Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Chambers College of Business and Economics



Committee Chair

Russell S. Sobel.


This dissertation includes essays on the application of economics to areas previously thought to be the domain of sociology, psychology, and political science. Chapter 1 introduces the paths that economics has blazed into the areas of religion, charitable giving, crime, and government formation. The second chapter examines the functions that risk and time preference play in the strength of an individual's religious belief. The results illustrate that individuals treat religion like other goods exhibiting uncertainty and a delayed expected future payoff. Chapter 3 investigates the role of prestige and warm glow in the market for charitable giving. The results indicate that contributions to faith-based organizations depend on the strength of the warm glow effect relative to that of the prestige effect. The fourth chapter utilizes a model of government evolution to explore the formation of Los Angeles street gangs. The results indicate that already existing violence in the inner city causes youths to join gangs. It is also shown that the existence of gangs actually promotes an overall net decrease in crime. Chapter 5 summarizes the findings of the dissertation, provides concluding remarks, and discusses opportunities for future research in the economics of religion, charitable giving, and crime.