Three Essays in Applied Economics
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology
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This dissertation consists of three empirical essays as three chapters, which sheds lights on select research questions on education economics, biodiversity, and water sustainability in the United States. Chapter 1 determines whether the 1862 land grant universities that do better in USNWR rankings really have the ability to charge higher tuition and offer less financial aid than institutions that do less well in the rankings. Developing a demand-supply frame work to deduce relevant hypotheses, and drawing relevant data on 44 land grant universities from 2005 to 2014, we find that parameters estimated using a generalized linear model (GLM) approach suggest each one unit improvement in national ranking is associated with an increase in (a) inflation adjusted in-state sticker price by 0.33% to entering undergraduates, (b) inflation adjusted out-of-state sticker price by 0.35% to entering undergraduates, and (c) inflation adjusted financial aid per undergraduate student by 0.33%. In addition, each one-unit improvement in the USNWR ranking score is associated with more increase in the inflation adjusted out-of-state sticker price relative to its in-state counterpart across the1862 land grant universities. Chapter 2 examines the impact of wind turbines on breeding bird abundance by using a fine scale, spatial longitudinal dataset for 1,670 wind turbines and 86 bird observation routes located in 36 states in the United States over 2008-2014. We find that the establishment of one additional wind turbine, on average, leads to disappearance of about three breeding birds. The aggregate effect of the U.S. on-shore wind turbines on breeding bird count is 151,630, a magnitude at the lower end of existing estimates that range between 20,000 and 573,000. We also find that turbine size is a critical determinant of the magnitude of this impact, with turbine tower height positively, but blade length negatively, associated with aggregate breeding bird abundance. Grassland breeding bird abundance increases by up to 0.81 following the establishment of an additional wind turbine, although it is insensitive to tower height or blade length. Our findings provide important implications for policies related to wind facility siting and wind turbine development that can enhance the sustainability of wind energy. Chapter 3 estimates the effects of the federal crop insurance premium subsidy on freshwater withdrawals for irrigation among U.S. counties to the west of the 100th meridian. Our results indicate that a 1% increase in premium subsidy leads to 0.446% (about 475,901 acre-feet/year) and 0.673% (about 474,026 acre-feet/year) increase in total freshwater withdrawals for irrigation and fresh surface water withdrawals for irrigation, respectively. The elasticity of total freshwater withdrawals for irrigation and fresh surface water withdrawals for irrigation with respect to revenue insurance premium subsidy is more than twice as large as those with respect to yield insurance premium subsidy. Groundwater withdrawals for irrigation are not found responsive to crop insurance premium subsidy. The findings suggest that the impact of crop insurance on irrigation mainly occurs at the intensive margin rather than at the extensive margin. Moreover, because the elasticities are all non-negative, moral hazard should not be a dominant factor in the relationship between crop insurance subsidies and freshwater withdrawals for irrigation. Thus, exploring causality in the food-water nexus, this study underscores the unintended effect of the federal crop insurance program on water resources sustainability in the United States.