Transportation Networks and the Geographic Concentration of Employment 2023. (Accepted at Review of Economics and Statistics)
[ Abstract | Recent Draft]
This paper examines the effect of expanding transportation networks on uneven spatial industrial growth across the United States from 1953 to 2016. The paper addresses the endogenous placement and timing of interstate construction by instrumenting for highway locations using a historic military map combined with a network theory algorithm to predict construction timing. Results indicate that interstate counties experienced significant growth in employment and the number of establishments relative to non-interstate counties. Growth rates are highest within two decades of receiving an interstate. The results also reveal positive spillovers occurred in later decades among adjacent counties along the metropolitan periphery.
Property Rights Without Transfer Rights: A Study of Indian Land Allotment (with Christian Dippel and Bryan Leonard). 2023. (Revisions Requested at Journal of Political Economy Microeconomics)
[ Abstract | NBER WP # 27479 | Anderson Review | Vox-EU | How the World Works Podcast ]
Governments often institute transferability restrictions over property rights to protect owners and communities, but these restrictions impose costs: lowering property values, limiting investment, and increasing transaction costs. We study the long-run impacts of transferability restrictions using a natural experiment affecting millions of acres of Native American reservation land, by comparing non-transferable allotted-trust parcels with transferable fee-simple parcels. We use satellite imagery to study differences in land use across tenure types by leveraging fine-grained fixed effects to compare immediate neighbors. We find that fee-simple plots are 13% more likely to be developed and have 35% more land in cultivation.
The Effect of Allotment on Native American Households During the Assimilation Era (with Christian Dippel). 2021.
[ Abstract | Recent Draft]
In the early twentieth century, the federal government broke up millions of acres of tribally owned reservation lands and allotted them to individual Native American households. The allotted land was initially held in trust (with limited property rights), and households had to prove themselves “competent” in order to be given full ‘fee- simple’ property rights. In short, allotment was a conditional transfer program aimed at cultural assimilation. We study how Native American households responded to the incentives created by allotment.
Economic Consequences of Childhood Exposure to Urban Environmental Toxins (with Gisella Kagy). 2023.
[ Abstract] | Recent Draft]
During the late nineteenth century, half of all municipalities installed lead water pipes, exposing millions of people to harmful levels of lead consumption. This paper explores the long-term, and intergenerational, effects of waterborne lead exposure on men’s labor market outcomes using linked samples drawn from the full count censuses. For identification, we leverage variation in lead pipe adoption across cities and differences in the chemical properties of a town’s water supply, which interact to influence the extent of lead leaching. Results show adult men with higher levels of waterborne lead exposure as children have lower incomes, worse occupations, and lower levels of completed education compared to adult men who had lower levels of waterborne lead exposure as children. Men who are exposed to higher levels of waterborne lead have a significantly decreased probability of improving their income rank relative to their fathers, which is consistent with lead exposure behaving like a negative place-based shock that constrains upward mobility.
Colonial Definitions of Indigenous Identify and Modern Inequality on American Indian Reservations (with Dominic P. Parker) 2021.
Colonial systems have been used throughout the world to define indigenous identity in ways not employed by indigenous people prior to colonization. We study how a particular definition – blood quantum – has affected modern inequality and conflict among people self-identifying as Indigenous on American Indian Nations. We construct a 1945-2010 panel data of set of reservations to i) estimate how inequality and conflict have evolved with income growth, and to ii) evaluate how these changes vary with a reservation’s degree of blood quantum polarization as measured in 1938 Bureau of Indian Affairs reports. Our measure of polarization pivots on the federal government’s (arbitrary) threshold of 25 percent Indian blood and peaks when half of the population was above the threshold. We find that higher polarization is associated with less inclusive growth and higher rates of reported conflict. The effects are strongest with increases in casino gaming and for tribes with IRA-era constitutions that embedded blood quantum criteria for citizenship. We also find that measures of cultural polarization – such as polarization in the percent of the Native American population speaking the indigenous language or the coexistence of multiple tribal groups on the same reservation – do not associate with exclusive growth. We interpret this and related findings as further evidence that political rules around the blood quantum threshold – rather than cultural heterogeneity – explain the empirical patterns.
Local versus Central Governance: Long-Run Effects of Federal Oversight over American Indian Reservations (with Dominic P. Parker) 2019.
[ Abstract | Recent Draft]
This paper studies the decentralization of governance across American Indian reservations and measures the long-run development differences for reservations that were granted less sovereignty through the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). To mitigate selection concerns regarding IRA adoption, we exploit voting results by restricting our analysis to narrowly determined elections. Results indicate that IRA adoption stifled economic development, resulting in lower per capita income, higher inequality, and a less developed gaming sector. Income differences develop within the first decade of adoption and persist throughout the twentieth century. Legislation in recent decades expanded local control to reservation governments, expanding sovereignty for IRA reservations, as a result income differences diminish by 2010.
Publications and Forthcoming articles
Bureaucratic Discretion in Policy Implementation: Evidence from the Allotment Era (with Christian Dippel and Bryan Leonard). 2022. Public Choice.
[ Abstract | Recent Draft]
From 1887 to 1934, the federal government broke up millions of acres of tribally owned reservation lands and allotted them to individual Native American households. Allotment conveyed a highly contingent set of property rights, with land initially held in trust by the federal government and administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, from which it could later be re-titled into fee simple. The BIA’s local “Indian Agents” were given a crucial role in this process. This paper studies empirically to what extent agents’ idiosyncratic preferences and discretion shaped this process. We find that individual agents were statistically important drivers of policy implementation, and that their legacies matter for the distribution of land titles on reservations even to the present day.
Indigenous Self-Governance and Development on American Indian Reservations (with Dominic P. Parker). 2021. AEA Papers and Proceedings (Vol. 111, pp. 233-37).
[ Abstract | Paper | Hoover Report | Replication Package]
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People promotes self-governance as a matter of justice rather than economics. How will self-governance affect the incomes of indigenous people? To gain insight, we compare long-run income growth on American Indian reservations with and without federal oversight through the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. Reservations with more autonomy had 12–15 percent higher income per capita in 2016, even conditional on 1930s income. However, these more autonomous reservations also experienced wider income variance with more downside risk. The findings are consistent with theory emphasizing the development trade-offs between local and centralized governance.
Work in Progress
Native Americans in the Historical Census: New Data and Applications (with Christian Dippel)
The digitized historical Full Count Census waves from 1900–1940 are a rich source of information for individual- or household-level quantitative research on the Native American population, with the average census wave containing more than 300,000 Native American individuals. Without the missing information on reservation, however, there is no treatment variation in any of the major historical policies that Native Americans were exposed to, such as Indian boarding schools and land allotment. We describe the construction of a stable reservation-to-individual crosswalk that assigns a reservation to over ninety percent of individuals in the historical Native American population, and apply this crosswalk to answering some long-standing questions on within-reservation inequality
Land Development Along National Highway Networks 2022.
[ Abstract ]
This paper examines the impact of interstate highways on land development across the United States. First, by considering the intensity of building construction from 1955 to 2015 measured at the 1 km x 1 km grid cell level. Next, it considers the share of developed land using land cover data from 1974 to 2015. For identification, the paper uses proposed but never built highway segments from a 1920s interstate plan as counterfactual interstate locations. Results indicate that interstates significantly increased land development. These gains are strongest among commercial and industrial land and are concentrated within 5 kilometers of interstates.
Market Integration and the Transition to Modern Agriculture