Essays in Labor and Urban Economics
Lin, Gary C.
This dissertation contains three essays that examine how two prominent global trends—globalization and climate change—impact the growing spatial inequality in the United States. The first chapter, “Trade Liberalization and Skill Acquisition,” focuses on how trade liberalization affects workers' skill acquisition responses. Workhorse trade models, such as the Heckscher-Ohlin model, predict that trade liberalization increases capital-abundant countries' specialization in capital-intensive sectors and creates economic incentives for workers to upgrade their skills, such as by investing in college education. In this study, I assess how a prominent U.S. trade liberalization policy affected college attainment. The empirical approach leverages geographic variation in import exposure after China obtained permanent normal trade relation status in 2000. Results show that the import shock significantly raised college enrollment, particularly at two-year colleges and public colleges. However, evidence strongly suggests that the shock did not increase college completion. One potential mechanism for the gap between college enrollment and completion is a trade-induced decline in student-oriented resources at public colleges. The second chapter, “High-Skilled Immigration and Native Task Specialization in U.S. Cities,” concerns the topic of increased global economic integration through international migration. Specifically, I investigate how the influx of high-skilled immigrants affected the occupational choices of native-born workers in urban economies. Standard theory, such as the Roy model, predicts that high-skilled immigrants will self-select into math-intensive occupations in which they have a comparative advantage over native workers. To test this theory, I take advantage of the influx of college-educated immigrants in science, math, technology, and engineering (STEM) fields after the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990, which established temporary working visas, such as the H-1B. The estimates from an instrumental variable approach indicate that increases in foreign talent in math-intensive tasks increased the specialization of college-educated natives in social-intensive tasks. Evidence suggests that this labor reallocation occurred within occupations at the top of the task distribution. The productivity gains from task specialization accrued to both college and noncollege natives. All experienced significant positive wage gains. The findings provide suggestive evidence that cities benefit from the inflow of highly skilled immigrants through their direct contribution to the local economy (e.g., innovation) and from the increased task specialization of its workforce. In the third chapter, “Local Public Finance Dynamics in the Face of Rising Climate Risk,” a joint work with Rhiannon Jerch and Matthew E. Kahn, we assess the fiscal impacts of climate-change-induced environmental shocks on local public good provision. The conventional wisdom is that cities are at increasing risk of experiencing severe climate shocks, but they are not adequately prepared for these shocks. Natural disasters, including hurricanes and floods, can exert severe budgetary pressure on local governments' ability to provide critical infrastructure, goods, and services. Yet, very little is known about the effects of these shocks on local public finance. In this paper, we show that hurricanes cause locally generated revenues to fall significantly, and this loss of local revenue persists up to a decade after the hurricane and leads to reductions in municipal bond ratings. The connection between local revenue loss and bond ratings demonstrates that climatic shocks can exacerbate direct local fiscal pressures: cities deemed riskier by ratings agencies face higher costs of borrowing debt and thereby face constraints to investing in climate change adaptation.
Kanbur, RaviChau, Nancy
Applied Economics and Management
Ph. D., Applied Economics and Management
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis