Working Papers

Convicts and Comrades: Coerced Labor’s Impact on Early Labor Unions [PDF]

Job Market Paper

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

What role did the use of convict labor play in the establishment of early labor unions? This paper introduces a model where certain firms employ convict labor, reproducing the empirical patterns observed in the data. Workers face reduced wages and migrate to other firms, while firms see heightened profits, exacerbating income inequality. In response, workers organize, form unions, and initiate strikes. The calibrated model highlights the role of unions in narrowing income disparities. Empirically, I use an instrumental variable approach to demonstrate that, at the turn of the 20th century, convict labor significantly boosted union growth, strikes, and membership. This influence has persisted as regions with a history of heavy dependence on convict labor continue to display higher rates of union membership in the present day. These findings provide the first evidence of the role of coerced labor in the formation and persistence of labor unions.

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

Unions and Firms (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 quantitative macro analysis explaining the interplay between labor unions and firm size distribution in the United States. It highlights the pivotal institutional and technological factors driving firm growth and union formation. Building on historical facts regarding the co-evolution of firm size and labor unions, we argue that low-cost factor innovation by large-scale firms undermines workers’ conditions, thereby stimulating the formation of unions. In our model, increasing returns to scale, associated with factor-cost-reducing innovation, endogenously sets a minimum firm size threshold for engaging in innovation. This threshold, influenced by institutional and technological factors, impacts the proportion of innovative firms in the economy. The relationship between the measure of innovators and labor unions exhibits a non-monotone pattern: while at low- and high ends of innovation intensity of the economy, labor unions seize to exist, unions prevail at intermediate levels of innovation intensity. This theoretical model aligns with the empirically observed trends of union prevalence over the century. It enables the quantitative identification of significant institutional and technological shifts that have contributed to firm growth, playing a crucial role in the fluctuating presence of labor unions.

Secularist Reform, Human Capital, and Polarization: Islam and Ataturk’s Turkey (with Alice Dominici and Quang Phúc Phùng)

How does secularization impact a society’s human capital development and political polarization? How is this influenced by local religious diversity? We delve into Ataturk’s reforms in Turkey, which sought to reduce religious institutions’ influence on politics, education, and daily life. We introduce a two-period OLG model in which the previous generation’s political tastes guide their children’s education decisions, affecting future human capital. Religious reforms shock these preferences, perpetuating polarized views. Empirically, we find that districts with higher pre-reform religiosity enroll fewer girls in secular schools. Next, using mosque locations from before the republic, we show how adopting the Turkish call to prayer magnifies societal polarization in electoral results. Given Turkey’s distinctive context, this paper offers novel insights into how religious diversity interacts with transformative, growth-oriented reforms—under Ataturk’s secularization agenda.