Working Papers

Linguistic Distance, Internal Migration and Welfare: Evidence from Indonesia (Job Market Paper) [Paper]

This paper quantifies the effects of cultural barriers on internal migration and welfare by exploiting rich ethnolinguistic data in Indonesia and a spatial equilibrium framework. I estimate internal migration gravity using linguistic distances as a proxy for cultural barriers and instrument for current linguistic differences using data from the 1930 colonial census. I find inverted U-shaped effects of linguistic distance on migration. Longer linguistic distance encourages migration for linguistically close location pairs, but the pattern inverts as linguistic distance grows. The effects are more prominent for unskilled and older populations. To quantify welfare and distributional implications of linguistic barriers, I further develop a quantitative spatial model with heterogeneous skill groups, incorporating linguistic distance as migration and trade barriers. I find that a simulated reduction in linguistic distances by extrapolating the historical migration trend generates smaller welfare gains but improve equity more than a similar reduction in geographic barriers.

Urban Sprawl and Social Capital: Evidence from Indonesian Cities (with Andrea Civelli, Arya Gaduh and Alex Rothenberg)

Revise & Resubmit, Economic Journal [Paper]

We use detailed data from cities in Indonesia to study the relationship between urban sprawl and social capital. For identification, we combine instruments for density with controls for community averages of observed characteristics, which control for sorting on observables and unobservables. We find that lower density increases trust in neighbors and community participation in urban areas of Indonesia, but it is also associated with lower interethnic tolerance. Heterogeneity analysis suggests that these findings are not explained by differential opportunity costs, but are instead reflective of social forces, including overall ethnic diversity and crime rates.

Research in Progress

The Impact of Public Transit on Congestion and Pollution: Evidence from Jakarta’s MRT (with Prottoy Akbar, Arya Gaduh and Alex Rothenberg)

Automobile travel in urban areas is associated with several negative externalities, including traffic congestion and pollution. Public transit systems provide transport alternatives that potentially reduce those negative externalities. We use several data sources to estimate how the opening of Jakarta's MRT in April 2019 improved traffic and air quality for city residents. To estimate how the MRT system alleviated congestion, we use high frequency data from Google Maps to compare changes in travel times for routes lying close to the MRT corridor to changes in travel times for planned but unbuilt MRT routes. We use a similar strategy to estimate the impact of the MRT system on pollution using remotely sensed pollution measures from the European Space Agency's Sentinel-5 Precursor (S5P) satellite. Finally, we compare our estimates of the benefits of reduced congestion and improved air quality to the costs of building and operating the MRT system.


Steering and Spatial Mismatch (with Tianyun Zhu)

In 1968, John Kain proposed the Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis: the high unemployment rate in central cities among blacks might be due to the suburbanization of jobs combined with housing discrimination keeping blacks from relocating accordingly. We use in-person housing audit study, Housing Discrimination Study 2012, combined with rich job access data to directly test the role played by housing discrimination in the Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis. We find suggestive evidence for discriminatory steering in the housing market that denies Hispanics' access to jobs but no decisive evidence for other minorities.