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Essays on welfare and distributional aspects of the Russian transition


Fedorov, Leonid Ilych (2006). Essays on welfare and distributional aspects of the Russian transition. Master's thesis / Doctoral dissertation.


The dissertation is a collection of essays in development economics analyzing the transitional process in Russia from different angles ranging from the regional income distribution to the dynamics of health and nutrition indicators. The first essay explores links between the health status of children and socio-economic characteristics of their parents, communities, and macroeconomic shocks. It finds that household and community characteristics as well as economic conditions have significant effects on height of children. The essay stresses the importance of the endogeneity of lagged height, which can be thought of as the catch-up effect or the lingering effect of poor health, and shows that, while such an effect is significant, it could be overestimated by more than twofold if a naive estimation procedure is used. The second essay focuses on nutritional outcomes of adults. It finds that the effects of economic variables are gender specific. Prices of various food items, the quality of infrastructure and income are linked to individual's body mass index (BMI). Both quantity and quality of education matter with respect to BMI. For women especially: more college education significantly lowers BMI. Also an interesting age-education pattern emerges---better education puts individuals on a more graceful aging path as far as the BMI is concerned. The third essay looks at welfare outcomes of the Russian transition from the perspective of regional economics. It shows that while inequality and polarization increased rapidly from 1991 to 1996, the increases leveled off in the late 1990s. Using a polarization index based on inequality decomposition, it is shown that the main dimensions of increasing polarization are not so much the "West-East" or the "Ethnic Russian-National Republics" divides, but factors such as export shares of regions or the relative sizes of their capital cities. This provides a different perspective on the causes of regional inequality and polarization and suggests a research and policy agenda somewhat different from that is prominent in the current debate.

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Fedorov, Leonid Ilych