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Interests: Labor Economics, Urban Economics, Public Economics

Working Papers

Take-Up, Drop-Out, and Spending in ACA Marketplaces with Michael Dickstein, Tim McQuade, and Petra Persson
Draft: May 2018
Abstract:  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) established health insurance marketplaces where consumers can buy individual coverage. Leveraging novel credit card and bank account micro-data, we identify new enrollees in the California marketplace and measure their health spending and premium payments. Following enrollment, we observe dramatic spikes in individuals' health care consumption. We also document widespread attrition, with more than half of all new enrollees dropping coverage before the end of the plan year. Enrollees who drop out re-time health spending to the months of insurance coverage. This drop-out behavior generates a new type of adverse selection: insurers face high costs relative to the premiums collected when they enroll strategic consumers. We show that the pattern of attrition undermines market stability and can drive insurers to exit, even absent differences in enrollees' underlying health risks. Further, using data on plan price increases, we show that insurers largely shift the costs of attrition to non-drop-out enrollees, whose inertia generates low price sensitivity. Our results suggest that campaigns to improve use of social insurance may be more efficient when they jointly target take-up and attrition.

The Gender Earnings Gap in the Gig Economy: Evidence from over a Million Rideshare Drivers with Cody Cook, Jonathan Hall, John List, and Paul Oyer
Draft: June 2018
Abstract:  The growth of the "gig" economy generates worker flexibility that, some have speculated, will favor women. We explore this by examining labor supply choices and earnings among more than a million rideshare drivers on Uber in the U.S. We document a roughly 7% gender earnings gap amongst drivers. We completely explain this gap and show that it can be entirely attributed to three factors: experience on the platform (learning-by-doing), preferences over where to work (driven largely by where drivers live and, to a lesser extent, safety), and preferences for driving speed. We do \textit{not} find that men and women are differentially affected by a taste for specific hours, a return to within-week work intensity, or customer discrimination. Our results suggest that there is no reason to expect the ``gig'' economy to close gender differences. Even in the absence of discrimination and in flexible labor markets, women's relatively high opportunity cost of non-paid-work time and gender-based differences in preferences and constraints can sustain a gender pay gap.

The Effects of Rent Control Expansion on Tenants, Landlords, and Inequality: Evidence from San Francisco with Tim McQuade and Franklin Qian
Draft: November 2017
Abstract:  In this paper, we exploit quasi-experimental variation in the assignment of rent control in San Francisco to study its impacts on tenants, landlords, and the rental market as a whole. Leveraging new micro data which tracks an individual's migration over time, we find that rent control increased the probability a renter stayed at their address by close to 20 percent. At the same time, we find that landlords whose properties were exogenously covered by rent control reduced their supply of available rental housing by 15\%, by either converting to condos/TICs, selling to owner occupied, or redeveloping buildings. This led to a city-wide rent increase of 5.1% and caused $2.9 billion of total loss to renters. We develop a dynamic, structural model of neighborhood choice to evaluate the welfare impacts of our reduced form effects. We find that rent control offered large benefits to impacted tenants during the 1995-2012 period, averaging between $2300 and $6600 per person each year, with the present discounted value of aggregate benefits totaling $2.9 billion. The substantial welfare losses due to decreased housing supply could be mitigated if insurance against large rent increases was provided as a form of government social insurance, instead of a regulated mandate on landlords.

The Geography of Poverty and Nutrition: Food Deserts and Food Choices Across the United States with Hunt Allcott and Jean-Pierre Dubé
Draft: December 2017
Abstract:  We study the causes of “nutritional inequality”: why the wealthy tend to eat more healthfully than the poor in the U.S. Using two event study designs exploiting entry of new supermarkets and households' moves to healthier neighborhoods, we reject that neighborhood environments have economically meaningful effects on healthy eating. Using a structural demand model, we find that exposing low-income households to the same food availability and prices experienced by high-income households would reduce nutritional inequality by only 9%, while the remaining 91% is driven by differences in demand. In turn, these income-related demand differences are partially explained by education, nutrition knowledge, and regional preferences. These findings contrast with discussions of nutritional inequality that emphasize supply-side issues such as food deserts.

The Long-term Consequences of Teacher Discretion in Grading of High-Stakes Tests with Petra Persson
Draft: October 2017
Abstract:  This paper analyzes the long-term consequences of teacher discretion in grading of high-stakes tests. Evidence is currently lacking, both on which students receive test score manipulation and on whether such manipulation has any real, long-term consequences. We document extensive test score manipulation of Swedish nationwide math tests taken in the last year before high school, by showing significant bunching in the distribution of test scores above discrete grade cutoffs. We find that teachers use their discretion to adjust the test scores of students who have “a bad test day,” but that they do not discriminate based on gender or immigration status. We then develop a Wald estimator that allows us to harness quasi-experimental variation in whether a student receives test score manipulation to identify its effect on students’ longer-term outcomes. Despite the fact that test score manipulation does not, per se, raise human capital, it has far-reaching consequences for the beneficiaries, raising their grades in future classes, high school graduation rates, and college initiation rates; lowering teen birth rates; and raising earnings at age 23. The mechanism at play suggests important dynamic complementarities: Getting a higher grade on the test serves as an immediate signaling mechanism within the educational system, motivating students and potentially teachers; this, in turn, raises human capital; and the combination of higher effort and higher human capital ultimately generates substantial labor market gains. This highlights that a higher grade may not primarily have a signaling value in the labor market, but within the educational system itself.
Press Coverage: Marginal Revolution The Atlantic

Published Papers

Who Wants Affordable Housing in their Backyard? An Equilibrium Analysis of Low Income Property Development with Tim McQuade
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming.
Press Coverage: NPR MarketPlace Vox

Housing Supply Elasticity and Rent Extraction by State and Local Governments
American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 9(1): 74-111. 2017.
Press Coverage: The National Review Online

The Determinants and Welfare Implications of US Workers' Diverging Location Choices by Skill: 1980-2000
American Economic Review, 106(3): 479-524. 2016. (Lead article)
Press Coverage: The Economist Blog, The New York Times Economix Blog, Washington Post Wonkblog, The Atlantic: Cities

Clustering, Spatial Correlations and Randomization Inference with Thomas Barrios, Guido W. Imbens, and Michal Kolesár. Journal of the American Statistical Association 107(498), 578-591, 2012.


Work in Progress

The Geography of Consumption Inequality with Enrico Moretti

The Assimilation of Hispanics: Evidence from Retail Consumption with Kathryn Shaw and Francine Lafontaine