Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Jeffrey S. Zax

Second Advisor

Terra G. McKinnish

Third Advisor

Stephen B. Billings

Fourth Advisor

Richard K. Mansfield

Fifth Advisor

Tania C.J. Barham


In the first chapter, I analyze the dynamic labor effort response to an incentive structure under which productivity is uncertain and underperformance is punished. Using data on SQF practices from New York City, I find that more arrests, summonses, and non-criminal stops occur at the beginning of the month, which could be explained by police officers adopting a strategy of effort front-loading as a precautionary measure against failing to meet monthly performance expectations, thereby avoiding punishment. This is complemented by police officers reducing their labor in the later days of a month so as to avoid the exertion of a higher level of costly efforts than necessary given little incentives for “above-and-beyond” performance. Furthermore, as a month progresses, officers become more averse to difficult tasks and exert less effort in interactions that allow for an officer to use more discretion. This intra-month productivity cycle holds even when accounting for confounding factors that affect contemporaneous crime conditions, such as the timing of welfare payments.

In the second chapter, which uses data from the FBI’s UCR and NIBR, I establish the causal relationship between the adoption of Missouri’s House Bill 1150 and the subsequent increase in incidents of motor vehicle thefts across Missouri. Accounting for broader contemporaneous national trends in motor vehicle thefts and trends in other types of larceny, this paper finds that an 8% to 14% increase in vehicle thefts arose within a year of the law going into effect, and a 30% to 43% increase within five years.

In the final chapter, my coauthor and I examine the consequences of the alphabetical ordering of surnames. Using the data from the WLS, we find that those with surname initials ranked further from the beginning of the alphabet on average experience substantively worse outcomes in life. These adversities materialize as early as late adolescence through poorer experience in high school, lower human capital accumulation during tertiary education, and reduce early labor market success before dissipating by mid-adulthood. These effects are found to concentrate among those who are of ordinary intelligence and appearance and remain inconsequential for those distinctive in these regards.

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Economics Commons