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Three Essays in Economic History

Mathews, William (2024) Three Essays in Economic History. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation contains three essays that contribute to the field of economic history with a focus on the determinants of local policy and urban inequality in the United States during the early twentieth century. Chapter 1 explores the initial spread of comprehensive zoning ordinances among American cities. Using land available for urban expansion as an instrument for low-density, fringe development, I show that the growth of such development contributed to the adoption of zoning. Among non-Southern municipalities, I also show that the arrival of Southern black migrants increased the likelihood of zoning using a shift-share instrumental variables strategy. Finally, I present correlational evidence on the importance of proposed determinants of zoning adoption. Chapter 2 investigates the role of air pollution in the establishment and maintenance of racial inequities in US cities prior to World War II using newly digitized data on air pollution in Pittsburgh. Race and nativity were stronger predictors of pollution exposure than income, and that racial inequity in exposure increased significantly between 1910 and 1940, with black Pittsburghers exposed to more than half a standard deviation more pollution than their white counterparts by 1940. Air pollution was salient in Pittsburgh's housing market, with a 5% drop in housing price associated with a standard deviation increase in air pollution. The findings suggest that air pollution contributed to the establishment and maintenance of racial disparities in US cities prior to World War II. Chapter 3 examines how women’s suffrage impacted the election of women to local office, the characteristics of female officials, and whether the presence of female officials was associated with policy changes. I digitize rosters of municipal and county officials in Ohio from 1910 to 1940 and find the presence of women in local office increased following suffrage. Female officials were more highly educated than male officials, and, congruent with norms against married women working outside the home, less likely to be married. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, I find measures of women’s political power did not consistently increase female office holding. Similarly, the presence of women in government is largely uncorrelated with changes in local government finances.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mathews, Williamwim31@pitt.eduwim31
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWalsh,
Committee MemberFerrara,
Committee MemberJones,
Committee MemberClay,
Date: 13 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 21 March 2024
Approval Date: 13 May 2024
Submission Date: 4 April 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 157
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Economics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Economic History, Urban Economics, Environmental Justice, Zoning, Land Use Regulations, Air Pollution, Women's Suffrage
Date Deposited: 13 May 2024 13:53
Last Modified: 13 May 2024 13:53

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