Essays in public economics: The effects of major policies on old and young Australians
AuthorMorris, Todd Stuart
Document TypePhD thesis
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© 2019 Todd Stuart Morris
This thesis consists of three essays examining the causal effects of major policy changes affecting old and young Australians. In the first essay, I examine the distributional effects of a reform in 1994 that gradually increased women’s eligibility age for the retirement pension from 60 to 65. Using detailed longitudinal data, I find strong negative effects on household incomes for low to middle income households but little impact on households in the top half of the distribution. These unequal impacts meant that, among households containing older women, the reform increased relative poverty rates by 33 to 39 percent and inequality measures by 12 to 15 percent. These results demonstrate that increases in pension-eligibility ages, which are occurring in many countries as the population ages, can have strong regressive effects. In the second essay, I study the impact of the same reform on female labour force participation. Specifically, I replicate and extend the work of Atalay and Barrett (Review of Economics and Statistics 2015, 97(1): 71–87). Using repeated household surveys and a differences-in-differences design in which male cohorts form the comparison group, Atalay and Barrett estimate that the reform increased female participation rates by 12 percentage points. I successfully replicate this estimate but show, using earlier data, that the underlying parallel-trends assumption did not hold before the reform because of a strong female-specific participation trend across cohorts. Accounting for this trend, the estimated effect of the reform on female participation falls by two-thirds and becomes statistically insignificant at conventional levels. In the third essay, I focus on a policy affecting much younger adults. Specifically, I examine the effects of a road-safety restriction in New South Wales, Australia that prohibits probationary drivers from driving late at night with multiple passengers. Using linked administrative data on drivers’ licences and crashes, I estimate that the restriction caused a 57 percent reduction in late-night crashes involving probationary drivers with multiple passengers. Interestingly, the decline persists after the probation period, albeit in a weaker manner. This appears to result from a persistent reduction in late-night driving with passengers, which suggests that long-term driving habits can be shaped by such restrictions.
KeywordsRetirement age; Poverty; Inequality; Employment; Labour force participation; Graduated licensing systems; Passenger restriction; Spillovers; Habit formation; Traffic fatalities
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- Economics - Theses