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Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.
Chapter 1 examines the importance of public education to occupational outcomes and intergenerational mobility. The UK's 1870 Education Act, which introduced a public education system in England and Wales, provides a unique historical context in which to explore this. Using newly digitized historical records and a regression kink design, I find that public school access improved a child's chance of obtaining an occupation requiring literacy in adulthood by as much as 13 pp. To study the reform's effect on intergenerational mobility, I link father-son pairs across time using full-count historical censuses. I find that by targeting the lower classes, public school introduction significantly improved intergenerational mobility, decreasing the adult outcome gap between high- and low- class children by over 10%. Chapter 2 demonstrates how legislation can change the incentives for human capital accumulation in resource-dependant communities, and in doing so help insure against future resource busts. I examine the UK's 1860 Mining Act, which made literacy or schooling a prerequisite for children seeking to work in mines. Using a triple difference specification and full-count census records linked across decades, I find that by decreasing the opportunity cost and increasing the returns to schooling, the Act led to increased human capital acquisition among the children of coal miners. This improved their likelihood of holding human capital-intensive occupations in adulthood, particularly among children residing in parishes that subsequently experienced mining busts. Chapter 3 explores the effects conflict continues to have on labour and marriage markets even after the shooting stops. Using variation in First World War death rates across British communities, I find higher conflict death rates are associated with a fall in poverty, particularly among men, and an increase in employment, particularly among women. Together, these results suggest that while high death rates improved labour market conditions for those left behind, widowed women were likely forced into the labour market to avoid poverty. Finally, I demonstrate that war-induced falls in the sex-ratio led to increases in out-of-wedlock births, confirming previous findings showing that men often utilize marriage market bargaining power to shirk childcare responsibility.
Economic development is characterized by the expansion of interpersonal trade which requires the institutions for contract enforcement. In order to sustain trade at a greater scale, a society needs to develop the formal institutions that can enforce contracts between strangers. Hence, economic development can be characterized by the development of formal institutions. My PhD dissertation seeks to identify factors that cause the transition from the kinship based or informal institutions to the law based or formal institutions. In order to compare the process of transition in a now developed country with that in a developing country, one case study from early modern England and one from colonial India are considered. In the context of early modern England, my thesis identifies such a transition in the credit and the legal institutions. I find that the increase in social heterogeneity in early modern England rendered the informal institutions ineffective and induced people to move to the formal institutions for resolving disputes. Consequently, formal institutions developed following a 'learning by doing' mechanism. I develop a theoretical model that attempts to capture the historical accounts of this process, and generates some testable implications which I test using the archival data from The National Archive, England. The historical evidence is consistent with my model's predictions. The study on early modern England, in my dissertation, is complemented by a study on Nattukottai Chettiars, a major banking caste from South India. In the first quarter of the twentieth century some of the Chettiar Bankers switched from caste based banking to joint stock banking. I analyze this transition using a theoretical model, and provide historical evidence in support of my analysis. A general pattern of transition emerges from the case studies. The informal institutions have advantage in processing information flowing through the community networks. A society moves from the informal to the formal institutions when the informal institutions lose that edge. In the English case, the informal institutions lost the edge because of increasing social heterogeneity while in the Indian case the improvements in communication technology caused the transition.
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