Outstanding Dissertation Award

Anuar Bechara Bitar received the department’s outstanding dissertation award for 2019. His dissertation, advised by Professor Joe Ritter, focused on the impacts of three economic and social policies in Mexico. 

The first policy he studied was a policy designed to incentivize businesses to move out of the underground economy and into the formal economy, helping to guarantee social protections for employees, giving the business better access to financing, and promoting tax compliance. Although the program he studied offered much larger incentives than similar efforts by other countries, Anuar found only modest effects. This tells us that reducing informality will be more difficult than previously anticipated.

Next, he studied how the introduction of Mexico’s public health insurance program for the poor acted as a magnet, improving conditions enough to encourage recently deported migrants to return home rather than to try to reenter the U.S.

Finally, he studied a policy that provides subsidized child care for low-income families.  Results show that the subsidy has a dramatic impact on mothers’ ability to participate in the labor force. Anuar noted that the effects of the subsidy could “imply an additional source of income for their low-income households, a higher bargaining power for the mother within the household, and a promotion of gender equality in the labor market.”

Anuar now serves as a senior economist at the Banco de Mexico in Mexico City.