nep-ltv New Economics Papers
on Unemployment, Inequality and Poverty
Issue of 2023‒09‒04
four papers chosen by
Maximo Rossi, Universidad de la República

  1. The socio political demography of happiness By Peltzman, Sam
  2. Childhood Shocks Across Ages and Human Capital Formation By Pedro Carneiro; Kjell Salvanes; Barton Willage; Alexander Willén
  3. How Is Fertility Behavior in Africa Different? By Portner, Claus C.
  4. Divorce and Property Division Laws Shape Human Capital Investment By Peter Blair; Elijah Neilson

  1. By: Peltzman, Sam
    Abstract: Since 1972 the General Social Survey (GSS) has asked a representative sample of US adults "[are] you very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?" Overall, the population is reasonably happy even after a mild recent decline. I focus on differences along standard socio demographic dimensions: age, race, gender, education, marital status income and geography. I also explore political and social differences. Being married is the most important differentiator with a 30-percentage point happy-unhappy gap over the unmarried. Income is also important, but Easterlin's (1974) paradox applies: the rich are much happier than the poor at any moment, but income growth doesn't matter. Education and racial differences are also consequential, though the black-white gap has narrowed substantially. Geographic, gender and age differences have been relatively unimportant, though old-age unhappiness may be emerging. Conservatives are distinctly happier than liberals as are people who trust others or the Federal government. All above differences survive control for other differences.
    Keywords: happiness, demographics, family, Easterlin paradox, education, income, social capital, political ideology
    JEL: D10 D60 E01 I31 J10 J12 J18 Z13
    Date: 2023
  2. By: Pedro Carneiro (University College London); Kjell Salvanes (Norges Handelshøyskole); Barton Willage (University of Colorado--Denver); Alexander Willén (Norwegian School of Economics, CESifo, and UCLS)
    Abstract: We provide estimates of the causal impact of shocks to home environments during childhood on the human capital formation of children and their adult earnings, and document how these impacts differ depending on the age of the child when the shock occurs. We do so by comparing the outcomes of children whose parents experienced an involuntary job loss at different points in time. The rich data we have access to enable us to examine a broad range of short- and long-term educational outcomes related to performance, attainment, and behavior. In addition, for a subsample of our cohorts we can explore earnings effects at age 30. Consistent with other studies, we confirm that early childhood represents a crucial time for acquiring skills and abilities, but also establish that changes in the home environment for children in early adolescence matter as much, and sometimes more. We rationalize these results by noting that sensitive periods for different skills occur at different stages of childhood. Furthermore, it is during early adolescence that children face key junctures in their educational choices.
    Keywords: early childhood development, intergenerational links, human capital
    JEL: I20 J12 J13 J63 D10
    Date: 2023–08
  3. By: Portner, Claus C. (Seattle University)
    Abstract: Sub-Saharan Africa’s fertility decline has progressed much slower than elsewhere. However, there is still substantial disagreement about why, partly because four leading potential causes—cultural norms, expected offspring mortality, land access, and school quality—are challenging to measure. I use large-scale woman-level data to infer what role each explanation plays in fertility differences between Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, South Asia, and Latin America, based on estimations of fertility outcomes by region, cohort, area of residence, and grade level. I show that the differences in fertility between Sub-Saharan Africa and the other regions first increase and then decrease with years of education. For women without education, fertility rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are comparable to those in Latin America. Similarly, for women with secondary education or higher, fertility rates in Sub-Saharan Africa align with those in South and East Asia. There are substantial and statistically significant differences for women with some primary education for all three comparison regions. The differences are more pronounced for children ever born than for surviving children. Overall, the results suggest that offspring mortality and the lower quality of primary schooling are the dominant reasons why fertility decline in Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind other regions.
    Date: 2023–08–07
  4. By: Peter Blair (Harvard Graduate School of Education); Elijah Neilson (Southern Utah University)
    Abstract: In theory, unilateral divorce laws alter the private incentive to invest in human capital by permitting either spouse to initiate the division of the marital assets. Using several causal research designs we show that both men and women are less likely to attain a bachelor’s degree in states with unilateral divorce laws—-especially individuals who were exposed to the laws when making educational choices and who live in states requiring an even split of assets upon divorce. Unilateral divorce laws do not distort human capital investment generically—but rather in contexts where the property division laws invite moral hazard.
    Keywords: unilateral divorce, property rights, racial differences, labor market distortions
    JEL: D13 J12 J15 J16 J24 K11 K12 K36
    Date: 2023–08

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