Date of Award

Fall 2023

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Reagan Baughman

Second Advisor

Karen Conway

Third Advisor

Bradley Herring


This dissertation consists of three essays in applied microeconomics covering topics in public policy, health, government assistance, and crime. The first essay is an analysis of the impact of Medicaid value-based payment reforms on birth outcomes. Between 2006 and 2019, 27 states adopted value-based payment models targeting maternal care, including nonpayment policies for early elective deliveries, blended payments for Cesarean and vaginal deliveries, pay-for-performance bonuses, and bundled payments. Using cross-sectional data drawn from the 2007-2019 Natality Detail Files and a staggered difference-in-differences model, my coauthor and I find that nonpayment policies are associated with a 6.9 percent decrease in early elective delivery, which results in a small decrease in early-term birth and a small increase in high birthweight, but no change in other infant health outcomes. Pay-for-performance programs are associated with a 1.3 percent reduction in Cesarean section, but, again, no change in infant health. Policymakers may consider alternative payment models as a tool to discourage risky, low-value procedures and perhaps reduce costs.

In the second essay, I examine the spillover effect of access to legal same-sex marriage on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation for same-sex couple households. I pool repeated cross-sectional data from the American Community Survey between 2008 and 2020 and estimate a staggered difference-in-differences model. The results show that marriage equality is associated with a 6 to 9 percent reduction in SNAP participation for same-sex couples. The effect is larger among states that legalized same-sex marriage via state statutes rather than court decisions. Further analyses suggest that same-sex marriage legalization-induced increases in joint labor supply and thus household income are the key mechanisms for this effect.

In the final essay, my coauthors and I study the unintended consequences of ban-the-box laws on crime. Ban-the-box laws, which prevent employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal histories during initial job screenings, are intended to increase employment opportunities and reduce incentives for crime. However, if ban-the-box laws induce statistical discrimination against racial or ethnic minorities with higher perceived risks of criminal activity or generate moral hazard by reducing the future cost of crime commission, then ban-the-box laws could have the unintended consequence of increasing crime rates. Using data from the National Incident-Based Reporting Systems, we find that ban-the-box laws are associated with a 16 percent increase in criminal incidents involving Hispanic male arrestees. This finding is supported by parallel analysis using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 and is consistent with ban-the-box law-induced job loss due to employer-based statistical discrimination. There is less evidence that BTB laws increase property crime among African American men. Supplemental analyses from the American Community Survey suggest that barriers to welfare participation among Hispanic men may partially explain this result. The results suggest that ban-the-box laws generate approximately $350 million in additional annual crime costs.