Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School


Public Policy and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Edward T. Jennings


Comprised of three essays, my dissertation is linked by a common focus: the relationship between state or local governance arrangements and inequality or facets of social equity. I draw upon a range of literatures to motivate my research questions and inform my methodologies—welfare and social policy, public economics, intergovernmental relations, public finance and management.

In the first essay, I ask: does localizing welfare governance impact geospatial access to the social safety net? This is an important question because proximity is highly salient to program utilization. I geocode the location of human services nonprofits from tax filings in eight states using ArcGIS and create measures of access for low-income neighborhoods over 17 years. I leverage the 1996 welfare reform, which enabled states to devolve more policymaking discretion to local governments, to examine the responsiveness of nonprofits to changes in welfare governance with respect to geospatial accessibility. One of my main findings is that low-income neighborhoods in states that chose to localize welfare had less access post-reform to program revenues, a proxy for government contracts and services.

In the second essay, I study the relationship between state government wages and privatization. Governments have used public sector employment to support a variety of goals, including social equity and economic development, but privatization, as an NPM reform, may shift that focus. My empirical analysis shows that state privatization of service delivery is associated with decreases in the public sector wage premium, but that these effects are not driven by gender, race, or low levels of educational attainment. The quality of implementation conditions these effects. I also find that privatization is associated with a lower public sector wage premium for middle-class workers.

In the third essay, I and a co-author leverage a 2003 Arkansas state law requiring school district reorganization via an enrollment cutoff to evaluate the effects of consolidations on rural communities’ population, number of schools, and property values using a propensity score matched difference-in-differences design. We estimate that the reform led to reductions in population, community schools, and property value assessments. We also find that communities with greater shares of racial minorities may have been disproportionately affected with respect to population loss.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)