Three Essays in Applied Microeconomics
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This dissertation consists of three research papers in Applied Microeconomics. Each paper uses an econometric technique to analyze a problem related to human behavior. The first paper examines the separate effects of time and location of the School Breakfast Program on participation and consumption of breakfast by elementary school children in northern Nevada. Controlling for potential selection bias and unobserved individual fixed effects with a panel version of the Heckman sample selection model, it is shown that extra time allowed for breakfast leads to an approximately 20% increase in average participation, and the transition from cafeteria to classroom adds another 40% for the typical student. The second paper uses the Hedonic Property Valuation Method to quantify the willingness-to-pay of residents in the Dan River region for three dimensions of an improved food environment---availability, accessibility, and acceptability of food. This paper accounts for potential omitted variables issue in the hedonic analysis by applying a spatial-lag model, and finds an overall negative or null preference of residents in this region for an improved food environment. The third paper investigates the effects of characteristics of human interpreters and images on the accuracy of cloud interpretation for satellite images in an online experiment, using a fractional logit model. The results indicate that an image with higher cloud coverage and/or larger brightness is more likely to receive higher accuracy, and the more time spent on the image and more image completed are also beneficial for improving the accuracy. This paper also uses a logistic regression model to compare the performance of human interpreters to that of an automated algorithm, and finds that human interpreters outperform the automated algorithm for an average satellite image out of our twelve selected images.
- Doctoral Dissertations