Essays in growth and development

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The dissertation consists of three essays that deal with variations in economic growth and development across space and time. The essays in particular explore the importance of differences in occupational

The dissertation consists of three essays that deal with variations in economic growth and development across space and time. The essays in particular explore the importance of differences in occupational structures in various settings.

The first chapter documents that intergenerational occupational persistence is significantly higher in poor countries even after controlling for cross-country differences in occupational structures. Based on this empirical fact, I posit that high occupational persistence in poor countries is symptomatic of underlying talent misallocation. Constraints on education financing force sons to choose fathers' occupations over the occupations of their comparative advantage. A version of Roy (1951) model of occupational choice is developed to quantify the impact of occupational misallocation on aggregate productivity. I find that output per worker reduces to a third of the benchmark US economy for the country with the highest level of occupational persistence.

In the second chapter, I use occupational prestige as a proxy of social status to estimate intergenerational occupational mobility for 50 countries spanning the breadth of world's income distribution for both sons and daughters. I find that although relative mobility varies significantly across countries, the correlation between relative mobility and GDP per capita is only mildly positive for sons and is close to zero for daughters. I also consider two measures of absolute mobility: the propensity to move across quartiles and the propensity to move relative to father's occupational prestige. Similar to relative mobility, the first measure of absolute mobility is uncorrelated with GDP per capita. The second measure, however, is positively correlated with GDP per capita with correlations being significantly higher for sons compared to daughters.

The third chapter analyses to what extent the growth in productivity witnessed by India during 1983--2004 can be explained by a better allocation of workers across occupations. I first document that the propensity to work in high-skilled occupations relative to high-caste men increased manifold for high-caste women, low-caste men and low-caste women during this period. Given that innate talent in these occupations is likely to be independent across groups, the chapter argues that the occupational distribution in the 1980s represented talent misallocation in which workers from many groups faced significant barriers to practice an occupation of their comparative advantage. I find that these barriers can explain 15--21\% of the observed growth in output per worker during the period from 1983--2004.