Theses Doctoral

Essays in Development Economics with a Focus on Gender, Health, and the Environment

Kumar, Utkarsh

This thesis comprises three chapters on topics in development economics. The first chapter studies access to maternal healthcare in markets with vertically differentiated public and private providers. The second chapter studies the efficacy of induction stoves in reducing indoor air pollution in rural households when faced with erratic power supply. Finally, the third chapter studies the role of financial incentives in correcting disparities in sex ratios. All three chapters study the context of India but are representative of important development issues in low-income countries.

The first chapter titled "Equilibrium Effects of Subsidizing Public Services" studies one of India's largest welfare schemes Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) that incentivized pregnant women in India to access institutional maternal care at public hospitals. We argue that governments can make complementary investments to improve welfare gains from large scale policies.

JSY did not improve health outcomes despite a substantial increase in the take-up of institutional care. We document three equilibrium responses that explain this policy failure. First, JSY led to a mismatch of risk across health facilities -- high-risk mothers sorted out of highest quality care at private facilities. Second, in line with the literature, public sector quality deteriorated as a result of congestion. This resulted in lower quality care for both marginal as well as infra-marginal patients at public hospitals. We show that only mothers with high socio-economic status adapted to the worsening quality of care at public hospitals by sorting into more expensive private hospitals. Third, despite increased competition, private hospitals maintained high prices, crowding out riskier and poorer mothers. We do not find evidence that private hospitals improved healthcare quality to justify higher prices.

The second chapter titled "Electric Stoves as a Solution for Household Air Pollution" is an interdisciplinary field-based research study that studies the role of reliable electricity in inducing rural Indian households to switch away from dirty cooking fuels towards a clean cooking technology, induction cookstoves, thereby reducing the exposure to high levels of indoor air pollution. We collected minute-by-minute data on electricity availability, electric induction stove use, and kitchen and outdoor particulate pollution in a sample of rural Indian households for one year. Using within household-month variation generated by unpredictable outages, we estimate the effects of electricity availability and electric induction stove use on kitchen PM2.5 concentration at each hour of the day. Electricity availability reduces kitchen PM2.5 by up to 50 ??/?3, which is between 10 and 20 percent of peak concentrations during cooking hours. Induction stove use instrumented by electricity availability reduces PM2.5 in kitchens by 200-450 ??/?3 during cooking hours.

The final chapter titled "Can Large-Scale Conditional Cash Transfers Resolve the Fertility-Sex Ratio Trade-off? Evidence from India" studies a large-scale conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme Ladli Laxmi Yojana that offered cash incentives to households upon the birth of girl children. The policy also offered substantial incentive for investing in girls' education. In my evaluation of the Ladli Laxmi Yojana in Madhya Pradesh, India. I find that financial incentives aimed at the girl child increased average fertility by about 0.15 children per household (on baseline average of 0.93 children) children per household and improved sex-ratio by 3%. This points to the well known fertility-sex ratio trade-off. Moreover, these effects are quite opposite to a similar CCT scheme in Haryana (Anukriti, 2018) suggesting context dependence of such policies.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Verhoogen, Eric A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 24, 2024