Theses Doctoral

Essays in Public Economics

Singh, Divya

Governments play a key role in modern economies. However, modern-day governments face several challenges that limit their functioning. Some examples include inadequate conduct of elections, tax evasion, and market failures. Each chapter in this thesis explores a key challenge faced by government and policy intervention that helps address it. Chapter 1 explores the poor turnout of women in India and tests whether increasing security at the polling booths increases women's representation. Chapter 2 explores the role of tax evasion by firms in low revenue collection under a Value Added Tax (VAT) in India. Chapter 3 examines the current housing crisis in major cities across the United States and evaluates the effects of tax incentives designed to encourage new residential investment.

To provide robust causal evidence, I use natural experiments combined with novel microdata. Chapter 1 uses a regression discontinuity design arising from the rule used to assign security measures to polling booths during a major state election in India. In particular, polling booths which received more than 75% of votes in favor of one candidate in the previous election received security measures with a higher probability. I use the regression discontinuity design to estimate effects on women's share in total turnout and political outcomes. Chapter 2 uses the staggered roll-out of VAT across states in India to estimate the effect of VAT adoption on vertical integration in firms. Chapter 3 uses a natural experiment in New York City where a delayed implementation of the property tax increase on new construction led to a short-term boom in residential investment as developers rushed to claim expiring tax benefits. I estimate effects on nearby rents, demographics, businesses.

The end result is a set of robust policy conclusions. Chapter 1 finds that strengthening security at the polling booths increased women's turnout, which in turn had consequences for political outcomes. For instance, suggestive evidence indicates that non-incumbent and educated candidates received more votes whereas corrupt candidates received fewer votes. Chapter 2 finds that firms integrated vertically to evade taxes under a Value Added Tax. This suggests that low revenue collection in developing countries is possibly a combination of both evasion and real production response of firms. Chapter 3 finds that new tax-exempt residential investment increased rents in existing buildings within 150 meters. This happened because new building attracted high-income residents who increased demand for local businesses, reflected in the entry of businesses that cater to high-income residents. The result highlights potential negative spillover effects of new construction on incumbent low-income residents and suggests that optimal tax policy must incorporate such spillovers when designing incentives that encourage investment.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Kopczuk, Wojciech
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 13, 2020