Essays in human capital development
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This dissertation studies decisions pertaining to human capital investment, specifically education and health. Specifically, I examine human capital decisions through two key research questions. One, what is the effect of household structures on decisions pertaining to human capital development of infants? Two, what is the effect of education policies on education choices? Chapter 1 of the dissertation examines the former by assessing the role of grandparents in household decisions, and Chapters 2 and 3 study the latter question using education policies in India and United States, respectively. Chapter 1 studies the role of grandparents in healthcare decisions made for infants. Using a unique research design, I show that a change to household structure caused by the death of the last living grandparent can be used to identify the effect of grandparents on household decisions, if one exploits the variation in the timing of these decisions relative to the death. This chapter highlights the importance of grandparents in household decisions, especially in context of technology diffusion and human capital development. It also makes an important contribution to the literature by offering a novel empirical strategy that could be used to study the effect of family members on a variety of outcomes in an extended household setting. Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 investigate how education policies affect educational outcomes of disadvantaged populations. In Chapter 2, I examine the effects of the world's largest free lunch program, the Mid Day Meal Scheme of India. Using an instrumental variable strategy, I explicitly incorporate the differential implementation levels of the policy across states. The findings of this paper show that India's free lunch program increased primary school enrollment in India, especially for girls and other disadvantaged populations. In Chapter 3, I study the effect of education policies on choices of students in higher education. In particular, I explore the impact of a policy change that allowed undocumented immigrants to be eligible for in-state tuition in Texas. Employing a difference-in-differences strategy, I find that the reduced college costs resulting from the in-state tuition policy decreased the gap in educational outcomes of undocumented immigrants and their US-born peers. The results of this chapter suggest that the in-state tuition policy increased the probability of graduating and graduating with advanced degrees from community colleges for undocumented immigrants.