Research interests: environmental economics, health economics

214 David Kinley Hall
1407 W Gregory Drive. Urbana, IL 61801 USA
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Working Papers

"Unwatched Pollution: The Effect of Intermittent Monitoring on Air Quality" (Job Market Paper)
Paper, September 2017 | Appendix, September 2017

Abstract: Compliance monitoring of environmental standards is often conducted intermittently due to its expense. Intermittent monitoring, however, may encourage polluters to show compliance during monitoring, but to increase polluting activities at other times. This paper documents strategic responses to a cyclical, once-every-six-day monitoring schedule under a broad-scale federal air quality regulation. Using an independent satellite-based measure of air pollution, I show that air quality where this cyclical monitoring takes place is significantly worse on unmonitored days. Larger effects are observed in areas that (1) are out-of-compliance with air quality standards, and thus face steeper potential penalties; (2) have a high concentration of certain industries, such as wood product manufacturing, and (3) are intersected by highways. Consistent with this last finding, I show that local governments are more likely to issue air quality advisories that call for citizens to reduce automobile usage and outdoor activities on days when pollution monitoring is scheduled. This evidence points to local governments’ effort to coordinate the avoidance of pollution on monitoring days. I document consequences of strategic responses: results suggest that the higher levels of pollution on unmonitored days lead to lower school test scores and elevated levels of violent crime on these days.


"Wind Turbine Syndrome: The Impact of Wind Farms on Suicide"
Paper, October 2017

Abstract: Current technology uses wind turbines’ blade aerodynamics to convert wind energy to electricity. This process generates significant low-frequency noise that reportedly results in residents’ sleep disruptions, among other annoyance symptoms. However, the existence and the importance of wind farms’ health effects on a population scale remain unknown. Exploiting over 800 utility-scale wind turbine installation events in the United States from 2001-2013, I show robust evidence that wind farms lead to significant increases in suicide. I explore three indirect tests of the role of low-frequency noise exposure. First, suicide effect concentrates among at-risk individuals to noise-induced illnesses, such as the elderly. Second, the suicide effect is driven by days when wind blows in directions that would raise residents’ exposure to low-frequency noise radiation. Third, data from a large-scale health survey suggest increased sleep insufficiency as new turbines began operating. These findings point to the value of noise abatement in future wind technology innovations.


"Blowing Smoke: Health Impacts of Wildfire Plume Dynamics"
With Nolan Miller and David Molitor
Paper, October 2017

Abstract: Long-range transport of wildfire smoke affects air quality on a broad geographic and temporal scale. Using a novel satellite-based dataset that allows us to observe daily smoke plume coverage for almost every location in the U.S. from 2006 to 2013, we find that transport of wildfire smoke generates frequent and significant variations in air pollution, especially fine particulate matter, for cities hundreds of miles away from the fire itself. We link this variation to Medicare administrative data to provide the first national-scale evaluation of the health cost of wildfire pollution among the U.S. elderly. We show that wildfire smoke exposure poses a significant mortality risk for the elderly. The effect concentrates among individuals who live in areas with generally low background levels of air pollution. We find strong and consistent evidence that smoke exposure also increases healthcare use and spending.


Work in Progress

"The Mortality Consequences of Intermittent Air Pollution Monitoring"
With Nolan Miller and David Molitor
[Draft available upon request]

"Smoked Out: The Effects of Wildfire Smoke on Labor Market Outcomes"
With Mark Borgschulte and David Molitor
[Draft available upon request]

"Pollution Awareness and Public Preferences: Evidence from an Air Quality Disclosure Program"
[Draft available upon request]