quarter. In Chapter 2, we study the 1-cent-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax in Cook County, the largest tax (in terms of population affected) of its kind in the United States and the only tax revoked to date. We find that the tax significantly decreases sugar purchases while active and has no lasting effects after the tax is revoked. We find that the tax has the largest sugar-reducing effects for high consumers of regular soda and those who live far from the border of the taxed jurisdiction. We weigh the welfare consequences of the tax by estimating the cost of living increase and find that each gram of sugar reduced cost 3.5 to 6.6 cents. In Chapter 3, I examine the effects of the 2008 Economic Stimulus Act payments on nutrient purchases. I find that households with less than two months of income in savings increase total calories purchased in the month following receipt of the stimulus payment. Interestingly, the composition of the increased calories is not representative of the pre-stimulus nutrient bundle. Households greatly increase sugar purchases and do not increase fiber or protein purchases. I do not find evidence of sustained changes in nutrient purchases.