Date of Award

Fall 8-11-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Carlianne Patrick

Second Advisor

Dr. Julie Hotchkiss

Third Advisor

Dr. Garth Heutel

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Laura Wheeler


This dissertation examines different topics within the sphere of urban economics. My first chapter, “Social Capital and Entrepreneurship”, explores the role of social capital – at the community and individual level – in the pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities measured through self-employment. I define social capital along two dimensions: trust and network social capital. Using two-sample two-stage least squares (2S2SLS), I construct measures of trust and network social capital for respondents in the restricted 2000 U.S. Long Form Decennial Census and predict the likelihood that a person is observed in a self-employed state using a multinomial regression. I find that individuals with high amounts of network social capital characterized by informal relationships (hereafter referred to as “weak network social capital”) are 0.56 percentage points more likely to be observed in self-employment compared to individuals with medium or low levels of weak network social capital. Measuring social capital at the census tract level, only individuals living in communities with high levels of weak network social capital and strong network social capital (characterized by familial or close-friend relationships) have statistically higher probabilities of being observed in self-employment relative to individuals in communities with low and medium levels of network social capital. Stratifying the sample by urbanicity, the relationship between social capital and self-employment is stronger for individuals with high weak networks who live in the most rural census tracks in the United States. These results imply that increasing social interactions in communities through the promotion of social capital building entities (i.e. clubs and social groups) may be an innovative and low-cost intervention for communities with potentially poor labor market opportunities.

In my second chapter, “Amenities and the College-Educated: A Gentrification Perspective," I examine gentrification across all metropolitan areas in the U.S. between 2007 and 2014 and develop a conceptual framework of gentrification that has causal interpretations. Gentrification is an important topic within public policy, being a subject of debate and interest for economists, city planners, and politicians. Recent evidence of gentrification in several U.S. cities finds a significant correlation between gentrification (via increases in a neighborhood’s share of college graduates) and the location of consumption amenities. This paper develops a conceptual model as the basis for estimating gentrification and amenity establishment location simultaneously for Core-Based Statistical Areas in the U.S. between 2007 and 2014. I use a measure of operationally defined gentrification whereby the underlying measure is share of college graduates in a neighborhood. I find that when controlling for the simultaneous nature between amenities and gentrification, gentrification increases the consumption amenities in a neighborhood by 4%. Contrastingly, there is no clear evidence that gentrification increases the number of neighborhood amenities

Finally, my third chapter, “Revisiting the Burden of the Gas Tax in an Electric Vehicle World," examines changes in the distribution of the gasoline tax burden in the presence of increased electric vehicle adoption. In the last several decades there has been a large growth in the number of electric vehicles on the roads. However, even with this growth, the primary source of infrastructure funding in the U.S. continues to be gasoline taxes. Less demand for gasoline may impact the elasticity of demand for gasoline, therefore potentially threatening a revenue source. Furthermore, the burden of the tax will continue to shift towards consumers of gas-powered vehicles. This chapter re-examines a model of gas-tax incidence using updated consumer data. I then simulate electric vehicle purchases to examine the burden on consumers when the national gasoline tax is increased.