Internal Migration and the Diffusion of Schooling in the United States (Job Market Paper, draft)

This paper investigates the influence of internal migration on education, and specifically, the uneven rise of school enrollments in the nineteenth-century United States. Despite having the highest average enrollment in the world, Eastern states varied greatly in terms of how many children went to school, with states in the South lagging behind those in the North. I track the locations of millions of white adults moving west using the Population Census in 1850–1880. Focusing on a sample of seven destination states, I estimate a discrete choice model to show that parents from more educated origins had a higher willingness to pay for education. I then compare the destination counties that received different mixes of migrants from the Eastern origins. Internal migrants created spillovers for local populations: parents born in the destination states were more likely to send children to school if their migrant neighbors originated from states with higher school enrollments. Detailed county-level data on school finances, which I assemble by digitizing the Census of Social Statistics, show that counties with migrants increased public spending on schools. Taking the estimated choice model and the spillover effects together, I find that tripling the distance costs of migration would have reduced the enrollment rates of natives by 1.5 percentage points. These findings suggest that internal migration mattered beyond the reallocation of labor and preference sorting.
Presented at: Economic History Association meetings, Economics Graduate Student Conference, Urban Economics Association meetings, NYU Development Seminar, IPUMS Data-Intensive Research Conference, NBER Summer Institute Development of American Economy (poster session), The Rise of Education Across European Regions in the Last Two Centuries (online seminar)

See blog post on the digitization of the Census of Social Statistics for this project.

Population Diversity and Local Property Taxes

I study whether ethnic and origin diversity in the population promotes or hinders public finances. On the one hand, higher homogeneity allows increased public spending due to easier coordination and trust. On the other hand, increased trust simplifies tax evasion when facing higher-level authority (for example, the state government). I use a newly-digitized county-level dataset from the United States in 1850–1870, where both the assessed tax property valuations and the true market value of wealth are recorded. Nearly 90% of counties did not pay the taxes on full valuation, and instead negotiated lower valuations with the tax assessors. Using the changing state-level tax rates, I investigate to what extent diverse counties were able to negotiate lower property valuations, which not only lowered the contribution to the state tax revenue but also reduced the local provision of public goods.

Inequality in Science (with Anna Airoldi and Petra Moser)

Children of the Argonauts: Life Outcomes of the Sons of Gold Rush Migrants