Heterogeneity and Relative Concerns. Three Essays in Applied Economics

Defence of PhD thesis by Roberta Distante.

The present PhD thesis is made of three self-contained chapters in the form of scholarly articles.

The first chapter uses micro-data for the British Household Panel Survey to shed light on the role of absolute and relative income for self-reported individual well-being. We estimate a heteroskedastic pooled panel ordered probit model with unobserved individual-specific effects. The study shows that absolute income exerts an effect of the same sign on happiest and least happy individuals, while relative income influences all happiness categories the same way, though with different intensity. These findings provide stronger evidence on the importance of relative concerns for subjective well-being.

In the second chapter we analyze the importance of social ties for eating behavior of the young in the US, devising a dynamic framework for overcoming the problem of identifying social endogenous effects. Estimating a dynamic linear-in-means model of social interactions by system GMM, we show that the main drivers of eating behavior are habituation and social effects. Furthermore, we analyze eating behavioral patterns from adolescence to adulthood, showing that obese teenagers become obese adults enforcing their wrong habits with imitative behavior. For adults who were normal-weight and overweight during adolescence, instead, the role of peers at school has a crucial importance for their current Body Mass Index.

The third chapter develops an approach for making welfare comparisons between populations with multidimensional discrete well-being indicators observed at the micro-level. It introduces a feasible algorithm for multivariate first order dominance and employs a bootstrap approach for ranking populations cardinally. We apply these techniques to analyze the distribution and evolution of child poverty in Vietnam and Mozambique through space and time.

Det vil være muligt før forsvaret at rekvirere en kopi af afhandlingen ved henvendelse til Informationen (26.0.20), Økonomisk Institut.