Three essays on trade and investment in children in developing countries




Majlesi, Kaveh

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This dissertation contains three chapters on international trade and investment in children's human capital in developing countries.

The first chapter examines the effects of changes in labor market opportunities for women on the bargaining power of women within households and, ultimately, on investment in children's human capital. I show that a positive demand shock for female labor in a woman's age category increases her bargaining power, and this raises investment in the health of girls relative to that of boys within the household. To identify this effect, I exploit the geographic heterogeneity in demand for younger versus older female labor within the Mexican export manufacturing sector and its differential changes across municipalities between 2002 and 2005. I find that a 1 percent increase in labor demand for older (mostly married) women, caused by a demand shock to the export manufacturing sector, raises the share of decisions made by the wife in a household by 1.3 percent and the chance of a daughter being in good health by 1.1 percent.

Previous research has shown that school enrollment in developing countries responds to a change in the return to education generated by a change in demand in the export sector, that pays higher wages for a given skill level. In the second chapter of my dissertation, using data from Mexico, I show that the negative effects of a lower return to education are not limited to lower rates of school enrollment. Parents also respond to a decrease in the return to education for children, as a result of an increase in labor market opportunities for very young, unskilled labor in the export sector, by reducing spending on children's education even while they are enrolled at school. This suggests that parents respond along the intensive margin as well as on the extensive margin.

Firm level studies offer mixed results on the effect of ex-ante liquidity constraints on firms' export status. The third chapter of my dissertation explores the same matter using a new methodology. I predict that, controlling for the firms' productivity level and given that firms were not exporters in the previous period, a larger appreciation of the real exchange rate should have a larger positive effect on the probability of less-liquidity-constrained firms becoming exporters. I test this prediction using a panel of Mexican manufacturing firms and find robust evidence in its support.




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