Essays in Public Economics and Political Economy: Utilising Empirical Methods for Public Policy
AuthorJones, Matthew James Malham
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Matthew James Malham Jones
Chapter 1 provides an introduction to this thesis. It is primarily an examination of how empirical methods in economics can be used for political and public economic analysis. The ultimate goal of this thesis is to propose methods from empirical economics that could be useful for the analysis and practice of public policy. Chapter 2 uses a novel Australian dataset to show the effect of cross-sectional weather shocks on voting behaviour in the 2016 Australian federal Senate election. I spatially link every ballot cast at the polling place level to climate data and Census demographic data. I find evidence that cold temperature shocks affect voting at the intensive margin, causing people to commit more errors on the ballot paper. I also document heterogeneous effects of temperature on voting mistakes, with cold shocks having greater effects on citizens born overseas and citizens without tertiary education. I show that my findings are consistent with existing evidence that cold weather increases the cost of performing cognitive tasks. Chapter 3 is a descriptive analysis of voter preferences in the 2016 Australian Senate election. It uses the rank ordered logit model (also called the exploded logit or the Plackett–Luce model) to recover choice parameters of Australian voters in a federal Senate election. When voters convey their preference rankings over political parties in an election they select on numerous characteristics, including policy. By using the rank ordered logit model to include voters' six most preferred choices, I observe a distinctly different set of policy preferences than when only first preferences are considered. This is due to the large amount of policy variation in lower order rankings. Following the communicative voting literature I hypothesise that voters have different motivations governing higher and lower voter rankings. Specifically, first preferences appear to be instrumental, in that most first preferences go to parties with a high probability of being elected. Lower rankings are hypothesised to expressive, conveying the expressive policy preferences of voters. I conduct Hausman tests on regressions with the higher rankings removed to show support for this hypothesis. This paper aims to give an indication of the kinds of issues that voters select on as well as explore specific voting behaviours. In this way, this paper considers whether ranked voting outcomes could be used by public policy makers to determine which issues matter to the public and which are less important. Chapter 4 uses wellbeing and income tax data from the United States to show that an individual's life satisfaction varies due to changes in the amount of taxes paid per household in their ZIP code, net of the effect of own income. Specifically, when others in the highest income tax bracket pay more income tax, it has a positive effect on own wellbeing. Conversely, when others in the lowest income tax bracket pay more income tax, it has a negative effect on own wellbeing. These findings hold irrespective of an individual's own level of income and hence the own income tax bill, indicating that the life satisfaction effect of income tax on a particular income group is not determined by membership of that group. We rely on an instrumental variables approach to identify our effect, using simulated state level marginal income tax rates to instrument for the amount of taxes paid. We use marginal tax rate data from the NBER TAXSIM model to achieve this. Chapter 5 concludes and summarises this thesis.
KeywordsPolitical Economy; Voting Behaviour; Cognition and Decision Making; Environmental Effects; Wellbeing; Taxation
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- Economics - Theses