Date of Award

December 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Stuart Rosenthal

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation comprises three chapters that are related to the research topics in Urban and Regional Economics. The first chapter examines whether economic self-interest associated with homeownership motivates homeowners to vote more than renters in U.S. local elections. To control for the self-selection of homeownership, I use national election turnout as the counterfactual outcome. Since policy discussions in national elections are targeted more at the national level, the disparity in political participation between homeowners and renters should be reduced. Results based on election data from three U.S. cities confirm these hypothesis, which suggest that local policies may tend to cater to the tastes of homeowners over renters. The second chapter develops a new method to identify and control for selection when estimating the productivity effects of city size. For single peaked factor return distributions, selecting out low-performing agents has limited effect on modal productivity but reduces the CDF evaluated at the mode. Spillovers from agglomeration have the reverse effect. Estimates based on law firm productivity, wages for married women and wages for full-time men all confirm that selection contributes to urban productivity and that doubling city size causes productivity to increase by 1-2.5 percent. The last chapter uses border discontinuity design to study the long-run effect of British colonial rule on the state building in Africa. British colonial legacy is featured with ethnic segregation and stronger executive constraints, which may have undermined state centralisation. Using micro-data from anglophone and francophone countries in sub-Saharan Africa, we find that anglophone citizens are less likely to identify themselves in national terms (relative to ethnic terms). Evidence on taxation, security and the power of chiefs also suggests weaker state capacity in anglophone countries. These results highlight the legacy of colonial rule on state-building.


Open Access