Essays on the determinants of worker productivity and labor market outcomes
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This dissertation examines determinants of worker productivity, labor market outcomes, and population health. The ﬁrst chapter, previously published in the Journal of Public Economics, examines the impacts of cash assistance on refugee labor market outcomes. I exploit variation across states and over time in the generosity of cash assistance available to refugees upon arrival in the U.S. and study the impacts on wages and employment. I argue that cash assistance is randomly assigned to refugees conditional on characteristics such as education and country of origin, as refugee placement is decided by a committee that does not meet with the refugees or learn their preferences. I ﬁnd that refugees resettled with more generous cash assistance go on to earn higher wages, with no signiﬁcant change in the probability of employment. The eﬀects are largest for highly-educated refugees. The second chapter examines the impact of temperature on the productivity and job performance of outdoor workers in developing countries. I overcome data challenges with studying individual-level productivity by studying household survey interviewers as workers. Using data from Demographic and Health Survey interviewers in 46 countries, I ﬁnd that interviewers complete fewer interviews per hour worked on hot and humid days, driven by an increase in working hours. I also ﬁnd evidence that suggests that workers allocate their eﬀort towards tasks that are more easily observed by supervisors on hot days. The third chapter, previously published in Social Justice Research and co-authored with Diane Coﬀey and Dean Spears, examines the role of social inequality in population health outcomes in India, focusing on the case of casteism and child height in India. We describe evidence from the India Human Development Survey showing that children in villages with more strongly casteist attitudes are shorter on average, an association that is statistically explained by the association between casteism and the prevalence of open defecation.