Applied Economics and Management PhD Dissertations

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    Xue, Zhe (2022-05)
    Innovation is essential to firm performance and economic growth. During each stage of the innovation process within firms, there is much valuable information that firms could choose to disclose to the public. This dissertation aims to empirically evaluate what impacts innovation disclosure and construct novel, text-based measures of innovation disclosure using Natural Language Processing techniques. Chapter 1 empirically examines the net impact of patent enforcement by different types of entities on the volume of patent filings disclosed publicly in the affected technology classes. The study finds that patent litigation in the United States reduces disclosed invention activities within the same technology class and that litigation by Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) leads to a significantly larger reduction than litigation by product companies. The negative impact of PAEs is primarily driven by large patent aggregators, especially after the America Invents Act of 2012. Chapter 2 builds on the previous chapter and empirically examines how patent litigation impacts the direction of invention disclosure strategies at the firm level. Specifically, firms experiencing a competitive threat in the patent market might strategically disclose less similar patents. This study suggests that firms systematically increase differentiation (reduce similarity) both compared to the primary litigated patent and their own earlier patents. However, PAEs may have a weaker effect than product companies. The results imply that product market peers are more relevant than PAEs in determining firms' invention strategies. Chapter 3 constructs a conceptual framework to describe the decision-making process behind innovation disclosure and empirically examines the factors that impact the corporate innovation disclosure strategy in financial documents of publicly listed firms. This study finds that firms would like to disclose more innovation information directly to the shareholders to expand access to external financing or to drive the direction of innovation in the technology field and encourage other market players to imitate their innovation outcomes. Firms are more likely to disclose less innovation information to hide the adverse information or to avoid the costs of revealing proprietary information to competitors in a highly competitive market unless the cost is low.
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    Essays on Environmental and Urban Economics
    Rao, Deyu (2022-05)
    The thesis consists of three independent chapters on environmental and urban economics. A central theme explored in this thesis is individuals' responses to environmental challenges.The first chapter, "The Healthcare Cost of Air Pollution: Evidence from the World's Largest Payment Network", provides the first nationwide analysis of the healthcare cost of PM2.5 using the universe of credit- and debit-card transactions in China during 2013-2015. The second chapter, "Improved Transportation Networks Facilitate Adaptation to Pollution and Temperature Extremes", compiles daily travel flows based on transaction records from the world’s largest payment network and documents that China's rapid expansion of high-speed railways (HSR) facilitates the use of intercity travel as an effective adaptation strategy. In the third chapter, "The Role of Environmental Amenities in the Urban Economy: Evidence From a Spatial General Equilibrium Approach", I develop and estimate a spatial general equilibrium model to examine how environmental amenities affect the spatial distribution of urban economic activities and their welfare consequences.
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    Essays on Information Technology Adoption among Commercial Firms
    Chen, Ruyu (2021-12)
    The diffusion of information technologies (IT) in the business sector has the potential to transform industries and affect the performance of firms. My dissertation explores factors that influence business process innovation in IT, and analyze the implications of the use of IT for inventive activities. Chapter 1 provides a research overview. Chapter 2 investigates how worker mobility influences the adoption of a new general-purpose technology (GPT) that requires significant complementary investments. I use the state-level changes to the enforceability of noncompete agreements as a plausible exogenous shock to labor mobility, and observe the adoption of machine learning (ML) from over 153,000 establishments between 2010 and 2018; the results suggest that changes that facilitate worker movements are associated with a significant decline in the likelihood of the adoption of ML. Moreover, the magnitude of establishment response depends upon establishment size, number of large establishments in the same industry-location, and the level of experimentation with analytics technology. Chapter 3 examines how the Internet affects the likelihood that firms cite scientific publications in their patent inventions. I compiled a dataset that contains 541,568 patent citations to scientific papers from 3,651 public firm locations (firm sites in a given metropolitan statistical area) between 1992 and 2000, and identified the staggered adoption of basic Internet at these firms. I show that the Internet enables firms to discover “hidden gems”– commercializable yet under-recognized scientific findings published by early-career scientists, and/or in less prestigious journals, with fewer forward academic citations but with more forward patent citations.
