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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.
This dissertation presents three essays on Environmental and Development Economics. Chapters 2 and 3 focus on the impact of pollution on non-health-related outcomes, while Chapter 4 investigates the causes and consequences of female empowerment. Chapter 2 examines the impact of air pollution on crime in a highly polluted mega-city. It finds an inverted U-shaped relationship: increased pollution initially increases crime, but beyond a certain point, it decreases criminal activity. The empirical strategy uses highly dimensional fixed-effect models, nonparametric estimations of dose-response functions, and instrumental variables. Additionally, it analyzes social media posts to understand how pollution relates to emotions and mobility decisions, supporting the inverted U-shape. These findings highlight the need for environmental regulations to account for behavioral responses. Chapter 3 examines the impact of lead waste recycling on student academic performance in Mexico. This chapter uses a change in US environmental regulation in 2009 to investigate the causal effect of lead exposure on test scores. The study finds that schools located within four miles of a recycling facility have lower math and language scores compared to schools farther away, precisely after the regulatory change. These results highlight the negative effects of lead recycling on schooling outcomes, particularly in contexts with limited regulatory oversight. Finally, chapter 4 investigates how giving women political and domestic authority can lead to persistent female empowerment and overall welfare improvements. Using post-genocide data from Rwanda, the chapter exploits local gender imbalances that created a power vacuum filled by women as household heads and local politicians. The findings suggest that female-led villages provide more public goods and experience better health, education, wealth, less domestic violence, and more autonomy. Furthermore, these changes are carried on by younger women, indicating a shift in gender norms. In contrast, there are negative or no effects in villages where men remained in power.
In Chapter 1, I study how newspaper closures affect environmental monitoring and enforcementactivities conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. First, I propose a modelof regulatory behaviour where newspapers influence the regulator’s optimal probability of detectingenvironmental violations, by working as vehicles of information dissemination about firms’environmental performance. I then use a difference-in-differences estimator to estimate the impactof newspaper closures on enforcement activities conducted by the Environmental ProtectionAgency. I find that a daily newspaper closure leads to a drop in the number of inspections, detected violations, and enforcement actions that is within a range of 8-22 percentage points of their yearly averages.In Chapter 2, I investigate two mechanisms that are behind the drop in monitoring and enforcement activities following a newspaper closure. First, consistent with the information mechanism I propose in the model presented in Chapter 1, I find evidence that newspapers serve as an informant to the regulator about potential sources of environmental violations, reducing the cost of detecting a violation. Second, I find that newspapers inform regulated facilities about enforcement activities conducted in other facilities within the same state and industry. The second information mechanism enhances compliance spillover effects of EPA activities, improving the effectiveness of regulation enforcement.Chapter 3 uses a longitudinal survey from Indonesia to examine whether the effects of droughtson individual consumption are mitigated by the ability to migrate. By instrumenting between surveymigration with pre-existing migrant networks, we show that one standard deviation drop inannual precipitation in the origin location reduces consumption by 1.82% for non-migrant individuals, but that migrants are actually able to increase consumption. Given a one standard deviation drop in annual precipitation, the ability to migrate leads to an increase of about 13.9% in consumption over the medium run. Migration is a potentially important way to mitigate the costs of being exposed to extreme weather events that are a result of climate change, and these results suggest that removing barriers to migration is a promising strategy for mitigating climate damages.
Using western science as the only worldview when examining complex topics of applied science limits inquiry and understanding. The Indigenous worldview offers an opportunity to renew the way research is done. It opens up new ways for scientists to acquire, comprehend and share knowledge, and helps generate new approaches to solving modern challenges that western science may be ill-equipped to handle on its own. Common approaches to ecological restoration are rooted in colonial concepts of “nature” including native versus non-native dichotomies and constructs of pre-human “naturalness” that disregard the purposeful stewarding and shaping of the lands and waters by Indigenous peoples to meet the needs of human and animal relations. While Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge is increasingly sought in recent years, lack of understanding of its origins, the relational worldview, leaves its full potential unrealized.This thesis follows my journey as an Indigenous invasive species specialist as I set out to answer the following question, "What does the application an Indigenous worldview to ecological restoration tell us about the impacts of invasive species on Indigenous food security and food sovereignty in the context of our changing climate?" Working with Cowichan Tribes’ staff, Elders, and other traditional knowledge holders as co-authors, I gathered oral histories, stories, and perspectives on the related topics of ecology, climate change, history, and food security. These histories and stories, along with relational methods of land observation, revealed an Indigenous ecology that departs from dualistic concepts of species belongingness and Eden-based ecological restoration goals. In response to the stories collected, my co-authors and I formulated new terminology for land healing, and created a new framework to guide land management decision-making reflective of an Indigenous worldview and cultural values; this framework allows us to redefine and reclaim practice that protect food security and sovereignty for generations to come. My journey, and this thesis, demonstrate the power of the Indigenous worldview to illuminate new paths of scientific inquiry and expand our understanding of complex issues.
Environmental regulations targeting producers are in place around much of the world. Yet, there is limited evidence of how firms are affected by these policies. This thesis provides new empirical and theoretical evidence on the effects of environmental regulation on producers.The first two chapters of this thesis explore a trend underway in much of the industrialized world: pollution from manufacturing has been falling despite increased output. In the first chapter, we develop a theoretical model to show the channels through which regulation can contribute to an industry’s “clean-up”. This model highlights the role that fixed costs producers must pay to adopt cleaner production processes play in dictating these channels. We show that if these fixed costs are relatively low, the adoption of cleaner processes will be the primary regulatory channel of an industry’s clean-up. However, if these fixed costs are relatively high, then plant exit and reductions in output from regulated plants will be the primary channels.The second chapter provides the first estimates of the regulatory channels of the manufacturing clean-up. We estimate the share of the Canadian manufacturing clean-up explained by the adoption of cleaner production processes, the reallocation of output across producers, and producer entry and exit. To do this, we examine a major revision to Canadian environmental policy using a novel, confidential dataset containing information on the production decisions and pollution emissions of Canadian manufacturing plants. We find regulation explains, at most, 61% of the Canadian clean-up, but the underlying channels differ strikingly across pollutants.A concern in debates over environmental regulation is a potential loss of international competitiveness among domestic producers. Despite its pervasiveness in policy discussions, evidence of these losses remains scarce. The third chapter of this thesis provides the first plant-level estimates of the effect of air pollution regulation on exporting. We study the effects of the Canada-Wide Standards for Particulate Matter and Ozone on the decision to export and export volumes of Canadian manufacturing facilities. We find evidence that environmental regulation caused relatively low-productivity exporters to leave the export market, and reduced the amount surviving exporters sold abroad.