Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness

Document Type



The U.S. is often called the “land of opportunity” but there are substantial disparities in the opportunity and life outcomes of children depending on where they grow up. The structural factors that shape future outcomes of children can be traced to their childhood environment. This dissertation builds upon the existing literature on childhood environment and future outcomes of children and presents three essays on the variation in intergenerational income mobility and incarceration in the US.

In the first essay in chapter 2, I employ spatial regime analysis to study how the factors affecting absolute upward mobility vary due to local conditions. Regimes are created based on demographics and economic dependence. I find that correlates positively affecting upward mobility are typically stronger in counties with low black population and counties outside the South. Besides, the fraction of short commute, social capital index, and the share of single mother households are important predictors of upward mobility across counties dependent on different industrial concentrations.

Chapter 3 employs Seemingly Unrelated Regression (SUR) to analyze the structural differences in the childhood neighborhood characteristics that affect the expected income rank between children raised in low-income and high-income families. Separate analyses were done for different combinations of race/ethnicity and gender and stayer vs movers. I find that the role neighborhoods play in shaping the future income of children is different between those raised in low-income and high-income families with an exception for black males. I also find a higher expected income rank for children who moved out of their childhood labor market as compared to those that stayed.

Chapter four studies how their childhood environment determines the racial disparities in incarceration rates of youths. The results of this study suggest that childhood contextual variables are sensitive to the level at which we measure them so one should be careful in selecting the variables at the level of neighborhoods, communities, or labor market areas. I also show that higher social capital helps decrease incarceration rates but only for whites suggesting that not all place-based characteristics that help increase intergenerational mobility also decrease racial disparities in incarceration rates.

Committee Chair

Fannin, J. Matthew