Working Papers

Convicts and Comrades: Coerced Labor’s Impact on the First Labor Unions [PDF[CentER Discussion Paper] [Video]

Job Market Paper

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 certain firms employ convict labor, reproducing the empirical patterns observed in the data. As a result, workers face reduced wages and migrate to other firms, while 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. Finally, the calibrated model presents a novel finding: the role of unions in increasing Black–white wage inequality.

The Legacy of School Shootings: The Long-Term and Intergenerational Effects [PDF] [CentER Discussion Paper]

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%.

Selected Work In Progress

Firms and Unions (with Burak Uras)

How do labor unions and firm size dynamics co-evolve in the context of institutional and technological change? This paper offers the first macro analysis to explain this interplay, focusing on the interactions between firm growth, innovation, industry wages, and unionization. A dynamic general equilibrium model reveals that innovations in general-purpose productivity of firms increases both their size and equilibrium wages. Consequently, this boosts the surplus that workers can extract in union negotiations, promoting union growth. This simultaneous growth in firms and unions continues until firms reach a certain size threshold. Beyond this threshold, firms’ start to automate tasks due to the ease of scalability associated with automation. While firm size still expands after this shift, wages and union-extractable rents begin to decrease due to automation, making labor substitutable, thus reducing the benefits of unionization. This theoretical model explains the historical patterns observed in firm growth and unionization.