How do Abuse Allegations Affect the Religious Participation of Catholics?
I explore the effects of people's attachment to religion on religious participation and on human capital, such as longer term health outcomes, by studying the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. Reporting by major media outlets in 2002 revealed a staggering amount of sexual abuse by clerics and its ongoing cover-up in the United States by the Church's hierarchy. This news shook many of the faithful’s trust in the religious institution and led to a crisis of faith. The intensity of the scandal, as measured by the number of allegations against clerics, differed across the dioceses in the country. Exploiting this variation with a difference-in-differences strategy, I find that dioceses with a high number of allegations experienced diminishment in demand for religion across several different measures. Parents are less likely to have their children receive sacraments and attend parochial schools. Parish membership declines by more than 7.1 percent, and student enrollment falls by 13.2 percent. Additionally, this crisis had effects that extend beyond religious attachment. I present evidence that the clerical abuse scandal leads to worsening mortality rates related to deaths of despair. In particular, at the county level there is an increase in the incidence of high mortality rates of respectively 1.2 percent and 1.8 percent for accidental overdoses and suicides for middle aged men.
Works in Progress
The Impact of Noise Pollution on Education Outcomes - with Andrew Lee
This project studies the causal impact of noise pollution on educational outcomes of students attending public institutions in the state of Texas. We study this through two separate settings: (1) construction and demolition projects, a common source of significant noise and air pollution in urban environments, and (2) wind turbines, a source of low-frequency noise pollution. Using geolocation information, we identify which schools lie near these sources of noise pollution. Under a difference-in-differences framework, we compare schools that are in the vicinity of construction and demolition projects or wind turbines with similar schools that are not, and we use detailed Texas administrative data to estimate the magnitude of the impact of noise pollution on student achievement, health, and behavior.
Feeding Food-Insecure Children
Through a randomized control trial (RCT), the project plans to assess an after-school meal program run by a nonprofit. Food insecurity is widespread in the United States, and this problem plagues both adults and children. For children, food insecurity has been correlated with higher absences from school and poorer academic performance. Hunger Busters, a nonprofit based in Dallas, Texas, provides a third meal to disadvantaged students after the school day at public schools. This additional meal could provide the necessary nutrition for students to succeed at school. In particular, I analyze the effect of this intervention on student test scores, the rate of student absences, the incidence of student disciplinary action, and other outcomes.