Working Papers

Convicts and Comrades

Tilburg University CentER Graduate School Best Graduate Student Paper Award, 2023

What role did coerced labor play in establishing the first labor unions? This paper introduces a model where the representative firm employs convict labor, reproducing the empirical patterns observed in the data. As a result, workers face reduced wages and firms see heightened profits. In response, workers organize, form unions, and initiate strikes. I use an instrumental variable approach to demonstrate that, at the turn of the 20th century, Black convict labor significantly boosted white union growth, strikes, and membership in the Southern United States. My empirical findings further suggest that this influence has persisted as counties with a history of heavy dependence on convict labor continue to display higher rates of union membership in the present day. 

[Supplementary Appendix]  [Video]

[CentER Working Paper]

Firms and Unions (with Burak Uras)

Is firm growth always positively linked to higher wages? How does technological progress affect the relationship between firms and labor unions? This paper offers the first analysis to explain this interplay, reproducing the empirical patterns observed in the data. We introduce a general equilibrium model showing how firm growth, driven by general–purpose technologies, initially raises both firm size and wages. Beyond a firm–size threshold, firms transition to labor–substituting technologies, like automation, due to their ease of scalability, which, contrary to the predictions of neoclassical growth models, results in stagnating wages despite further firm growth. The progression to automation is delayed in industries with entry barriers. The increased ease of substituting labor diminishes the union–extractable rents, reducing the benefits of unionization. By incorporating automation’s impact, we revise the view of unions as rent–seeking entities, offering a novel perspective on how automation reshapes union rents and labor dynamics.

[CentER Working Paper]

The Legacy of School Shootings: The Long-Term and Intergenerational Effects

Tilburg University CentER Graduate School Best Graduate Student Paper Award, 2022

In recent decades, countless US students have been on school grounds during shootings. This paper examines the long-term and intergenerational effects of school shootings on earnings, educational attainment, and geographic mobility. I find that exposure to a school shooting decreases survivors’ hourly wage by 20.8% and that this effect persists over their lifetime. Furthermore, I show that the effect of school shootings lasts beyond the initially exposed and has a detrimental impact on their children. Having shooting-exposed parents decreases children’s hourly wages by 18.8%.

[CentER Working Paper]