- Heat Exposure and Dietary Choices
Using a panel of American household grocery purchases and daily weather variation, I find that households' revealed food and drink preferences respond to the degree of summer heat they experience. However, the nature of this response is significantly different for households above and below 150 percent of the federal poverty line respectively. During months in which a county's average maximum temperature exceeds its historical average by 2 standard deviations or more, higher-income households purchase more dairy and ready-to-eat deli products, resulting in a higher percentage of observed calories from fat and lowering overall nutritional quality. Lower-income households in the same county during the same month spend more on bottled water, carbonated soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages, crowding out other categories of expenditure as budget constraints bind and thus increasing the risk of nutritional deficiencies. These results suggest that as heat waves become more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change, nutritional outcomes will worsen, and the underlying mechanisms and policy implications will differ by household income. To explore one potential mechanism, I use a national census tract-level measure of lead exposure risk to show that beverage expenditures increase and non-beverage expenditures decrease more sharply in high-risk areas. Thus lower-income households in areas with lower-quality infrastructure are especially susceptible to adverse nutritional consequences of heat and could benefit from targeted mitigation policies.
- Living Jerrycan to Jerrycan: The Cost of Drinking Water in Urban Nigeria
Households under water stress in urban Nigeria consider vendors (mairuwas) a “saving grace,” as they provide water with no connection fee or need for pipe construction. However, their desperation, especially during water shortages and electricity blackouts, allows mairuwas to charge 10 to 50 times the utility's wholesale price (Whittington et al. 1991, Nnaji et al. 2013). While the markup per jerrycan appears negligible, in just a few months, a household will have paid enough markup to cover the standard piped water connection fee. From this perspective, vendors exploit liquidity constraints and impatience to divert funds from the public good. To determine vendors’ net contribution to social welfare, I quantify the effect of water vending in urban Nigeria on the cost and accessibility of safe drinking water and associated health consequences.
- Gender-Specific Shocks & Household Bargaining Power: A Machine Learning Approach To Scanner Data (with Rania Gihleb and Osea Giuntella)
We examine the effect of several gender-specific labor market shocks documented in the literature on the consumption of heterosexual married couples in the United States. Using machine learning and text analysis techniques, we construct a score of relative gender preference at the product UPC level, culminating in an overall score of each household’s consumption. We find that within households, negative shocks to male labor demand increase the relative share of female-preferred goods, and vice versa, suggesting women gain intra-household bargaining power following these shocks. These effects are mirrored in consumption of children’s goods by gender, suggesting an improved bargaining position for the mother proportionally benefits daughters.
- Blood and Water: The Effect of Conflict on Sustainable Development
The goal of this paper is to measure the long-term effects of conflict-associated damage to water infrastructure. Beyond the immediate consequences of households losing a potential source of drinking water, I hypothesize that the destruction of water infrastructure in conflict has persistent long-run effects on an area’s health and economic development. Robust water infrastructure is costly to build, and the money spent on repairing or rebuilding cannot be invested in other catalysts of development such as education, transportation, and internet connectivity. At the same time, repeated or protracted conflict reduces the incentive to invest in long-term infrastructure because of the high probability of damage or destruction, keeping affected areas reliant on transient water sources. As a result, areas mired in conflict may experience worse health outcomes and higher mortality rates than nearby areas the conflict never reached long after the last bullet is ﬁred.