University of Michigan
School for Environment and Sustainability
440 Church Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Institutional Affiliation: University of Michigan
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|January 2020||Inequality, Information Failures, and Air Pollution|
with Catherine Hausman: w26682
Research spanning several disciplines has repeatedly documented disproportionate pollution exposure among the poor and communities of color. Among the various proposed causes of this pattern, those that have received the most attention are income inequality, discrimination, and firm costs (of inputs and regulatory compliance). We argue that an additional channel – information – is likely to play an important role in generating disparities in pollution exposure. We present multiple reasons for a tendency to underestimate pollution burdens, as well as empirical evidence that this underestimation can disproportionately affect low-income households. Using a model of housing choice, we then derive conditions under which “hidden” pollution leads to an inequality – even when all households face t...
|December 2019||Using Machine Learning to Target Treatment: The Case of Household Energy Use|
with Christopher R. Knittel: w26531
We use causal forests to evaluate the heterogeneous treatment effects (TEs) of repeated behavioral nudges towards household energy conservation. The average response is a monthly electricity reduction of 9 kilowatt-hours (kWh), but the full distribution of responses ranges from -30 to +10 kWh. Selective targeting of treatment using the forest raises social net benefits by 12-120 percent, depending on the year and welfare function. Pre-treatment consumption and home value are the strongest predictors of treatment effect. We find suggestive evidence of a "boomerang effect": households with lower consumption than similar neighbors are the ones with positive TE estimates.