Working Papers 

“Racial Representation, Segregation, and Sorting”  (job market paper)

SOLE 2023; EEA annual Meeting 2023;  UEA annual meeting 2023; AEA annual meeting 2024; RRSI 2024

This paper investigates the impact of racial representation in local government on individual migration decisions, public goods provision, and residential segregation. I have constructed a novel migration dataset that allows me to track individual migration patterns within and across cities based on North Carolina voter registration records. Utilizing data from closely contested mayoral elections and this migration dataset, I establish causal links between the presence of a Black mayor and individual location decisions. The analysis reveals that having a Black mayor leads to a 4% net increase in the population of majority-Black neighborhoods and a 2% rise in white neighborhoods. These findings are corroborated by tract-level data from 120 major U.S. cities. Using the information I construct on individual migration decisions, I am able to further demonstrate that these net population changes are the result of the reduced out-migration of both Black and white residents and a modest increase in movers from outside the city. The net effect of these changes is an increase in racial segregation arising from the increased concentration of Black individuals in majority-Black neighborhoods. Further analysis into the underlying mechanisms shows that Black representation narrows the amenities disparity between majority-Black and white neighborhoods and shifts local media focus towards Black neighborhoods.

“Casting Roles, Casting Votes: Lessons from Sesame Street on Media Representation and Voting” with Claire Duquennois

RRSI 2024

Sesame Street’s representation of minority characters, egalitarian minority-white interactions and portrayal of working women was distinctive in the mass media landscape of 1969, when it started airing. By exploiting both age variation and technological variation in broadcast reception, this paper contributes to the media and contact theory literatures by showing that positive representations of minorities via mass media can reduce long-run prejudice and impact voting, an important societal outcome. We find that for preschool-age children, a 20 percentage point (1 standard deviation) increase in Sesame Street coverage reduced adult measures of implicit racial biases for white respondents and increased reported voting for minority and women candidates by 13 % and 9.7 % respectively. Voter turnout also increased by 4.4 %. Voting for Democratic candidates increased because of the increase in voting for diverse candidates. When the sample is restricted to ballots featuring white men, turnout gains are split between parties.

“Racial Representation in Local Government and Racial Disparities in Policing” with Daniel B. Jones and Xiaohong Wang 

TxECW 2024 

We draw on statewide data from North Carolina to examine the impacts of racial and ethnic representation in city councils on policing. Specifically, we focus on outcomes of traffic stops; e.g., whether a driver receives a warning or a citation after being stopped. We first document large Black-white and Latino-white disparities in the likelihood of consequence (arrest or citation) after a traffic stop. We then use a difference-in-differences design, focusing on changes following (narrow) elections of nonwhite (rather than white) councilmembers, and find that increased nonwhite council representation significantly reduces Black-white gaps in stops and actions taken after a stop. The magnitude of the reduction is similar with and without officer fixed effects, suggesting that results are largely driven by individual officer-level behavior change rather than a change in the composition of the police force.

“Meritocracy and Subnational GDP Manipulation in China” with Qiyao Zhou (forthcoming at Journal of Urban Economics)

North American Winter Meeting of the Econometric Society 2024

What role do local officials' incentives play in regional economic growth? How do local officials behave under promotion pressure? This paper studies the unintended impact of mayors' promotion incentives on regional economic growth and subnational-level GDP manipulation in China. We employ a regression discontinuity design that accounts for age restrictions in deciding promotions for mayors. We find that when GDP performance is prioritized in officials' promotion evaluations (before 2013), mayors' promotion incentives significantly increase the statistical GDP growth rate by 3.4 percentage points. However, their effects on nighttime light and other non-manipulable real economic growth indicators are close to zero. This gap can be attributed to GDP manipulation under our empirical framework. The above pattern no longer persists after 2013, when the role of GDP statistics in mayoral promotions was reduced. Our findings indicate that GDP manipulation makes performance-based competition between mayors devolve into a data manipulation game. Further analyses suggest a dynamic pattern of GDP manipulation, and that GDP manipulation hampers officials' accountability.

