Peer Reviewed Publications

  1. Moved to Opportunity: The Long-Run Effects of Public Housing Demolition on Children. American Economic Review. October 2018.

    Abstract (+)

    This paper provides new evidence on the effects of moving out of disadvantaged neighborhoods on the long-run outcomes of children. I study public housing demolitions in Chicago, which forced low-income households to relocate to less disadvantaged neighborhoods using housing vouchers. Specifically, I compare young adult outcomes of displaced children to their peers who lived in nearby public housing that was not demolished. Displaced children are more likely to be employed and earn more in young adulthood. I also find that displaced children have fewer violent crime arrests. Children displaced at young ages have lower high school dropout rates.

    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, AEA Research Highlights

    Previous Version: 2016 Working Paper Draft (Longer)

  2. Housing Voucher Take-Up and Labor Market Impacts (with Josh Hyman and Max Kapustin). Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Winter 2019.

    Abstract (+)

    Low participation rates in government assistance programs are a major policy concern in the United States. This paper studies take‐up of Section 8 housing vouchers, a program in which take‐up rates are quite low among interested and eligible households. We link 18,109 households in Chicago that were offered vouchers through a lottery to administrative data and study how baseline employment, earnings, public assistance, arrests, residential location, and children's academic performance predict take‐up. Our analysis finds mixed evidence of whether the most disadvantaged or distressed households face the largest barriers to program participation. We also study the causal impact of peer behavior on take‐up by exploiting idiosyncratic variation in the timing of voucher offers. We find that the probability of lease‐up increases with the number of neighbors who recently received voucher offers. Finally, we explore the policy implications of increasing housing voucher take‐up by applying reweighting methods to existing causal impact estimates of voucher receipt. This analysis suggests that greater utilization of vouchers may lead to larger reductions in labor market activity. Differences in take‐up rates across settings may be important to consider when assessing the external validity of studies identifying the effects of public assistance programs.

  3. Advertising and Environmental Stewardship: Evidence from the BP Oil Spill (with Lint Barrage and Justine Hastings). American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. February 2020. Available as NBER Working Paper #19838.

    Abstract (+)

    This paper explores whether private markets can incentivize environmental stewardship. We examine the consumer response to the 2010 BP oil spill and test how BP's investment in the 2000-2008 "Beyond Petroleum" green advertising campaign affected this response. We find evidence consistent with consumer punishment: BP station margins and volumes declined by 2.9 cents per gallon and 4.2 percent, respectively, in the month after the spill. However, pre-spill advertising significantly dampened the price response, and may have reduced brand switching by BP stations. These results indicate that firms may have incentives to engage in green advertising without investments in environmental stewardship.

    Press Coverage: Harvard Business Review, AEA Research Highlights

  4. Peers and Motivation at Work: Evidence from a Firm Experiment in Malawi (with Lasse Brune and Jason Kerwin). Forthcoming at the Journal of Human Resources.

    Abstract (+)

    This paper studies workplace peer effects by randomly varying work assignments at a tea estate in Malawi. We find that increasing mean peer ability by 10 percent raises productivity by 0.3 percent. This effect is driven by the responses of women. Neither production nor compensation externalities cause the effect because workers receive piece rates and do not work in teams. Additional analyses provide no support for learning or socialization as mechanisms. Instead, peer effects appear to operate through "motivation": given the choice to be reassigned, most workers prefer working near high-ability co-workers because these peers motivate them to work harder.

  5. The Returns to Early-life Interventions for Very Low Birth Weight Children (with Samantha Gold and Justine Hastings). Journal of Health Economics. January 2021. Available at NBER Working Paper #25753.

    Abstract (+)

    We use comprehensive administrative data from Rhode Island to measure the impact of early-life interventions for low birth weight newborns on later-life outcomes. We use a regression discontinuity design based on the 1,500-gram threshold for Very Low Birth Weight (VLBW) status. We show that threshold crossing causes more intense in-hospital care, in line with prior studies. Threshold crossing also causes a 0.34 standard deviation increase in test scores in elementary and middle school, a 17.1 percentage point increase in the probability of college enrollment, and a $66,997 decrease in social program expenditures by age 14. We explore potential mechanisms driving impacts.

