Essays in Social Policy and Economic Well-Being
This is a dissertation in three parts examining the impact of social policies on the economic well-being of communities in the United States. In particular, I study the consequences of policies such as prison construction, criminal sentencing, and subsidized housing development that disproportionately impact low-income communities. In the first chapter, I examine the spillover effects of rising male incarceration on women's participation in safety net programs designed for families with children. To estimate this causal effect, I instrument for male incarceration rates using variation in the treatment of drug-related offenses across state felony court systems and demographic groups. Results suggest that higher rates of male incarceration lead to fewer women participating in cash welfare. The second chapter revisits the regression discontinuity (RD) estimates used in the literature evaluating the impact of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) subsidized housing construction on neighborhood characteristics. I find that although global cubic RD specifications find a significant estimated effect, these results are highly sensitive to polynomial specification, inclusion of controls, and disappear when estimated nonparametrically. In the third chapter, I examine two changing features of the Texas criminal justice system: prison proliferation and sentencing harshness. In particular, I identify the features of communities chosen as sites for prison construction, finding evidence for prisons being located in whiter, less educated, though wealthier areas. I also find rising sentencing harshness is associated with higher rates of white and female incarceration.
welfare; Public policy; Affordable Housing; Labor Economics; prisons; Incarceration
Blau, Francine D.
Blume, Lawrence Edward; Thomas, Mallika M.
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis