Working Papers

Safer Sex?

The Effect of AIDS Risk on Birth Rates

Job Market Paper

The emergence of AIDS in the 1980s dramatically increased the cost of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Prior research shows that people responded to the AIDS epidemic by switching to sexual behaviors and contraceptive methods with lower likelihood of AIDS transmission. These behavioral adjustments also affect the likelihood of pregnancy and the incidence of other STIs. This paper provides the first evidence that the AIDS epidemic in the United States increased the birth rate and decreased the gonorrhea rate. I show that births among adult women increased on average by 0.5 births per 1,000 women per year, for a total of 344,000 additional births between 1981 and 2001 due to AIDS avoidance behaviors. My analysis suggests that the overall estimates are driven by women who avoid AIDS by shifting to monogamous relationships.

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In Progress

COVID-19 and Domestic Violence

Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Domestic Violence in US Cities

with Amalia Miller and Carmit Segal

Around the world, news outlets have reported increases in domestic violence (DV) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant restrictions on individual mobility and commercial activity. Although there are several reasons to expect that DV would increase for married and cohabiting couples, there are also forces that could reduce DV, such as COVID-19 sickness in a household or less time spent together by couples that live apart. It is also likely that victims who wish to report their abusers or seek assistance will face further barriers during the pandemic, which would depress reporting rates. The effects of the pandemic on both true and reported incidence of DV are therefore ambiguous.

This project will empirically examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on DV and reported DV. We will initially focus on reported DV using daily, city-level data from individual police departments in major US cities. Starting with real-time police data will allow us to track the effects of the pandemic on cases reported to police within a relatively short timeframe. This can help inform public policy responses to the ongoing pandemic. The high frequency of the data will be also be useful for tracking the dynamics of reporting over the course of the pandemic. For example, we may expect a decline in reporting during stay-at-home orders that is followed by an increase when restrictions are lifted. Next, we will integrate additional data sources to the analysis that may shed light on DV reporting as they become available.

Tasers and Fatal Police Encounters

The Effect of Tasers on Fatal Police Encounters

There are over 1,000 fatal police encounters per year in the United States, and an estimated 28,000 people have died during encounters with law enforcement since the year 2000. To decrease fatal encounters, police have sought weapons which can safely incapacitate people while they are taken into custody. One such weapon is the Conducted Energy Device (CED), better known by the brand name Taser. This research evaluates the effect of Tasers on fatal police encounters. I estimate the effect of Tasers on fatal police encounters using two approaches. First, I use state-level and agency-level data on fatal police encounters from 2000 to 2019 to analyze the effect of Taser restrictions on fatal encounters. I identify the causal effect of Tasers by exploiting circuit court rulings which required agencies in some states to limit Taser use to situations where people are actively aggressing. Second, I use a novel data set on agency-level Taser policies. I compiled data on Taser policies from 2000 to 2019 for the 30 largest local police departments in the United States. For each agency, I observe when they started using Tasers, when they issued Tasers to all patrol officers (if applicable), and the agency’s use-of-force policy in every year. I merge this information with data on fatal police encounters to evaluate the effect of Taser adoption and Taser polices on fatal police encounters. Identification comes from plausibly exogenous events that affected Taser adoption and polices such as court rulings, state law changes, and 9/11.

Maternal Inputs and Abortion Restrictions

The Effect of Abortion Restrictions on Birth Rates, Maternal Inputs, and Infant Health

with Becca Brough

In this paper we exploit variation in state-level abortion legislation to identify the effect of restrictions on maternal inputs and infant outcomes. We consider four restrictions: requirements for abortion counseling, mandated waiting periods between counseling and abortion procedures, parental involvement laws, and whether public funding for abortion is available through the state’s Medicaid program. We have compiled a novel dataset of state laws between 1990 and 2016 describing all four types of abortion restrictions. We find that abortion restrictions affect birth rates, use of prenatal care by pregnant women, and infant birth weight. We find heterogeous effects across women of different ages and socioeconomics groups. We also find heterogeneous effects depending on the type of abortion restriction.