    Press Coverage: Brookings: Hutchins Roundup

  6. The Long-Run Effects of School Racial Diversity on Political Identity (with Stephen Billings and Kareem Haggag). Forthcoming at the American Economic Review: Insights. Available as NBER Working Paper #27302. Ungated Link to PDF.

    Abstract (+)

    How do early-life experiences shape political identity? In this paper, we study how a shock to the social lives of youth affected their party affiliation in adulthood. Specifically, we examine the end of race-based busing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools (CMS), an event that led to large changes in school racial composition. Using linked administrative data, we compare party affiliation for students who had lived on opposite sides of newly drawn school boundaries. We find that a 10-percentage point increase in the share of minorities in a student's assigned school decreased their likelihood of registering as a Republican by 8.8 percent. Consistent with the contact hypothesis, this impact is entirely driven by white students (a 12 percent decrease). This effect size is roughly 16 percent of the correlation between parents and their children's party affiliations. Finally, consistent with this change reflecting underlying partisan identity, we find no significant effect on voter registration likelihood. Together these results suggest that schools in childhood play an important role in shaping partisanship.

    Press Coverage: The Washington Post

  7. Pay Me Later: The Impact of a Simple Employer-based Savings Scheme (with Lasse Brune and Jason Kerwin). (Forthcoming at the American Economic Review).

    Abstract (+)

    We study a simple savings scheme that allows workers to defer receipt of part of their wages for three months at zero interest. The scheme significantly increases savings during the deferral period, leading to higher post-disbursement spending on lumpy expenditures. Two years later, after two additional rounds of the savings scheme, we find that treated workers have made permanent improvements to their homes. The popularity of the scheme suggests a lack of good alternative savings options, and analysis of a follow-up experiment shows that demand for the scheme is also due to the scheme's ability to address self-control issues.

Working Papers

  1. The Causal Impact of Removing Children from Abusive and Neglectful Homes (with Anthony Bald, Justine Hastings and Margarita Machelett). NBER Working Paper #25419. (Third revision requested at the Journal of Political Economy).

    Abstract (+)

    This paper measures impacts of removing children from families investigated for abuse or neglect. We use removal tendencies of child protection investigators as an instrument. We focus on young children investigated before age 6 and find that removal significantly increases test scores and reduces grade repetition for girls. There are no detectable impacts for boys. This pattern of results does not appear to be driven by heterogeneity in pre-removal characteristics, foster placements, or the type of schools attended after removal. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that development of abused and neglected girls is more responsive to home removal.

  2. Moved to Vote: The Long-Run Effects of Neighborhoods on Political Participation (with Kareem Haggag). NBER Working Paper #26515. Ungated Link to PDF. (Revise and Resubmit at the Review of Economics and Statistics.)

    Abstract (+)

    How does one's childhood neighborhood shape political engagement later in life? We leverage a natural experiment that moved children out of disadvantaged neighborhoods to study effects on their voting behavior more than a decade later. Using linked administrative data, we find that children who were displaced by public housing demolitions and moved using housing vouchers are 12 percent (3.3 percentage points) more likely to vote in adulthood, relative to their non-displaced peers. We argue that this result is unlikely to be driven by changes in incarceration or in their parents' outcomes, but rather by improvements in education and labor market outcomes, and perhaps by socialization. These results suggest that, in addition to reducing economic inequality, housing assistance programs that improve one's childhood neighborhood may be a useful tool in reducing inequality in political participation.

Selected Work in Progress

  1. The Impact of Disadvantaged Peers: Evidence from Resettlement after Public Housing Demolition

  2. How America Dodged the Draft: The Demographic Legacy of Vietnam (with Martha Bailey)