Department of Economics
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

Graduate Program:

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Getting Beneath the Hood of Effective Place-Based Policies: Evidence from the Community Development Block Grant (Job Market Paper)

Growing economic disparities across the U.S. have increased the need for effective place-based jobs policies. This paper seeks to uncover determinants of effective policies by analyzing the job impacts of thousands of spatially targeted investments made by local governments to spur economic development in low-income areas, funded by $3-4 billion in annual federal block grants from the Community Development Block Grant. Using a hybrid approach combining synthetic control methods with traditional differences-in-differences, I find that jobs increase by 13% over ten years in census tracts where large CDBG investments occurred, without a corresponding increase in home prices. The increase in jobs is driven by low-income workers living in close proximity. The most effective place-based investments provided direct financial assistance to businesses or subsidized commercial/industrial construction. While the CDBG can only be deployed in lower-income neighborhoods, investments had greater job impacts in comparatively less-disadvantaged tracts. I verify that block grants do not crowd out public spending and estimate that each dollar of block grant generates approximately three dollars of public spending.

Link to paper

Wired and Hired: Employment Effects of Subsidized Broadband Internet for Low-Income Americans (forthcoming, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy)

I present evidence on the relationship between broadband pricing and labor market outcomes for low-income individuals. Specifically, I estimate the effects of a Comcast service providing discounted broadband to qualifying low-income families. I use a triple differences strategy exploiting geographic variation in Comcast coverage, individual variation in eligibility, and temporal variation pre- and post-launch. Local program availability increased employment rates and earnings of eligible individuals, driven by greater labor force participation and decreased probability of unemployment. Internet use increased substantially where the program was available.

Link to paper (Online Appendix)

Suspending Suspensions: The Education Production Consequences of School Suspension Policies (with Nolan Pope, under review)

Managing student behavior is integral to the education production process. Over the past half-century, a common but controversial approach has been to suspend disruptive students from the classroom, creating potential tradeoffs between disciplined students and their peers. We study these tradeoffs by modeling and estimating how changes in school suspension policies impact student performance and teacher turnover. We use administrative data from the Los Angeles Unified School District, where suspension rates fell by over 90 percent since 2003. We instrument for school suspension rates by interacting districtwide suspension rate changes with initial school suspension rate levels. Our results indicate that a reduction in suspension rates decreases math and English test scores, decreases GPAs, and increases absences. Teacher turnover also increases, particularly for inexperienced teachers. The overall negative impact of reducing suspension rates is driven by small but diffuse spillovers produced by more lenient disciplinary environments. These spillovers are only partially offset by large and concentrated benefits for the small number of students who are no longer suspended.

Link to paper

Constructing Moves to Opportunity: Evidence from the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (with Henry Downes and John Soriano, work in progress)

This research analyzes migration outcomes of low-income families in response to exogenous changes in the supply of low-income housing. We use variation produced by a discontinuous cutoff in the geographic allocation of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (“LIHTC”), an $8 billion federal program providing tax credits to subsidize the development of low-income housing. We study 1) whether new housing funded by the LIHTC induces low-income families to move to better neighborhoods, 2) whether affordable LIHTC housing primarily benefits residents from the local community, and 3) whether the presence of low-income housing induces neighborhood flight. The primary innovation of this project will be the linkage of a public LIHTC database—including information on addresses, rents, low-income units, physical amenities, and developers—to individual-level migration histories collected by the consumer insights firm Infutor. The project will shed light on the potential for the LIHTC to complement existing voucher-based solutions such as the Moving to Opportunity (“MTO”) program to assist low-income families with moving to high-opportunity neighborhoods.