Three Essays in the Economics of Vulnerable Populations

Doctoral Dissertation


Immigrants and seniors are two groups of individuals who may experience substantial economic difficulties due to their limitations in the labor market. This dissertation consists of three essays which evaluate how immigrants and seniors may utilize their skills, sources of support, and public programs to improve their economic and health outcomes.

In the first chapter, I examine how language skills affect immigrants’ occupational status. I show that an increase in English ability from not speaking English very well to speaking English very well lead to an immigrant working in an occupation that requires 11 more points in English skills, which is approximately a one standard deviation change. In addition, I show that occupation is a channel for people with better English ability to earn higher wages.

The second chapter provides an analysis of how seniors’ labor supply responds to health shocks experienced by their spouses. My findings generally suggest that women increase their labor supply when their spouses experience health shocks, whereas men tend to reduce their labor supply. Furthermore, both the response of men and women varies by wealth and severity of the shocks.

In the last chapter, I evaluate the effect of Medicare Part D on the utilization of preventive services by seniors. Many studies have assessed the direct impact of Part D on prescription drug utilization, medical spending, and the treated medical conditions, but none has evaluated the effects of Part D on the utilization of seemingly-unrelated services such as preventive health measures. I find that the increase in prescription drug coverage as a result of Part D corresponds to a 31 percent increase in the probability of getting a flu shot and a 14.5 percent increase in the probability of getting a test for cholesterol level. I verify that doctor visits and improved financial conditions form the mechanisms by which Part D affects the use of preventive services.


Attribute NameValues
Author Hau Nguyen
Contributor Kasey Buckles, Research Director
Contributor Kirk Doran, Committee Member
Contributor Ethan Lieber, Committee Member
Contributor James Sullivan, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Economics
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2017-07-17

Submission Date 2017-07-31
Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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