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Essays on archaic institutions and modern technology

Natraj, Ashwini (2012) Essays on archaic institutions and modern technology. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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I present three essays discussing the impact of archaic institutions and technology on inequality in wages and political participation. First I examine a modern facet of the Indian caste system: political quotas for disadvantaged minorities and their impact on political participation. I find that aggregate turnout falls by 9% of the baseline and right-wing parties win 50% more often, but electoral competition is not significantly affected. Detailed individual-level data for one state suggests that voter participation falls among women and minorities. This suggests that restricting candidate identity to minorities may cause some bias in voter participation. Next, I study caste and human capital: specifically why workers remain in lowpaying hereditary occupations, providing an explanation for both occupational specialization and hereditary occupations. I use a simple model of insurance provision in which parents pass on human capital to their children in return for insurance in the event of sickness, and find that workers with low human capital are likelier to participate in the arrangement, and that a higher cost of sickness can sustain higher human capital transfers. I conclude by studying human capital and technology- the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on wage inequality. We tested the hypothesis that information and communication technologies (ICT) polarize labour markets, by increasing demand for the highly educated at the expense of the middle educated, with little effect on low-educated workers. Using data on the US, Japan, and nine European countries from 1980-2004, we find that industries with faster ICT growth shifted demand from middle educated workers to highly educated workers, consistent with ICT-based polarization. Trade openness is also associated with polarization, but this is not robust to controlling for Research and Development. Technologies account for up to a quarter of the growth in demand for highly educated workers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Aswini Natraj
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Economics
Supervisor: Padró i Miquel, Gerard and Bandiera, Oriana

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