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Takeup, Spillovers, and Heterogeneity in
Water-Wise Landscaping Incentive Programs

Job Market Paper

In the face of historic drought in the U.S. West, water agencies throughout the region offer rebates to replace thirsty grass lawns, where a majority of residential water ends up, with more drought-tolerant landscaping. Using administrative data on turf replacement rebates, and variation in program generosity, this paper estimates a demand elasticity for rebates of 0.93 and finds that each lawn conversion leads to 0.61 additional conversions in the same neighborhood the following year. Rebate takeup generally increases with wealth, while White and Asian households have the highest baseline takeup, with Black households having less elastic demand. Hispanic rebate applicants are substantially more likely to be denied than others, an effect that is largely mitigated by contractor use.

Human Capital and Climate Change

With Noam Angirst, Joshua Graff Zivin, and Harry Patrinos

NBER Working Paper, under review at Review of Economics and Statistics

Addressing climate change requires individual behavior change and voter support for pro-climate policies, yet surprisingly little is known about how to achieve these outcomes. This paper estimates causal effects of additional education on pro-climate outcomes using new compulsory schooling law data across 16 European countries. It analyzes effects on pro-climate beliefs, behaviors, policy preferences, and novel data on voting for green parties—a particularly consequential outcome to combat climate change. Results show a year of education increases pro-climate beliefs, behaviors, most policy preferences, and green voting, with voting gains equivalent to a substantial 35% increase.

Heat Islands in a Sea of Water Conservation: Heat Costs of Turf Replacement Programs

Working Paper, under review at Resource and Energy Economics

Homeowners face a water versus heat tradeoff when it comes to replacing thirsty grass lawns with water-conserving landscaping, a process touted by water agencies in the U.S. West as a top way to conserve water. Using nearly 200,000 rebate records and remotely-sensed temperature data from Southern California and Southern Nevada, I assess the effect of water-conserving lawn replacement programs on local temperatures and estimate the associated costs of increased heat. Conversions increase summertime parcel temperatures by 0.6°C (1.1°F) on average with substantial heterogeneity throughout the temperature spectrum. Heat effects are twice as large on the hottest 20% of days and for homes with the most removed vegetation. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the annual costs from increased heat may be up to $1,675 per household, comprised of increased electricity usage ($48) and mortality risk ($306), as well as harder-to-quantify comfort values, diminished cognition, and costly adaptation behavior. These costs exceed the maximum expected water savings for a typical home in Southern California ($954) and Las Vegas ($574), where municipal water is cheaper. This suggests that such rebate programs may not be welfare-improving.

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