Work In Progress

Cutoff From Support: The Effects of Losing Cash Welfare (Job Market Paper)

with Motaz Al-Chanati

  • Awards: NSF Dissertation Fellowship, PER Research Grant

  • Invited Presentations: National Tax Association Conference 2021

  • Methods: regression discontinuity/kink, event study, quantile regression, panel regression.

Does removing families from welfare programs result in increased employment? Using detailed administrative data from Michigan, we study a policy reform in the state’s TANF program that swiftly and unexpectedly removed over 10,000 families from welfare while quasi-randomly assigning time limits to over 30,000 remaining participants. Consistent with economic theory, removing families from welfare increases formal labor force participation by roughly 4 percentage points (20% over control group mean), with increases in annualized earnings of roughly $500. We find that time limits – particularly for those further from their expiration – and sanctions due to program noncompliance yield similar results. However, despite this, the majority of families remain formally unemployed after welfare removal, and using quantile regressions we show that even the highest percentile wage gains fail to offset the loss in welfare benefits. Overall, our findings provide evidence that, contrary to their stated goals, welfare reform measures that either kick families off welfare or make welfare harder to access are likely to deepen poverty.

Welfare-to-Work Revisited: Was Jobs First Better? (Working Paper)

  • Methods: regression discontinuity, propensity score matching, event study, logistic regression.

To help unemployed low-income individuals find work, is it better to directly match them with job openings, or first have them complete remedial coursework? I reexamine the original data from the GAIN experiment of the early 1990s, utilizing unexplored details about program intake that created quasi-random variation in treatment status within each county. Using a regression discontinuity design, I find support for the notion that at the margin of treatment categorization defined by an intake exam, those induced directly into the labor force saw much larger increases in earnings relative to those who completed coursework first. Effects are strongest along the extensive margin; neither type of programming differentially induces those already in the labor force to earn more. Finally, results grow in magnitude over time. This evidence leads to the conclusion that direct labor force strategies may be superior to remedial coursework for welfare participants who already have baseline cognitive skills.

with R. Jisung Park and Isaac Opper

  • Methods: event study, difference-in-differences, economic model-based NPV calculation.

We show that natural disasters affect a region's aggregate human capital through at least four channels. In addition to causing out-migration, natural disasters reduce student achievement, lower high school graduation rates, and decrease post-secondary attendance. We estimate that disasters that cause at least $500 in per-capita property damage reduce the net present value (NPV) of an affected county's human capital by an average of $505 per person. These negative effects on human capital are not restricted to large disasters: less severe events – disasters with property damages of $100-$500 per capita – also cause significant and persistent reductions in student achievement and post-secondary attendance.

Valuation of Public Transit and Landlord Market Power: Evidence from NYC (Working Paper)

with Vinayak Iyer

  • Awards: NSF Dissertation Fellowship, PER Research Grant

  • Methods: event study, difference-in-differences, panel regression, quantile regression, web scraping.

This paper asks how individuals across the income distribution value access to public transit and how this shapes the rental housing market. To study this question, we use the announced closure of the L train in NYC to study how rents were affected in the housing market and the mobility decisions of individuals across the income distribution. We find that low-income households value the subway more than high-income households, while high-income households likely value other neighborhood amenities more. We show evidence of landlord market power and find that landlords give existing low-income households a higher discount on their rent to incentivize them to stay in the affected neighborhoods. From a policy perspective, one must keep the dynamics of other neighborhood amenities in mind while evaluating whether intended beneficiaries benefit in the long run.

Published Articles

with John Rogers and Bo Sun

Journal of Monetary Economics, 2020

We construct a new measure of uncertainty about Federal Reserve policy actions and their consequences, a monetary policy uncertainty (MPU) index. We evaluate the information content of our index and document the usefulness of our index in bridging periods of conventional and unconventional policy making. We also estimate the aggregate effects of shocks to MPU on output, credit spreads, and other variables. Finally, we investigate the transmission channels of MPU, finding that heightened MPU leads to protracted declines in firm investment through both real options and financial frictions channels.

with John Rogers and Bo Sun

Journal of International Money and Finance, 2018

In this paper we provide strong evidence that heightened uncertainty in the U.S. real economy or financial markets significantly raises excess returns to the currency carry trade. We posit that this works through the influence of uncertainty on global investors’ risk preferences. Macro and financial uncertainty also lower foreign exchange risk reversals, an effect that is particularly strong for high interest rate portfolios. Our results are consistent with the idea that an increase in uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy or financial markets increases investors’ risk aversion, which in turn drives up the expected returns and the cost of protection against crash risk in the FX market.

Published Notes

with John Rogers and Bo Sun

International Finance Discussion Papers, 2016

with John Rogers and Bo Sun

International Finance Discussion Papers, 2016