This dissertation consists of three empirical essays in development economics. In the first essay, I examine the impact of a health insurance scheme called the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), launched in 2008 in India, on schooling decisions and gender differences in education. At the outset, it is not entirely obvious as to whether health insurance would benefit education or have a detrimental impact. Healthier children could either mean greater future economic returns from schooling or greater value as child labour. More specifically, the questions I seek to answer are twofold: (1) Does access to a health insurance scheme designed for the poor have an impact on school expenditure decisions of households? (2) Does it affect school enrollment of boys and girls within the household? Employing difference-in-differences and triple differences approaches, I find that access to RSBY is beneficial for child education as school expenditure increases by 20 to 28 percent after the treatment. Additionally, I find RSBY to be relatively more advantageous to girls as it reduces the existing gender gap in school enrollment by 1/3rds. From a policy perspective, it is interesting to see that a health insurance scheme has unintended positive consequences not only on household school expenditure but also on parental responses within household in terms of enrollments of boys versus girls. Such responses should ideally be considered when designing policies to remedy any disadvantages among children, since parents can eliminate these effects by aiming at equitable child human capital formation within the family.
In the second essay, I study the impact of India's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MG-NREGA) on the pattern of household consumption behaviour. NREGA, passed in 2005, created the world's largest public works programme under a statutory framework, legally guaranteeing hundred days of employment. Guaranteeing such employment opportunities can directly affect intra-household decisions through a change in total resources but also allocation of resources. Using the phase wise roll-out of NREGA to districts and employing a difference-in-differences approach, I find a shift in discretionary spending towards `wiser' consumption choices like school expenditure and durable goods, away from `wasteful' expenditure like entertainment. These effects are broadly suggestive of an increase in female bargaining power since men and women are seen to have systematically different consumption preferences and spending patterns. I also find the shifts in consumption patterns to be amplified in regions with higher share of women employed through NREGA; in states that guarantee employment at higher minimum wages; and in rice growing regions of India, where females are traditionally more intensively involved in production.
This dissertation also delves into the relationship between human capital formation and socio-economic conditions in developing countries. To this effect, in the third essay, I evaluate the impact of quality of education on violence and crime, using data from Colombia, a country with a long standing history of violence and conflict. Over the long run, successful efforts to improve school quality would imply an extraordinary rate of return, and may be a tool for social mobility and development. I exploit geographic and time variation at the municipality level and use an Instrumental Variable approach to identify this effect. The instruments are based on transfer of funds from the central government to municipalities for investments in education. I find that better education quality, measured by student test scores on a mandatory school-exit examination, has a significant and negative impact on the intensity of crime. A 1 standard deviation increase in test scores leads to a decline of 6.2 standard deviations in property crimes. These effects are perhaps indicative of an 'opportunity cost effect' of education. I also find that better education quality reduces violent crimes as well as presence of illegal armed groups suggesting a 'pacifying effect' of education.
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Ojha, Manini, "Essays in Development Economics" (2018). Economics Theses and Dissertations. 4.
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