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    Emerging Questions in Agricultural Finance
    Yang, Youwei (2021-08)
    Observing a fast-evolving world economy and agricultural financial system, this dissertation studies three emerging questions in agricultural finance: agricultural financial technology (FinTech), blockchain and cryptocurrencies; persistence and growth of religious farming communities that limit use of technology in the U.S.; and livestock insurance willingness to offer in China. These emerging questions and developments fit closely into the top priority of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI), and the vital tools recognized to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. These emerging agricultural finance strategies are crucial to improve agricultural value chain, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth, especially for rural areas with intensive agricultural activities. These topics are sparsely studied empirically due to limited data, evolving policies, and rapidly changing technologies. In this thesis I take the initiative to understand these both qualitatively and quantitatively. The first chapter discusses the overall importance of these emerging areas of agricultural finance strategies to support the development of the agricultural economy. We provide background domain knowledge on Agricultural FinTech with an emphasis to blockchain and cryptocurrencies, elaborating the applications of blockchain in food and agriculture value chain and supply chain, that improves the transparency and efficiency of tracing and trading. Understanding the relationship between blockchain and cryptocurrencies is crucial to applications of this technology in agriculture, thus we relay quantitative research to the more practically operated cryptocurrencies to understand its market property. Chapter 2 examines the financial property of 3,351 cryptocurrency price series, particularly looking at the long or short memory within its price series and evaluate if they follow a fractional Brownian motion through Hurst estimators and Stepwise autoregression. We investigate the releasing mechanism of Bitcoin and use top 105 coins’ supply structure to explain the memory in their price series, for which we find the % of total coins issued is explanatory. Due to concerns of supply related built-in memory within the price series, we propose a de-mean method to decompose the price series with the time varying mean and the variations, and we found that some previously found long memory was actually spurious. The gradually increasing (time-varying) mean can explain this spuriousness, and we use the market structure such as the 4-year bull circle and the deflationary releasing mechanism to explain this time-varying phenomenon. The findings of this chapter confirm the fractionality of crypto markets generally, and provide clarity of true or spurious long memory using both traditional and advanced methods. This enhances our understanding of these emerging financial assets that could potentially be applied to agricultural value chains. One possibility is a blockchain token system that is linked to warehouse receipts and enables the holding and trading of grains electronically. The third chapter looks at Amish population growth and how that could affect farmland prices. The Amish culture promotes strong family ties and human-nature interactions; thus, they generally use less modern agricultural production technology. We conceptualize the co-existence of different farming styles between Amish farmers and conventional farmers, to explain how the less productive Amish farmers can stay competitive. The main rationale is that the effectively cheaper labor costs of Amish due to their larger families can compensate the disadvantage from less output due to their limited use of farming technologies. Simply speaking, Amish may have lower revenue, though their costs are low as well, so they could maintain the similar level of profits to their non-Amish neighbors. Because farmland is the most important farm asset class, we hypothesize that any differences in profitability of farming systems would be reflected in farmland prices and analyze whether farmland prices are influenced by Amish population growth. We use a standard hedonic approach and unique shift-share like instrumental variable in this empirical model and find no statistically significant relationship between Amish population growth and farmland prices. Therefore, we infer that Amish compete on the farmland markets similar as the conventional farmers, which aligns with our conceptual framework scenario of similar profitability. This chapter does not only offer insights into the coexistence of multiple farming systems in one market, represented in the farmland market; but also, methodologically showcases how an identification strategy from the labor literature can be applied to agriculture finance issues. The fourth chapter presents our work in investigating agricultural insurance agents’ willingness to offer (WTO) livestock insurance in China, through an in-the-field discrete choice experiment (DCE). We include eight main attributes of livestock insurance and contain various combinations of different levels of them on the choice cards. We implemented the analysis in 6 blocks, with 35 insurance agents in each block. We ask each of them to respond to 15 cards, on each card choose from one of the two hypothetically designed livestock insurance. The card choice combinations of various attributes and levels are designed using JMP software through a D-optimal approach, which use limited sets of choices to maximize the choice exposures to participants and reveal their utility changes when they decide the trade-offs between two choices on the cards based on the different attribute levels included. Premium subsidy and insurance types are two out of eight attributes we primarily study and also find strong clear evidence on. We find that a one level (10%) increase of subsidy lead agents’ probability to offer be 3.166 times higher. We also find the more traditional type, mortality insurance, is still strongly preferred than the newer introduced insurance, with weather-based index insurance being the least preferred, because of farmers’ difficulty in understanding and conflicts when basis risk occurs. Through using survey question to generate interaction term model, we also find knowledge to the newer type of the insurance products improves the WTO on that particular insurance type. This chapter is among the very first to study the supply side of agriculture insurance, and the DCE method we use is a recently popularized method in evaluating insurance products and participants preferences with designs of attributes variations. Our research provides important policy implications as the government and insurance companies work out the details in enlarging the take-up of insurance via interventions of subsidy, education, and innovative /diverse product offering.
