Stable Income, Stable Family

Review of Economics and Statistics, Forthcoming, Joint with Jason Lindo and Krishna Regmi


We document the effect of unemployment insurance generosity on divorce and fertility using an identification strategy that leverages state-level changes in maximum benefits over time and comparisons across workers who have been laid off and those that have not been laid off. The results indicate that higher maximum benefit levels mitigate the effects of layoffs. In particular, they mitigate increases in divorce associated with men's layoffs; increases in separations associated with women's layoffs; reductions in fertility associated with men's layoffs; and increases in fertility associated with women's layoffs.

The Effects of Expanding Access to Mental Health Services on SS(D)I Applications and Awards

Labour Economics, Forthcoming, Joint with Matt Mesel and Carly Urban


The growing number of individuals suffering from a serious mental illness underscores the
important role of interventions such as treatments, policies, and programs to support those
in need. Such support efforts often interact in unanticipated ways. This paper considers the
degree to which access to mental health treatment services affects participation in federal
disability programs including the Supplemental Security Income and the Social Security
Disability Insurance (SS(D)I) programs. Our main approach uses an identification strategy
that leverages county-level variation in the number of mental health treatment establishments
to estimate changes in access to mental health treatment on SS(D)I program participation. We
also explore a series of event studies and heterogeneity analyses. Our results show that an
increase in mental health facilities increases participation in SS(D)I programs. A 10 percent
increase in a county’s number of office-based mental health establishments increasesthe SSI
application rate by 1.2 percent and the SSDI application rate by 0.7 percent. While the overall
sample suggests that this does not translate to an increase in SS(D)I awards,we do find
increases in awards in counties that have lower household incomes, less educatedhouseholds,
and a higher proportion of residents below the poverty line. This suggests that increasing
access to mental health resources can be a pathway through which people sufferingfrom severe
mental illness can be diagnosed and access social safety nets.

Effects of Violent Media Content: Evidence from the Rise of the UFC

Journal of Health Economics, Forthcoming, Joint with Jason Lindo and Glen Waddell

Pre-Publication Version


We document the effect of violent media on crime. Specifically, we evaluate the effects of The Ultimate Fighter, a hit TV show that features fighters competing in violent mixed martial arts and which brought Ultimate Fighting Championship into the mainstream. We estimate the effect of exposure to the show’s earliest episodes using panel data from police agencies across the United States and a strategy that uses network ratings prior to the show’s premier as an instrumental variable. We show that this exposure significantly reduced crime: these effects are particularly evident for assault, began in the month the show premiered, and persisted for many years. These estimates do not reflect systematic differences across geographic areas in their trends in crime rates prior to 2005. To complement our main results, we also investigate the effects of “UFC Main Events,” which air in bars and on Pay-Per-View. This analysis additionally suggests reductions in violence caused by viewership.

The Effect of Concealed-Carry and Handgun Restrictions on Gun-Related Deaths: Evidence from the Sullivan Act of 1911

Economic Journal, Forthcoming, Joint with Briggs Depew

Pre-Publication Version


In the wake of two public shootings, the state of New York passed the Sullivan Act in 1911.  The first of its kind and a model for subsequent “may-issue” concealed-carry laws, the act outlawed carrying concealable firearms without a police-issued license, established a stringent set of rules for obtaining a license, and introduced regulations governing the sale and possession of handguns. The Sullivan Act influenced the evolution of gun control in the United States and was regarded as a model for national regulation by gun control advocates, yet little is known of its efficacy in curbing gun violence in New York.  To analyze the effects of the Sullivan Act, we collected unique historical data including state mortality records, pistol permit and license data, and information on citations for carrying without a license.  Our empirical approach employs both synthetic control and difference-in-differences methodologies to estimate the effects of the Sullivan Act.  Our descriptive analysis of gun licenses, permits, and citations for illegal carrying reveal clear initial effects of the Sullivan Act on gun-related behaviors.  Our main analyses show no evidence of the Sullivan Act having an effect on evidence of a reduction in overall suicide rates, and clear evidence that the Act led to a large and sustained decrease in gun-related suicide rates.

