Publications

2017
Ebenstein A, Fan M, Greenstone M, He G, Zhou M. New evidence on the impact of sustained exposure toair pollution on life expectancy from China’s Huai River Policy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science [Internet]. 2017;114 (39) :10384-10389. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper finds that a 10-μg/m3 increase in airborne particulate matter
[particulate matter smaller than 10 μm (PM10)] reduces life expectancy
by 0.64 years (95% confidence interval = 0.21–1.07). This estimate
is derived from quasiexperimental variation in PM10 generated by
China’s Huai River Policy, which provides free or heavily subsidized coal
for indoor heating during the winter to cities north of the Huai River
but not to those to the south. The findings are derived from a regression
discontinuity design based on distance from the Huai River, and
they are robust to using parametric and nonparametric estimation
methods, different kernel types and bandwidth sizes, and adjustment
for a rich set of demographic and behavioral covariates. Furthermore,
the shorter lifespans are almost entirely caused by elevated rates of
cardiorespiratory mortality, suggesting that PM10 is the causal factor.
The estimates imply that bringing all of China into compliance with its
Class I standards for PM10 would save 3.7 billion life-years.

pnas-2017-ebenstein-10384-9.pdf
2016
Ebenstein A, Hazan M, Simhon A. Changing the Cost of Children and Fertility: Evidence from the Israeli Kibbutz. Economic Journal. 2016;126 (597) :2038-2063.Abstract

Prior to 1996, Israelis in collective communities (kibbutzim) shared the costs of raising children equally. This article examines the impact of privatising costs of children on the fertility behaviour of young couples. Exploiting variation in parental cost-sharing across kibbutzim, we estimate that lifetime fertility declined by 0.65 children. We also examine the exit decisions of members, and find that couples were most likely to leave the kibbutz if they were either higher income or lower fertility. This pattern is also observed among Israeli emigrants, in which higher educated and lower fertility couples are more likely to leave Israel.

ebenstein_hazan_zimhon_kibbutzfertility_2016.pdf
Ebenstein A, Lavy V, Roth S. The Long-Run Economic Consequences of High-Stakes Examinations: Evidence from Transitory Variation in Pollution. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. 2016;8 (4) :36-65.Abstract

Cognitive performance during high-stakes exams can be affected by
random disturbances that, even if transitory, may have permanent
consequences. We evaluate this hypothesis among Israeli students
who took a series of matriculation exams between 2000 and 2002. Exploiting variation across the same student taking multiple exams, we find that transitory PM2.5 exposure is associated with a significant decline in student performance. We then examine these students in 2010 and find that PM2.5 exposure during exams is negatively associated with postsecondary educational attainment and earnings. The results highlight how reliance on noisy signals of student quality can lead to allocative inefficiency.

ebenstein_lavy_roth_pollution_2016.pdf
2015
Chen Y, Ebenstein A, Edlund L, Li H. Girl adoption in China—A less-known side of son preference. Population Studies. 2015;69 (2) :161-178.Abstract

In 1987, 4 per cent of girls were adopted within China. Why? Unlike infanticide, abandonment rids parents of daughters while preserving the supply of potential brides. In fact, an erstwhile tradition common in Fujian and Jiangxi provinces had parents of sons adopting an infant girl to serve as a future daughter-inlaw and household help. Analysing a nationally representative 1992 survey of children, we found that: (1) girl adoptions were concentrated in the above-mentioned provinces; (2) girls were predominantly adopted by families with sons; (3) adopted girls faced substantial disadvantage as measured by school attendance at ages 8–13. In the 1990s, as the sex ratio at birth climbed, were girls aborted rather than abandoned? Observing that in the 2000 census too many girls appear in families with older sons, we estimated that at least 1/25 girls were abandoned in the 1990s, a proportion that in Fujian and Jiangxi may have peaked at 1/ 10 in 1994.

chen_etal_adoption_2015.pdf
Ebenstein A, Zhao Y. Tracking rural-to-urban migration in China: Lessons from the 2005 inter-census population survey. Population Studies. 2015.Abstract

We examined migration in China using the 2005 inter-census population survey, in which migrants were registered at both their place of original (hukou) residence and at their destination. We find evidence that the estimated number of internal migrants in China is extremely sensitive to the enumeration method. We estimate that the traditional destination-based survey method fails to account for more than a third of migrants found using comparable origin-based methods. The ‘missing’ migrants are disproportionately young, male, and holders of rural hukou. We find that origin-based methods are more effective at capturing migrants who travel short distances for short periods, whereas destination-based methods are more effective when entire households have migrated and no remaining family members are located at the hukou location. We conclude with a set of policy recommendations for the design of population surveys in countries with large migrant populations.

