Vertical Integration and Regulation in US Coal Production (Job Market Paper)
This paper examines how policy reforms affect the organizational choices of firms. The MINER Act of 2006 increased the costs and regulatory oversight of underground coal mining operations relative to surface operations. In turn, this changed the incentives for upstream coal preparation facilities to own these downstream "suppliers". To measure the change in the propensity of preparation plants to own its supplier mines, I gather and analyze the ownership information of coal mines and facilities in the US. I use a differences-in-differences approach to compare markets most likely impacted by the reform to those less likely to be affected. I find that the degree of vertical integration increased for preparation plants located in regions better suited for underground mining. I further link the structure of firms to health and safety outcomes to argue that the reform had positive effects on health and safety through the channel of firm reorganization.
Impact of Contracting on Occupational Injuries and Fatalities
in Underground Coal Mining
(Joint with David Weil)
Contracting out of mining operations has increased significantly in the underground coal mining industry over the last two decades. Contract miners are hired by coal operators to extract coal, usually for a specified price and using equipment often leased from the operator or mine controller. We hypothesize that the market and organizational incentives facing contractors increase the likelihood of traumatic injuries and fatalities to their workforce relative to miners working directly for operators in comparable mines. We test this hypothesis using data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration for the period 2000-2010. We statistically model the determinants of injuries and fatalities based on contract status along with mining methods, geologic characteristics, union status, size of mine and controller, and prior history of violations. Our preliminary results suggest increased risk exposure for contract operations and mines with high contractor utilization. These findings have important implications for enforcement and public policies and extend the evidence of the adverse impact of forms of subcontracting on health and safety to the mining sector.
Gender Parity and Schooling Choices
(Joint with Kehinde Ajayi)
We examine the determinants of gender differences in schooling choices using
data on 290,000 secondary school applicants in Ghana. Over a quarter of female students choose home economics as their preferred field of study compared to two per cent of males. We find that schooling choices vary significantly with academic performance and educational norms. Higher performing female students and those from districts with a history of gender parity in educational attainment are less likely to choose home economics. Differences across geographic areas account for more of the variation in schooling choices than observable individual, family, and school-level characteristics can explain.
The Psycho-Social Benefits of Access to Contraception: Experimental Evidence from Zambia
(with Nava Ashraf, Erica Field and Jessica Leight)
Although contraceptive access has increased dramatically worldwide, to date there is virtually no rigorous empirical evidence on the effect of increased access to modern contraceptive methods on women's mental health and psychological well-being. This study uses experimental variation in access to contraception to investigate the relationship between improved access to effective modern contraceptives and women's mental health and well-being in urban Zambia.
Improved access to long-term contraceptive methods with lower failure rates contributes to lower anxiety and greater feeling of control, particularly among women that are likely to feel greater anxiety over getting pregnant. Social constraints have been found to be significantly correlated with depression, and easing a social or economic constraint can improve mental health. These findings advance interdisciplinary work on the range of interventions that improve mental health, and particularly on the potential impacts of family planning policies on individual and household well-being in developing countries. Indirect channels through which family planning access improves female well-being are particularly relevant given the mixed evidence on the impact of contraceptive access on fertility.
Work in Progress
Regional Industrialization in the Mid-Atlantic (Joint with Theresa Gutberlet)
Railroads and the Expansion of Marriage Markets in the 19th Century
Information or Convenience? Role of Social Networks on Premarital
Cohabitation Choices (Joint with Anusha Nath)