American University
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Three Essays on Labor and Health Inequities by Race and Gender

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posted on 2023-07-12, 18:04 authored by Bongsun Seo

This dissertation examines the intersection of labor market and health inequities by race and gender in the United States in three chapters. In the first chapter, I use panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to evaluate the impact of eldercare needs on potential caregivers' labor supply and health outcomes. Using an event-study specification, I find that eldercare needs lead to a persistent decline in labor supply and an increase in depression levels among potential caregivers. I show that access to state-level paid leave may mitigate the effects of eldercare needs on one's labor supply and depression levels for spousal potential caregivers, but not for parental potential caregivers. In addition, I find suggestive evidence that access to paid leave may be especially beneficial for potential caregivers of color and those with less education.The second chapter proposes a theoretical framework to evaluate the interplay of gender norms, the gender wage gap, and the paid care market's specific characteristics. The study shows how declines in the gender wage gap may have small effects on the division of eldercare work in the presence of persistent gender norms. The study also suggests that market power dynamics, in conjunction with gender norms, might perpetuate reliance on the female provision of unpaid care. We draw out implications from the model that emphasizes the importance of policies that promote gender-egalitarian household division of labor and affordable access to quality long-term care.The third chapter explores the pathways of racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes in the United States, controlling for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. The study reveals that non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic individuals are most likely to report poor health, and these disparities root from individual socioeconomic characteristics as well as environmental factors and access to healthcare. We find suggestive evidence that reducing levels of air pollution and land contamination in majority-Black neighborhoods and increasing access to quality hospitals and preventative services for both Black and Hispanic neighborhoods can help to reduce structural health disparities.In summary, the three essays of this dissertation highlight the complex and interconnected nature of the labor market and health inequities by race and gender in the United States. The findings suggest that policies such as state-level paid family leave and reducing exposure to harmful environmental conditions could mitigate the effects of eldercare needs and racial disparities in health outcomes. Additionally, the study emphasizes the need for policies that promote gender equality in the household division of labor and the paid care market.



American University


Committee co-chairs: Jones, Kelly; Meurs, Mieke. Committee members: Floro, Maria; Casey, Marcus.




Degree Awarded: Ph.D. Economics. American University; Local identifier: local: Seo_american_0008E_12025.pdf; Pagination: 113 pages