Working Papers

Job Loss, Earnings, and Crime: Evidence from Administrative Data

I use administrative records on criminal activity linked to unemployment insurance wage data to study earnings, job loss, and crime. Focusing on ex-offenders, I find arrest risk increases 40% immediately after job loss in a mass layoff, with effects concentrated in property crimes and domestic violence. Panel regressions estimated using coworkers’ earnings and employment as instruments yield similar results and a quarterly offending-income elasticity of -0.1. Analysis of seasonal patterns in crime and regression kink estimates of offending rates around maximum unemployment insurance benefit thresholds confirm that income losses are an important mechanism, consistent with Becker/Ehrlich rational models.

Does Banning the Box Help Ex-Offenders Get Jobs? Evaluating the Effects of a Prominent Example

In 2013, Seattle, WA, implemented a "ban the box" (BTB) ordinance prohibiting public and private employers in the city from asking prospective hires about their criminal history until after an initial screening. I evaluate the law theoretically and empirically. I first use a classic statistical discrimination model to show that while BTB must have opposite effects on individuals with and without criminal records, respectively, its impacts on specific demographic groups' average employment rates are theoretically ambiguous. I then test whether Seattle's law did affect individuals with records using employment and earnings data from the state unemployment insurance system for 300,000 ex-offenders. These results show that BTB had no detectable impact on ex-offenders' employment or wages across multiple difference-in-differences research designs. Given the zero effect of BTB, other policies that target the overall employability of ex-offenders are likely to be more effective, especially since this population's employment rates and earnings remain extremely low even before initial conviction.

Published Work

The Rise and Fall of Female Labor Force Participation During World War II in the United States
The Journal of Economic History, forthcoming

I use new data on employment and job placements during WWII to characterize the wartime surge in female work and its subsequent impact on female employment in the United States. The geography of female wartime work was primarily driven by industrial mobilization, not drafted men’s withdrawal from local labor markets. After the war, returning veterans and sharp cutbacks in war-related industries displaced many new female entrants, despite interest in continued work. As a result, areas most exposed to wartime work show limited overall effects on female labor force participation in 1950 and only marginal increases in durables manufacturing employment.