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    Information Ownership, Valuation, and Exploitation in Digital Markets
    Wu, Joy (2021-08)
    This dissertation consists of empirical works examining individuals' information-sharing behavior, especially when that information is potentially valuable to the individuals' information recipient(s). I explore how rights assignments can influence one's perception of the value of an information commodity, such as an algorithm that can be exploited for profits. I also examine individuals' personal data-sharing behavior, and whether it is motivated the ability by of others to privately benefit in the usage of one's personal data. Finally, I also explore how stated beliefs about information-sharing---including its access and usage by others---compares to actual privacy-seeking behavior.
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    Si, Shuyang (2021-08)
    This dissertation consists of empirical analyses of three important issues related to food and energy economics and policy in China. The first issue – food safety – is a major global public health issue. In Food Safety and Restaurant Food (Chapter 1), we analyze the effects of a media and policy event regarding food safety on the supply and demand for restaurant food. The food safety-related event we examine is a media and policy event regarding the discovery by China’s customs of “Zombie meat” – meat that has been frozen for decades and is therefore beyond its expiration date – being smuggled into China in June 2015. We apply a regression discontinuity approach to a unique daily spatially-disaggregated order-level restaurant dataset of 1.6 million dining orders of 1,215 different dishes placed in 58 restaurants across multiple cities in China. Results suggest that customers who ordered meat dishes following the Zombie meat event tended to order more expensive meat dishes, perhaps because they viewed these more expensive dishes as having higher quality and more fresh meat. We supplement our analysis with an empirical model of consumer demand, and similarly find that after the Zombie meat event, consumers in Beijing and Tianjin were more likely to buy more expensive pork dishes. Our results suggest that a possible means by which restaurants can weather food safety crises is to offer high quality dishes and to establish and maintain a reputation for quality.The second important issue is the effect of environmental policies on productivity and profits. Critics of environmental policies often claim that such policies decrease productivity and profits. The effects of environmental policies on productivity, GDP, output, and profits is in part an empirical question, however, and may vary by firm, industry, sector, and type of policy. The Effects of Environmental Policies in China on GDP, Output, and Profits (Chapter 2) examines the effects of environmental policies in China on GDP, industrial output, and new energy sector profits using province-level panel data over the period 2002 to 2013. Our econometric method employs instruments to address the potential endogeneity of the policies. We find that policies involving financial incentives or monetary awards have the potential of increasing the output and/or profits in some energy-related industries or sectors, but potentially at the cost of GDP in non-energy industries or sectors. In contrast, command and control policies and non-monetary awards appear to decrease GDP, output, and/or profits. The third important issue is the effect of energy-related policies on energy consumption. The effects of energy-related policies on energy consumption in China (Chapter 3) examines the effects of different types of energy-related policies on different types of energy consumption in China. We collect and construct a novel, comprehensive, and detailed data set on province-level energy-related policies that includes specific types of energy-related command and control policies; financial incentives; awards; intellectual property rights; and education and information policies. Our econometric method employs instruments to address the potential endogeneity of the policies. According to our results, some types of energy-related policies have been effective in reducing energy consumption. However, many other policies have the possibly unintended or even perverse consequence of increasing rather than decreasing energy consumption. Our results on the mixed effectiveness of energy-related policies in China in reducing energy consumption have important implications for the design of energy-related policies in China and elsewhere.
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    Essays on Public Finance and Development
    Abbas, Ali (2021-08)
    This dissertation studies fiscal policy, specifically the efficiency and electoral constraints on tax policy, and the measurement of public sector health to increase the effectiveness of government spending. Chapter 1 studies high-income taxpayer responses through the tax base channel to changes in marginal income tax rates in the United States. Prior research that has used bunching methods to estimate the taxable income response of high earners has presented no evidence of bunching at the top kink in the regular, federal income tax schedule. I argue that at the federal level, a combination of the regular and Alternative Minimum Tax schedules identifies the actual tax-related incentives that apply to high earners. I use annual income tax codes and publicly available samples of Internal Revenue Service individual income tax return data from 1993-2011 to characterize the combined schedule for each taxpayer. I discover previously undetected bunching at the top kink in this schedule and use it to estimate the elasticity of taxable income with respect to the net-of-tax rate for high earners to be between 0.15 to 0.28. This implies an upper bound on the efficiency cost of income taxation of 45 cents to a dollar, and a lower bound on the optimal top marginal tax rate of 70 percent, suggesting an optimal rate that is higher than prevailing top rates. I also mitigate an emerging endogeneity concern with bunching estimators that use kink points fixed in taxable income. By using effective top kinks that vary across taxable income for each taxpayer, I separate variation in marginal tax rates from variation in taxable income, making my bunching estimates more methodologically robust than earlier estimates. Chapter 2 estimates the impact of tax reforms on citizens’ voting behavior. We examine the effect of changing income tax burdens on voting behavior in presidential and House elections across the United States. To do so, we use a novel simulated instrumental variable approach in conjunction with survey, administrative, and voting data for the years 2010 to 2020 to isolate changes in tax burdens that arise purely due to variation in tax policy from changes caused by demographic shifts. We estimate that an increase in tax burdens by about half a standard deviation increases the vote share for the Republican party by one to six percentage points. This relationship is strongest, both statistically and in terms of magnitude, for presidential elections. For House elections, we find suggestive, but not definitive evidence that this relationship holds. Our analysis shows that contrary to popular belief, taxpayers continue to vote in their economic self-interest. In Chapter 3, I develop a tool for measuring the multidimensional performance of the public sector in the spirit of multidimensional measures of poverty. The framework allows fiscally constrained policymakers to measure a sector’s resource base, assess it over time, and optimize spending. The measure's decompositional properties provide for easy identification of the sources of deprivation along various dimensions and across subgroups, such as geographical areas and subsectors. In an application to the public education sector in Sindh province, Pakistan, I show that 27 percent of public schools are multidimensionally deprived and the weakest dimensions are physical infrastructure and facilities. Single-sex, rural schools, where instruction is in the native Sindhi language contribute the most to the overall measurement of sectoral weakness.
