Job Market Paper

Abstract: Stable housing is often inaccessible to ex-offenders, because rents are unaffordable and landlords are unwilling to rent to ex-offenders. This is the first paper to estimate the effect of rental housing market conditions on the probability that released felons return to prison. I find that black ex-offenders who return to areas with relatively higher vacancy rates for affordable rental housing are significantly less likely commit recidivism. This finding is driven by the availability of rental-units in single-family homes, whose landlords are more likely to rent to ex- offenders. Changes in the share of affordable units in multi-family buildings – which are often managed by property management companies and are less likely to rent to ex-offenders – have a much smaller effect on recidivism. I conclude that access to affordable rental housing and increasing access to affordable housing may help lower recidivism.

Published Manuscripts

Abstract: This study is the first to examine the effects of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) on body weight, physical wellness, and exercise. Using data from the 1990 to 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and a difference-in-difference approach, we find that the enforcement of MMLs is associated with a 2% to 6% decline in the probability of obesity. We find some evidence of age-specific heterogeneity in mechanisms. For older individuals, MML-induced increases in physical mobility may be a relatively important channel, while for younger individuals, a reduction in consumption of alcohol, a substitute for marijuana, appears more important. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that MMLs may be more likely to induce marijuana use for health-related reasons among older individuals, and cause substitution toward lower-calorie recreational ‘highs’ among younger individuals. Our estimates suggest that MMLs induce a $58 to $115 per-person annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs.

This paper revisits an important analysis of enterprise zones (EZs) by Ham et al. (2011), who report substantial poverty reductions from state and federal EZs, as well as improvements in other labor market outcomes. In our re-analysis, we find that a data error accounts for a large share of the estimated impact of state EZs in reducing poverty. More generally, we find that both state and federal EZs appear to be endogenously selected based on prior changes in poverty and other labor market outcomes. Once we account for this selection, much of the evidence that state and federal EZs reduce poverty largely evaporates, as does most of the evidence for other beneficial effects of enterprise zones, with the main exception of some limited evidence for federal Empowerment Zones. Thus, we confirm the more widely-prevailing view that EZs – and especially state EZs – have for the most part been ineffective at reducing urban poverty or improving labor market outcomes in the United States.

Abstract: The authors take up two questions that have not been explored in research on enterprise zones. First, does a considerably longer-run perspective on the effects of state enterprise zones lead to different answers? And second, are there heterogeneous effects of enterprise zones that depend on the set of incentives these programs offer, which can vary widely? The results indicate that whether state enterprise zone programs were observed through a longer-term lens, or through the lens of program heterogeneity, the authors generally did not find any consistent indication of beneficial effects of state enterprise zone programs; if anything, the longer-run effects are negative. The lack of positive effects is consistent with most of the prior evidence that focuses on effects that are short term and homogeneous.

Manuscripts Under Review

Young, Timothy. "Pay Secrecy and Worker Effort: Evidence from an Experiment" (R&R at ILR Review)

By 2015, twelve U.S. states had enacted equal pay laws that prevent employers from taking actions against employees who learn their co-worker’s wages. This paper uses a laboratory experiment to examine whether making wages public information affects worker morale and employer wage-setting behavior. I test for wage comparison effects and whether norms for equality or equity in wages play a role in how employees compare wages. In contrast to much of the experimental literature on wage comparison effects and anecdotal evidence from managers, I find no evidence that effort for the average worker is influenced by their co-worker’s wage. This result is robust across workers assigned different productivity. Moreover, employers respond optimally to the lack of wage comparison effects by not compressing wages when wages are made public.

Abstract: I find evidence that the enactment of marijuana decriminalization laws decreased average reported earnings for young men by about 3%. The enactment of decriminalization laws changed the penalty for possessing small quantities of marijuana from an arrestable offense, where a conviction could result in incarceration, to a non-arrestable infraction without the possibility of incarceration. These deleterious effects are consistent with marijuana users, who likely have lower average earnings compared to the general population, being employed in the labor market, instead of being incarcerated.