Date of Award

8-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Economics

Major Professor

Celeste K. Carruthers

Committee Members

Paul C. Erwin, Matthew A. Harris, James S. Holladay

Abstract

I study how change in environmental factors and information provision about environmental risk effect on human capitals and individuals' behavior.

Psychological maternal stress is thought to be a factor in poor infant health, but direct evidence is difficult to obtain. In first chapter, we posit that the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, California provides a natural test of the effect of mothers' stress on infants' birth weight and gestation. The Northridge disaster featured a low rate of injury and a quick recovery, but long-lasting and well documented consequences for mental health. Difference-in-difference results show that infants born closest to the epicenter were 0.2 percentage points more likely to be born with low birth weight.

In second chapter, I examine the effect of air quality information on population change in counties of California, Oregon, and Washington State by measuring change in the number of air alerts days. Based on panel data between 1999-2014, the results find a negative relationship between more frequent air quality alerts and change in the total population of a county. In particular, only \Unhealthy" which is the air quality alert category that contains more polluted days than \Unhealthy for sensitive groups", has significant effect on the change in population. Those results are consistent with the idea that individuals are responsive to air quality and willing to move.

Providing information is an important policy tool to encourage individuals' behavioral response. In my third paper, I focus on the role of prevalence and design of information by examining the effect of the EPA's map of radon zones, which is characterized as non- pervasive and unsophisticated in terms of its information on housing price in California counties. Using difference-in-difference estimator, I find that after the map is released, there is no difference in the house price between high radon level counties and low radon level counties. These results are consistent with the previous studies showing that individuals change their behavior when the information is well-specified as well as is widely available to the public.

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