Job Market Paper
Winner of the 2022 Urban Economics Association Prize
Winner of the 2022 IPUMS USA Research Award
Work in Progress
The US has been considered the land of opportunity. However, representative estimates of intergenerational mobility are scarce as women's historical records are difficult to trace once their name changes upon marriage. This paper overcomes the challenge of linking women's census records using information from Social Security Number (SSN) applications. Those applications contain the maiden and married names of 60 million women—either as applicants or as applicants' mothers. Our new panel dataset covers an unprecedented number of women between 1850 and 1940 and opens a myriad of new opportunities to study women's role in the US economy. We document three important new facts. First, we construct representative estimates of intergenerational mobility from 1850 to 1940 from our new panel. We show that historically, women's intergenerational mobility tended to be higher than men's for Black and white Americans. Second, we highlight mothers' significant role in predicting their children's future outcomes, suggesting that traditional father-child comparisons overestimate intergenerational mobility. Third, we document a robust relationship between sorting in marriage markets and levels of intergenerational mobility across time and space. The more sorting there is in the marriage market, the more rigid the socioeconomic status of families across generations.
with Christiane Szerman
The World War II G.I. Bill provided generous benefits to returning veterans, benefiting over 70 percent of young men. While the policy is credited with creating the American middle class, including a boom in homeownership, not every veteran was able to use the benefits. We study the long-run impact that the G.I. Bill had on the wealth of Black and white Americans. We use a regression discontinuity design based on the quarter of birth of men that determined their ability to serve in the war. To study the intergenerational effects of the policy, we develop a new instrument for having a veteran father based on the time of birth in relation to the return of veterans. We find that the G.I. Bill had markedly different impacts on Black and white veterans, exacerbating the racial wealth gap until today.
Full draft coming soon
This paper studies the evolution of Black-white disparities in women’s household income between 1950 and 2019. Four main results are documented. First, the convergence in Black-white income differences that occurred in the first half of the sample period has largely stalled since 1980 and large gaps persist. Second, the drivers of progress differ vastly across the distribution. Black women at the middle and bottom have barely changed the position they occupy in the white income distribution. Rather the distribution’s compression pre-1980 is responsible for reducing relative income differences. In contrast, Black women at the top experienced a substantial improvement in the position they occupy in the white distribution. Third, Black-white differences have converged across US regions, so much so that the South no longer stands out as the epicenter of Black-white income inequality among women. Fourth, since 1980, racial differences in women’s observable characteristics have increasingly lost their power to statistically account for the differences in incomes.
The Black-White Gap in Economic Well-Being Among Children
I document the Black-white gap in economic well-being among men, women, and children since 1940. To measure economic well-being, I focus on family incomes adjusted for family size and composition. Children are the group that faces the largest Black-white gap across the income distribution. Throughout the past 80 years, the median Black child never exceeded 50 percent of the family resources available to the median white child. Growing differences in the structure of Black and white families have undone most of the progress in narrowing the Black-white gap within family types. The 2021 Child Tax Credit reform had the potential to expand the currently moderate role that redistribution through income taxation has had in narrowing the Black-white gap in children’s family incomes.
Regional Science and Urban Economics (March 2022)
High-income business service workers dominate the economies of major US cities, and their spending supports many local consumer service jobs. As a result, business services' high remote work potential poses a risk to consumer service workers who could lose an essential source of revenue if business service workers left big cities to work from elsewhere. We use the COVID-19-induced increase in remote work to provide empirical evidence for this mechanism and its role in shaping the pandemic's economic impact. Our findings have broader implications for the distributional consequences of the transition to more remote work.