Research

(Google Scholar Profile)

Publications

  • “Technology Adoption Under Uncertainty: Take-Up and Subsequent Investment in Zambia” (pre-print) with Paulina Oliva, Kelsey Jack, Samuel Bell, and Elizabeth Mettetal. Accepted at the Review of Economics and Statistics.
    • Abstract: Technology adoption often requires multiple stages of investment. As new information emerges, agents may abandon a technology that was profitable in expectation. We use a field experiment to vary the payoffs at two stages of investment in a new technology: a tree species that provides on-farm fertilizer benefits. Farmer decisions identify the information about profitability that arrives between the take-up and follow-through stages. Results show that this form of uncertainty increases take-up but lowers average tree survival, decreasing the cost-effectiveness of take-up subsidies. Thus, uncertainty offers another explanation for why even costly technologies may go unused or be abandoned.
    • (older NBER Working Paper)
  • Land-Use Regulations, Property Values, and Rents: Decomposing the Effects of the California Coastal Act” with Andrew Plantinga. Journal of Urban Economics 107 (2018): 65-78.
    • Land-use regulations can lower real estate prices by imposing costs on property owners. These regulations can also raise prices by generating amenities. We study the effects of the California Coastal Act on multifamily housing prices and rental income. The Coastal Act dictates stringent land use controls and applies to a narrow coastal area. Boundary location is plausibly exogenous (which we confirm with historical data) and orthogonal to other jurisdictional divisions. We use spatial regression discontinuity (RD) and spatial difference-in-differences to recover several regulatory effects: a neighbor effect (the value of restrictions on adjacent properties); a local effect (reflecting the net effect of own-lot restrictions and the neighbor effect); and an external effect (the value of regulation-induced amenities). We estimate local and external effects of approximately +6% and +13%, respectively. Results using rental income indicate zero neighbor effect. The evidence suggests that property owners anticipate regulatory protection from nearby undesirable development, even though material differences have not yet appeared.
    • [UCSB press coverage].
    • Pre-print version
    • Supplemental Material
  • A forward-looking Ricardian approach: Do land markets capitalize climate change forecasts?” with Chris Costello, and Olivier Deschênes. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 89 (2018): 235-254.
    • Hedonic pricing method is a primary approach to estimating the economic value of environmental attributes. The “Ricardian approach” uses hedonic regression of land values on historical climate variables to predict the impacts of climate change. We show that this approach is only valid if current land markets ignore climate forecasts. While this assumption was defensible decades ago, information on climate change is far more pervasive today. We show empirically that agricultural land markets in the United States now capitalize expectations about future climate change. We derive a straightforward correction to the Ricardian approach and implement it with readily available data. Accounting for market beliefs decreases the estimated magnitude of climate change on agriculture.
    • Pre-print version
    • Supplemental Material

Working Papers

  • Commuting, Labor, and Housing Market Effects of Mass Transportation: Welfare and Identification.
    • I estimate that a large investment in rail transit in Los Angeles between 1990 and 2000 has a positive effect on commuting using panel data on bilateral flows. Commuting between location pairs that both contain stations increases by 15%. I use a spatial general equilibrium model to isolate non-commuting effects of transit and measure welfare. Local innovations interacted with intraurban geography identify key model parameters; estimates suggest inelastic labor mobility and housing supply. Metro Rail increases welfare $146 million annually by 2000, less than operational subsidies and annualized capital costs. More recent data show some additional commuting growth.
    • NEW October 2019: draft and slides.
    • Revisions requested at the Review of Economics and Statistics.
  • Formative Experiences and the Price of Gasoline” (with Arthur van Benthem); (slides).
    • Formative experiences can shape people’s behavior for decades. We document a striking feature about those who came of driving age during the oil crises of the 1970s: they drive to work less in the year 2000. The effect is not specific to these cohorts; we exploit price variation over time and across states to show that gasoline price changes experienced between ages 15 and 18 generally shift several margins of later-life travel behavior. Effects are not explained by recessions, income, or costly skill acquisition. Instead, they likely reflect early formation of preferences for driving or persistent changes in its perceived cost. These findings are inconsistent with recency bias, habit formation, and mental plasticity.
    • Submitted
    • Media coverage: Washington Post, NBER Digest.
    • Slightly older NBER WP 26091.

Selected Works in Progress