My research concerns the spatial dimensions of household and firm behavior, and their implications for public policy.
Job Market Paper
The Effect of Rising Income Inequality Across Neighborhoods on Local School Funding and Enrollment
Income inequality across neighborhoods more than doubled in the U.S. between 1970 and 2010. This spatial reallocation of household income may affect public schools through changes to the distribution of peers and provision of local tax revenues. I find that rising income inequality across neighborhoods within a school district increases local public school funding, suggesting that the median voter substitutes a higher property tax rate for declines in neighborhood peer quality. But this income sorting also depresses human capital investment, primarily due to a widening enrollment gap between low- and high-income neighborhoods. These results are robust to instrumenting for changes in neighborhood incomes with the initial allocation of households interacted with differential national trends in household income growth by percentile.
Research in Progress
The Business Cycle Dynamics and Information Salience of School Quality Valuation (with Stuart Gabriel, Matthew Kahn and Ryan Vaughn)
The existing hedonic literature on school quality valuation leaves open the questions of how these valuations evolve with the broader economic environment, and how exactly households process new information about local schools. This paper uses home price and school quality data for Los Angeles County spanning 2000 to 2015 to identify households’ willingness to pay for a school quality improvement using a dynamic spatial regression discontinuity approach. We also estimate the differential effect of both continuous and discrete sources of information about local schools. Overall, we find that households treat public school quality as an inferior good – they value it more during a downturn than an upswing. Moreover, even after accounting for changes in a school’s academic performance index, labeling a school in need of “program improvement” (a discrete, more salient measure of school quality) is estimated to have an additional negative effect on valuations.
“Urbanization in the United States, 1800-2000,” with Leah Boustan and Devin Bunten. In Oxford Handbook of American Economic History, Forthcoming.
This handbook chapter seeks to document the economic forces that led the US to become an urban nation over its two hundred year history. We show that the urban wage premium in the US was remarkably stable over the past two centuries, ranging between 15 and 40 percent, while the rent premium was more variable. The urban wage premium rose through the mid-nineteenth century as new manufacturing technologies enhanced urban productivity; then fell from 1880 to 1940 (especially through 1915) as investments in public health infrastructure improved the urban quality of life; and finally rose sharply after 1980, coinciding with the skill- (and apparently also urban-) biased technological change of the computer revolution. The second half of the chapter focuses instead on the location of workers and firms within metropolitan areas. Over the twentieth century, both households and employment have relocated from the central city to the suburban ring. The two forces emphasized in the monocentric city model, rising incomes and falling commuting costs, can explain much of this pattern, while urban crime and racial diversity also played a role.