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The Methodology of Economics: How Economists Choose Between Theories

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I began this thesis because I was confused about economics. I wondered why there were so many different models. I didn't understand how they fit together. I was also confused by the assumptions being made. For instance, the assumption that

I began this thesis because I was confused about economics. I wondered why there were so many different models. I didn't understand how they fit together. I was also confused by the assumptions being made. For instance, the assumption that humans are rational utility-maximizers did not seem to agree with my own experiences. With my director Dr. Edward Schlee's help, my thesis has become an inquiry into the state of economic methodology, both in theory and in practice. The questions that drive this paper are: How do economists choose between theories? What is the purpose of economic theory? What is the role of empirical data in assessing models? What role do assumptions play in theory evaluation, and should assumptions make sense? Part I: Methodology is the theoretical portion of the paper. I summarize the essential arguments of the two main schools of thought in economic methodology, and argue for an updated methodology. In Part II: A case study: The expected utility hypothesis, I examine methodology in practice by assessing a handful of studies that seek to test the expected utility hypothesis. Interestingly, I find that there is a different between what economists say they are doing, and what they actually seem to be doing. Throughout this paper, I restrict my analysis to microeconomic theory, simply because this is the area with which I am more familiar. I intend this paper to be a guide for my fellow students and rising economists, as well as for already practicing economists. I hope it helps the reader better understand methodology and improve her own practice.

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2013-05

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The Future of Bitcoin

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Alternative currencies have a long and varied history, in which Bitcoin is the latest chapter. The pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin as an implementation of the concept of a cryptocurrency, or a decentralized currency based on the principles of cryptography.

Alternative currencies have a long and varied history, in which Bitcoin is the latest chapter. The pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin as an implementation of the concept of a cryptocurrency, or a decentralized currency based on the principles of cryptography. Since its creation in 2008, Bitcoin has had a fairly tumultuous existence that limited its adoption. Wide price fluctuations occurred as the appeal of free money by running a piece of computer software drove people to purchase expensive hardware, and high-profile scandals cast Bitcoin as an unstable currency well-suited primarily for purchasing illicit materials. Consumer confidence in the currency was extremely low, and businesses were extremely hesitant to accept a currency that could easily lose half (or more) of its value overnight. However, recent years have seen the currency begin to stabilize as businesses and mainstream investors have begun to accept and support it. Alternative cryptocurrencies, titled "altcoins," have also been created to fill market niches that Bitcoin was not addressing. Governmental intervention, a concern of many following the currency, has been surprisingly restrained and has actually contributed to its stability. The future of Bitcoin looks very bright as it carries the dream of the alternative currency forward into the 21st century.

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2016-05

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EFFECT OF AGE OF ARRIVAL ON REFUGEE PERFORMANCE: EARLY ADOLESCENSE THROUGH EARLY ADULTHOOD

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Are there measurable differences between the human capital of the refugee children born inside and outside of the United States? If so, does the amount of time spent abroad before immigrating matter, and can we get an idea of what

Are there measurable differences between the human capital of the refugee children born inside and outside of the United States? If so, does the amount of time spent abroad before immigrating matter, and can we get an idea of what happens to this gap over time? Looking at the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS) 1991-2006, I examine standardized test scores and other indicators of performance of young Indochinese refugees and immigrants. This study finds evidence for a negative correlation between being born abroad and performance in selected metrics at the time of early adolescence. This is extended into a negative relationship between the lengths of time abroad before coming to the United States (age of arrival) and those same metrics. However, this study finds signs that this gap in human capital is at least partly bridged by the time of early adulthood. It remains unclear though, whether this possible catch up is reflected in other early adult outcomes such as household income.

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2016-05

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Let Them Eat Cake: Marginal Effects of the El Niño Southern Oscillation on Intra-State Conflict

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There is growing public concern about the implications of climate change for natural processes, such as the melting of ice at the poles, but less clear are the implications for food production. Famine and conflict have a long and complicated

There is growing public concern about the implications of climate change for natural processes, such as the melting of ice at the poles, but less clear are the implications for food production. Famine and conflict have a long and complicated history, made increasingly complicated by the intricate global food system. In this paper, I explore the effect of increasingly severe El Niño Southern Oscillation cycles on conflict in an effort to determine how abnormal climate patterns affect food security and, indirectly, conflict. I use a non-linear probit model to analyze the relationship between several binary conflict variables and food supply.

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2016-12

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Effect of a Local Labor Demand Shock on Postsecondary Education Enrollment

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A growing number of jobs in the US require a college degree or technical education, and the wage difference between jobs requiring a high school diploma and a college education has increased to over $17,000 per year. Enrollment levels in

A growing number of jobs in the US require a college degree or technical education, and the wage difference between jobs requiring a high school diploma and a college education has increased to over $17,000 per year. Enrollment levels in postsecondary education have been rising for at least the past decade, and this paper attempts to tease out how much of the increasing enrollment is due to changes in the demand by companies for workers. A Bartik Instrument, which is a measure of local area labor demand, for each county in the US was constructed from 2007 to 2014, and using multivariate linear regression the effect of changing labor demand on local postsecondary education enrollment rates was examined. A small positive effect was found, but the effect size in relation to the total change in enrollment levels was diminutive. From the start to the end of the recession (2007 to 2010), Bartik Instrument calculated unemployment increased from 5.3% nationally to 8.2%. This level of labor demand contraction would lead to a 0.42% increase in enrollment between 2008 and 2011. The true enrollment increase over this period was 7.6%, so the model calculated 5.5% of the enrollment increase was based on the changes in labor demand.

