I am a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Rochester, and a member of Professor Elaine Hill's Lab at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. I study applied microeconomics with a focus on public policy. I am excited to join Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in fall 2019 as a postdoctoral research associate.
Drinking Water Contamination and Infant Health: Evidence from Pennsylvania. With Elaine Hill (University of Rochester). Contact for working paper.
We study the relationship between public drinking water contamination and birth outcomes, by linking births to detailed water sample results for the state of Pennsylvania over the years 2003-2014. Previous research in the US context has found negative health effects of contamination when it triggers regulatory violations. However, US water quality standards are often weaker than public health goals, and an important policy debate is whether to tighten the standards. In this paper, we focus on the effects of water contamination for births not exposed to regulatory violations, thus providing evidence on the possible public health gains from tighter standards. To separate the effects of water contamination from likely confounders, we employ econometric models that make comparisons only within water systems over time, or only across siblings within families. We find that greater overall public drinking water contamination during gestation negatively affects birth outcomes, even when regulatory violations are not triggered. Our most rigorous specifications suggest that moving from the 10th to the 90th percentile of water contamination among births not exposed to regulatory violations increases the chance of low birth weight by about 7.2% and the chance of pre-term birth by 9.8%.
How does grade configuration affect student performance? I use recent national district-by-grade data on rates of school switching induced by grade configuration (i.e. rates of structural switching) and test performance to bring new evidence to this question. Past research has found that student performance is on average relatively low following structural switches, but in fact students relatively overperform in the grades just prior to these switches. In my national sample, I find that this so-called "top-dog/bottom-dog" pattern appears for all terminal grade choices among grades 3 through 8, is geographically widespread, and is robust to controlling for grade-specific effects of a rich set of covariates. Thus I add strong evidence to the literature that these relationships are caused by the grade configuration policy, rather than being due to careful selection. I explore potential mechanisms and discuss policy and research implications.
Work in Progress
The Effects of Property Allocations, Generations Later: Railroad Grants, Mineral Rights Severance, and Drilling Externalities in Colorado. With Andrew Boslett and Elaine Hill (University of Rochester). Contact for working paper.
We examine how initial land allocations influence modern-day ownership patterns over mineral and surface rights, and exploit these initial allocations to isolate new estimates of the pure environmental externality effect of unconventional drilling. Specifically, we study the mid-19th century railroad land grants of northeastern Colorado, where lands and mineral rights were quasi-randomly allocated to the Union Pacific Railroad or to private homesteaders, generally in a checkerboard pattern. We use the checkerboard as an instrumental variable to estimate the effects of initial land allocation to a large railroad company on modern day mineral and surface rights property ownership patterns, specifically severance rates. We find evidence that mineral rights severance rates today remain higher on land originally granted to the railroad. These contrasts are largely driven by continued mineral rights held by either the Union Pacific Railroad company itself, or closely related companies. In addition, we find no such contrast for owner-occupancy rates, which may be considered a roughly analogous measure of surface rights severance. These findings provide evidence that random initial allocations can influence ownership patterns generations later, but only in certain markets; we discuss possible reasons for these differences. Motivated by these findings, we leverage the persistence of railroad-related mineral rights ownership to identify properties that have likely had split estate since the mid-19th century. Through hedonic regressions restricted to this sample of properties, we provide new estimates of the pure environmental externality effects of recent shale-related drilling on property values.