Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsYun, JHyun
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
UniversityCornell University
CityIthaca, NY
Keywordsfood stamps, Smoking, Social Security Benefits

This dissertation consists of three chapters. In Chapter 1, I use a regression discontinuity design
to investigate the causal relationship between the Earliest Eligibility Age (EEA) for Social
Security and the health outcomes and health behaviors of elderly individuals. I find that at the
EEA, the probability of receiving Social Security benefits increases by over 30 percentage
points. However, I find little or no evidence that the EEA impacts health and mental health. I
also show suggestive evidence that when people reach the EEA, they reduce their smoking. I
find that males drink more frequently when they reach the EEA. Retirement might be one of
the main mechanisms behind the changes in health behaviors.
In Chapter 2, I examine the effects of food stamps on smoking. For this research, I
exploit the variations in the eligibility of immigrants for food stamps established by the Personal
Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, the
heterogeneous responses of states, and the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. I
show that the food stamp eligibility of immigrants leads to large and statistically significant
increases in their probability of food stamp participation and the amount of their annual food
stamp benefits. However, I find that the food stamp eligibility of immigrants results in small
and statistically insignificant decreases in their probability of smoking and their probability of
smoking every day. In Chapter 3, I conduct a multiple event study to investigate the dynamic pattern of the
impact of cigarette taxes on smoking behaviors. Some parts of my findings are close to the
expectation of the theory of rational addiction (Becker and Murphy, 1988) that due to adjacent
complementarity between the past and current consumption of smoking, the long-term effect
of a cigarette tax increase is larger than the short-term effect. Other parts of my findings are
close to the prediction based on psychology and behavioral economics (Loewenstein and
O’Donoghue, 2005; Baumeister et al., 2007) that because of the erosion of people’s willpower,
the impact of a cigarette tax increase is larger in the short term than in the long term.

Citation Key11150