Public Economics, Labor Economics, Economics of Education, and Health Economics

Working Papers (click title for more information):

The Effect of Education Spending on Student Achievement: Evidence from Property Values and School Finance Rules (JOB MARKET PAPER)

[Draft — November 2017]
Abstract: Opportunities to estimate the causal effect of school spending on student achievement are infrequent and have been based, almost entirely, on variation in spending from large school finance reforms. Property values also affect school spending through both local property tax revenue and the level of state aid provided to each school district. However, little is known about the effect property values have on student achievement through their impact on school revenue. In this paper, I estimate the effect of education spending on district-level student outcomes in 24 states by leveraging changes in revenue driven by property value variation. I interact state-level changes in property values with fixed school finance formulas that measure how state aid and local revenue respond to those changes to create a simulated instrument for school spending. By collecting administrative data on property values for over 7,000 school districts, I am able to measure a leave-one-out mean change in property values for school districts in each state. The instrument is highly predictive of changes in revenue and spending. My estimates suggest that a 10 percent increase in spending improves graduation rates by 3 to 5 percentage points and student test scores by 0.07 to 0.09 standard deviations. These results suggest that market variation in property values affects student outcomes through existing school finance formulas.

The Intergenerational Impact of Cigarette Taxes on Smoking Initiation (with Austin Miller) — Under Review

[Draft — August 2017]
Abstract: This paper documents the existence and magnitude of an intergenerational effect of cigarette taxes on smoking initiation, which flows from older to younger members of the community. We estimate a discrete-time hazard model with cigarette taxes from before an individual is at risk of beginning smoking (from birth to age seven). A $0.25 increase in cigarette taxes during childhood decreases the hazard of later initiating smoking by 12.5 percent. We find no evidence that contemporaneous cigarette taxes affect smoking initiation. Prior work understates the effect of cigarette taxes on smoking by not considering this intergenerational channel.

Work in Progress:

Availability of School Resources, District Expenditure, and School Quality (with Jason Cook)

Abstract: In this study, we explore the effect of education spending on school quality. Using the results of over ten years of property tax elections in a regression discontinuity framework we estimate the effect of two types of spending (capital and instructional) on two types of quality measures (direct measures through student test scores and indirect measures through capitalization and school choice). Preliminary results suggest that districts narrowly passing a capital bond (general levy) increase subsequent capital outlays (instructional expenditures). Neither type of referendum-generated expenditure increase has any statistically significant effect on test scores. Capital outlays temporarily shield against future student transfers to digital charter schools while general-purpose levies temporarily shield against future student transfers to brick and mortar charter schools. We also find evidence that passing either capital or general purpose levies translate into higher housing values.

Civil Rights, Hospital Integration, and Non-Elderly African-American Mortality (with Sam Dodini)