Cover: Three Essays on Economic Growth and Human Welfare

Three Essays on Economic Growth and Human Welfare

Published Oct 11, 2018

by Prodyumna Goutam

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There is increasing recognition of the influence of macroeconomic factors on individual welfare. This represents a shift in the traditional focus of policy analysis, which has largely focused on evaluating the impact of micro level interventions. This dissertation examines this link through three papers.

The first paper examines the impact of export growth in Bangladesh on the health of children. Using information on the production network of industries in the country, coupled with district-level employment characteristics, the analysis constructs a gender disaggregated, district-level measure of export exposure. Using variation in this measure across districts and over time, the study analyzes the impact of female-specific export exposure on the incidence of childhood health ailments like diarrhea, acute respiratory infection, and fever. The results indicate that export exposure causes a reduction in the incidence of childhood illness. In addition, export exposure leads to an increase in autonomous decision-making as it relates to healthcare decisions, presenting a possible mechanism underlying the observed health results.

Informal employment accounts for the majority of employment in many developing countries, yet its relevance to growth, and its links to the formal sector, remain poorly understood. The second paper of the dissertation examines the link between export growth and informality, also in Bangladesh. In particular, it examines the impact of export-induced demand on four types employment: formal, casual, unpaid, and self. The results suggest that trade triggers an immediate increase in both formal and casual employment, as well as a longer-run increase in self employment. Thus, response to growth opportunities such as trade is not limited to formal employment, and a more nuanced understanding of informality in the growth process is needed.

A large literature in economics and epidemiology points to the importance of economic conditions in childhood on health later in life. The final paper of the dissertation analyzes the impact of macroeconomic conditions prevailing around the time of birth (measured using the growth rate of state-wise per capita income) on health in adulthood using the Health and Retirement Study. Health is measured using a variety of biomarker indicators of cardiovascular, metabolic, and inflammation risk. Overall, the analysis finds no impact of economic conditions at birth on health in adulthood.

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in July 2018 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Shanthi Nataraj (Chair), Krishna Kumar, Peter Glick, and Manisha Shah (outside reader).

This publication is part of the RAND dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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