Rebecca Fraenkel

PhD Candidate – Department of Economics

Working Papers

"Property Tax-Induced Mobility and Redistribution: Evidence from Mass Reappraisals"   (PDF)
(Job Market Paper)

I investigate the effect of property tax changes on homeowner mobility and voted tax rates using a panel of individual assessment and sales records in Ohio. I use regulatory stabilization rules that cause changes in individual taxes with no mechanical change in quantity of public goods to examine how changes in a homeowner’s tax bill influence foreclosure events, sales, and home equity loan origination. Using a leave-one-out by county random forest regression on assessed values to instrument for tax changes, I find that property tax increases reduce the likelihood that a home is foreclosed upon before the next reassessment cycle and increase the likelihood of sale. I also find suggestive evidence of increased voted tax rates at the school district level when the ratio of median to mean taxable value decreases.

"Local Labor Markets and Job Match Quality: Teachers"  (PDF)

This paper examines how the quality of a potential teacher’s outside option affects who chooses to teach. I use variation in state level unemployment rates as a source of plausibly exogenous variation in the outside option available to first-year teachers in the NCES-SASS. I find that higher quality workers–as measured by college selectivity– become teachers when the local labor market is weak. I also find that individuals who become teachers during times of higher local unemployment are more likely to express dissatisfaction with their jobs. Other observable demographic, educational, and certification characteristics of newly hired teachers are not affected. Teachers who enter during weaker labor markets are also no less likely to remain in teaching. Economic downturns provide a potential opportunity for schools to attract and retain higher quality workers, but job satisfaction may suffer.

"Property Taxation as Compensation for Environmental Harms: The Case of Polluting Plants" (with Samuel Krumholz)

Coasean bargaining and zoning laws suggest that externality-generating industrial facilities will only be permitted to locate in jurisdictions where their value to residents exceeds the externalities they generate. A primary mechanism of compensation these facilities provide is their local property tax payments. Using power plant openings across the US as a natural experiment, we show that entrance of a plant into a school district leads to a large increase in local taxable value per student, local revenue per student and total expenditures per student. This increased revenue is spent largely on capital and non-instructional expenditures and we find no evidence of changes in property tax rates. We next show that this increase in taxable value provides significant value to local homeowners. Holding exposure to the plant constant, we find that homes located in a plant's district experience a 10% increase in home values after opening relative to similar homes directly across the district's border. We finally test the extent to which compensation from plants guides the decisions of localities to allow polluting plants to enter into their jurisdiction. We use centralizing state school finance reforms as a plausibly exogenous shock to a local district's ability to capture revenue from their local tax base. Using a contiguous border-county difference-in-differences design, we show that after the implementation of a reform, manufacturing employment and establishments fall in affected states, both in absolute terms and as a share of total employment and establishments.

Work in Progress

“The Effect of Coal Unit Retirements on Local Mortality Outcomes” (with Samuel Krumholz and Joshua Graff Zivin)  (PDF)

Over the past five years, more than 30% of US coal plants have had at least one coal-fired generator close. We utilize this natural experiment to estimate the effect of coal plant exposure on overall mortality. Using a difference-in-differences design, we find that individuals in counties whose population centroid is within 30 miles of a closing plant experience large health effects following shutdown. Specifically, relative to counties between 30 miles and 45 miles away from a shutdown, counties whose centroids are within 15 miles of a shutdown experience a 2% decline in cardiovascular mortality, while counties within 15 mi-30 mi of the closing plant experience a 1.5% decline. All counties see no change in mortality from non-cardiovascular, non-respiratory causes and have no significant changes in economic outcomes. These results are robust to a variety of specification strategies, weighting schemes and the inclusion of additional covariates. Overall, these results suggest that coal unit closures over the past decade led to 110 averted deaths per year. This decline occurred even though counties near closing units experienced no average change in exposure to fossil-fuel generation; declines in coal generation were completely offset by increases in natural gas. These results have important implications for to how consider the costs and benefits of the continuing US energy transition.

“The Effect of Coal Unit Retirements on Local Home Values” (with Samuel Krumholz and Joshua Graff Zivin)