Current research projects

I am currently working on several projects that examine inequality, economic development, or both. Below are brief descriptions of some of the projects I am most excited about.  Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information. Working papers will be added when ready. 

 
 

The Right to Work, Power Resources, and Economic Inequality

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How do Right to Work laws affect the distribution of economic resources? While sociological theories would predict inequality to increase following the passage of Right to Work laws, previous research has found these laws to be largely inconsequential for economic inequality. Drawing on power resources theory, I reassess the consequences of Right to Work laws and allow their impact to depend upon local union membership. To do so, I construct unique datasets at the state and commuting zone levels of income and wage inequality, merging data from the Internal Revenue Service, the US census, the American Community Survey, the US Union Sourcebook, the Current Population Survey, and the National Labor Relations Board for years 1939 to 2016. After using two-way fixed effects and instrumental variable regression models to replicate inconsistent results of previous studies, I show that these mask substantial and robust heterogeneity across local areas. Simply put, Right to Work laws are highly consequential when passed in times and places where labor has something to lose. Right to Work laws remove the negative association between labor union membership and inequality, while the consequences of Right to Work passage are greatest in highly unionized areas. In total, results suggest that Right to Work laws work as intended, increasing economic inequality indirectly by lowering labor power resources. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.


Between Country Inequalities in Health Lifestyles

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(w Jane VanHeuvelen) Where do individuals consolidate health behaviors into a universal set of healthy lifestyles, and to what extent are health lifestyles and subsequent health outcomes contingent on between country socioeconomic inequalities? To answer these questions, we harmonize information from the 2011 International Social Survey Programme and the 2014 European Social Survey to examine patterns of health lifestyles and subsequent associations with self-rated health and obesity in representative samples of 53 country-years nested in 35 countries, with repeated observations from 18 countries. We find individuals engage more frequently in all healthy behaviors in more affluent countries. Moreover, we find the positive health consequences of a universal health lifestyles to be primarily concentrated in more affluent countries. Critically, we move health lifestyles research forward by testing the consequences of changes in shared living conditions, finding that growth in economic development increases the propensity of healthy lifestyles within countries. Policy and theoretical implications are discussed.