“The City Council Member Next Door” with Daniel B. Jones and Randall Walsh (R&R at Regional Science and Urban Economics)

This paper examines whether the election of a city council member generates highly localized benefits within their own neighborhoods. We use housing prices as a summary statistic to capture the numerous and difficult to observe ways in which local government allocates localized amenities. Drawing on data on North Carolina city council elections and the universe of housing transactions, we use a close-elections regression discontinuity strategy. We find that housing prices substantially increase for houses very close (within 0.2 miles) to a newly elected councilmember's place of residence.

Selected Work in Progress

“Sports and Racial Attitudes” with Claire Duquennois

Sports in the United States have seen a significant rise in outstanding minority players who attract substantial media attention, public visibility, and influence. In this paper, we investigate whether the public's racial attitudes are impacted in the short run by exposure to, and the performance of, key visible minority athletes such as Black NFL quarterbacks and Hispanic MLB pitchers. This has potential implications for the incidence of hate speech and crimes. Preliminary results indicate that, for NFL games, measures of implicit bias among white test takers decreased after wins led by local Black quarterbacks but increased after losses to opposing teams led by Black quarterbacks.

"Local Politics and Migration Choice" with Noah McKinnie Braun

This paper examines the role of local politics in residential sorting and its implications for political polarization. Using mayoral elections between Democratic candidates and non-Democratic candidates, coupled with individual-level migration data in North Carolina, we explore the impact of local official elections and subsequent policy changes on the migration decisions of political partisans. Preliminary results show that the election of a Democratic mayor boosts the overall population of municipalities in North Carolina. This increase is attributed to a decrease in out-migration and an uptick in in-migration among Democrats.

“Racial Bias Impacts on Mental Health: Can Child Media Representation Help? ” with Claire Duquennois


“Media Representations of Race: Impacts on Residential Sorting” with Claire Duquennois

“Housing Market Regulations in China and Within-City Spatial Inequality”


“Estimating the Economic Impact of Intensifying Environmental Regulation in China” with Qiyao Zhou and Dali Yang  (Environmental and Resource Economics, 2023)

Faced with serious environmental degradation, China under Xi Jinping has pursued an unprecedentedly massive and sustained campaign against pollution, especially air pollution, since 2013. How much of a burden has the campaign-style escalation in environmental enforcement had on manufacturing firms? Using firm-level environmental supervision records, we directly measure the environmental regulation intensity. We combine a regression discontinuity design based on Qinling-huaihe winter heating policy with a first difference approach to estimate the causal effect of environmental regulatory enforcement on firm performance. We find that a 1% increase in the probability for the high air-polluting manufacturing firms being penalized due to the environmental violations lowers their TFP by 2.8%. We also find that the campaign-style environmental enforcement has affected larger enterprises and state-owned enterprises less while deterring the entry of new firms. While we appreciate the importance of improving air quality, our research offers a more well-rounded understanding of China’s environmental enforcement initiatives and especially the costs of such enforcement on industry. Our findings suggest that the reward and punishment of local officials and of firms need to be sensitive to the costs of adjustment.

"The Chosen Fortunate in the Urbanization Process in China? Evidence from a Geographic Regression Discontinuity Study" with Qiyao Zhou and Xiuyan Liu (Review of Development Economics, 2019)

After decades of delayed urbanization, since 1998, China has implemented the “county-to-district” policy to promote urbanization and stimulate regional economic development. This policy was designed to expand the urban area of large cities by merging counties (rural areas) with nearby cities (urban areas). Intuitively, these regions are the “chosen fortunate” since they are the privileged beneficiaries of this policy experiment. However, at the time of writing (2018), recent studies have been inconsistent regarding this issue, and several studies have revealed that this policy has impeded regional growth. Therefore, the true effect of this policy must be carefully examined. Using grid-level nighttime light data and a border-based regression discontinuity design framework, we find that the average effect of the “county-to-district” policy on nighttime light growth is significant and positive, and this result also coincides with the increase of entry and decrease of exit of manufacturing enterprises, and the increase of the county-level manufacturing employment. However, the policy effect on nighttime light turns to be negative in the long run, implying that short-term economic growth may outweigh the long-term economic growth potential. A further investigation of the underlying mechanism indicates that industrial enterprises in the experimental policy area do not perform better in terms of total factor productivity (TFP) and profit margin than their counterparts. Moreover, this policy aggravates the polarization between central and border areas.