Research
Finding the Fat: The Relative Impact of Budget Fluctuations on African-American Schools (Job Market Paper)
On average, per pupil expenditures were much lower in schools attended by African-American children than in schools attended by whites during the period of de jure segregation. Little is known, however, about how southern school boards divvied up the proceeds of exogenous shifts in school budgets by race. I use data from the early twentieth century on schools in Georgia to answer this question. In Georgia, a county’s share of the State School Fund was set every five years based on the proportion of the school-age population residing in the county. Infrequent adjustments to changes in the distribution of school-age children resulted in significant shocks to per pupil expenditures in the adjustment years in some counties. Exploiting this exogenous source of variation in school revenues, I employ a differences-in-differences strategy to investigate how the relative quality of education for African Americans changed with the level of state funding for education. The results suggest whites, rather than African Americans, bore the brunt of budget cuts, perhaps because there was little fat to trim from the budgets of African-American schools.

From the Field to the Classroom: The Boll Weevil’s Impact on Education in Rural Georgia [pdf]
This paper exploits a unique shift in agricultural production that occurred in the early twentieth-century American South to analyze how the production of a child labor–intensive crop (cotton) impacted schooling, with a particular focus on racial differences. In the early twentieth-century the harvesting of cotton required a large number of extra workers for three months of the year. Children were employed to help fill this seasonal labor demand. Because the harvest happened during the fall, it conflicted directly with traditional school attendance. Since white children had wealthier parents than blacks on average, and were therefore less likely to work in cotton production, a theoretical model of the time allocation of children predicts the enrollment rate of blacks to be more responsive to changes in cotton production than that of whites. I test this prediction using newly collected county-level panel data for the state of Georgia, a major cotton producer. Because cotton production may be endogenous, I use the arrival of the boll weevil, an agricultural pest that attacks the cotton plant, as an instrumental variable. The results reveal that a 10 percent reduction in cotton production caused a 2 percent increase in the school enrollment rate of blacks. By contrast, I find little evidence that cotton production affected the enrollment rate of whites. The shift away from cotton production after the arrival of the boll weevil can explain 30 percent of the narrowing of the black-white differential in enrollment rates between 1914 and 1929.

From Plutocracy to Progressivism? The Assassination of President McKinley as a Turning Point in American History (with Carola Frydman and Eric Hilt) [pdf]
We use the assassination of President McKinley in September 1901 to measure the value of his Presidency to large corporations. McKinley’s campaigns were funded by major business interests, and while in office he permitted an unprecedented wave of merger activity without much enforcement of antitrust laws. His Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, was known to be a progressive reformer. Using newly collected data, we estimate the effect of McKinley’s assassination on share prices. We distinguish among firms with varying degrees of vulnerability to antitrust prosecution, and among firms with varying degrees of political influence. Our analysis indicates that firms with vulnerability to antitrust prosecution saw greater decreases in their valuations following the assassination, suggesting that regulatory forbearance was an important mechanism by which firms benefited during McKinley’s Presidency. In contrast, we find little evidence that politically connected firms, such as those affiliated with the largest donors to the McKinley campaign, saw their values fall to a greater degree following the assassination.