I am a Prize Fellow in Economics, History, and Politics at Harvard for the 2021-2022 academic year. I will join Brandeis University as an Assistant Professor of Economics in 2022.
My research lies at the intersection of economic history, law, and industrial organization. In particular, I study the the long-term impact of regulations on competition and innovation, drawing on evidence from American history.
How does a monopsony influence market outcomes if future supplies are responsive to current prices? When neither production nor shipments coincide with spot-market sales, monopsonists can manipulate current prices to alter future supply, potentially achieving higher collusive profits. This dynamic strategy suggests that standard models may underestimate the effect of monopsonistic cartels on the input market. This paper examines the historical case of the U.S. meatpacking cartel, which manipulated market prices to attract large cattle shipments, then exploited the inelastic spot-market supply to obtain the input materials at lower prices. The analyses leverage exogenous regulatory changes that forced the cartel to switch from a dynamic to a static strategy. I develop and estimate a structural model of the wholesale cattle market. I then quantify the effect of dynamic cartel manipulation by comparing the empirical market outcomes with counterfactuals under the static model. I find that cartel manipulation harmed cattle sellers by enabling the cartel to buy fewer cattle at low prices than it would have under a static model. The manipulation strategy also harmed downstream consumers by increasing beef prices and thus total household food expenditures.
This paper studies how the default private property protection liability can lead to persistent resource misallocations. Counties throughout the U.S. had different fence laws that assign the liability for livestock trespassing to different parties. Farmers under “fence-out” rule can claim damage from animal trespassing only if the land is enclosed by a legal fence, while those under “fence-in” rule can claim damage regardless of fence conditions. While Coase (1960) emphasizes that, absent of transaction cost, liability rules do not affect resource distribution, prolonged public debates and occasional violent conflicts between farmers and cattlemen suggest that the liability rules had significant economic implications. For the analysis, I construct a new data set of county-level laws from 1850 to 1920 from state session laws. This data provides a comprehensive legislative history on liability rules for the western states. The analysis exploits the variation in fence laws at the county level over time to quantify the effects of liability rules on agricultural productivity. Consistent with historical accounts, the baseline difference-in-differences results show that fence-in rules incentived agricultural development. Compared to fence-out counties that required farmers to construct fences, fence-in rule increased the density of farmland by 13.4 percent and the share of improved farmland by 18.3 percent. Fence-in rule also increased the cultivation area and the average yield for corn, which is vulnerable to trespassing without fences. This eventually translates to a higher total value of farm output for fence-in counties, although the higher productivity was not reflected in land values.
This paper analyzes the the long-term effect of mechanical refrigeration, which differentially influenced perishable goods production such as livestock. The analysis exploits the variation in relative natural suitability for livestock versus grain production across counties to capture the impact of refrigeration on agricultural productivity. The baseline event-study shows that after 1880, when refrigeration was commercially adopted in the meatpacking industry, counties relatively more suitable for ranching than farming witnessed more farmland development and higher value of output. For every percentile increase in the relative suitability ranking, counties experienced a 0.1 percentage point increase in the share of land areas being developed as farmland, and a 0.5 percent increase in output value and land value. The effects also differ for counties across the range of relative suitability but persist over time. The results were driven primarily by the top two quartiles, but the effects on output and land value persisted until 1960.