Essays in Political Economics and Networks
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This dissertation consists of three essays on political economics and the role of social connections. In Chapter 1, I examine how competitive elections, as measured by margin of victory and fundraising outcomes, affect legislator behavior during the following legislative session. Focusing on the U.S. State legislatures, I use two measures of productivity: the number of new bills a legislator sponsored, and the number of new bills excluding bills copied from other legislatures or model legislation. This allows me to study the extent to which legislators introduce these bills to appear productive while putting in minimal effort. I use an instrumental variable approach and find that legislators who win elections more comfortably introduce fewer copycat bills and more substantive bills. In Chapter 2, my coauthors and I propose a new theory of network formation where agents are not myopic and where their decisions over their social links and behavior are endogenous. Using a new equilibrium concept, we show that our model can be estimated using a modified Approximate Bayesian computation method. We showcase our approach with three distinct empirical examples. The first example focuses on the legislative effectiveness of politicians in the 111th and 112th U.S. Congress. The second example looks at R&D expenditures in the Chemicals And Allied Products industry. The third example, using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) dataset, looks at peer effects on the educational achievement of adolescents. In Chapter 3, I study the extent to which judicial influence depends on the judges' social connections. Guided by a theoretical model that formalizes the role of social connection, I document that social connections are a significant determinant of judge influence. I use the flow of law clerks between judges from 1995-2004 as a measure of social connections, total citations as a proxy for influence, and I address network endogeneity by using novel data on the judges' alumni connections. The results also provide new insights into how social connectedness interacts with judges' demographic characteristics.
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