Work in Progress

Dispersion-Weighted Synthetic Controls,” (with Simeon Minard) Python code here

Vote Influence in Group Decision-Making: Party Imbalance and Individual Ideology on the Supreme Court,” (Earlier version, IZA Discussion Paper 12317, (with Max Mindock)

Diversity and the Timing of Preference in Hiring Decisions,” (with Logan Lee)

“Treatment Effects are Not Identified in the Presence of Curves and Letter Grades,” (with Jenni Putz)

“Long-Term Effects of Media Violence,” (with Jason Lindo and Issac Swensen)

Confidence and Contrition: Is Cheating Internalized in Performance Assessments?” (with Nate Adams and Michael Kuhn)

The Mitigating Effect of Marijuana Legalization on Child Victimization,” (with Amani Rashid)

Policy-Induced Belief Updating: What Can We Learn from the Extension of Marriage Rights to Same-Sex Couples?” (with Nate Adams)

Do Lawyers Increase the Rate of Adoption Among Foster Children?” (with Amani Rashid)

“Exam Schedules, Grades, and Major Choice” (with Harold Cuffe)

The Mitigating Role of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in the Abuse of Prescription Drugs,” IZA Discussion Paper 10990 (with Erica Birk)

“Prisoner Misconduct: Do Inmates Respond Rationally to Incentives?” (with Benjamin Hansen and Logan Lee)

“Communication Technology and Its Effects on Prisoner Drug Use and Violence,” (with Benjamin Hansen and Logan Lee)

“Walk Like a Man: Do Juvenile Offenders Respond to Being Tried as Adults?” (with Benjamin Hansen) 

“Benefit Generosity and Injury Duration: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Regression Kinks,” IZA Discussion Paper 10621 (with Benjamin Hansen and Tuan Nguyen)


Published Research 

2019Overlapping Marathons: What Happens to Female Pace when Men Catch Up?” Southern Economic Journal (with Erica Birk and Logan Lee).

We exploit a highly competitive environment in which elite-female athletes are exposed to the presence of men, but without being in direct competition with them. Specifically, we use variation in the how fast the fastest man runs in the New York City Marathon to identify the potential influence of men on female performance while holding constant female-runners' marginal incentives to perform. Our results suggest that as the men overtake the female runners, the performance of female runners declines differentially across ability, with the largest declines concentrated among lower-ability runners.

2019 Performance and Risk Taking Under Threat of EliminationJournal of Economic Behavior & Organization (with Nate Adams). 

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We revisit the incentive effects of elimination tournaments with a fresh approach to identification, the results of which strongly support that performance improves under the threat of elimination and does so, but only in part, due to increases in risk taking. Where we can separately identify changes in risk-independent performance and risk taking, our estimates suggest that at least 23 percent of the improvement in performance induced by potential elimination is due to productive increases in risk taking. These effects are concentrated among those closest to the margin of elimination and among lower-ability competitors. (Earlier version available as IZA Discussion Paper 10977.)

2018 “Legal Access to Alcohol and Criminality,” Journal of Health Economics (with Benjamin Hansen).

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Previous research has found strong evidence that legal access to alcohol is associated with sizable increases in criminality. We revisit this relationship using the census of judicial records on criminal charges filed in Oregon Courts, the ability to separately track crimes involving firearms, and to track individuals over time. We find that crime increases at age 21, with increases mostly due to assaults that lack premeditation, and alcohol-related nuisance crimes. We find no evident increases in rape or robbery. Among those with no prior criminal records, increases in crime are 50-percent larger---still larger for the most socially costly crimes of assault and drunk driving. (Earlier version available as NBER working paper 22568.)

2017 “Can School Sports Reduce Racial Gaps in Truancy and Achievement?Economic Inquiry (with Harold Cuffe and Wesley Bignell). 

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While existing research supports that participation in high-school athletics is associated with better education and labor-market outcomes, the mechanisms through which these benefits accrue are not well established. Using individual micro data collected daily, and team-specific schedules, we retrieve estimates of the causal effect of high school athletic participation on absenteeism, suggesting that participation decreases absences, driven primarily by reductions in unexcused absences in boys. There are also strong game-day effects in truancy, in both boys and girls, with truancy declines on game days more than offset by subsequent absenteeism. Important heterogeneity by race, gender, and family structure may serve to substantially reduce racial gaps in truancy and achievement.

2016Heaping-Induced Bias in Regression-Discontinuity Designs,” Economic Inquiry (with Alan Barreca and Jason Lindo).  

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This study uses Monte Carlo simulations to demonstrate that regression-discontinuity designs arrive at biased estimates when attributes related to outcomes predict heaping in the running variable. After showing that our usual diagnostics are poorly suited to identifying this type of problem, we provide alternatives, and then discuss the usefulness of different approaches to addressing the bias. We then consider these issues in several non-simulated environments. (Earlier versions appear as NBER Working Paper 17408 and as IZA Discussion Paper 5106.)

