"Early Voting and Late-Election Information" (job market paper) | pdf

Abstract: Convenience voting (any form of voting that does not take place on Election Day at one's precinct) offers voters a "low-cost" method of voting, but at a price: those choosing to cast a ballot early forfeit their ability to incorporate late-election information into their vote. This information can matter for election outcomes: using a difference-in-differences design and variation in the availability of early voting, I find that voters who were only able to cast their ballot after the release of FBI Director James Comey's letter to Congress on October 28, 2016 were significantly more likely to vote for the Republican candidate. Normative questions arise: from an ex-ante point of view, would society benefit from a wider availability of early voting, or is early voting already too available? To answer these questions, I develop a model in which voters choose whether to vote early, late, or not at all, and where both information and the realized cost of Election Day voting affect whether a particular voter votes or not. I show that early voting is beneficial to society when 1) Election Day voting costs are correlated with ideological preferences and 2) late-election information is not too "big."

"Heterogeneous Effects of Universal Vote by Mail" | pdf

Abstract: Universal vote by mail (VBM) systems require election officials to mail ballots to every registered voter in the jurisdiction. This does not require a request from the voter and allows individuals to cast their ballot from home, lowering voting "costs." As such, canonical costly voting models of political economy predict VBM should lead to an increase in voter turnout. In this paper, I exploit the staggered adoption of VBM by counties in Washington and Utah and use recently-developed estimation techniques from Callaway and Sant’Anna [2021] to show that VBM leads to an increase in voter turnout of between 1.15 percentage points (in Washington) and 3.1 percentage points (in Utah). These estimates are in line with recent studies: 2.1 p.p. from Thompson et al. [2020] and 1.8-2.9 p.p. from Barber and Holbein [2020]; they also represent a relatively small change in turnout. How might we reconcile this with the predictions of the costly voting model? To understand the modest impact, I turn to a heterogeneity analysis. I find that turnout effects of VBM are positively correlated with pre-VBM registration rates, reiterating the importance of voter registration to the success of VBM in boosting turnout. I also find that turnout effects of VBM are positively correlated with pre-VBM Democrat vote share (averaged over federal and gubernatorial races).

Provision of Black Schooling in the Age of Disenfranchisement (co-authored with Brian Beach)

Abstract: In this chapter, we seek to evaluate different models which explain why the United States allocated public funds to Black schools in the age of disenfranchisement, when Black citizens had effectively no power to punish their politicians. In his book, Race and Schooling in the South: 1880-1950: An Economic History, Bob Margo suggests a mobility hypothesis along the lines of Tiebout sorting. Local governments wanted to retain valuable labor: if a high enough level of Black schooling was not provided, Black families would move to other areas with sufficiently high levels of education, depleting valuable labor. We also suggest a "bunching" hypothesis: local governments were providing just enough public schooling to prevent Black citizens from starting their own private schools, therefore maintaining relative inequality. We test implications from each of these hypotheses with historical data in order to evaluate them.