List of Working Papers:


  • Moved to Opportunity: The Long-Run Effect of Public Housing Demolition on Labor Market Outcomes of Children (Accepted at the American Economic Review)
  • Advertising, Reputation and Environmental Stewardship: Evidence from the BP Oil Spill (with Lint Barrage and Justine Hastings) (Revise and Resubmit at the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy)
  • Predictors of Successful Housing Voucher Lease-Up and Implications for Estimated Labor Market Responses (with Josh Hyman and Max Kapustin) (Revise and Resubmit at the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management)

Research in Progress:

  • Pay Me Later: The Impact of a Simple Employer-based Savings Scheme (with Lasse Brune and Jason Kerwin)
  • Peers and Motivation at Work: Evidence from a Firm Experiment in Malawi (with Lasse Brune and Jason Kerwin)
  • The Impact of Paid Sick Leave: Evidence from Temporary Disability Insurance in Rhode Island (with Zak Campbell and Justine Hastings)
  • The Impact of Paid Maternity Leave: Evidence from Temporary Disability Insurance in Rhode Island (with Zak Campbell and Justine Hastings)
  • Leveraging Machine Learning for Optimal Policy: Evidence from Reemployment Services (with Zak Campbell and Justine Hastings)
  • How America Dodged the Draft: The Demographic Legacy of Vietnam (with Martha Bailey)

Moved to Opportunity: The Long-Run Effect of Public Housing Demolition on Labor Market Outcomes of Children

Accepted at the American Economic Review

Awards:

  • 2017 Dorothy S. Thomas Award by the Population Association of America
  • 2017 Dissertation Prize by the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity (HCEO) Global Working Group
  • 2015 Parker Prize by the Department of Economics at University of Michigan

Press Coverage: New York Times, Marginal Revolution, The Atlantic: Citylab, The American Prospect, Slate, Mother Jones, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Abstract: This paper provides new evidence on the effects of moving out of disadvantaged neighborhoods on the long-run economic outcomes of children. My empirical strategy is based on public housing demolitions in Chicago which forced households to relocate to private market housing using vouchers. Specifically, I compare adult outcomes of children displaced by demolition to their peers who lived in nearby public housing that was not demolished. Displaced children are 9 percent more likely to be employed and earn 16 percent more as adults. These results contrast with the Moving-to-Opportunity (MTO) relocation study, which detected effects only for children who were young when their families moved. To explore this discrepancy, this paper also examines a housing voucher lottery program (similar to MTO) conducted in Chicago. I find no measurable impact on labor market outcomes for children in households that won vouchers. The contrast between the lottery and demolition estimates remains even after re-weighting the demolition sample to adjust for differences in observed characteristics. Overall, this evidence suggests lottery volunteers are negatively selected on the magnitude of their children's gains from relocation. This implies that moving from disadvantaged neighborhoods may have substantially larger impact on children than what is suggested by results from voucher experiments where parents elect to participate.

Relocation Effects by Age of Measurement for Younger and Older Children

Notes: This figure displays estimated treatment effects on adulthood earnings for children displaced by public housing demolition. Each figure presents effects for two separte groups: younger (age 7 to 12 at baseline) and older (age 13 to 18 at baseline) children as solid red diamonds and solid blue squares, respectively. Each point plotted on the figure represents the difference between displaced and non-displaced children outcomes at a given age when earnings are measured. The dashed lines in the figures plot out the 95-confidence intervals for each age-specific point estimate.

Latest Version (with Appendix) / Latest Version (No Appendix) / Presentation Slides / Appendix Materials Only

Advertising, Reputation and Environmental Stewardship: Evidence from the BP Oil Spill (with Lint Barrage and Justine Hastings).

Revise and Resubmit at the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy

Abstract: This paper explores the impact of advertising on the consumer response to news about unobserved product quality. Specifically, we estimate how British Petroleum’s (BP) 2000-2008 “Beyond Petroleum” advertising campaign affected the impact of the 2010 BP oil spill. We find that BP station margins declined by 4.2 cents per gallon, and volumes declined by 3.6 percent after the spill. However, consumer exposure to pre-spill advertising significantly dampened the price response in the short-run and reduced the fraction of BP stations switching brand affiliation in the long-run. Our results suggest that advertising provides insurance against adverse events. We discuss implications for private provision of environmental stewardship.

Consumer Response to the 2010 BP Oil Spill

Notes: This figure displays average weekly gas prices for BP and non-BP stations that do not compete with BP. The latter set of stations serves as the comparison group in our analysis. All statistics are computed from OPIS data.

Link to NBER Working Paper Version

Peers and Motivation at Work: Evidence from a Firm Experiment in Malawi (with Lasse Brune and Jason Kerwin).

Abstract: This paper sheds light on workplace peer effects by analyzing an experiment at a tea estate in Malawi. We randomly allocated tea-harvesting workers to fields and find strong evidence of positive effects from working near higher-ability peers. Our analysis shows that increasing the average of co-worker ability by 10 percent increases own productivity by 0.3 percent. In contrast to previous studies, we rule out that production or compensation externalities drive our results because workers receive piece-rates and do not work in teams. Additional analysis provides no support for the hypothesis that learning or worker socialization drive the effects. Instead, we provide suggestive evidence that workers view co-workers as a source of "motivation." When given a choice to be re-assigned, the majority of workers want to work near fast (high-ability) co-workers. In open-ended survey responses, respondents state that being near faster peers provides motivation to work harder.

Pay Me Later: The Impact of a Simple Employer-Based Savings Scheme (with Lasse Brune and Jason Kerwin).

Abstract: For workers in developing countries with seasonal incomes, saving to purchase durable goods or smooth consumption is difficult due to a lack of good savings options. Partnering with an agricultural employer in Malawi, we study a no-frills employer-based savings technology that piggybacks on existing payroll infrastructure to provide a safe and convenient method to save up for lumpy expenditures. We offer workers the opportunity to defer part of their wages for three months, at zero interest, and receive a lump sum payout at the end of the main season. We find that this savings scheme has high take-up, and participants save 14 percent of their earnings during the deferral period. Treatment workers increase output at work by 4.5 percent, substitute away from informal savings methods and increase total savings before payout by 24 percent. The rate of large purchases increases over the study period, and, immediately following payout, participants increase bulk purchases of maize and expenditures on house improvements, in line with top savings goals reported at baseline. Follow-up surveys reveal high interest in repeat participation. Results from a product choice experiment suggest that payout of savings in a lump sum is a crucial feature and that, at the margin, most participants prefer the commitment aspect of the deferred wages scheme over more liquid access.