2013 “Alcohol and Student Performance: Estimating the Effect of Legal Access,” Journal of Health Economics (with Jason Lindo and Isaac Swensen). 

We consider the effect of legal access to alcohol on student achievement. Our preferred approach identifies the effect through changes in one's performance after gaining legal access to alcohol, controlling flexibly for the expected evolution of grades as one makes progress towards their degree. We also report RD-based estimates but argue that an RD design is not well suited to the research question in our setting. We find that students' grades fall below their expected levels upon being able to drink legally, but by less than previously documented. We also show that there are effects on women and that the effects are persistent. Using the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we show that students drink more often after legal access but do not consume more drinks on days on which they drink. (Earlier versions appeared as NBER Working Paper 17637 and as IZA Discussion Paper 5525.)

2012 “Are Big-Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement?” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, (with Jason Lindo and Isaac Swensen).

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We consider the relationship between collegiate-football success and non-athlete student performance. We find that the team's success significantly reduces male grades relative to female grades. This phenomenon is only present in fall quarters, which coincides with the football season. Using survey data, we find that males are more likely than females to increase alcohol consumption, decrease studying, and increase partying in response to the success of the team. Yet, females also report that their behavior is affected by athletic success, suggesting that their performance is likely impaired but that this effect is masked by the practice of grade curving. (An earlier version appears as NBER Working Paper 17677.)

2012 “Evidence of the Efficacy of School-Based Incentives for Healthy Living,” Economics of Education Review (with Harold Cuffe, William Harbaugh, Jason Lindo, and Giancarlo Musto).  

We analyze the effects of a school-based incentive program on children's exercise habits. The program offers children an opportunity to win prizes if they walk or bike to school during prize periods. We use daily child-level data and individual fixed effects models to measure the impact of the prizes by comparing behavior during prize periods with behavior during non-prize periods. Variation in the timing of prize periods across different schools allows us to estimate models with calendar-date fixed effects to control for day-specific attributes, such as weather and proximity to holidays. On average, we find that being in a prize period increases the riding behavior of participating children by sixteen percent, a large impact given that the prize value is just six cents per student. We also find that winning a prize lottery has a positive impact on ridership over subsequent weeks; consider heterogeneity across prize type, gender, age, and calendar month; and explore differential effects on the intensive versus extensive margins. (An earlier version appears as NBER Working Paper 17478.)

2012 “Adolescent Drug Use and the Deterrent Effect of School-Imposed Penalties,” Economics of Education Review.  

Estimates of the effect of school-imposed penalties for drug use on a student's consumption of marijuana are biased if both are determined by unobservable school or individual attributes.  Reverse causality is also a potential challenge to retrieving estimates of the causal relationship, as the severity of school sanctions may simply reflect the need for more-severe sanctions.  Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, I offer an instrumental-variables approach to retrieving an estimate of the causal response of marijuana use to sanctions and thereby demonstrate the efficacy of school-imposed penalties as a deterrent to adolescent drug use.  This suggests that school sanctions may have important long-run benefits. (An earlier version appears as IZA Discussion Paper 5047.)

2012 “Gender and the Influence of Peer Alcohol Consumption on Adolescent Sexual Activity,” Economic Inquiry.  

Using longitudinal data on a cohort of high-school graduates, I consider the alcohol consumption of opposite-gender peers as explanatory to adolescent sexual intercourse and demonstrate that female sexual activity is higher where there is higher alcohol consumption among male peers. This relationship is robust to school fixed effects, cannot be explained by broader cohort effects or general antisocial behaviors in male peer groups, and is distinctly different from any influence of the alcohol consumption of female peers which is shown to have no influence on female sexual activity. There is no evidence that male sexual activity responds to female peer alcohol consumption. (An earlier version appears as IZA Discussion Paper 4880.)

2011 Saving Babies? Revisiting the Effect of Very Low Birth Weight Classification,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics (with Alan Barreca, Melanie Guldi, and Jason Lindo).

We reconsider the effect of very low birth weight classification on infant mortality. We demonstrate that the estimates are highly sensitive to the exclusion of observations in the immediate vicinity of the 1,500-gram threshold, weakening the confidence in the results originally reported in Almond, Doyle, Kowalski, and Williams (2010).

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2011 “Top Management Team Turnover, CEO Succession Type, and Strategic Change,” Journal of Business Research (with John Barron and Dmitriy Chulkov).

