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Government and Economic Outcomes

Beach, Brian (2015) Government and Economic Outcomes. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Each chapter of this dissertation asks a specific question aimed at furthering our understanding of how a government’s institutional choices and structure affect economic outcomes. I draw on modern and historical data to answer these questions as I have found that historical episodes often provide a unique opportunity to answer questions of modern relevance. This is best illustrated in the first chapter where I argue that America’s 1840s state debt crisis presents a rare opportunity to study the merits of constitutional reform, a question that relates directly to ongoing debates in the Eurozone. Following the default of nine American states and territories in the early 1840s, sixteen states adopted constitutional provisions constraining their ability to borrow. These reforms helped states with tarnished reputations (i.e. defaulting states) re-establish their commitment to debt repayment. Accordingly, defaulting states were rewarded with lower borrowing costs and increased access to credit following the adoption of these reforms. In the second chapter, I study the extent to which ethnic diversity within government affects the provision of public goods. I address this question by constructing a novel dataset linking the ethnicity of California city council candidates to election outcomes and expenditure decisions. I find that higher diversity on the council leads to less spending on public goods (especially in segregated cities) and fewer votes for affected council members when they run for reelection. In the final chapter, I seek to understand how access to clean water affects human capital formation. The adoption of clean water technologies is often cited as the most important public health intervention of the twentieth century for helping eradicate typhoid fever and other waterborne diseases. I study the long-term effects of pure water by collecting annual city-level typhoid data for 75 cities, which are then merged to a unique sample linking individuals between the 1900 and 1940 censuses. Results indicate that the eradication of typhoid fever would have increased earnings in later life by one percent and increased educational attainment by one month. Put another way, the gains in earnings alone were more than sufficient to offset the cost of eradication.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Beach, Brianbrb89@pitt.eduBRB89
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTroesken, Wernertroesken@pitt.eduTROESKEN
Committee MemberWalsh, Randallwalshr@pitt.eduWALSHR
Committee MemberShertzer, Allisonshertzer@pitt.eduSHERTZER
Committee MemberClay,
Date: 16 June 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 April 2015
Approval Date: 16 June 2015
Submission Date: 31 March 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 118
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Economics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: economics, government, economic history
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2015 16:02
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:26


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