ebenstein_zhao_migration_2015.pdf
Ebenstein A, Fan M, Greenstone M, He G, Yin P, Zhou M. Growth, Pollution, and Life Expectancy: China from 1991–2012. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings. 2015;105 (5) :226-231.Abstract
This paper examines the relationship between income, pollution, and mortality in China from 1991-2012. Using first-difference models, we document a robust positive association between city-level GDP and life expectancy. We also find a negative association between city-level particulate air pollution exposure and life expectancy that is driven by elevated cardiorespiratory mortality rates. The results suggest that while China's unprecedented economic growth over the last two decades is associated with health improvements, pollution has served as a countervailing force.
growth_health_aerpap.pdf
2014
Ebenstein A, Harrison A, McMillan M, Phillips S. Estimating the Impact of Trade and Offshoring on American Workers using the Current Population Surveys. Review of Economics and Statistics. 2014;96 (4) :581-595 .Abstract
We link industry-level data on trade and offshoring with individual-level worker data from the Current Population Surveys from 1984 to 2002. We find that occupational exposure to globalization is associated with significant wage effects, while industry exposure has no significant impact. We present evidence that globalization has put downward pressure on worker wages through the reallocation of workers away from higher-wage manufacturing jobs into other sectors and other occupations. Using a panel of workers, we find that occupation switching due to trade led to real wage losses of 12 to 17 percentage points.
ehmp_offshoring_2014.pdf
2013
Ebenstein A, Dasgupta M, Sharygin E. Implications of China’s Future Bride Shortage for the Geographical Sistribution and Social Protection Needs of Never-Married Men. Population Studies. 2013;67 (1) :39-59.Abstract
Because sex ratios at birth have risen sharply in China in recent decades, an increasing proportion of men will be unable to find a bride, and will face old age without the support of a wife and children. We project the proportions of never-married men and their geographical distribution in China in the coming decades. Our projections assume that two tendencies in current marriage patterns will persist: that women will continue to migrate to wealthier areas and to prefer men with better prospects. We find that, by 2030, more than 20 per cent of men in China aged 3039 will never have married, and that the proportion will be especially high among poor men in low-income provinces that are least able to provide social protection programmes. The projected geographic concentration of bachelors could be socially disruptive, and the results suggest a need to expand the coverage and central financing of social protection programmes.
sharygin_ebenstein_dasgupta_2013.pdf
Chen Y, Ebenstein A, Greenstone M, Li H. Evidence on the Impact of Sustained Exposure to Air Pollution on Life Expectancy from China's Huai River Policy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2013;110 (6) :12936-41.Abstract
This paper's findings suggest that an arbitrary Chinese policy that greatly increases total suspended particulates (TSP) air pollution is causing the 500 million residents of Northern China to lose more than 2.5 billion life years of life expectancy. The quasi-experimental empirical approach is based on China's Huai River policy, which provided free winter heating via the provision of coal for boilers in cities North of the Huai River but denied heat to the South. Using a regression discontinuity design based on distance from the Huai River, we find that ambient concentrations of TSP are about 184 μg/m3 (95% CI: 61, 307) or 55% higher in the North. Further, the results indicate that life expectancies are about 5.5 (95% CI: 0.8, 10.2) years lower in the North due to an increased incidence of cardiorespiratory mortality. More generally, the analysis suggests that long-term exposure to an additional 100 μg/m3 of TSP is associated with a reduction in life expectancy at birth of about 3.0 years (95% CI: 0.4, 5.6).  
pnas-2013-chen-1300018110.pdf
2012
Ebenstein A. Winners and Losers of Multinational Firm Entry into Developing Countries: Evidence from the Special Economic Zonesof the People’s Republic of China. Asia Development Review. 2012;29 (1) :39-59.Abstract
This paper examines the impact of multinational firm entry into local labor markets on employment, productivity, and wages. It exploits the People’s Republic of China’s rapid implementation of economic reforms and assignment of cities to special economic zone status in the 1980s and 1990s. Using data on both firms and workers, it is found that these policies increased foreign direct investment, which raised average labor productivity in these labor markets. However, only modest increases in real median wage rates across these cities are observed in the face of large increases in wage inequality and rising local prices, limiting the benefits to most workers in these cities. Evidence is presented that corporate profits captured most of the increase in productivity in these areas.
ebenstein_sez_2012.pdf
Ebenstein A. Water Pollution and Digestive Cancers in China. Review of Economics and Statistics. 2012;94 (1) :186-201.Abstract
China’s rapid industrialization has led to a severe deterioration in water quality in the country’s lakes and rivers. By exploiting variation in pollution across China’s river basins, I estimate that a deterioration of water quality by a single grade (on a six-grade scale) increases the digestive cancer death rate by 9.7%. The analysis rules out other potential explanations such as smoking rates, dietary patterns, and air pollution. I estimate that doubling China’s levy rates for wastewater dumping would save roughly 17,000 lives per year but require an additional $500 million in annual spending on wastewater treatment.
ebenstein_waterpollution_2012.pdf
2011
Ebenstein A. Estimating a Dynamic Model of Sex Selection. Demography. 2011;48 (2) :783-811.Abstract
High ratios of males to females in China, which have historically concerned researchers (Sen 1990), have increased in the wake of China’s one-child policy, which began in 1979. Chinese policymakers are currently attempting to correct the imbalance in the sex ratio through initiatives that provide financial compensation to parents with daughters. Other scholars have advocated a relaxation of the one-child policy to allow more parents to have a son without engaging in sex selection. In this article, I present a model of fertility choice when parents have access to a sex-selection technology and face a mandated fertility limit. By exploiting variation in fines levied in China for unsanctioned births, I estimate the relative price of a son and daughter for mothers observed in China’s census data (1982–2000). I find that a couple’s first son is worth 1.42 years of income more than a first daughter, and the premium is highest among less-educated mothers and families engaged in agriculture. Simulations indicate that a subsidy of 1 year of income to families without a son would reduce the number of “missing girls” by 67% but impose an annual cost of 1.8% of Chinese gross domestic product (GDP). Alternatively, a three-child policy would reduce the number of “missing girls” by 56% but increase the fertility rate by 35%.
ebenstein_sexselection_2011.pdf
2010
Ebenstein A, Leung S. Son Preference and Access to Social Insurance: Evidence from China’s Rural Pension Program. Population and Development Review. 2010;36 (1) :47-70.Abstract
Many scholars argue that the persistence of son preference in China is driven by greater anticipated old-age support from sons than from daughters and the absence of formal financial mechanisms for families to save for retirement. The introduction of a voluntary old-age pension program in rural China in the 1990s presents the opportunity to examine (1) whether parents with sons are less likely to participate in pension plans and (2) whether providing access to pension plans affects parental sex-selection decisions. Consistent with the first hypothesis, we find that parents with sons are less likely to participate in the pension program and have less financial savings for retirement. Consistent with the second hypothesis, we find that an increase in county-level pension program availability is associated with a slower increase in the sex ratio at birth.
Ebenstein A. The "Missing Girls" of China and the Unintended Consequences of the One Child Policy. Journal of Human Resources. 2010;45 (1) :87-115.Abstract
High ratios of males to females in China have concerned researchers (Sen 1990, Yi et al. 1993) and the recent increase has alarmed policymakers worldwide. This paper presents an analysis of China’s census data that indicates that the “missing girls” phenomenon is causally linked to enforcement of the One Child Policy. Fertility is lower and sex ratios are higher among those under stricter fertility control, and the overall increase in the sex ratio is driven by an increase in the prevalence of sex selection among first and second births. By exploiting regional and temporal variation in fines levied for unauthorized births, I find that higher fine regimes discourage fertility, but are associated with higher ratios of males to females.
ebenstein_onechildpolicy_2010.pdf
2009
Ebenstein A, Sharygin EJ. The Consequences of the "Missing Girls" of China. World Bank Economic Review. 2009;23 (3) :399-425.Abstract

