Research

Working Papers

“Housing Cycles, Delinquent Taxes, and U.S. City Budgets during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression” [paper]

Abstract: U.S. city coffers swelled in the 1920s before crashing with the Great Depression. Using financial data assembled from historical reports, this paper studies municipal revenue and spending movements between 1923 and 1936 as they relate to the boom and bust of the housing market and the growth in property tax delinquency that began in 1930. Overall, city revenue and spending patterns were positively associated with changes in house prices and residential construction activity, especially in the 1920s. But the urban revenue crunch beginning in 1930 was mostly driven by rising property tax delinquency: a one-standard deviation increase in the delinquency rate was associated with a 4 percent decline in per capita total revenue during the Depression. These unpaid taxes forced local governments to cut spending on police and fire protection, sanitation, and health, thus contributing to the deflationary forces at work during the downturn and reducing support for local communities at a time when the national economy was cratering.

Publications

“Clean Slate: Land-Use Changes in San Francisco after the 1906 Disaster,” 2017. Explorations in Economic History, 65 (July): 1-16.

“Razing San Francisco: The 1906 Disaster as a Natural Experiment in Urban Redevelopment,” 2015. Journal of Urban Economics, 89 (September): 48-61.

  • Featured on LSE USAPP blog (December 15, 2015)

Work in Progress

“The 1906 San Francisco Disaster and Business Agglomeration in the City”

“Local Origins and Implications of the 1930s Urban Debt Crisis” (with Samara Gunter)

“The (Golden) Gated City: The Great Fire, the Cost of Zoning, and San Francisco Housing Prices” (with Devin Bunten)

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