UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays in environmental and development economics Zárate Barrera, Tatiana Ginneth


This dissertation presents three essays on Environmental and Development Economics. Chapters 2 and 3 focus on the impact of pollution on non-health-related outcomes, while Chapter 4 investigates the causes and consequences of female empowerment. Chapter 2 examines the impact of air pollution on crime in a highly polluted mega-city. It finds an inverted U-shaped relationship: increased pollution initially increases crime, but beyond a certain point, it decreases criminal activity. The empirical strategy uses highly dimensional fixed-effect models, nonparametric estimations of dose-response functions, and instrumental variables. Additionally, it analyzes social media posts to understand how pollution relates to emotions and mobility decisions, supporting the inverted U-shape. These findings highlight the need for environmental regulations to account for behavioral responses. Chapter 3 examines the impact of lead waste recycling on student academic performance in Mexico. This chapter uses a change in US environmental regulation in 2009 to investigate the causal effect of lead exposure on test scores. The study finds that schools located within four miles of a recycling facility have lower math and language scores compared to schools farther away, precisely after the regulatory change. These results highlight the negative effects of lead recycling on schooling outcomes, particularly in contexts with limited regulatory oversight. Finally, chapter 4 investigates how giving women political and domestic authority can lead to persistent female empowerment and overall welfare improvements. Using post-genocide data from Rwanda, the chapter exploits local gender imbalances that created a power vacuum filled by women as household heads and local politicians. The findings suggest that female-led villages provide more public goods and experience better health, education, wealth, less domestic violence, and more autonomy. Furthermore, these changes are carried on by younger women, indicating a shift in gender norms. In contrast, there are negative or no effects in villages where men remained in power.

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