Three Empirical Essays in Development Economics in India

Debnath, Sisir, Department of Economics, University of Virginia
Friedberg, Leora, Department of Economics, University of Virginia
Sekhri, Sheetal, Department of Economics, University of Virginia
Pepper, John, Department of Economics, University of Virginia
Turner, Sarah, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Department of Economics Doctor of Philosophy by Sisir Debnath This dissertation consists of three chapters on gender issues in India focusing on female health, autonomy, and education. In Chapter 1, "Improving Maternal Health with Incentives to Mothers vs. Health Workers: Evidence from India", I assess the role of incentives on health care utilization using a unique program, which provided cash incentives to pregnant women and to health workers conditional on child delivery at health facilities. I exploit plausibly exogenous differences in eligibility and transfer size by state, income, and caste. I find that the program increased the probability of a delivery at a health facility by 4 percentage points. It also increased utilization of prenatal and postnatal care. The effect of an additional dollar given to a health worker was substantially larger than that of dollar given to a mother. These results suggest that choosing both the agents to incentivize and their incentive amounts are crucial to efficient delivery of health care services. In Chapter 2, "The Impact of Household Structure on Female Autonomy in Developing Countries, I estimate the effect of joint households in India on women's autonomy and labor force participation". In joint households several generations co-reside and share resources. I use the death of the patriarch of the joint household as an instrument for household structure and find that women living in nuclear households are up to 18 percentagepointstohavesubstantivedecisionmakingpowerandare9percentagepoints more likely to participate in labor market. In Chapter 3, "School Subsidies for Girls and the Gender Gap in Enrollment", I evaluate the effect of two programs in India which target gender disparity in education. The programs were implemented in Educationally Backward Blocks, determined by a discontinuous assignment rule. I estimate the effect of these programs using a sharp Regression Discontinuity design and find that the programs increased the probability of enrollment for a girl by 3 percentage points while there was no significant effect for boys. The gains in enrollment were almost twice as high for girls belonging to lower castes.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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