Three Essays on Applied Microeconomics
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This dissertation presents three essays on the effects of different institutions, technologies, and shocks on health, education, labor and information outcomes using experimental and quasi-experimental research designs. Specifically, I consider the effects of social media, vaccination, and natural resources. In the first essay “The Economic Effects of Facebook”, joint work with Mofioluwasademi Odunowo, Trent McNamara, Xiongfei Guo, and Ragan Petrie, we study the effects of Facebook on news awareness, subjective well-being, and daily activities. We use a large field experiment with a validated Facebook restriction to document the value of Facebook to users and its causal effect on news consumption and awareness, well-being, and daily activities. Those who are off Facebook for a week reduce news consumption, are less likely to recognize politically-skewed news stories, report being less depressed and engage in healthier activities. One week of Facebook is worth $67, and this increases by 19.6 percent after experiencing a Facebook restriction. In the second essay “Vaccines at Work”, joint work with Manuel Hoffmann and Adrian Chadi, we study how behavioral factors can affect the effectiveness of flu vaccination. Flu vaccination could be a cost-effective way to handle the costs of this disease, but low takeup rates, particularly of working adults, and vaccination unintendingly causing moral hazard may decrease its benefits. We ran a natural field experiment with employees of a large bank in Ecuador where we experimentally manipulated incentives to participate in a flu vaccination campaign. We find that reducing the opportunity costs of vaccination increased take-up by 112 percent. Also, we find that the effect of vaccination on health outcomes is a precise zero with no measurable health externalities from coworkers. Using administrative records on sickness diagnoses and surveys, we find evidence consistent with vaccination causing moral hazard. In the third essay “A Blessing or a Curse? The Long-term Effect of Resource Booms on Human Capital and Living Conditions”, I study if resource booms can reduce human capital accumulation. These booms can increase the opportunity costs of education by favoring low-skill jobs, which makes it optimal for some cohorts to interrupt their education. If these individuals do not resume their education, they may lose pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits of education in their lifetime. For a country, lower human capital may constrain its long-term growth. I use proprietary individual-level data to study the long-term effects of exposure to the 1970s oil boom on human capital in a developing country. I exploit variation in the timing of the shock and geographic differences in the cost of college attendance and find that exposure to the boom decreased college completion and increased low-skill occupations - consistent with the idea that individuals shift into highly remunerative low skilled employment because the boom decreased college education returns. In line with this, I find no effects on wealth accumulation.
Value of Facebook
Random Encouragement Design
Mosquera Moyano, Roberto (2019). Three Essays on Applied Microeconomics. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from