The role of economic and institutional change in shaping social preferences
This thesis explores how economic and institutional changes shape social preferences, in particular attitudes of wellbeing and unrest. The first chapter explores whether the welfare of women increased following the extension of women's rights between the 1960s and 1990s in Europe. Using individual-level data on life satisfaction, it shows through differences-in-differences that the extension of birth control rights is strongly linked to an increase in the welfare of women of childbearing age, while mutual consent divorce and maternity benefits proved less beneficial. Birth control rights also increased women's investment in education, probability of working and income. The second chapter investigates whether the same link between individual rights and welfare holds in the context of India. Unlike in Europe, there is no strong evidence that abortion rights increased the wellbeing of women. Some positive association between rights and wellbeing is only found once the income, education and location of individuals are accounted for. The third and fourth chapters examine which political and economic factors lead individuals to revolt against their government, creating conflict and property rights insecurity. Two innovative empirical approaches are introduced. Chapter 3 analyses the revolutionary preferences of over 100,000 people in 61 countries between 1981 and 1997. It uses instrumental variables to control for the possible endogeneity of economic and political variables. It finds that restricting the level of political and civil freedom has a strong impact on revolutionary support, which economic growth can only partly compensate for. Chapter 4 examines the interaction of preferences for revolt and actions combining the analysis of survey data with a laboratory experiment. The findings are consistent with the collective action problem. The feeling by citizens that the government "operates in the interest of the few" increases both revolutionary preferences and actions; political repression increases preferences for revolt but decreases actual opposition.