Job Market Paper

In the dissertation's main empirical chapter “How War Changes Land: The long-term economic impact of US bombing in Cambodia,” I develop a theory of whether and where agrarian economies will recover from war, based on the amount of bombs dropped on their land and the consequential long-term impact on agricultural production. I find that bombing in high fertility land results in a contemporary decline in rice production and an increased likelihood of subsistence farming due to higher amounts of unexploded ordnance, which makes farming a dangerous and potentially life-threatening activity. I highlight a mechanism that is well-known in the warfare ecology literature but not elsewhere: that fertile ground provides more of a cushion for the bomb upon impact, so the trigger fuse is less likely to detonate. I show, using a range of archival and contemporary data, that in highly fertile soil, this mechanical failure still impacts land production to this day as the unexploded ordnance in the ground deters farmers from efficiently using their land. 

Presented at the NYU Global Issues Forum 2016, MPSA 2018

Casinos and Development

Recently, social scientists have attempted to understand the impact or lack thereof of casinos on two core domains of local life: whether casinos create economic growth in previously poor communities; and whether casinos encourage “bad” behaviors, like gambling addiction and the spread of violent crime. However, the effect of casinos on these domains is difficult to identify, at the very least because populations near casinos are highly migratory and tend to be involved in informal economies, on which there is very little data. I shed light on this issue through a comprehensive, quantitative study of all casinos opened in Cambodia since 1990. Drawing from a unique spatiotemporal dataset, I identify the location and the opening dates of the country’s 59 casinos, and correlate them to the spending and social behavior of over 16,200 geo-referenced households, from the 2004, 2007, and 2008 waves of the Cambodia Socioeconomic Survey (CSES), an ethnography-based survey from closed ministerial archives. I find evidence that villages near a large casino town (which has five or more casinos) are richer, more equal, and safer than villages near a small casino town: household consumption almost doubles; resources are more likely to be evenly distributed between villagers; and crime rates drop four-fold. However, living near a casino town, large or small, has no impact on local rates of gambling. 

Presented at the 2015 IIAS workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia