I am a PhD candidate at the Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) at Stockholm University.
My research focuses on the political economy of less-developed countries. I have worked on the assigning of property rights in the United States, ethnic partitioning in Africa, the political legacy of mass killings in Cambodia and the impact of school reforms in Cambodia.
I work with high resolution spatial data, some digitized for the first time specifically for the projects you find below.
I will Join the Ludwigs-Maximillians University Munich in the fall as an assistant professor.
Job Market Paper
Property Rights, Resources and Wealth: Evidence from a land reform in the United States
This paper compares the effectiveness of two alternative property rights regimes to overcome the Tragedy of the Commons. One regime is to distribute access rights under public ownership, as proposed by Samuelson, the other is to sell land to generate private ownership as proposed by Coase. However, as property rights are not randomly allocated, causal evidence on the relative effectiveness of these two regimes is scarce. I exploit a spatial discontinuity generated by the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, which created 20,000 miles of plausibly exogenous boundaries that separated publicly owned rangeland from open-access rangeland. I combine these boundaries with data on the timing of private-property sales to jointly estimate the effects of public and private ownership on resource exploitation and income in a spatial regression discontinuity design. Using satellite-based vegetation data, I find that both property rights regimes increased vegetation by about 10%, relative to the open-access control. Census-block-level income data reveals that public ownership raised private household income by 13% and decreased poverty rates by 18%. To study mechanisms, I exploit variation in pre-reform police presence and panel data on farm values, and show that legal enforcement through police presence is a necessary condition for the positive and long-lasting effects of both regimes to arise.
The Role of Ethnic Networks in Africa: Evidence from Cross-Country Trade
I investigate the positive effects of ethnic fractionalization on bilateral trade and development in Africa. To identify ethnic networks across borders I employ a spatial identification strategy using the exogeneity of African political boundaries and the historic distribution of ethnic groups. I find that ethnic networks in African countries are an important determinant of cross-border trade. Using nighttime light data to proxy for regional development, I find that regions close to the border benefit from cross-border trade. Further, the evidence suggests that ethnic networks substitute for favorable institutions if the ethnicity is not represented in the government.
Work in Progress
Surviving the Killing Fields: The long-term consequences of the Khmer Rouge
Do experiences of political violence lead people to embrace authoritarian values and strong leaders or do they induce anti-authoritarian, individualistic sentiments that favor political competition? We examine this question in present-day Cambodia, studying the effects of the violent Khmer Rouge regime on political behavior and authoritarian beliefs four decades later. During their reign, Khmer Rouge displaced large parts of the population to collective farms to increase rice production. The labor camps became known as Killing Fields, where people died from outright execution, starvation, and overwork. We investigate how the atrocities affect the local population of today. To identify a causal effect, we rely on the Khmer Rouge's desire to create an agricultural empire, moving forced labor to areas experiencing higher agricultural productivity. Using historic rainfall to generate exogenous variation in rice productivity shows that more people died in the productive communes. We find that communes with higher productivity and more killings during Khmer Rouge experience larger turnout and greater support for liberal opposition parties compared to the authoritarian incumbent 40 years later. People in these communes are less likely to embrace authoritarian values, more politically informed, and more politically tolerant - effects that persist across generations of Cambodians. Policy making is also affected, as increased political competition reduced the long-term incumbent's ability to extract rents in terms of selling out natural resources to private interests, with less deforestation and fewer land concessions granted for mining purposes in areas with more killings.
Who Benefits from Free Education? Long-Term Evidence from a Policy Experiment in Cambodia
Free primary education is considered an important public policy to promote poor children's schooling. We explore a nationwide policy experiment in Cambodia in 2000 that abolished primary school fees to assess this claim. The paper investigates the effects of the program by combining differences in fee exposure across province, time, and cohort. One additional year of free education had no impact on children living in households below the consumption poverty line, but increased the likelihood of completing primary school, led to more years of schooling completed, and raised literacy for children in households above the poverty line. To ensure a causal interpretation of the heterogeneous effects, we exploit weather-induced agricultural volatility to estimate the difference across the consumption poverty line. Though poor and non-poor children attended school to same extent after the reform, poor children were less likely to progress and complete the higher grades. The findings are consistent with the idea that poor children and their parents are affected by the local community's educational norm, where income segregation may explain why poor students fail to take advantage of the policy change.
Eroding the incumbency advantage: Evidence from a wealth shock in the western United States
I study the effect of a large wealth transfer to the rural population on their political preferences. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 placed 142 million acres under public ownership and documented the rights to access these lands for nearby farmers. These property rights on public land increased the wealth almost immediately since they were an accepted collateral and influenced the pricing of a farm. I focus on close elections and show that counties affected by this policy were initially more likely to elect a democratic congressman at a magnitude similar to the incumbency advantage. This preference for redistributive policy is completely eroded almost immediately after the policy took place. Focusing on congressional elections during the great depression, I show that the most likely explanation is a change in preferences away from redistribution.
|ArcGIS course for graduate students in economics|
|Teaching Assistant for 'Management and Analysis of Big Data' for David Strömberg|
|ArcGIS course for graduate students in economics, jointly lectured with Shuhei Kitamura|
|Teaching Assistant for 'Macroeconomics II, PhD course' for John Hassler|