Abstract: There is some agreement that a child's outcomes improve upon adoption relative to staying in foster care homes and that policies should facilitate that transition. The federal Adoption Tax Credit (ATC) can help offset the cost of adoption, yet it is unclear whether it has a positive impact on the number of adoptions or if it merely transfers resources to households who would have adopted anyway. The ATC has primarily been a nonrefundable tax credit, but in 2010 and 2011 the full amount (over $13,000) was available as a refundable tax credit, representing a substantial increase in the benefit to lower- and middle-income families—those with typically low tax liability. Using county-level data from Florida, we estimate an increase of 265 additional public adoptions over what would be expected at the end of 2011. Relative decreases in adoptions in the first months of 2012 suggest that much of this increase is due to retiming rather than new adoptions. The response appears to be concentrated in lower- and middle-income households living in higher-income, more populated areas.

Media coverage: Chalkbeat, CityLab, American Enterprise Institute, The New York Times, Fox News, BuzzFeed News

Abstract: To combat the spread of COVID-19, many primary and secondary schools in the United States canceled classes and moved instruction online. This study examines an unexplored consequence of COVID-19 school closures: the broken link between child maltreatment victims and the number one source of reported maltreatment allegations—school personnel. Using current, county-level data from Florida, we estimate a counterfactual distribution of child maltreatment allegations for March and April 2020, the first two months in which Florida schools closed. While one would expect the financial, mental, and physical stress due to COVID-19 to result in additional child maltreatment cases, we find that the actual number of reported allegations was approximately 15,000 lower (27 percent) than expected for these two months. We leverage a detailed dataset of school district staffing and spending to show that the observed decline in allegations was largely driven by school closures. Finally, we discuss policy implications of our findings for the debate surrounding school reopenings and suggest a number of responses that may mitigate this hidden cost of school closures.

Working Papers

Abstract: This paper examines a series of high school-level interventions designed to encourage college attendance in a historically underperforming region, Appalachian Ohio. High schools received competitive grants to combat information frictions regarding postsecondary enrollment—through campus visits, college fairs, financial aid seminars, etc. I estimate the effect of competitive grants on postsecondary enrollment. Only Appalachian high schools were eligible for the program, and I exploit this policy-induced variation in treatment allocation to compare college attendance rates for high schools that received funding and similar, non-Appalachian high schools that were ineligible for the program using a difference-in-differences framework. Leveraging multiple datasets, treatment specifications, and control groups, I document two findings: i) while college attendance generally rose during treatment, no evidence indicates that the grants increased attendance relative to similar yet untreated schools and ii) there is no evidence that attendance patterns shifted to higher-quality institutions.

Works in Progress

  • "The effect of targeted federal economic spending on crime: Evidence from the Los Angeles Promise Zone." (with Carl Kitchens)

  • "The effect of monetary compensation of birth mother adoption costs on the number of private infant adoptions."

Conference and Seminar Presentations

  • “Information frictions and postsecondary educational attainment: Evidence from Appalachian Ohio.”

      • Association for Education Finance and Policy Annual Conference—March 2020

      • Southern Economics Association Annual Meetings—November 2019

      • Florida Workshop in Applied and Theoretical Economics—October 2019

      • Urban Economics Association Annual Meeting—October 2019

      • APPAM 2019 Regional Student Conference (D.C.)—March 2019

  • "Who responds to changes to the federal adoption tax credit? Evidence from Florida." (with Luke P. Rodgers)

      • National Tax Association Annual Conference—November 2019

      • Calvin College Economics Departmental Seminar—February 2019

  • “The effect of monetary compensation of birth mother adoption costs on the number of private infant adoptions.”

      • Southern Economics Association Annual Meetings—November 2018