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Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation studies rich lifecycle behavior concerning human capital and health, and its implications for economic growth and development. It examines the impact of social institutions and government policies on individuals lifetime choices which affect public health outcomes and economy-wide labor productivity. I apply macroeconomic approach and focus on aggregate effects, but both theoretical framework and quantitative analysis are built upon solid micro foundations of household behavior. By exploring the underlying channels, I derive policy implications for economic growth and development. This dissertation consists of three chapters. Chapter 1 studies the role of fertility motives in womens HIV risk in Sub-Saharan Africa, Chapter 2 studies the impact of higher education expansion along with economic reform on Chinas labor productivity, and Chapter 3 explores patterns of Chinas regional income disparity.

Chapter 1 examines the role of social and cultural norms regarding fertility in womens HIV risk in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fertility, or the ability to bear children, is highly valued in most African societies, and premarital fertility is often encouraged in order to facilitate marriage. This, however, increases womens exposure to HIV risk by increasing unprotected premarital sexual activity. I construct a lifecycle model that relates a womans decisions concerning sex, fertility and education to HIV risk. The model is calibrated to match Kenyan womens data on fertility, marriage and HIV prevalence. Quantitative results show that fertility motives play a substantial role in womens, especially young womens, HIV risk. If premarital births did not facilitate marriage, the HIV prevalence rate of young women in Kenya would be one-third lower. Policies that subsidize income, education, and HIV treatment are evaluated.

Chapter 2 studies the impact of higher education expansion, along with economic reform of the state sector, in the late 1990s in China on its labor productivity. I argue that in an economy such as China, where allocation distortions widely exist, an educational policy affects average labor productivity not only through its effect on human capital stock, but also through its effect on human capital allocation across sectors. Thus, its impact could be very limited if misallocation becomes more severe following the policy. I construct a two- sector general equilibrium model with private enterprises (PE) and state-owned enterprises (SOE), with policy distortions favoring the latter. Households, heterogeneous in ability, make educational choices and occupational choices in a three-period overlapping-generations setting. Counterintuitively, quantitative analysis shows an overall negative effect of higher education expansion on average labor productivity (by 5 percent). Though it did increase Chinas skilled human capital stock significantly (by nearly 50 percent), the policy had the effect of reallocating relatively more human capital toward the less-productive state sector. It is the economic reform that greatly improves the efficiency of human capital allocation and complements educational policy in enhancing labor productivity (by nearly 50 percent).

Chapter 3 explores patterns of Chinas regional income disparity. I document the stylized fact that the regional labor income disparity varies across industries with different skill in- tensities in China. While high-skill-intensive industries have larger income dispersions across regions than low-skill-intensive ones, this pattern tends to intensify over recent decades. I construct a model that interprets this pattern using the regional productivity variation of high-skilled firms, match-specific ability, firms screening decision and workers migration. In particular, firms in rich regions have higher productivity than those in poor regions. Workers are heterogeneous in ability, which is match-specific and unobservable before screening. Since ability and productivity are complements for high-skilled firms, these firms in rich regions pay more screening efforts to select workers with higher ability, and pay a higher wage in equilibrium. Workers live in different regions, and migration incurs a cost. This increases la- bor market tightness in rich regions and amplifies the regional income disparity. The model is quantified to match Chinas data. Counterfactual analysis shows that the screening process accounts for 45 percent of Chinas regional income disparity of high-skill-intensive industries, and migration barrier accounts for 10 percent.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Ping Wang

Committee Members

Ping Wang, Costas Azariadis, Rodolfo Manuelli, Yongseok Shin,


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