Research in Progress
"US Air Pollution, Productivity, and Trade" (with Reed Walker)
This paper examines how international trade affects US air quality. Empirical research has found that opening to trade increases the market share of more productive firms. This paper first analyzes whether firms with greater total factor productivity emit relatively less of “local” pollutants like NOx, SO2, particulates, and toxic matter. To this end, it compiles new data linking the productivity of US manufacturing firms with plant-level pollution emissions. With this relationship in hand, we investigate the extent to which trade liberalization increases the market share of more productive firms and affects associated pollution emissions. We study NAFTA and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Finally, using trade theory and existing estimates of the social cost of local pollution emissions, the paper compares the gains from trade and environmental costs of trade due to these policies.
"Why Does Electricity Matter? Evidence from the US Rural Electrification Act"
This paper uses newly recovered archival data on US electrification to measure rural demand for electricity and to quantify the share due to agricultural production. One and a half billion people around the globe cannot access electricity. Providing them with electricity will provide benefits but will also require considerable infrastructure costs. To learn about the welfare gains from rural electrification, I study one of the largest electrification episodes in history—the US Rural Electrification Act, which connected 12 million Americans to the electric grid over 20 years. I obtain detailed maps and annual statistical reports from federal archives. The data record electricity prices and coverage separately by year and county for the period 1938-1957. I measure the effect of electricity access on land values, which makes it possible to quantify the aggregate welfare gains from rural electrification. I also separately assess the effect of electricity access on agricultural production, which makes it possible to learn about the source of demand for rural electricity.
"Long-Run Consequences of the Clean Water Act"
This paper constructs extensive data on US river pollution since 1968 in order to assess trends and causes of water pollution. Data are compiled for all the major pollutants regulated by the 1972 Clean Water Act. Ambient levels of these pollutants were declining even before the Clean Water Act and national trends did not change after the Act. Detailed data on two major activities of the Act – grants for wastewater treatment plants and plant-level regulation of industrial discharges – suggest that public subsidies for wastewater treatment decreased ambient fecal coliform concentrations. The only measure of water quality which has continually worsened since before the Clean Water Act is water temperature, which has most likely increased due to climate change.
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