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. 

 
 
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The Right to Work, Power Resources, and Economic Inequality

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. I reassess the consequences of Right to Work laws and allow their impact to vary based on the local concentration of labor power resources. To do so, I construct unique datasets at the state and commuting zone levels of income and wage inequality from years 1939 to 2016. After using two-way fixed effects models to replicate inconsistent results of previous studies, I show that these mask substantial and robust heterogeneity across local areas. Supplemental analyses of firm behavior support the theoretical explanations of main findings. In total, results suggest that Right to Work laws work as intended by lowering labor power resources, which results in a predictable increase in economic inequality. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.

Between Country Inequalities in Health Lifestyles

(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 dependent on between country socioeconomic inequalities? To answer these questions, we harmonize multiple cross-national datasets to examine patterns of health lifestyles and subsequent associations with self-rated health and obesity in representative samples of 35 countries. We find individuals engage more frequently in all healthy behaviors in more affluent countries. Moreover, we find the positive health consequences of health lifestyles to be primarily concentrated in more affluent countries. Importantly, we show that growth in economic development increases the propensity of healthy lifestyles. Policy and theoretical implications are discussed.

The Long Run Causes of Economic Inequality

This research examines the causes of subnational wage and income inequality from 1939 to 2014 using the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series. Specifically, I extend recent work by economic historians, who study the long-run causes of inequality at the country-level, to local labor markets. I sort wages and household incomes from 17 waves of Census microdata into 722 commuting zones, covering the entire contiguous United States. Most notably, this research is the first to detect the full "Kuznets Wave" (Milanovic 2016) in a single study within the subnational United States case. I find that inequality increases, declines, and then increases again along changes in economic development. I then move on to test a bevy of development and institutional factors.

 
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Intercohort changes in environmental concern

(w Nik Summers) In this research we combine insights from two lines of research on environmental attitudes. One tradition emphasizes heterogeneity in the relationship between environmental concern and affluence, at both the individual- and country-levels. Another examines the mechanisms that lead to change in environmental concern among affluent countries from one birth cohort to the next. We argue that a reconciliation of these two lines of research leads to new theoretical understandings of environmental concern. We assess environmental concern in an intercohort analysis using World Values Survey data from 1990 – 2009, using a sample of 164,664 individuals and 80 countries. Examining the data in two forms, in a multilevel regression framework of individuals nested in countries and a pseudo-panel design of birth cohorts across time, we draw two main conclusions. First, while environmental concern in younger cohorts has stagnated and declined among high-income countries, it has steadily grown among middle-income countries. This process is largely driven by divergent trends among respondents with lower levels of education. Second, we find significant change in environmental concern among birth cohorts over time, as well as heterogeneity in this change. Birth cohorts in middle-income countries tend to become more concerned with rising affluence, regardless of educational attainment. In contrast, we find an x-shaped pattern in high income countries. Those with higher educational attainment tend to become more concerned, and those with lower educational attainment less concerned, in response to affluence change.