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    Essays on Environmental Challenges and Regulations in China
    Yang, Lin (2021-05)
    As one of the most rapidly growing economies, China has been experiencing pressing environmental and urban challenges due to a dramatic increase in fossil fuel consumption, and a lack of stringent and well-enforced environmental regulations. To address problems such as air pollution, traffic congestion, and weak enforcement, China has issued extensive environmental and transportation regulations. My dissertation aims to empirically estimate the causal effects of environmental policies and public infrastructures on environmental outcomes. The dissertation is comprised of three chapters. Chapter 1, joint with Shanjun Li, Yanyan Liu, and Avralt Od-Purejav, estimates the impact of subway expansions on air quality by leveraging fine-scale air quality data and the rapid build-out of 14 new subway lines in Beijing from 2008 to 2016. Chapter 2 is a review article, joint with Shanjun Li, Jianwei Xing, and Fan Zhang, which reviews findings in the recent literature on the impacts of a host of urban transportation policies used in developed- and developing-country settings. Finally, Chapter 3 studies the role of accurate measurements in effective regulations. Using high-resolution satellite-based pollution measures, this chapter examines local governments' strategic pollution control behavior and its implications on dynamic representativeness based on the staggered roll-out of the air pollution monitoring system in China.
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    Three Essays on Economic Issues Confronting the Fresh Produce Sector
    Yeh, Dourong Adeline (2021-05)
    This dissertation consists of three chapters investigating economic issues confronting the fresh produce sector in the U.S., focusing on alternative production practices and technologies that have sustainability implications for the sector. The first chapter investigates the signaling effects of genetically modified (GM) related food labels on consumer demand for other competing fresh produce in the market. Using a choice experiment with over 1,300 subjects, results show significant impacts from GM labels on demands for conventional unlabeled products. The second and third chapters assess pre- and post-harvest pest controls to manage spotted wing drosophila (SWD) for the lowbush blueberry production in Maine and highbush blueberry production in North Carolina, respectively. Specifically, the second chapter develops a novel dynamic bioeconomic analytical framework to assess the optimal pre-harvest pest control and incorporates structural econometrics to estimate growers’ perceptions. Results suggest that it is optimal to include early harvest, the focal sustainable pest control alternative, as part of the pest management. The third chapter focuses on a post-harvest pest control strategy consisting of putting blueberries in cold storage after harvest to minimize the risk of SWD infestation. The study proposes a game theory framework to model the strategic behaviors that affect a grower’s decision of using post-harvest cold storage and a buyer’s decision of testing fruit infestation. The analysis highlights that incorporating post-harvest cooling is optimal under Nash equilibrium. This dissertation contributes to the food and agricultural economics literature and provides empirical contributions to stakeholders on pressing issues facing fresh produce value chains today.
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    Essays on Carbon and Water Pricing
    Soares Cardoso, Diego (2021-05)
    This dissertation consists of three chapters that are tied together by their study of pricing mechanisms in the context of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. The first chapter investigates the efficient pricing of carbon emissions under two non-environmental market distortions: market power and distortionary taxes. Also concerning carbon emissions, the second chapter examines how optimal carbon prices change in response to uncertainty about climate tipping consequences. Lastly, the third chapter switches the focus from efficiency to equity; it provides a quantification of water affordability concerns in the United States and studies policy options to alleviate the burden of unaffordable water services on low-income households.