Date of Award

Fall 12-15-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Thomas A. Mroz

Second Advisor

Kristopher S. Gerardi

Third Advisor

Jonathan Smith

Fourth Advisor

Nguedia Pierre Nguimkeu


This dissertation presents two independent, but interrelated, essays on financial decision making. The first essay shows that, in response to unemployment shocks, older workers precipitously deplete their 401(k)s, particularly after the waiving of the early withdrawal penalty on unemployment-motivated withdrawals at age 55. This paper shows that Unemployment Insurance (UI) keeps older workers from depleting their 401(k) assets following job losses. UI also incentivizes older unemployed workers to delay claiming their Social Security (SS) benefits beyond the earliest age of eligibility, 62. Overall, UI enhances the retirement income of the individuals having a history of late-career layoffs by helping them preserve their 401(k) assets, the return on these assets and opt for a higher stream of Social Security benefits.

The second essay studies banks’ geographic portfolio reallocation in response to hurricane Katrina. Most importantly, it shows this reallocation of resources toward disaster-impacted had real effects on housing markets in the undamaged areas through a credit supply channel. This paper shows that a local credit shock, induced by hurricane Katrina, propagated through banks’ internal networks to produce real and credit markets’ effects in distant regions. Driven by abnormal mortgage and housing demand in Katrina-hit areas, financially constrained multi-market banks reallocated resources towards the damaged areas leading to a credit tightening in the undamaged local markets. Consequently, depending on their housing supply elasticity, local housing markets in the undamaged regions responded to this credit disruption with a mix of housing prices and housing supply declines. These spillovers depended on undamaged markets’ financial linkages to disaster areas. In the undamaged regions, community banks, being local and unexposed to disaster areas, partially insulated their markets from these spillovers.