My research interests include agricultural and resource economics, labor economics, demographic economics, and economic history. I have been working on research related to inter-generational occupation choices, migration, farm succession, and rural mortality in the U.S. agricultural sector.
The Dust Bowl and Occupational Persistence in US Agriculture (Job Market Paper)
In the 1930s, the United States experienced an environmental catastrophe caused by devastating dust storms and drought, known as the Dust Bowl. This paper investigates if this environmental shock may have affected occupational persistence—whether children follow in their parents’ footsteps by choosing the same occupation—when it comes to agriculture. The results show that children of farmers originally living in high-erosion counties decreased the occupational persistence rate by 2% after the Dust Bowl compared to those originally in low-erosion counties. Furthermore, those who moved away were more likely to work off-farm. This study identifies a part of the structural transformation of the labor force in the mid-20th century United States, plausibly caused by the Dust Bowl.
Compulsory Education and Occupational Persistence in US Agriculture (Job Market Paper)
This paper examines the impact of US compulsory education laws on occupational persistence in agriculture. Using the US Decennial Census Data and the Census of Agriculture from 1860 to 1910 and the Difference-in-Difference model, findings indicate a significant 8\% reduction in the probability of farm household children becoming farmers. Heterogeneity analysis by gender, birth order, and race indicates that disadvantaged groups were more likely to transition from agricultural to non-agricultural sectors. Concurrently, farm numbers declined while average farm size increased, suggesting farm consolidation. This study shows evidence that US compulsory education laws play a role in accelerating structural transformation.
Commodity Price Shocks and Rural Mortality (with Marc F. Bellemare and Joleen Hadrich)
In the late 2010s, in the midst of the longest economic expansion in US history, national and international media outlets were citing commodity prices and financial stress as significant factors affecting the mental health of US farmers. We look at the relationship between commodity prices and all-cause mortality for the period 1980 to 2016 in 485 counties across 12 Midwestern US states. As outcome variables, we look at both crude and age-adjusted death rates. As treatment variables, we look at the interaction of (i) state-level commodity prices or global commodity price changes for corn and soybeans, the dominant crops in the US Midwest, and (ii) how much of each crop is grown within each county. Our treatment variable thus captures how, for each crop, farm revenues within a given county change in response to changes in commodity prices. For identification, we rely on a two-way, county and time fixed effects strategy as well as on a number of robust panel data estimators. We find that a decrease in commodity prices is associated with increased mortality across all counties, but that this is driven by rural counties. For robustness, we also estimate specifications in which we instrument farm revenues with measures of drought severity, and we conduct a series of falsification tests. Finally, we show that the relationship between commodity prices and rural mortality is driven by cardiovascular disease.
Lee, Brian, Liu, Jhih-Yun, and Chang, Hung-Hao (2020). "The Choice of Marketing Channel and Farm Profitability: Empirical Evidence from Small Farmers." Agribusiness (36)3 : 402-421. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/agr.21640
Wang, Szu-Yung, Liu, Jhih-Yun, and Chang, Hung-Hao (2018). "An Old Bottle with New Wine: Examining the Association between Contract Farming and Farm Income Using the Matching Frontier Approach." The Empirical Economics Letters (17) 12 : 1507-1515.