ESSAYS IN EMPIRICAL MICROECONOMICS ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Nguyen, Quynh T.
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My dissertation consists of two independent empirical microeconomics studies in development economics. Though studying different interventions, they share the same methodology, which estimates the impact of a nationwide policy by contrasting trends over time between areas that are likely to have benefited differently from the policy. In the first essay, I estimate the economic benefits of the introduction of iodized salt in the United States in 1924. Using data from the decennial censuses of the United States and exploiting geographic variation in iodine deficiency before 1924, as proxied by the prevalence of goiter, I find that the introduction of iodized salt led to improvements in schooling among boys and greater income gains among men. No impact is found for females. Many of the estimated benefits are attributable to postnatal exposure to iodized salt, further demonstrating the importance of iodine supplements, which had previously been shown only in utero. The estimated benefits are especially impressive when contrasted with the remarkably low cost of salt iodization. The second essay studies the impact on child schooling and work of the elimination of primary school fees in Uganda in 1997. Using Ugandan Census data and comparing changes in work and schooling between primary-school ages and other ages, as well as between cohorts with different probabilities of exposure to the program, I find that, thanks to the program, areas with previously low enrollment rates saw greater improvements in schooling and larger decreases in child work. This result is not found in a neighboring country, Kenya, nor is it observed among age groups and cohorts too old to benefit from primary-school fee elimination. The results suggest that education and child work are substitutes, although in no way perfectly so.