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2016-05

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A Comparative Case Study on the Economic Disruption of Earthquakes: A Look into New Zealand, Haiti, and Guatemala

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The January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake, which hit Port-au-Prince in the late afternoon, was the cause of over 220,000 deaths and $8 billion in damages \u2014 roughly 120% of national GDP at the time. A Mw 7.5 earthquake struck rural

The January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake, which hit Port-au-Prince in the late afternoon, was the cause of over 220,000 deaths and $8 billion in damages \u2014 roughly 120% of national GDP at the time. A Mw 7.5 earthquake struck rural Guatemala in the early morning in 1976 and caused 23,000-25,000 deaths, three times as many injuries, and roughly $1.1 billion in damages, which accounted for approximately 30% of Guatemala's GDP. The earthquake which hit just outside of Christchurch, New Zealand early in the morning on September 4, 2010 had a magnitude of 7.1 and caused just two injuries, no deaths, and roughly 7.2 billion USD in damages (5% of GDP). These three earthquakes, all with magnitudes over 7 on the Richter scale, caused extremely varied amounts of economic damage for these three countries. This thesis aims to identify a possible explanation as to why this was the case and suggest ways in which to improve disaster risk management going forward.

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2016-05

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Schooling choice during structural transformation

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This dissertation consists of two essays. The first measures the degree to which schooling accounts for differences in industry value added per worker. Using a sample of 107 economies and seven industries, the paper considers the patterns in the education

This dissertation consists of two essays. The first measures the degree to which schooling accounts for differences in industry value added per worker. Using a sample of 107 economies and seven industries, the paper considers the patterns in the education levels of various industries and their relative value added per worker. Agriculture has notably less schooling and is less productive than other sectors, while a group of services including financial services, education and health care has higher rates of schooling and higher value added per worker. The essay finds that in the case of these specific industries education is important in explaining sector differences, and the role of education all other industries are less defined. The second essay provides theory to investigate the relationship between agriculture and schooling. During structural transformation, workers shift from the agriculture sector with relatively low schooling to other sectors which have more schooling. This essay explores to what extent changes in the costs of acquiring schooling drive structural transformation using a multi-sector growth model which includes a schooling choice. The model is disciplined using cross country data on sector of employment and schooling constructed from the IPUM International census collection. Counterfactual exercises are used to determine how much structural transformation is accounted for by changes in the cost of acquiring schooling. These changes account for small shares of structural transformation in all economies with a median near zero.

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2011

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Essays in international economics and development

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This dissertation consists of three essays that broadly deal with the international economics and development. The first chapter provides empirical evidence of the prevalence and importance of intangible capital transfer within multinational corporations (MNCs). Using a unique data set of

This dissertation consists of three essays that broadly deal with the international economics and development. The first chapter provides empirical evidence of the prevalence and importance of intangible capital transfer within multinational corporations (MNCs). Using a unique data set of Korean multinational foreign affiliates, I find that most of the foreign affiliates have managers transferred from their parent, while almost half are isolated from the parent in terms of physical trade. Furthermore, the transferred managers are positively associated with labor productivity, while physical trade from the parent is less so. I consider two possibilities for this productivity effect: (1) the managers transferred from the parent are simply more efficient than native managers; and (2) they provide knowledge that increases the productivity of all inputs. I find that the latter is consistent with the data. My findings provide evidence that transferring managers from the parent is a main source of benefit from foreign direct investment (FDI) to foreign affiliates because the managers transfer firm-specific knowledge. The second chapter analyzes importance role of service or other sectors for economic growth of manufacturing. Productivity in agriculture or services has long been understood as playing an important role in the growth of manufacturing. In this paper we provide an endogenous growth model in which manufacturing growth is stimulated by the non-manufacturing sector that provides goods used for both research and final consumption. The model permits to evaluatation of two policy options for stimulating manufacturing growth: (1) a country imports more non-manufacturing goods from a foreign country with a higher productivity; or (2) the country increases productivity of domestic non-manufacturing. We find that both policies increase welfare of the economy, but depending on the policy the manufacturing sector responses differently. Specifically, employment and value added in manufacturing rise with policy (1), but contract with policy (2). Therefore, specialization through importing non-manufacturing goods explains how some Asian economies experience fast growth in the manufacturing sector without progress in the other sectors. The third chapter tests for the importance of composition effects in affecting levels and changes of education wage premiums. In this paper I revisit composition effects in the context of Korea. Korea's large and rapid expansion of education makes it an ideal place to look for composition effects. A large, policy-induced increase in attainment in the 1980s offers additional scope for identifying composition effects. I find strong evidence that the policy-induced expansion of education lowered education wage premiums for the affected cohorts, but only weak evidence that the trend expansion of education lowered education wage premiums.

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2014

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Microfinance: Poverty Alleviation Across Cultures

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Microfinance is a term that refers to providing basic financial services to the poor; it has become a powerful tool for poverty alleviation. The idea is a relatively new one - modern microfinance began through experiments in the 1970's -

Microfinance is a term that refers to providing basic financial services to the poor; it has become a powerful tool for poverty alleviation. The idea is a relatively new one - modern microfinance began through experiments in the 1970's - but it has grown quickly and currently serves over 155 million clients worldwide. There are many studies that provide evidence of the positive impact of microfinance and the movement has an array of enthusiastic proponents. It is certainly not the only solution in the battle against poverty, however, and there are also studies that question the true depth of its impact. In looking at microfinance around the globe, one thing becomes clear: although it is an international phenomenon, microfinance has definitely found more success in some regions over others.

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2012-12

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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 structures in various settings.

The first chapter documents that intergenerational 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.

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2015