High-Skilled Immigration and Native Task Specialization in U.S. Cities
(Regional Science and Urban Economics, 2019)

Abstract: This study examines the effect of high-skilled immigration on the occupational structure of native-born workers in U.S. cities. I find that increases in foreign college workers in STEM occupations, where they hold a comparative advantage over native-born workers, increase the specialization of college natives in social-intensive tasks. Consistent with the productivity effect of task specialization, I find no evidence of displacement effects but do find evidence of positive wage effects of foreign STEM flows on college natives, particularly for those in high-social occupations. Because migration flows are endogenous, I use a shift-share instrument to identify the effect of high-skilled immigration.

Research Papers

Trade Liberalization and Skill Acquisition: Evidence from U.S. Local Labor Markets
(Revision requested at Journal of Labor Economics)

Abstract: Trade liberalization increases capital-abundant countries specialization in capital-intensive sectors and creates incentives for workers to upgrade their skills, such as by investing in college education. This study assesses how a prominent U.S. trade policy affected college attainment. The empirical approach leverages geographic variation in rising import competition after China obtained permanent normal trade relation status in 2000. Results show that import competition raised college enrollment, particularly at two-year colleges and public colleges. However, evidence suggests that import competition did not increase college completion. One potential mechanism for the weak college attainment response is trade-induced fiscal declines at public colleges.

Local Public Financing and Rising Natural Disaster Risk
with Rhiannon Jerch and Matthew E. Kahn

Abstract: Since 1980, over 2,000 local governments in US Atlantic and Gulf states have been hit by a hurricane. Such natural disasters can exert severe budgetary pressure on local governments' ability to provide critical infrastructure, goods, and services. We study local government revenue, expenditure, and borrowing dynamics in the aftermath of hurricanes. These shocks impact, both, current local public resources through reducing tax revenues and expenditures, as well as future local public resources through increasing the cost of debt. Major hurricanes have much larger effects than minor hurricanes: major storms cause local revenues to fall by 6 to 7 percent. These losses persist at least ten years after a hurricane strike, leading to a 6 percent decline in expenditures on important public goods and services and a significant increase in the risk of default on municipal debt. Our results reveal how hurricanes can create a "vicious cycle" for local governments by increasing the cost of debt at critical moments after a hurricane strike, when localities are in greatest need of funding sources. Cities deemed riskier by ratings agencies face higher borrowing costs and thereby face constraints to invest in climate change adaptation. Municipalities with a racial minority composition above their state median suffer expenditure losses 9 percent greater and debt default risk 8 times larger than white communities in the decade following a hurricane strike. These results suggest that climate change can exacerbate environmental justice challenges.

Research in Progress

Shifting the Spatial Hedonic Equilibrium: Will Working-from-Home Raise the Demand to Live in Detroit?
with Jan K. Brueckner and Matthew E. Kahn

Migration Gravity, Friendship Networks, and Unemployment
with Arnab Basu and Nancy Chau

Do Anti-Immigrant Attitudes Affect the Location Choices of Foreign-Born Physicians?
with Oleg Firsin