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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Essays in Urban and Labor Economics

  • Author(s): Lee, Keyoung David
  • Advisor(s): Lleras-Muney, Adriana
  • et al.

This dissertation explores topics in urban and labor economics, separately and together.

In Chapter 1, I explore human capital spillovers between workers and across neighborhoods. I first show that college-educated and non-college workers tend to work in the same Census tracts. I then estimate an economic geography model and find a positive spillover effect of nearby college workers but a negative spillover effect of nearby non-college workers on a worker’s income. Both spillover effects decay very quickly, having no effect beyond three miles. I conduct counterfactual exercises to assess the benefits of a Los Angeles policy. The exercise shows that policies increasing density of college jobs provide benefit to both the targeted and surrounding areas, suggesting an important margin for urban policymakers to influence worker productivity in local areas.

Chapter 2 studies the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide the first comprehensive assessment of the short- and long-term effects of means-tested youth employment programs. We use digitized enrollee records from the CCC program in Colorado and New Mexico and matched these records to the 1940 Census, WWII enlistment records, Social Security Administration records, and death certificates. Overall, we find significant long-term benefits in both longevity and earnings, suggesting short and medium-term evaluations underestimate the returns of training programs, as do those that fail to consider effects on longevity.

Chapter 3 examines the housing market effects of inclusionary zoning policies (IZPs). IZPs have been implemented to spur construction of below-market housing to tackle the issue of housing affordability. They are popular with local governments because the direct costs of creating affordable housing are borne by developers, but their effects are theoretically ambiguous. I set up an empirical strategy that exploits variation in geography and timing in a difference-in-discontinuity framework to examine the effect of New York City’s mandatory IZP on housing supply and prices. I find while transaction prices increase following the policy, building activity also increases. This suggests that models considering IZP as a tax on development are too simplistic and further research is required to disentangle these findings.

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