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Title: Essays on Economic History of the United States: Evidence from the Pesticide Revolution and Great Migration
Authors: Baran, Cavit
Advisors: Boustan, Leah
Contributors: Economics Department
Keywords: Great Migration
Silent Spring
Subjects: Economics
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This collection of essays examines two important episodes in the U.S. economic history. First two chapters explore health and economic legacy of pesticide revolution in the United States. Chapter 1 aims to understand how environmental legacy of modern farming will affect health of future generations and rural economies in the long term. To do so, I study historical lead and arsenic use in agriculture and their long-run effects on rural health and local economies. Combining historical farm data with death records for Pennsylvania farm households, I document farm-level exposure to lead and arsenic was linked to increased risk of mortality from cancers related to chronic arsenic exposure. I then show long-run health of individuals living in areas exposed to these substances in high levels was also impacted. Extending my analysis to 18 additional states, I find similar results. I provide suggestive evidence on relative decline in total farmland area, possibly due to increased soil toxicity, and in housing prices in affected areas after public became more aware of pesticides’ harmful effects. Chapter 2, co-authored with Maria Lucia Yanguas, explores how individuals react to new information about environmental quality. We investigate the effect of dissemination of environmental information on economic activity, exploiting the 1962 publication of environmental science book Silent Spring. We find that Silent Spring was associated with lower migration and farmland values in pesticide-intense areas, and ambiguous effects on house values. This supports the hypothesis that economic agents react to new information on environmental quality. Results are persistent over time. Chapter 3, co-authored with Eric Chyn and Bryan Stuart, studies the impact of the Great Migration on children. We use the complete-count 1940 Census to estimate selection-corrected place effects on education for children of Black migrants. On average, Black children gained 0.8 years of schooling (12 percent) by moving from South to North. Many counties that had the strongest positive impacts on children during the 1940s offer relatively poor opportunities for Black youth today. Opportunities for Black children were greater in places with more schooling investment, stronger labor market opportunities for Black adults, more social capital, and less crime.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Economics

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