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Title: Essays in Politics, Health, and Development
Authors: Rajani, Ishita
Advisors: Fujiwara, Thomas
Contributors: Economics Department
Subjects: Economics
Public policy
Political science
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In my dissertation, I focus on two goals of development economics: understanding how political incentives distort public policies, and identifying policies that can improve women and children's health. In Chapter 1, I study how political incentives unique to coalition governments affect the allocation of public funds with respect to the election cycle. I show that in countries with coalition governments a national incumbent allocates funds both to woo voters pre-election and to buy legislative support from smaller parties post-election. I show that in India, these two mechanisms give rise to two distinct patterns in the disbursement of funds: the “Buying Votes Cycle” (traditional cycle with a pre-election increase in the release of funds in swing districts for the national parties) and the “Patronage Cycle” (previously undocumented cycle with a post-election increase in the release of funds in safe districts for regional parties). Both distortions are large enough to produce cycles in household consumption. In Chapter 2 (with Nikhil Gupta), I provide an explanation for the conflicting evidence regarding the impact of family planning programs on completed and short-run fertilities. Using a lifecycle model of fertility control choice, I theoretically show that improved contraceptive access can shift births earlier in the lifecycle due to improved control over fertility outcomes, increasing short-run fertility while decreasing completed fertility. I then empirically confirm the predictions of my model using the legalization of injectables in Zambia. My results suggest that access to modern contraceptives is welfare-improving for women, despite having counterintuitive implications for fertility. In Chapter 3 (with Janet Currie), I study the effectiveness of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program in improving birth outcomes. I estimate models with mother fixed effects and directly investigate how time-varying characteristics of mothers affect selection into WIC, overcoming limitations of previous literature. I find that WIC is associated with reductions in both low birth weight and the probability that a child is “small for dates.” I also find that women on WIC are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic conditions, and to receive more intensive medical services, a finding that may reflect improved access to medical care.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Economics

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