In the wake of the one-child policy of 1979, China experienced an unprecedented rise in the sex ratio at birth (ratio of male to female births). In cohorts born between 1980 and 2000, there were 22 million more men than women. Some 10.4 percent of these additional men will fail to marry, based on simulations presented here that assess how different scenarios for the sex ratio at birth affect the probability of failure to marry in 21st century China. Three consequences of the high sex ratio and large numbers of unmarried men are discussed: the prevalence of prostitution and sexually transmitted infections, the economic and physical well-being of men who fail to marry, and China’s ability to care for its elderly, with a particular focus on elderly males who fail to marry. Several policy options are suggested that could mitigate the negative consequences of the demographic squeeze.

consequences_of_missing_girls_2009.pdf
Ebenstein A. When is the Local Average Treatment Close to the Average? Evidence from Fertility and Labor Supply. Journal of Human Resources. 2009;44 (4) :955-975.Abstract
The local average treatment effect (LATE) may differ from the average treatment effect (ATE) when those influenced by the instrument are not representative of the overall population. Heterogeneity in treatment effects may imply that parameter estimates from 2SLS are uninformative regarding the average treatment effect, motivating a search for instruments that affect a larger share of the population. In this paper, I present and estimate a model of home production with heterogeneous costs and benefits to fertility. The results indicate that a sex-preference instrument in Taiwan produces IV estimates closer to the estimated ATE than in the United States, where sex preference is weaker.
ebenstein_laborsupply_2009.pdf