Scholarly Works

Click here for a draft version of my job market paper (recent as of December 19)

Working Papers

“Property Rights, Place-Based Policies, and Economic Development” (job market paper)
This paper examines the effect of property rights on economic development within local labor markets, including how property rights change the equilibrium response to place-based policies. It does so in the context of federally recognized American Indian reservations, where a fraction of the land is held in trust by the US federal government and associated with restrictions on transactions. I find that incomplete property rights on reservations are responsible for lower wages and higher levels of unemployment. The direction of these findings is robust to an instrumental variables approach to dealing with the endogeneity of property rights. Next I shed light on the the extent to which place-based policies can improve economic outcomes on reservations. I use a spatial equilibrium framework to study the incidence of casino adoption, a place-based policy unique to reservations. The key insight from the model is that incomplete property rights impose frictions in the housing market that lower the migration response to casino adoption, improving the likelihood that the local population benefits. Consistent with the model’s predictions, I find that casino adoption raises average wages and that the wage effect is greater on reservations with more land in trust. My estimates suggest that wage increases correspond to welfare improvements. This paper provides insights into how place-based policies and property rights jointly shape economic outcomes through changes in the labor market, the housing market, and the mobility of workers.

“The Impact of LinkedIn On Disconnected Young Work-Seekers: Evidence from South Africa” (with Eric Johnson, Rob Garlick, Patrick Shaw, and Marissa Gargano)
This study tackles the challenge of high youth unemployment that prevails in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and globally. Young work-seekers may be constrained by their inability to signal their productivity to potential employers, by the inadequacy of their social and professional networks, or by their limited industry knowledge and low career aspirations. This research seeks to test experimentally whether usage of the digital professional networking site, LinkedIn, can correct some of these market failures and improve employment outcomes for young people. Specifically, our intervention involves randomly selecting some of the corporate work readiness training cohorts from the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator in South Africa to receive programming that educates work-seekers about LinkedIn, encourages them to use the platform, and assists them in building their LinkedIn networks. We administer baseline, endline, and 6-month and 12-month follow-up surveys to collect information on work-seekers’ educational experience, career outlook, and employment outcomes. This paper will present experimental evidence of whether LinkedIn is an effective tool for improving the labour market outcomes of young, discouraged work-seekers in South Africa.
AEA RCT Registry

“Poverty in Rural America: The Black-White Differential in Human Capital Accumulation”
Past research has found that Black Americans achieve low levels of human capital relative to White Americans and that this relationship is robust to a number of specifications, including those that control for indicators of socioeconomic status. Past research, however, has focused almost exclusively on urban areas. In this paper, I assume human capital accumulation is a function of poverty, and I test the hypothesis that the demographics of poverty are different in rural and urban areas. Initially, using several rounds of Decennial and American Community Survey (ACS) Census data, I establish that in cities there is a statistically significant correlation between race and two outcomes: teenage motherhood and high school non-completion. With the 1970 neighborhood samples, I call into question the generalizability of these findings by demonstrating that poor Whites in cities tend to live in more privileged neighborhoods than poor Blacks, even after taking into account a family’s own level of poverty. I subsequently show that racial differences in neighborhood characteristics in rural areas are less pronounced than racial differences in neighborhood characteristics in urban areas, lending to a natural test of whether neighborhood characteristics are partly responsible for the correlation between race and human capital accumulation. Finally, I use housing as a measure of permanent income to test whether rates of teenage motherhood and high school non-completion vary by race when Blacks and Whites face arguably similar living conditions. Specifically, I use mobile home residents, who are predominantly located in rural areas, as a low asset subgroup. Among mobile home residents, I find that Blacks do not exhibit higher rates of these behaviors and, in many cases, exhibit lower rates.

“The Role of Targeted Cash Transfers in Consumption Smoothing of Non-Recipient Households: Evidence from Extended Family Networks in South Africa”
This paper investigates whether an unconditional cash transfer program in South Africa has any unintended effects on the consumption of non-recipient households within a given extended family network. Specifically, this analysis uses panel data from the KwaZulu-Natal Income Dynamics Study (KIDS) to determine whether the Child Support Grant (CSG) reaches beyond its target population and changes the nature of risk sharing within extended families. Results from an initial household fixed effects regression support the hypothesis that households in KwaZulu-Natal smooth consumption within extended family networks. This study, however, does not find evidence that the CSG increases the scope for consumption smoothing within extended families. In fact, the introduction of the CSG into an extended family seems to attenuate the level of consumption smoothing for non-recipient households. These findings suggest that the pecuniary benefits associated with the CSG may not reach beyond the program’s target population. Alternatively, it is possible that poor households, which would meet the eligibility requirements of the means test, are simply less likely to participate in consumption smoothing within extended families.

Works in Progress

  • Public Procurement and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Evidence from Belgian Experiments” (with Samantha Bielen, Peter Grajzl, and Wim Marneffe)
  • Do Worker Non-Cognitive Skills affect Firm Outcomes? (with Rob Garlick, Lukas Hensel, Kate Orkin, and Eliana Carranza)
    Funded by PEDL Exploratory Grant: Project description on PEDL website
  • Casino Gaming Revenue Transfers and Educational Performance