The Long Run Effects of Transformational Federal Policies: Redlining, the Affordable Care Act and Head Start
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My dissertation research spans several subfields of applied microeconomics, including public, health and urban economics. In particular, my dissertation is concerned with identifying the longrun effects of large, transformational Federal policies. My research shows how increases in access to credit markets, early childhood education and medical care can influence the course of a person’s life. In the first chapter, my Job Market Paper, I show how racially motivated restrictions to credit markets implemented in the 1930s, which are colloquially called “redlining”, influence the present day distribution of crime. I employ two regression discontinuity (RD) designs. First, I use a spatial RD to show that redlining influenced the present day distribution of crime across neighborhoods in Los Angeles, California. Secondly, I use a city-level RD design that relies on an unannounced population cutoff used to determinate which cities were redline-mapped. I find both that redlining increased crime in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Los Angeles and that redline-mapping a city increased Black and Hispanic crime victimization in that city. I also find that redline-mapping increased city-level racial segregation, which suggests a mechanism through which credit-access restrictions could have influenced long-run crime volume. In the second chapter, which is a separate sole-authored paper, I exploit the staggered statelevel expansion of the Medicaid program (as allowed under the Affordable Care Act) as a natural experiment to ascertain whether increased access to medical services, including prescription drugs, increased opioid-related deaths. I also exploit the staggered stage-level legalization of marijuana to see whether the increased availability of an opioid substitute decreased opioid-related deaths. The state-level decision to expand Medicaid increased both opioid prescriptions and opioid-related deaths. These results vary strongly by demography, being driven largely by deaths of white men without college degrees. Overall, opioid accessibility shocks explain about 12,000 opioid deaths ii per year, or nearly a third of the death toll. The state-level decision to legalize recreational marijuana (a substitute painkiller) reduced opioid-related deaths. Overall, these opioid-substitute accessibility shocks also explain about 12,000 opioid deaths per year. I conclude that policy-makers can achieve reductions in opioid mortality without restricting access to opioids. Lastly, in the third chapter, a joint paper with Andrew Barr and Alex Smith, we use the staggered county-level implementation in the 1960s of a national early childhood education program called “Head Start” to show that access to early childhood education influences the likelihood of adulthood criminal behavior. We produce difference-in-difference estimates of the effect of Head Start availability in a child’s birth county on the likelihood of adulthood criminal conviction. Head Start availability reduces the likelihood of a serious conviction by age 35 by 1.3 percentage points, but only in high-poverty counties. This paper is the first to (1) provide large-scale evidence that early childhood education reduces later criminal behavior, (2) provide estimates that rely on administrative crime data to determine the effects of Head Start availability on later criminal behavior, and (3) estimate that, in high poverty counties, the discounted benefits generated by Head Start’s later crime reduction were greater than the costs of the program itself. Our results indicate a meaningful connection between targeted, large-scale early childhood education interventions and criminal behavior. These results provide evidence in support of recent state efforts to expand early childhood education, but point to large potential gains from targeting these efforts toward higher poverty areas.
Anders, John Paul (2019). The Long Run Effects of Transformational Federal Policies: Redlining, the Affordable Care Act and Head Start. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from