NBER Working Papers by Allison Shertzer

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Working Papers

May 2014Race, Ethnicity, and Discriminatory Zoning
with Tate Twinam, Randall P. Walsh: w20108
Zoning has been cited as a discriminatory policy tool by critics, who argue that ordinances are used to deter the entry of minority residents into majority neighborhoods through density restrictions (exclusionary zoning) and locate manufacturing activity in minority neighborhoods (environmental racism). However, identifying discrimination in these regulations is complicated by the fact that land use and zoning have been co-evolving for nearly a century in most American cities, rendering residential sorting and inequitable treatment observationally equivalent. We employ a novel approach to overcome this challenge, studying the introduction of comprehensive zoning in Chicago. Using fine-scale spatial data on pre-existing land uses and the locations of minority neighborhoods, we find eviden...
February 2013Immigrant Group Size and Political Mobilization: Evidence from European Migration to the United States
Immigration to democratic nations generates new groups of potential voters. This paper investigates how the electorate share of immigrant groups influences their likelihood of becoming politically mobilized, focusing on the mechanism of coalition formation with the Democratic Party. Using newly assembled data on ethnic enclaves in American cities at the start of the twentieth century, I show immigrants were more likely to mobilize politically as their share of the local electorate grew larger. This effect is driven by political mobilization in voting districts where the Democratic Party likely needed an immigrant group’s vote to win elections. I also consider the shape of the electorate share effect, showing it is nonlinear and consistent with a political economy model of coalition form...
August 2012Did the Americanization Movement Succeed? An Evaluation of the Effect of English-Only and Compulsory Schools Laws on Immigrants' Education
with Adriana Lleras-Muney: w18302
In the early twentieth century, education legislation was often passed based on arguments that new laws were needed to force immigrants to learn English and "Americanize." We provide the first estimates of the effect of statutes requiring English as the language of instruction and compulsory schooling laws on the school enrollment, work, literacy and English fluency of immigrant children from 1910 to 1930. English schooling statutes did increase the literacy of foreign-born children, though only modestly. Compulsory schooling and continuation school laws raised immigrants' enrollment and the effects were much larger for children born abroad than for native-born children.
October 2010Demography and Population Loss from Central Cities, 1950-2000
with Leah Platt Boustan: w16435
The share of metropolitan residents living in central cities declined dramatically from 1950 to 2000. We argue that cities would have lost even further ground if not for demographic trends such as renewed immigration, delayed child bearing, and a decline in the share of households headed by veterans. We provide causal estimates of the effect of children on residential location using the birth of twins. The effect of veteran status is identified from a discontinuity in the probability of military service during and after the mass mobilization for World War II. Our results suggest that these changes in demographic composition were strong enough to bolster city population but not to fully counteract socio-economic factors favoring suburban growth.

Published: “Population Trends as a Counterweight to Central City Decline,” with Allison Shertzer. Demography 50.1 (2013): 125–47.

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