|Title||Three essays in public economics|
|Year of Publication||2013|
|Number of Pages||124|
|University||The University of Wisconsin - Madison|
|Keywords||Health Conditions and Status, Methodology, Net Worth and Assets, Other, Public Policy, Social Security|
The first and second chapters of this dissertation consider household financial decision making. In the first chapter I examine the phenomenon of early claiming for Social Security retirement benefits. Previous work has shown that early claiming, in particular by the primary earner in married couples, is not consistent with household benefit maximization nor is it predicted by models of utility maximization. I show that observed claiming behavior is explained well by a model in which the primary earner chooses when to claim without taking into consideration the effect of the choice on the secondary earner's spousal and survivor benefits. I find that the decrease in the value of household benefits due to early claiming is borne almost entirely by the surviving spouse. In the second chapter, with John Karl Scholz and Ananth Seshadri, we use the insight of a lifecycle model to better understand the factors that affect household retirement savings targets. Two of the most important determinants of savings targets are households' location in the lifetime income distribution and number of children. We measure the deviation of a set of financial guidelines for retirement saving from the optimal asset accumulation implied by the lifecycle model and suggest an alternate savings heuristic that takes into account insights from the lifecycle model. The third chapter applies a novel estimation strategy to measure the benefit of hazardous waste site remediation. In contrast to previous estimates, this method calculates the benefit of site remediation allowing for diminishing marginal utility. Using data on home sales in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2000 I find the median willingness to pay for a one mile increase to the nearest hazardous waste site is $228 per year. This is lower than previous estimates which range from $284 to $1,065 per year.
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