Date of Award

May 2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

Committee Member

William R Dougan

Committee Member

Robert K Fleck

Committee Member

Patrick L Warren

Committee Member

Kevin K Tsui

Abstract

This dissertation studies three topics: sales tax avoidance, gun control, and management practices effect on student performance.

The first chapter studies the impact of a crackdown on e-commerce avoidance on cross-border shopping. As e-commerce has grown over the last few decades so has states' concern for its use for sales tax avoidance. Using a panel of Washington State tax jurisdictions from 2005 through 2015, I estimate the effect of a sales tax regime change on the elasticities of taxable sales. I find the regime change, targeted at reducing sales tax avoidance through remote purchases, had a differential impact that varied by tax jurisdiction. I find that in tax jurisdictions near the border of lower-sales-tax states (Oregon and Idaho) consumers became more responsive to the difference in sales tax rates across borders than their counterparts in the interior of the state. I interpret this as a substitution by consumers along the Oregon and Idaho border from e-commerce purchases to cross-border shopping in order to avoid sales taxes.

The second chapter studies the effects of gun control laws on firearm deaths. Over the past few decades, there have been large changes in many state's gun laws. Their effect on homicides, suicides, and overall firearm deaths is unclear. We make use of a new database of state gun law provisions from 1991 to 2016 to test the effectiveness of state gun control. There is a negative correlation between the number of gun control provisions and firearm death rates, but we find little evidence of a causal relationship. Using a difference-in-difference approach, we test the effectiveness of 13 broad provisions on state homicides and suicide rates. We find these provisions have little effect on reducing firearm homicides and suicides. We test two mechanisms for the lack of effectiveness in gun control laws: gun prevalence, and gun mobility in response to state law differences. We find some evidence that states with fewer provisions have more firearms, initially purchased there, recovered by police in other states.

The third chapter studies the effects of good management practices on performance in the context of education. Managerial autonomy and good management practices could be either technical substitutes or complements in the production of organizational performance. We provide empirical evidence on the direction of this relationship by studying management practices and their effects on student performance in a large set of public and private schools in Indiana. We gather data on management practices from structured interviews with principals of 76 schools in Indiana and match those interviewees to their students' performance on the state standardized test. We find that a one standard deviation (s.d.) increase in a school's management score is associated with a 0.024 s.d. increase in those students' average math score and a 0.025 s.d. increase in students' average English/Language Arts (ELA) test score. The relationship between a school's management practices and its students' academic performance appears to differ by school type. This is suggestive that managerial autonomy and management practices are complements. However, differences in student characteristics explain much of the difference in student performance.

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