Essays in development economics
This dissertation collects four essays that study how the environment in which people reside shapes their well-being and economic opportunities. Starting from the observation that, in spite of impressive growth accelerations in some resource-rich developing countries, human development indicators are lagging behind, the first two essays investigate how natural resource wealth affects government prioritization of human capital building. The analysis reveals a robust, significant inverse relationship between natural resource dependence and abundance and public health and education spending over time. The third essay presents an empirical study of whether and how living in an urban environment in Tanzania contributes to changes in eating patterns. This question is addressed by comparing migrants’ dietary patterns before and after they relocate from rural to urban areas and assessing how this differs from those who did not move. This study shows that moving to an urban area is associated with a more pronounced shift away from the consumption of traditional staples, and towards high-sugar, more conveniently consumed and prepared foods. Finally, the fourth essay examines whether the returns to internal migration extend beyond migrants themselves and accrue to the children of migrants. More specifically, this essay concentrates on the relation between parents' migration and children's health and education in Tanzania. Drawing upon data from a 19-year longitudinal survey in Tanzania, I exploit the variation in the outcomes of the children of migrants and the children of the migrants’ siblings who stayed behind. This analysis reveals that children whose parents migrated to cities are heavier, taller and more educated for their age. In contrast, children whose parents moved to a different rural village do not appear to experience any health advantage and those moving alongside their parents even start schooling at a later age.