My research focuses on topics in environmental economics, public health, and economic history. In my dissertation I measure the external social costs of atomic testing at the Nevada Test Site and explore how radioactive pollution from these tests altered health and economic outcomes for American populations. 


Working Papers

Measuring Policy’s Role in Mediating Responses to Agricultural Productivity Shocks (Job market paper.)

As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, policy's role in shaping producer responses to adverse shocks becomes more relevant. Contemporary agricultural policies such as crop insurance are often tied to farmers’ production histories. Using changes in agricultural productivity caused by radioactive fallout from nuclear testing between 1951 to 1958, I find such “use-it or lose-it” policies can encourage producers to divert resources toward rather than away from adversely affected crops. These policies encouraged farmers to “double down” on adversely affected crops, and led producers to plant an additional 2.6 million acres of wheat in the years following fallout exposure. This result suggests treating policy as a fixed factor may obscure the role policy plays in shaping producer behavior. This could cause researchers to misstate the social costs of disruptive events such as climate change.   Paper link.

Some Unintended Fallout from Defense Policy: Measuring the Effect of Atmospheric Nuclear Testing on American Mortality Patterns. 

During the Cold War the United States detonated hundreds of atomic weapons at the Nevada Test Site. Many of these nuclear tests were conducted above ground and released tremendous amounts of radioactive pollution into the environment. This paper studies how annual county level fallout patterns affected U.S. mortality. I find that fallout from nuclear testing led to persistent and substantial increases in overall mortality for large portions of the country. The number of deaths attributable to NTS testing is comparable to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Paper Link.

In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud: Nuclear Testing, Radioactive Fallout and Damage to U.S. Agriculture. Revise and Resubmit at Journal of Economic History

In the 1950s the United States conducted scores of nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Each test created tremendous quantities of harmful radioactive material and much of this material deposited across the country with precipitation. This paper is the first in the economics literature to measure some of the external costs of NTS activities. I find that fallout from nuclear tests adversely affected U.S. agriculture for large areas of the country and caused billions of dollars (2016$) of damage. These empirical results show that nuclear testing had much broader economic and environmental impact than previously thought. Paper Link.

Paralyzed by Panic: Measuring the Effect of School Closures during the 1916 Polio Pandemic on Educational Attainment. Coauthored with Melissa Thomasson. NBER working paper w23890.

We leverage the 1916 polio pandemic in the United States as a natural experiment to test whether short-term school closures result in reduced educational attainment as an adult. With over 23,000 cases of polio diagnosed in 1916, officials implemented quarantines and closed schools. Since the pandemic occurred during the start of the 1916 school year, children of working age may have elected not to return to school. Using state-level polio morbidity as a proxy for schooling disruptions, we find that children ages 14-17 during the pandemic had less educational attainment in 1940 compared to their slightly older peers. Paper Link.

 

Work in Progress:

U.S. County Level Cause of Death Panel Construction for 1946 to 1958 (to append current machine readable records for 1959 to 1988). Current Progress: Years 1946, 1947, and 1950 to 1958 coded. In process of cleaning. Cancer deaths are complete for 1946 to 1958.

U.S. Agriculture Policy Panel Construction, 1933 to 1990. Current Progress: Have an assistant cataloging government records.

Measuring the Indirect Benefits of the 1954 Salk Polio Vaccine Trial. Current Progress: County level Salk Vaccine Trial records coded.