Odunowo, Mofioluwasademi Ayobami (2020-03). Essays in Applied Microeconomics. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • This dissertation examines three essays on factors affecting human capital development, using quasi-experimental research designs. The first essay "Exposure to Negative Shocks and Child Development: Evidence from Boko Haram Attacks" examines the impacts of exposure to negative shocks on early childhood development. Growing evidence shows that exposure to violent attacks during early childhood impairs the physical development of children. In this paper, I show that these effects extend to psychological development. By exploiting exogenous variation in the location and timing of Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria and new measures of physical and psychological development, I estimate the effects of exposure to violence on child development. Children exposed to terror attacks are 0.35 SDs shorter and lag in cognition by 0.18 SDs. The deficits are largest in children exposed to violence at younger ages. Mediation analysis shows that 6% of the effect on height is mediated by nutrition and parental investments can explain 14% of the effect on psychological development. This research, therefore, highlights areas in which interventions in early childhood can lessen the adverse impacts of negative shocks. The second essay "Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Effects of Maternal Education on Child Education" presents evidence on the effects of parental education in improving the education of their children. Research shows that parental education is a good predictor of children's educational outcomes. However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms through which the effects are transmitted. In this paper, I estimate the intergenerational effects of maternal education on child education. To identify effects, I exploit the timing and geographical intensity of Nigeria's 1976 educational reform, one of Africa's largest school construction projects. One extra year of maternal education increases grade-for-age by 13 percent, the probability of children completing primary school by 22 percent, and attending secondary school by 29 percent. I find that the effects are particularly pronounced for girls. The findings are robust across different specifications and validity tests. These results are not simply due to improved access to education for children whose mothers benefited from the program, as children of slightly older mothers in the same region are less educated. I also find that the improved outcomes are not driven by better labor market opportunities for the mother or changes in fertility outcomes. Instead, improved living conditions, increased involvement in decisions relating to the child's education and health, as well as having a more educated father are important channels through which maternal education matters for children's schooling. In the third essay "Reassessing the Effects of Education on Fertility", I study how education affects fertility for women with low levels of human capital. Conventional wisdom suggests that reduced fertility could imply "better quality" children and higher survival rates for women and children. However, can education be a driver for reducing fertility rates in developing countries? To estimate the causal effect of education on fertility, I exploit the timing and geographical intensity of Nigeria's 1976 educational reform. I find no effects on total fertility and the number of children born before the age of 25, but the number of children born before the age of 18 decreases by 0.2 births. An analysis of the underlying mechanisms shows that the effects are driven by women getting married and having their first birth at an older age. The results also indicate that more educated women are more likely to use modern contraceptives and marry more educated men.

publication date

  • March 2020