Estimating the Long-run Relationships between State Cigarette Taxes and County Life Expectancy ( With Sanjay Basu, Aaron Baum and Emilie Bruzelius)

A large body of literature suggests that tobacco control legislation—including fiscal measures such as excise sales taxes—reduces tobacco smoking, and that tobacco smoking confers such high risk of mortality that it may be plausibly related to large-scale variations in life expectancy across counties. Here, we test the hypothesis that increases in state cigarette excise taxes are positively associated with increases in life expectancy at the county level. We additionally examine whether the relationship between cigarette taxes and life expectancy varies by the sex, income, and rural/urban composition of a county, and whether it is mediated by changes to county smoking prevalence. Data on estimated life expectancy at birth for all U.S. counties across the period 1996 to 2012 by sex was merged to state cigarette excise tax rates by year. A multilevel dynamic panel regression model with fixed effects for county was used to assess relations between tax rates and life expectancy, separately estimating short-run and longer-run associations. We found that for every 1 dollar increase in cigarette tax per pack, county life expectancy increased over the long-run by approximately 6 months for men and 4 months for women, on average. We also found that the benefit of the policy was greater in lower-income and rural counties, and that the association was mediated by long-run reductions in county smoking prevalence.

Gold Rush and Marriage Markets (with Anja Tolonen)

How does scarcity of women affect gender norms? We explore the gold rush in Western United States in the late 19th century as a natural experiment to answer this question. We use a geographic difference-in-difference methodology, exploiting the location and discovery of the gold deposits and its influence on sex ratios, to understand short term and medium term changes in women’s labor market participation and marriage market opportunities. Gold mining, and the oversupply of marriageable men with income, increased marriage rates among women. Women also married up: older men with higher prestige occupations. In parallel, the gold rush created a market based service sector economy, potentially catering to men with money but poor marriage prospects. We find support for the hypothesis that these effects persist in the medium term using the 1940 census, also when controlling for contemporaneous sex ratio and presence of mining.