Working Papers

The Effect of Increased Sentencing Severity on Fertility and Family Formation

Abstract: Over the last several decades, the United States’ incarceration rate has steadily increased. By 2011, close to one percent of the adult population was experiencing some form of correctional supervision. Although incarcerated men are physically separated from their communities, their absence may still affect those who are left behind. Using the change in incarceration caused by a sentencing reform in North Carolina, together with an intensity of treatment research design, I show that effective incarceration policies have spillover effects on family formation patterns. In the wake of the policy change, unmarried, and young black women reduce or delay their fertility, and the composition of births shifted towards women of higher socioeconomic status. At the same time, I find that among those who gave birth, the quality of partner matches decline. The probability of marriage declines for white women, but I observe no effect for black women.

The Effect of Increased Sentencing Severity on Infant and Maternal Health and Mortality

Abstract: Because of the strong socioeconomic gradient in incarceration rates, scholars have identified mass incarceration as a potential channel to explain continued discrepancies in health outcomes across socioeconomic groups. This paper leverages women’s exposure to a state sentencing reform through their partner market to understand the relationship between incarceration rates and infant and maternal health. After the reform drastically increased incarceration rates, the average birth saw improvements in health outcomes. However, once maternal characteristics are accounted for the results are mixed: increases in the incidence of low birth weight births, hypertension, and the use of tobacco, but a decrease in preterm births. These results are consistent with both increased maternal stress and compositional change as mechanisms. A decomposition exercise shows both socioeconomic and biological factors are important contributors to the relationship between incarceration rates and infant and maternal health.

Does Delivery of Primary Health Care Improve Birth Outcomes? Evidence from the Rollout of Community Health Centers, with Esra Kose and Maria Rosales-Rueda. Available as NBER working paper 30047

Featured in NBER The Bulletin on Health, Issue 2, June 2022

Abstract: Introduced as part of the War on Poverty, Community Health Centers (CHCs) deliver primary care to underserved populations by locating sliding-scale clinics in economically disadvantaged areas. We investigate how this policy affected infant health using the rollout of CHCs and a flexible event study framework with Vital Statistics natality data. Our results show that average birth weight increased, and low birth weight incidence decreased after a CHC opened in the mother’s county of residence. These improvements in infant health can be explained by increased access to early prenatal care and reductions in maternal smoking.

Work in Progress

Task Inequality and Racial Mobility over the Long Twentieth Century, with Rowena Gray, Sarah Quincy, and Zachary Ward

Birth Order and Public Investments: Evidence from the United States, 1910 – 1940, with Angela Cools

The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Health, with Cassie Stoltenberg (Davidson 2022)

Published work

Old Immigrants, New Niches: Russian Jewish Agricultural Colonies and Native Workers in Southern New Jersey, 1880-1910, with Sarah Quincy. RSF: Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 4 (1), 20-38: 2018.

Abstract: The effect of immigration shocks on native workers in a labor niche remains an open question. We test how workers in the farm and nonfarm sectors were affected by the establishment of Russian Jewish agricultural colonies in southern New Jersey in the late nineteenth century. By following the same individuals across the 1880 and 1910 US censuses, we avoid making assumptions about the substitutability of immigrants and native workers. Russian Jews established themselves as farmers or factory workers with the help of international aid societies. Many native workers increased their occupational standing by transitioning to occupations complementary to agricultural and semi-skilled factory work, the immigrants’ main niches. We see no impact on farmers, likely due to the structure of agricultural markets. We also find a decreased probability of out-migration for natives living near a successful agricultural colony, with occupational upgrading concentrated among stayers.

Resting Papers

Indian Tribal Government Access to Tax-Exempt Bond Financing, with Edith Brashares

Abstract: While prior research focuses on Federal assistance to Native American tribal governments through spending programs, we examine tax incentive use by tribes. Tribal governments can issue tax-exempt bonds where the interest rates are lower because the Federal government does not tax bondholder on the interest they receive. To provide context, we briefly summarize the tax rules for tax-exempt bonds and describe tribal tax-exempt borrowing between 1987 and 2010. These data have not been published previously. Unlike most studies of tax-exempt bonds that examine how much is borrowed, we start by modeling the decision of a tribal government to borrow using tax-exempt bonds. We find tribes with resources, either gaming income or royalties, but that have members in need are more likely to borrow using tax-exempt bonds. Of those tribes that do borrow, the amount increases with the interest rate spread relative to Treasuries, gaming income and per capita income.