Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Alfonso Flores-Lagunes

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation comprises three papers on physician labor supply, food insecurity, and income inequality. My research broadly explores how public policies and government programs affect individual behavior and how effectively they alleviate inequality and poverty.

Chapter 1 estimates the impact of a transitory reduction in hours during physicians’ early career on their long-term labor supply. I exploit the work-hour regulations that limit the maximum workweek by residents as the source of exogenous variation. The results show that exposure to the regulations significantly decreases practicing physicians’ labor supply by about four hours per week on average, with female physicians being more responsive to a given reduction in early career hours. Distributional results using a changes-in-changes model confirm that the regulations primarily affect the upper end of the work hours distribution. To reveal potential mechanisms of these effects, I find that the reform increases the probabilities of marriage and having a child, as well as the total number of children, for female physicians. In contrast, it does not have a significant impact on marriage and fertility outcomes for male physicians. These findings provide a better understanding of physicians’ hours of work in response to the reform over time and the role of gender with respect to labor supply behavior and family formation decisions.

Chapter 2 studies the role of government programs in alleviating differential exposure to food insecurity. We provide a framework that conceptualizes how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could have differences in benefit levels across racial/ethnic groups. We decompose differences in SNAP benefit levels into three components: differences in eligibility, participation, and generosity. We then link the results to differences in food consumption to provide implications on food insecurity differentials. Our results reveal that SNAP has different pathways to reducing food insecurity for different populations. Among the three components, eligibility contributes the most to SNAP benefits for both blacks and Hispanics relative to whites. However, SNAP reduces differences in food consumption between blacks/Hispanics and whites by a modest amount, which is likely not enough to reduce the differences in the resource gaps between groups. We also provide an exploratory analysis of how changes to SNAP policy rules might affect differences in food insecurity across groups. Our results suggest that the automatic enrollment policy might be effective in ameliorating the disparities.

Chapter 3 estimates the effects of trade liberalization on household income inequality and investigates whether trade liberalization or domestic reforms are the main influence factors of the rising inequality since 1980 in Taiwan, a middle-income open economy. We construct an empirical model by decomposing the sources of household disposable income in the quintile ratio. Using time-series data from 1980 to 2015 to estimate the long-run effect, we find that trade liberalization raises income inequality overall. When separating trade partners into OECD and non‐OECD countries, our results show that net exports to OECD countries increase inequality, whereas net exports to non-OECD countries insignificantly decrease inequality. Moreover, we provide evidence that domestic reforms, particularly technological progress in favor of skilled labor and industrial structural change, rather than trade liberalization, are the main driving forces of income inequality.


Open Access