Sex-selective abortion paper available as World Bank Policy Research Working Paper

My paper on sex-selective abortions in India is now available as a World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. You can find it here. The abstract is

Previous research on sex-selective abortions has ignored the interactions between fertility, birth spacing, and sex selection, despite both fertility and birth spacing being important considerations for parents when deciding on the use of sex selection. This paper presents a novel approach that jointly estimates the determinants of sex-selective abortions, fertility, and birth spacing, using data on Hindu women from India's National Family and Health Surveys. Women with eight or more years of education in urban and rural areas are the main users of sex-selective abortions and they also have the lowest fertility. Predicted lifetime fertility for these women declined 11 percent between the 1985-1994 and 1995-2006 periods, which correspond to the periods of time before and after sex selection became illegal. Fertility is now around replacement level. This decrease in fertility has been accompanied by a 6 percent increase in the predicted number of abortions during the childbearing years between the two periods, and sex selection is increasingly used for earlier parities. Hence, the legal steps taken to combat sex selection have been unable to reverse its use. Women with fewer than eight years of education have substantially higher fertility and do not appear to use sex selection.

Paper on children's time allocation in the Philippines forthcoming at Review of Economics of the Household

My paper "Effects of Parental Absence on Child Labor and School Attendance in the Philippines" has been accepted for publication in Review of Economics of the Household.

This paper uses longitudinal data from the Philippines to analyze determinants of children’s time allocation. The estimation method takes into account both the simultaneity of time use decisions, by allowing for correlation of residuals across time uses, and unobservable family heterogeneity, through the inclusion of household fixed effects. Importantly, this improved estimation method leads to different results than when applying the methods previously used in the literature. Girls suffer significantly from the absence of their mother with a reduction in time spent in school that is equivalent to dropping out completely. This effect is substantially larger when controlling for house- hold unobservables than when not. Boys increase time spent working on market related activities in response to an absent father, although this time appears to come out of leisure rather than school or doing household chores. Land ownership substantially increase the time boys spend on school activities, whereas renting land reduces the time girls spend on school. Finally, there does not appear to be a substantial trade-off between time spent on school and work, either in the market or at home.

The paper has been previously been circulated under the title "Children's Time Allocation, Heterogeneity, and Simultaneous Decisions".

Fertility incentives

An example of a positive relationship between number of children and their education level. People really do respond to incentives!

Her parents were true pioneers and moved from Minnesota to Alaska in 1925 with Dolores (4) and 4 other children, heading to Pt Agassiz across the water from Petersburg to homestead land there-- the territory of Alaska promised to build a school house and furnish a teacher if there were 7 students-and the Ramstead family soon fulfilled the quota. Three more children were born to the Ramstead family in Alaska, all growing up on the farm.

I see a paper using this policy as a natural experiment coming up...

"High School Dropouts and Sexually Transmitted Infections" accepted at Southern Economic Journal

Mark Anderson and my paper, "High School Dropouts and Sexually Transmitted Infections," has been accepted for publication at the Southern Economic Journal. Not sure about the exact publication date yet. The abstract for the paper is:

People who drop out of high school fare worse in many aspects of life. We analyze the relationship between dropping out of high school and the probability of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Previous studies on the relationship between dropout status and sexual outcomes have not empirically addressed unobserved heterogeneity at the individual level. Using fixed effects estimators, we find evidence supporting a positive relationship between dropping out of high school and the risk of contracting an STI for females. Furthermore, we present evidence that illustrates differences between the romantic partners of dropouts versus enrolled students. These differences suggest that female dropouts may be more susceptible to contracting STIs because they partner with significantly different types of people than non-dropouts. Our results point to a previously undocumented benefit of encouraging those at risk of dropping out to stay in school longer.

Export Keynote slides to PDF with Keyboard Maestro

I write most of my slides for teaching in Keynote and, as much as I like it for making easy to read slides that are (relatively) nice to look at, it does have some annoyances. The main one for me is when exporting the files for uploading to our course management system. I export everything meant for the students, including Keynote slides, to PDF. It looks the same for all students and with about half of the students using Macs and the other half using Windows, I do not have to worry about them not being able to read it. Now, Keynote has an export option, but for some unfathomable reason it does not remember my preferences from one time to the next and always show the following menu:Keynote's export window

But I want the slides without border, dates, and without showing each builds every single time. I could, of course, click on the check boxes each time I export a set of slides but that gets old really quickly. Keyboard Maestro and some Applescript to the rescue! The screenshot below is of the macro I ended up putting together. Now I only have to use a keyboard short-cut and my slides are ready to download in exactly the format I like them. Keyboard Maestro macro

It took longer to write this than it should have, mainly because I had forgotten how particular Applescript is about referring to windows and sheets. I am sure this could have been written more efficiently but it works and if you want, say, slide numbers you can just change that part of the macro. If you are interested you can download the Keyboard Maestro macro here. As always, use at your own risk.

XXVII IUSSP International Population Conference

Just back from the XXVII IUSSP International Population Conference, held in Busan, Korea. I presented my paper on family planning in Ethiopia (joint with Kathleen Beegle and Luc Christaensen) and a poster on my work on sex selective abortions in India. My student, Shamma Alam, presented our joint paper on income shocks and timing of fertility in Tanzania.

