Economics of Society: Essays on Health, Marriage and Child Adoption
Williams III, Roberton C.
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The underlying theme of my research has been throwing light on issues of society where individual interest and the larger collective bargain are divergent. Primarily I have used the economic approach to examine social issues such as child adoption, pre-marital and marriage choices, and traditional norms of sanitation. I have chosen issues where my intuition suggested a dissonance between what people are individually motivated to do and what they might like to accomplish together. In my work I have developed simple economic models, and if the context necessitates, I borrow insights from related disciplines, primarily psychology and sociology. In enriching structure, the goal is to illuminate or establish the links between individual motivation and aggregate outcomes. For instance, in my work on child adoption, I show that the increasing trend of international adoptions in the United States has substituted for large number of adoptions from domestic foster care, leading to unintended societal outcomes: prolonged stay in foster care resulting in higher school dropouts, drug use, teen motherhood and juvenile delinquency. In the second chapter examining the implications of communicable disease testing laws, I posit that uncertainty about future marriage partners' health status may reduce incentives for disease prevention efforts prior to marriage, resulting in higher rates of disease transmission, like HIV. In another paper, ensuing from a model of reciprocal externalities, I show that free riding results in dirty neighborhood drains, aggravating the health externalities due to open defecation in developing countries.