Christina Kent

Economics PhD Candidate

I'm a PhD candidate in the Department of Economics at Stanford University. My fields are public and labor economics, and my research focuses on using unique natural experiments to answer difficult policy questions. My job market paper leverages rigorous microeconomic methods to study how wealth impacts local economic growth. In more recent work, I apply similar methods to study homelessness and poverty in the US through collaboration with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. I am currently on the job market and available for interviews.

Working Papers

"When a Town Wins the Lottery: Evidence from Spain" (Job Market Paper) with Alejandro Martínez Marquina

Executive Summary  Draft

How do local wealth shocks impact economic activity? For over two centuries, Spain has conducted a national lottery which often results in the random allocation of up to $800 million in cash to the citizens of one town. This is the only case in the world where individuals living in the same location randomly receive pure wealth shocks of this scale. We worked with Spanish government officials to obtain confidential lottery expenditure data, which we used to compare winning towns to non-winning towns that had the same probability of winning. We also supplemented our quantitative analysis with interviews of mayors and lottery vendors in winning towns. We find that although consumption increases, the lottery causes a slowdown in economic activity and deters new migration to towns that won in recent decades. However, an analysis of a century of lottery winners reveals large and persistent increases in population for towns that won in earlier periods.

“Parenthood in Poverty: An Empirical Exploration Using Large-Scale Administrative Records”  with Sarah Eichmeyer

Executive Summary  Draft  Slides

We use an event study approach to examine the consequences of becoming a parent for living conditions of women of low socio-economic status. We collaborate with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services to obtain longitudinal, high frequency administrative records for the entire county. Our project focuses on policy-relevant outcomes including housing (and homelessness), social assistance use, mental health, and crime. We further employ two dynamic difference-in-difference designs that explore variation in pregnancy outcomes (miscarriage vs. life birth): One compares outcomes across observably similar women who experience one event or the other, and one compares the outcomes across events within women who first experience a miscarriage, followed by a live birth in the subsequent years. We find that new parenthood is associated with large increases in the use of Medicaid (31pp), SNAP (16pp) and TANF (13pp) benefits, with a 44% increase in movement into public housing (on a base of 4% pre-pregnancy), persistent increases in homelessness encounters (30-50%), large reductions in criminal behavior, and short-term increases in treatments of substance use disorder.

Works in Progress

"Homelessness in a Pandemic: Evidence from GPS Data" with Sarah Eichmeyer and Cody Cook

Executive Summary   Draft

Homelessness is a serious problem in many US cities but is difficult to study due to a lack of data, especially on unsheltered homelessness. Through conversations with staff at supportive housing offices in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, we learned about key issues surrounding homelessness and how agencies struggle to assess unsheltered homelessness. We then propose a new method to tackle this issue, using smartphone GPS location data to study how sheltered and unsheltered homelessness respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic in the United States. We find that sheltered homelessness decreases around the onset of the pandemic, while unsheltered homelessness does not change. This decrease is only weakly correlated with lockdown policies and is uncorrelated with changes in evictions across cities.

"High-School Dropouts: Missing out or cutting losses?" with Nano Barahona, Christopher Nielson, and Sebastián Otero

This paper examines the extent to which education is a valuable investment for academically marginal students. We ask this question in the context of the Dominican Republic, where schooling is mandatory until eighth grade and many students must decide between continuing on to high school or entering the labor force. For students struggling academically, the potential returns to education may appear small compared to the immediate wages earned in the labor market. We estimate the value of years of secondary education and high-school completion
for low-performing students by exploiting the passing cutoffs on the eighth and twelfth grade national exams. We find that students who barely pass the exam in eighth grade complete more years of education, are more likely to enroll in college and experience higher earnings. Similar results are found for those who marginally pass the high-school exit exam. A broad implication of these facts is that education has large and positive returns even for the lowest part of the ability distribution.