My Research

"[I]t is distressing how often one can guess the answer given to an economic question merely by knowing who asked it."
-George J. Stigler, 1946

Working Papers

Crime and the Minimum Wage - JMP

Abstract: How does the minimum wage affect crime rates? Empirical research suggests that increasing a worker's wage can deter him from committing crimes. On the other hand, if that worker becomes displaced as a result of the minimum wage, he may be more likely to commit a crime. In this paper, I describe a frictional world in which a worker's criminal actions are linked to his labor market outcomes. I calibrate the model to match labor market outcomes and crime decisions of individuals from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. Using the calibrated model, I show that the relationship between the aggregate crime rate and the minimum wage is non-monotonic. I test for this non-monotonicity using county level crime data and state level minimum wage changes from 1980 to 2012. The results from the calibrated model suggest that for 16-19 year olds a minimum wage set at 91% of the median wage will minimize the crime rate.

Do Workers Direct their Search?

with Ben Griffy, Bryan Engelhardt, and Peter Rupert
Abstract: Models of job search typically assume that search can either be described as random or competitive. However, there is scant empirical evidence to guide the choice between these frameworks. In this paper we show that the semi-elasticity of the hazard rate differs across the two models and test this implication using likelihood ratio tests. We find evidence against random search by showing that changes in the model-implied hazard rate are not consistent with those observed in the data.

Quality Hours: Measuring Labor Input

with Finn E. Kydland and Peter Rupert
Abstract: We construct an aggregate labor input series from 1979 to adjust for changes in the experience and education levels of the workforce using the Current Population Survey's Outgoing Rotation Groups. We compare the cyclical behavior of labor input to aggregate hours - finding that labor input is about 11% less volatile over the business cycle and that the quality of the workforce is countercyclical. We show that a decrease in labor productivity beginning in 2004, the "productivity slowdown," is understated by 23 percentage points when using aggregate hours instead of labor input to calculate productivity, and that 80% of the average quarterly growth rate of labor productivity can be attributed to increases in education and experience since 2004.

Work in Progress

Dual Search and Migration

with E. Charlie Nusbaum and Peter Rupert - email for pdf
Abstract: From 1964-1990, the aggregate intercounty migration rate remained largely unchanged, after which it began to decrease. During this same period, however, the intercounty migration rate of married couples steadily declined while the migration rate of single individuals concurrently increased. These differential trends suggest important differences in how multi-member households and individuals make decisions. This paper builds on the extensive demography and labor literature by asking how much of the decline in the mobility of married couples can be accounted for by the rapid increase in female labor force participation from 1960 to 2000?

Why do Europeans steal more than Americans?

with Marek Kapicka and Peter Rupert - email for pdf
Abstract: Property crime is today more widespread in Europe than in the United States, while the opposite was true during the 1970s and 1980s. In this paper we study the deter- minants of crime in a dynamic general equilibrium labor and crime search model. We focus on United States and United Kingdom, and compute the contribution of various factors to the total change. We find that changes in the probability of ap- prehension and prison duration increased crime rates for both countries. At the same time, changes in the job finding and job separation rates decreased the crime rate in the United States, but increased it in the United Kingdom. Changes in the unemployment insurance rates and age distribution also contributed to the reversal.