All-in-all it was a great conference and very well-organized. Only complaint was that many of the best US demographers did not attend. Quality of the sessions were a little more varied than what you find at the PAA, but I will be back again in four years. Finally, if you get a chance to go to Korea: take it; it is a wonderful place to visit.

Taking meeting notes with TextExpander

Inspired by Macsparky's post about taking better meeting notes with TextExpander I spent a bit of time tweaking it. To recap, the basic idea is to have a structured set-up for meeting notes that incorporates action/to-dos for everybody in the meeting. The difference between mine and the original is that mine automatically ignores anybody who is not attending when generating the action items section. It is also edited to allow for similar behavior in both nvALT on my macs and Drafts on iPhone/iPad. You can download the version here. By the way, oa1 is "other attendee 1", oa2 is "other attendee 2", etc. The other attendees are people I work with on a regular basis.

New paper on the link between parental and offspring longevity in the US

My latest paper is on the relationship between how long your parents' live/lived and your expected survival. Turns out that even with improve medical care, health knowledge, etc, you still cannot be too careful in choosing your parents. The longer your parents live, the lower is your mortality risk. The paper is joint with my former graduate student Edwin Wong. You can find the paper here and the abstract is below.

Studies of adult mortality typically examine the impact of individual characteristics, but ignore the fact that the characteristics of people closely linked to those individuals also influence mortality risk. This paper examines the effect of parental longevity on survival outcomes of adult offspring using survey data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study (HRS) between 1992 and 2008. It employs a competing risk model that controls for correlation between individual death and survey non-response. There is strong evidence that individuals with longer-lived parents exhibit lower mortality risk. Even after controlling for health conditions and behavioral variables of the offspring, parental age at death has a substantial impact on the survival of the adult offspring, suggesting a strong genetic component that must be considered as important in determining longevity.

New version of paper on family planning in Ethiopia available.

A new version of my paper with Kathleen Beegle and Luc Christiaensen on the effectiveness of family planning programs in Ethiopia is now available. You can find it here. The abstract is below.

Although reproductive health advocates consider family planning programs the intervention of choice to reduce fertility, there remains a great deal of scepticism among economists as to their effectiveness, despite little rigorous evidence to support either position. This study explores the effects of family planning in Ethiopia using a novel set of instruments to control for potential non-random program placement. The instruments are based on ordinal rankings of area characteristics, motivated by competition between areas for resources. Access to family planning is found to reduce completed fertility by more than 1 child among women without education. No effect is found among women with some formal schooling, suggesting that family planning and formal education act as substitutes, at least in this low income, low growth setting. This provides support to the notion that increasing access to family planning can provide an important, complementary entry point to kick-start the process of fertility reduction.

Full time research assistant needed

I am looking for a full time graduate research assistant to work on a NSF funded project on human-computer interactions and economics. The tasks will include literature search and summary, help with running the project experiments, data management, statistical / econometrical analyses, and drafting of papers. For more information on the project and some of the planned work, please see our talk at Google, available on YouTube, or this website (search for HCI or look for the CHI proceedings paper). The ideal candidate would have an interest in labor economics and/or IO, but the main requirement is quantitative skills and familiarity with Stata or other statistical software. Programming experience is preferred, but not require; the Computer Science graduate students on the project will be responsible for the main programming. The hope is that the successful candidate will be able to co-author and/or run experiments for their own research.

The position is for 20 hours a week and includes full tuition. The project is funded until 2014. The initial appointment will be for the next quarter with the possibility of extension if the work is satisfactory and the appointment will start at the beginning of the Winter quarter. The research assistant may be require to work at Seattle University for at least part of the time.

For further information or to submit an application, please contact me at or at 206-651-4151. I will be making a decision during the week of the 17th.

Talks on income shocks and timing of fertility

I presented preliminary results from Shamma Alam and my work on "Income Shocks, Contraceptive Use, and Timing of Fertility" at University of Oregon in Eugene on 16 November and I will be presenting at the UW labor and development brown bag tomorrow at 12.30. The abstract for the paper is below.

This paper examines the relationship between household income shocks and fertility decisions. Using panel data from Tanzania, we estimate the impact of agricultural shocks on contraception use, pregnancy, and the likelihood of childbirth. To account for unobservable household characteristics that potentially affect both shocks and fertility decisions we employ a fixed effects model. Households significantly increase their contraception use in response to income shocks from crop loss. This comes from an increased use of both traditional contraceptive methods and modern contraceptives. The poorer the household the stronger the effect of income shock on contraceptive use is. Furthermore, pregnancies and childbirth are significantly delayed for households experiencing a crop shock. For both pregnancy and childbirth the likelihood of delay as a result of shocks increases the poorer the household. We argue that these changes in behavior are the result of deliberate decisions of the households rather than income shocks' effects on other factors that influence fertility, such as women's health status, the absence or migration of spouse, and dissolution of partnerships.

Stata screencast on model validation using graphs

The fourth episode of my Stata screencasts are now available at Vimeo. This episode looks at how to examine the homoskedasticity and normality assumptions using graphs. It also covers how to export graphs from Stata using menus or do-files. You can find it using the link above or simply by using the embedded video below.