I am a Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh, and a Faculty Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
I have also been the Julian Simon Fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) in Bozeman, Montana; a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University;
and a John M. Olin Faculty Fellow. In 2003-2004, I served as Co-Director of the Center for Population Economics at the University of Chicago.
My primary field is American economic history, with an emphasis on topics related to race, environmental history, disease, and political economy. For example, my book Water, Race, and Disease (MIT Press, 2004) explored the puzzling convergence in black and white life expectancy during the Jim Crow Era, and argued that this convergence was driven by improvements in public water supplies. This book won the Alice Jones Prize, which is award bi-annually by the Economic History Association for the best book in American economic history. More recently, I have explored how the Constitution has shaped, for good and for bad, the American disease environment over the past 200 years of so, and published that research in The Pox of Liberty: How the Constitution Left Americans Rich, Free, and Prone to Infection (University of Chicago Press, 2015).
In addition to my four books, my research has appeared in the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Economic History, the Journal of Human Resources, Economics and Human Biology, and the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization. Over the years, I have regularly co-authored with Joe Ferrie, Karen Clay, and Randy Walsh. My work with Joe and Karen uses a novel identification strategy to identify the effects of lead exposure on various health-related outcomes. The work with Joe is concerned with isolating how early life exposure to lead impairs income and educational attainment later in life. My work with Randy is focused on issues related to residential segregation in housing.
At the undergraduate level, I teach American Economic History once or twice every year. The course focuses on three broad questions. First, what factors allowed the United States to grow rich? Particular attention is paid to the role of institutions and disease. Second, who benefitted from American economic growth and why? Particular attention is given to the role of competitive labor markets, slavery, and regulatory institutions. Third, what were the causes and consequences of the Great Depression? I also regularly co-teach a seminar on The Political Economy of Jim Crow with Randy Walsh. Less often, I teach a seminar on how the Constitution has shaped American economic performance over the past 200 years. At the graduate level, I teach an economic history course every other year. Much of the course is focused on the question of why America grew, but attention is also given to topics related to disease, long-term economic change and institutional persistence, slavery, and the causes of the Great Depression. This course presents a mix of new research and older, classic papers and books.
I have served on multiple editorial boards including, The Journal of Economic History, Explorations in Economic History, and Social Science History.