While previous research suggests that CEO turnover correlates with strategic changes in firm's operations such as discontinuation of operations, we demonstrate that such findings apply only to specific types of CEO turnover, and only if non-CEO members of the top management team also exit the firm. Our analysis examines cases of contender, follower, and outsider succession and reinforces the key role of non-CEO departures in strategic change at a firm. The results support an integration of the upper echelons perspective and the power circulation theory view of top management team turnover.

2011 “Do No-Loan Policies Change the Matriculation Patterns of Low-Income Students?” Economics of Education Review (with Larry Singell).  

We empirically examine whether there is discernible variation in the matriculation patterns of low-income students at public flagship institutions in the United States around changes in institutional financial-aid policies that target resident, low-income students with need-based aid. While enrollment responses cannot be attributed to these programs, we do find that institutions that introduce income-targeted aid subsequently enroll financially needier and geographically more-distant students. These findings imply that “improved” access may actually displace some needy students in favor of others. (An earlier version appears as IZA Discussion Paper 4362.)

2010 “Modeling Retention at a Large Public University: Can At-Risk Students be Identified Early Enough to Treat?” Research in Higher Education (with Larry Singell).

We examine the extent to which readily available data at a large public university can be used to a priori identify at-risk students who may benefit from targeted retention efforts. Although it is possible to identify such students, there remains an inevitable tradeoff in any resource allocation between not treating the students who are likely to exit without treatment and treating students who are likely not to exit in the absence of the treatment. At-risk students are found to remain at risk throughout their college career. Moreover, conditional on exiting the institution, the degree to which the student was at risk is predictive of whether the student subsequently re-enrolls elsewhere and the type of institution at which this re-enrollment occurs. In this context, we discuss how retention policies relate to insuring the initial match is appropriate, recognizing that some attrition can be in keeping with the broad social interest.

2010 “Corruption, Decentralization and Yardstick Competition,” Economics of Governance (with Oz Dincer and Chris Ellis).

Several empirical studies have found a negative relationship between corruption and the decentralization of the powers to tax and spend. In this paper we explain this phenomenon using a model of Yardstick Competition. Using data on federal corruption-related convictions in U.S. states, we also provide new evidence that points to the existence of a spatial autoregressive component to explaining corruption. We interpret this as consistent with the theoretical findings.

2008 “Spacey Parents: Spatial Autoregressive Patterns in Inbound FDI,” S. Brakman and H. Garretsen (eds.), Foreign Direct Investment and the Multinational Enterprise, MIT Press (with Bruce Blonigen, Ron Davies and Helen Naughton). 

Increasing attention has been given to the impact of third countries on outbound FDI to a given host country. Here, we consider potential third-country effects on inbound FDI. A simple model suggests two sources of such effects on a country's inbound FDI. First, it will tend to receive more FDI fromparent countries proximate to large third countries. Second, FDI from third countries may increase or decrease FDI from the parent country in question depending on whether production spillovers or crowding out effects dominate. Using data on US inbound FDI from OECD countries during 1980-2000, we find strong evidence for parent market proximity effects. We find robust results for third country FDI effects only in a European subsample. There, crowding out effects dominate. (An earlier version appears as NBER Working Paper 11466.)

2008 “Work Hard, Not Smart: Stock Options in Executive Compensation,” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization (with John Barron).

This paper examines the optimal equity compensation for executives. When executives choose a level of effort to devote to gathering information and a criterion for acting on the information gathered, the optimal exercise price involves a trade-off; a higher exercise price moves the executive’s decision criterion away from first-best but provides leverage that moves the executive’s effort toward first-best. This trade-off depends on a variety of factors, including the potential influence of decisions on firm value. We document empirical regularities consistent with the theory such as that options are relatively less prevalent in the equity compensation of more-senior executives.

2008 “Consumer and Competitor Reactions: Evidence from a Retail-Gasoline Field Experiment,” International Journal of Industrial Organization (with John Barron and John Umbeck).

In response to a price change by a single seller, it is common for the density of sellers in the market to influence both the quantity response of consumers and the price response of other sellers. Using field experiment data collected around a series of exogenously imposed price changes we find that an individual retailer with a larger number of competitors faces a more-responsive demand. This finding is fundamental to a predicted inverse relationship between market prices and the number of competitors. We also examine the reaction of rival stations to exogenous price changes, and find that the magnitude of a competitor's response is inversely related to the density of stations in the market.

2007 “Spatial Competition and the Price of College,” Economic Inquiry (with Dan McMillen and Larry Singell).

This article provides the first evidence that universities compete directly on price, and that the market for students depends on the proximity of competitors. Exploiting detailed data from private U.S. universities, price competition is tested by introducing geographic proximity into a spatial-autoregressive tuition model. Standard spatial models show that list and net tuition are inversely related to distance between institutions, consistent with price competition in higher education. An extension to the spatial-econometrics literature relaxes a constraint that estimated spatial relationships are common across all observations, implying that spatial effects differ across qualitative classes of institutions.

