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Essays on Early Childhood and Adolescence


Research in economics has established early childhood and adolescence as critical in influencing long-term health and productivity. Policies and interventions aiming to improve the lives of disadvantaged persons may be most effective if targeted at youth. This work contributes to the literature on the evaluation of programs and interventions targeted at youth on health and labor-market outcomes, both in the short and long-term.

Chapter 1 studies the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program to analyze the long-term impacts of targeting resources to disabled children in poverty. I exploit a natural experiment created by the Supreme Court decision Sullivan v. Zebley that eased standards disproportionately for people with mental disorders to study the effects of qualifying for benefits at a younger age. Using confidential data from the Social Security Administration to select a sample of people who had previously been denied benefits, I find that children with mental disorders who were younger when standards changed spend longer on SSI. Their increased benefit receipt leads to reduced cumulative labor market earnings, with the reduction highest for those with the longest exposure to eased standards in childhood.

Chapter 2 uses a randomized controlled trial to study ways to alleviate malnutrition in poor, rural areas of Nepal. We evaluate the effects of an intervention aimed at new mothers that provided both an unconditional cash transfer and information about health and nutrition issues. The program successfully improved maternal knowledge about best practices, led women to implement behavioral changes, and improved child development. Such an intervention makes use of existing social infrastructure, and if scaled up could be a useful tool in combatting childhood malnutrition in Nepal.

Chapter 3 analyzes the impacts of opening the High Line Park on home values in New York City. I implement a difference-in-differences strategy, comparing values over time for properties by distance from the park. Home values of properties within one-third of a mile of the park increased 10% immediately following its opening. I also show that more new businesses opened in the surrounding areas, implying that only measuring property values underestimates the broader effects on the economy.

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