Job Market Paper
This paper shows that immigration positively affected the development of organized labor in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. I digitize archival data to construct the first county-level dataset on historical union membership in the U.S. and use a shift-share instrument to exploit plausibly exogenous variation in immigration between 1900 and 1920. I find that counties that received more immigration experienced an increase in the probability of having any labor union, the share of unionized workers, the number of local union branches, and the average branch size. Exploring the mechanisms driving the effect, I find that the increase occurred only among unions representing skilled workers, particularly in counties more exposed to the immigrants’ labor competition, and in places harboring less favorable attitudes towards immigration. Taken together, these results indicate that existing workers formed and joined labor unions due to both economic and social motivations. The findings shed light on a novel driver of unionization in the early 20th-century United States: in the absence of immigration, the average union density of this period would have been 17% lower. They also identify an unexplored consequence of immigration: the development of institutions that aim to protect workers' status in the labor market.
"Patronage, Careers, and Performance in the Federal Civil Service: Evidence from U.S. Judges" (with Massimo Pulejo) [PDF]
This paper analyzes the consequences of patronage in the federal civil service of the United States. Focusing on the federal judiciary system, where such a selection method is still used today, and leveraging individual-level data on the careers of judges and members of Congress from 1789 to the present, we use a difference-in-differences design to compare the career and performance of judges before and after the senator who recommended their nomination leaves Congress. We show that the probability of a judge being promoted from a district court to a court of appeal decreases by up to 68% after losing the connection to their recommender. Such impact emerges in years in which judges share partisanship with the incumbent president, hence when they could benefit from the lobbying efforts of their senatorial patron. This large effect is likely to have first-order consequences for the composition of U.S. courts of appeal and for the career incentives of U.S. district judges. In ongoing work, we are exploring whether and how this event influences judges' productivity and sentencing decisions.
Work in Progress
A broad strand of literature in economics has studied political cycles, especially focusing on how politicians manipulate budgets to increase their chances of re-election. Much less attention has been given to how the political cycle affects the incentives and behavior of organizations. In this paper, I study how elections affect public sector labor unions, a type of organization with well-acknowledged ties to politics, and the Democratic party in particular. I find that, in presidential election years, unionization rates increase for Black workers. The effect is larger in the occurrence of open seat elections; in Blue states; and, among constituencies where other institutions that mobilize Black voters, such as the NAACP or the Black church, are less present. This evidence is consistent with a mechanism in which labor unions increase their membership to more effectively lobby politicians ahead of a general election, by targeting and mobilizing workers who are otherwise less likely to turn out to vote, and more likely to lean Democratic.
“The Economic Effects of Public Hiring Constraints” (with Maria Carreri, Edoardo Di Porto, Edoardo Teso, and Silvia Vannutelli)
How do public administrations cope with tight limits on external hiring? What is the effect of these limits on public sector performance? How does the size of public employment affect local labor markets and private sector growth? In this paper, we aim to address these questions by: (i) leveraging rich administrative data on the universe of both public and private sector employees in the Italian labor market; and, (ii) exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in hiring constraints across different Italian public administrations induced by a 2008 reform that limited public sector hiring. With the findings of this paper, we aim to contribute to a long-standing debate on the public employment effects on the labor market, by exploiting exogenous variation in the size of local public employment; and, to the literature on internal labor markets, by focusing on a unique setting that allows us to document how the internal labor market of public sector organizations responds to shocks in external hiring ability.
American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, Explorations in Economic History
Business Analytics | Summer 2019, 2020, 2021
Making Business Decisions with Big Data | Winter 2020, 2021
Statistical Decision Analysis | Winter 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 (Evanston) and Fall 2020, 2021, 2022 (Miami)