2007 “Money for Nothing? The Impact of Changes in the Pell Grant Program on Institutional Revenues and the Placement of Needy Students,” Education Finance and Policy (with Brad Curs and Larry Singell).

Using new institution-level data we assess the impact of changing federal aid levels on institution-level Pell revenues. Using various policy instruments associated with Pell generosity, we quantify the sensitivity of institutional Pell revenues to the generosity of the Pell Grant program. In general, we find an elastic response of institutional Pell revenues with respect to the maximum Pell award, where other policy instruments associated with Pell generosity are found to have an inelastic or zero impact. We also document significant asymmetries across institutional selectivity, both in magnitude and in terms of which channel accounts for the measured sensitivity – award values directly or institutional enrollment. In the end, exogenous changes in the Federal Pell Grant program are found to correlate strongly with changes in the distribution of needy students and revenues across institution quality.

2007 “FDI in Space: Spatial Autoregressive Relationships in Foreign Direct Investment,” European Economic Review (with Bruce Blonigen, Ron Davies and Helen Naughton).

There are a number of theoretical reasons why foreign direct investment (FDI) into a host country may depend on the FDI in proximate countries. Such spatial interdependence has been largely ignored by the empirical FDI literature, with only a couple recent papers accounting for such issues in their estimation. This paper conducts a general examination of spatial interactions in empirical FDI models using data on US outbound FDI activity. We find that estimated relationships of traditional determinants of FDI are surprisingly robust to inclusion of terms to capture spatial interdependence, even though such interdependence is estimated to be significant. However, we find that both the traditional determinants of FDI and the estimated spatial interdependence are quite sensitive to the sample of countries one examines. (An earlier version appears as NBER Working Paper 10939.)

2007 “The Pell Program at Thirty Years,” in J.C. Smart (ed.), Higher Education Handbook of Theory and Research, Vol. XXII, 281-334.  New York: Springer (with Brad Curs and Larry Singell).

2006 “Hope for the Pell? Institutional Effects in the Intersection of Merit-Based and Need-Based Aid,” Southern Economic Journal (with Brad Curs and Larry Singell).

Prior empirical evidence finds that general enrollment effects of merit-aid programs such as the Georgia Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) scholarship are large and significant, while the effects of need-based aid programs such as the Pell grant are modest and often insignificant.  This paper uses new panel data on Pell awards to examine the influence of the Georgia HOPE scholarship on needy-student enrollments.  We demonstrate that the introduction of merit aid in Georgia generally improves the college access of needy students and has been leveraged into greater federal Pell assistance.  While institution-specific increases in both Pell enrollment and funding are largest at two-year and less selective four-year institutions, the results suggest that Pell students are not crowded out of more selective schools by HOPE’s intent to retain the best Georgia high school students, as might have been anticipated.

2006 “Labor-Market Consequences of Poor Attitude and Low Self-Esteem in Youth,” Economic Inquiry.

Using longitudinal data on a cohort of high-school graduates, I show that youth who reveal poor attitude and self-esteem subsequently attain fewer years of postsecondary education relative to their high school cohort, are less likely to be employed 14 years following high school and, where working for pay, realize lower earnings. Furthermore, I find evidence that poor attitude and self-esteem in high school are significant predictors of structural outcomes, such as the degree of supervision under which individuals subsequently work, job characteristics, and on- the-job activities. These relationships suggest that real economic consequence exist in fostering positive attitude and self-esteem in youth.

2003 “Executive Rank, Pay and Project Selection,” Journal of Financial Economics (with John Barron).

This paper extends the literature on executive compensation by developing and testing a principal-agent model in the context of project selection. The model’s focus on executive project selection decisions highlights the multidimensional nature of executive choices that affect the value of the firm. An executive not only makes an effort choice that determines the quality of information on which to base a decision but also sets the decision criteria for selecting projects. A project selection framework is also shown to introduce endogenous uncertainty into compensation that can influence the executive’s effort choice. Using an extensive data set, our empirical work supports the main hypotheses of the model, including the significance of executive rank in determining the extent of use of incentive pay in general and equity- based incentive pay in particular. 

We introduce a simple allocation-of-time model to explain the high school athletic participation choice and the implications of this choice for educational and labor market outcomes. Four different factors that could explain athletic participation are identified in the context of this model. A variety of tests of the model are provided using two data sets: the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972. We find some evidence that athletic participation directly affects wages and educational attainment. However, much of the effect of athletic participation on wages and educational attainment appears to reflect differences across individuals in ability or value of leisure.

2000 “The Effects of High School Athletic Participation on Education and Labor Market Outcomes,” The Review of Economics and Statistics (with John Barron and Brad Ewing).