THE LITTLE PUSH: ROLE OF INCENTIVES IN DETERMINING HOUSEHOLD BEHAVIOUR IN INDIA
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A substantial proportion of households in India suer from multiple deprivations - low income, poor health, low education levels and poor housing conditions. Additionally, gender biases arising out of cultural norms disadvantage women even more. Programs that transfer cash to households are one way of attempting to break the cycle of poverty and gender bias. In my dissertation I study the impacts of three dierent cash transfer programs in India that specically target the rural poor and attempt to either change behaviours directly or impact education and health as unintended consequences. In my rst chapter, I hypothesize that a crucial determinant of son preference in Indian households is the high future costs of raising girls which arise from cultural traditions such as dowry payments at the time of marriage and impost a huge economic burden on households. I explore the role of future costs in determining son preference through the evaluation of a government program that was implemented in one state in India which gave incentives to couples to give birth to girls. I empirically show that an exogenous change in these future costs can have dramatic positive implications for fertility and sex-selective abortion behavior on the one hand, as well as positively impacting dierential investment allocation within the household on the other. In my second essay, I examine whether provision of free rural health insurance in a developing country enables households to cope with health shocks by examining impacts on labour supply of individual household members. I nd that, while men and women, both are increasingly likely to spend more hours per week on the labour market, the increase in labour supply for women is much steeper. I provide evidence that the program acts through two channels: a reduction in time spent at home for women in caregiving tasks and a reduction in time spent being unable to work due to major morbidities. Finally, in my third chapter, I examine if a public works program in India, that guaranteed employment to rural households, helps ameliorate the impacts of a negative agricultural productivity shock on child health.