Is Any Press Good Press? The Unanticipated Effects fo Title IX Investigations on University Outcomes

Economics of Education Review, 73, 2019, Joint with Jason Lindo, Dave Marcotte, and Jane Palmer

Pre-Publication Version

Since 2011, when the landmark “Dear Colleague” letter declared that the Department of Education (DoE) would use equal-access requirements of federal law to remediate sexual assault on college campuses, 458 investigations have been opened. This letter was withdrawn in 2017 and it remains uncertain how the DoE will handle the issue in the future. We examine the effects of the investigations arising from the 2011 policy change on university outcomes. We find that applications and enrollment increase in response to Title IX investigations, for both males and females. We find little evidence of effects on degree completion or donations.

The Decision to Carry: The Effect of Crime on Concealed-Carry Applications

Journal of Human Resources, 1016-8287R2, 2018, Joint with Briggs Depew

Pre-Publication Version

Despite persistent debate on the role of concealed-carry legislation, decisions to legally carry concealed handguns are not well understood. Using detailed data on concealed-carry permit applications, we explore whether individuals apply for concealed-carry permits in response to crime. We find that recent homicides increase applications in areas relatively near to the incident. The effects are driven by gun-related homicides, and are more pronounced for white, male, and Republican applicants. We also find suggestive evidence that applicants are more responsive when they share a demographic characteristic with the homicide victim. The results further indicate that applications after recent homicides are more likely to be renewed, consistent with persistent precautionary behaviors. Our findings provide causal evidence that crime risk influences individual decisions regarding legal gun use.

Substance-Abuse Treatment Centers and Local Crime

Journal of Urban Economics, 104, 2018, Joint with Samuel Bondurant and Jason Lindo

Pre-Publication Version

In this paper we estimate the effects of expanding access to substance-abuse treatment on local crime. We do so using an identification strategy that leverages variation driven by substance-abuse-treatment facility openings and closings measured at the county level. The results indicate that substance-abuse-treatment facilities reduce both violent and financially motivated crimes in an area, and that the effects are particularly pronounced for relatively serious crimes. The effects on homicides are documented in two sources of homicide data and are concentrated in highly populated areas.


College Party Culture and Sexual Assault

American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 10(1), 2018, Joint with Jason Lindo and Peter Siminski

Pre-Publication Version

This paper considers the degree to which events that intensify partying increase sexual assault. Estimates are based on panel data from campus and local law-enforcement agencies and an identification strategy that exploits plausibly random variation in the timing of Division 1 football games. The estimates indicate that these events increase daily reports of rape with 17-24 year old victims by 28 percent. The effects are driven largely by 17-24 year old offenders and by offenders unknown to the victim, but we also find significant effects on incidents involving offenders of other ages and on incidents involving offenders known to the victim.


Substance-Abuse Treatment and  Mortality

Journal of Public Economics, 122, 2015

Pre-Publication Version

Drug-overdose deaths, which have more than doubled over the past decade, represent a growing public-health concern. Though substance-abuse treatment may be an effective way to reduce drug abuse, evidence for a causal effect of treatment on drug-related mortality is lacking. Given the stigma associated with treatment, low completion rates, high risk of relapse, and that many patients are referrals from the criminal justice system, the effect of treatment is not obvious a priori. In this paper, I analyze the effect of substance-abuse treatment on mortality by exploiting county-level variation in treatment facilities driven by facility openings and closings. The estimates indicate that a 10-percent increase in facilities lowers a county's drug-induced mortality rate by 2 percent. Moreover, the benefits of treatment facilities persist across a range of individual and county characteristics and further indicate that spillovers of treatment reduce other causes of death related to drug abuse.

Alcohol and Student Performance: Estimating the Effect of Legal Access

Journal of Health Economics 32(1), 2013, Joint with Jason Lindo and Glen Waddell

Pre-Publication Version

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.


Are Big-Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement?

American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 4(4), 2012, Joint with Jason Lindo and Glen Waddell

Pre-Publication Version

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 the 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. 

Working Papers

Unemployment Insurance and Deaths of Despair

Joint with Andrew Hill and Krishna Regmi


Work in Progress

Legal Gun Ownership and Crime: Evidence from Publicizing Concealed-Carry Information

Unexpected Cues from Lottery Participation: Effects on Violent Crime