Marriage, career, and the city : three essays in applied microeconomics

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Spivey, Christy

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This dissertation is comprised if three essays in Applied Microeconomics. The first essay examines the effect of an individual’s risk aversion on time to marriage. The financial risk aversion measure is based on a series of hypothetical gambles over family income that were offered to respondents of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. The estimates support a theoretic model of search, indicating that more risk averse respondents marry sooner than their more risk loving counterparts. In addition, the effect of risk aversion on time to marriage is larger in magnitude and more statistically significant for men. One possible explanation for the different results between the sexes is that women value risk aversion as a desirable trait in potential mates. The second essay explores how nonemployment spells and career expectations affect wages. Wages are affected by total nonemployment time, by recent work interruptions, and by some past interruptions. Interruptions affect women’s wages further into the future compared to men, but the wage loss associated with any given interruption is less severe for women. One potential reason for the gender differences is that men are more likely to take time off from working for reasons that are negatively related to their productivity. Future career interruptions, which workers presumably anticipate in many cases, affect current investment in human capital to some degree for both sexes. A very small fraction of the gender wage gap is attributable solely to timing of experience. The third essay examines the current viability of the basic predictions of the Mills-Muth monocentric model of city structure. One previous study uses a cross-section of cities to test the comparative statics predictions, namely that city area is increasing in population and income but decreasing in agricultural land value and commuting costs. While it finds support for the predictions, the data used are from 1970, and there has been a growing consensus that the monocentric model is no longer useful. Despite the increasing polycentricity of cities, there is evidence that the Mills-Muth comparative statics predictions hold for modern cities. Also, densely populated cities are more likely to have subcenters.