Projects Funded for Meredith Fowlie


The Effect of Immigration Enforcement on Agricultural Workers Movement

  • Meredith Fowlie


Land Use and Transportation: Technology and the Spatial Structure of Cities

  • Meredith Fowlie


Specific Objectives of the Project

This project investigated the effect of transportation technology shocks on land
development within and around cities. Reductions in transportation costs over
time have resulted in land use conversion (generally agricultural to urban, as
cities expand), leading to urban sprawl and traffic congestion. Motivated by a
rapidly transforming transportation sector (e.g. high-speed rail, uber, driverless
cars), we estimated how historical changes in transportation costs have affected
urban growth in order to inform policies that promote optimal regulation of new
expansion and development.

Summary of Results

We create a novel dataset to better understand the dynamics of city growth and
transportation: national data on housing (38 million residential real estate
transactions and housing attributes from Public Records), employment (locations
and wages from the US Census County Business Patterns), and transportation
(travel times from Google, rideshare coverage from Uber). We examined how
three changes in transportation costs - (1) the National Maximum Speed Law, (2)
gasoline prices, and (3) the rollout of Uber and Lyft - have affected the structure
of cities and land price gradients within cities. I find that real estate prices
respond quickly and significantly to transportation cost changes. Housing price
changes vary with distance from the city. While changes in marginal costs (time
and fuel) have increased prices in the suburbs and encouraged suburbanization,
ridesharing services have led to larger price increases near city-centers. Future
research will explore whether the price changes from services like Uber are
attributable to substitution away from car ownership.


Water Conservation through Informed Residential Electricity Consumption

  • Meredith Fowlie


Specific Objectives of the Project
The issue that this project addresses is the heavy consumption of water in the Californian electricity system. The specific objectives related to that topic are:
1. Research: develop an algorithm to calculate, in real time, the current marginal rate of indirect water use from California electricity consumption per KWh, weighted by the social value of that water (e.g. higher during droughts and in stressed watersheds).
2. Policy: provide this information in real time to interested consumers in California, thus directly creating a tool to permit environmental-based choice in electricity timing.
3. Research: through randomized variation in the presentation of information, test the efficacy of this technique in reducing water consumption from electricity in California.

Project Report/Summary of Results
The production of electricity uses a considerable amount of water in California, with consequences for the availability of water for agricultural use in the state. Further, the marginal indirect water consumption of electricity use varies over time; thus, consumers could in theory reduce their indirect water consumption by shifting their consumption of electricity to less water-intensive times. This project aims to construct and measure the efficacy of a tool to enable that kind of inter-temporal shifting of electricity consumption.

This research has proceeded in three separate steps: (1) developing an algorithm to calculate the marginal rate of indirect water use from California electricity consumption per kilowatt-hour in real time; (2) providing the results of that algorithm to consumers in California, directly enabling a new form of water conservation; and (3) measuring the impact of this information on consumer electricity timing and therefore indirect water consumption. An unanticipated additional goal met by this project was the development of a variety of software tools to reduce the effort “cost” of such shifting.


The Impact of Food Borne Disease Outbreaks on Consumer Purchases and Preferences: The Case of the 2010 Salmonella Outbreak

  • Meredith Fowlie
  • Sofia Villas-Boas


Objectives of the Project
1. Determine whether egg consumption decreased due to the news of the Salmonella outbreak.
2. Determine whether consumers are substituting away from conventional eggs towards other types of eggs (organic, cage free, free range) or egg substitutes.
3. Determine how long this substitution effect (if any) lasts.
4. Examine whether there are any heterogeneous effects based on income and demographics.

Summary of Results
We examine how consumers in California reacted to three consecutive egg recalls during the 2010 Salmonella outbreak. Eggs infected with Salmonella were recalled through codes clearly labeled in egg boxes, leaving no infected eggs in stores. Using a large product-level scanner data set from a national grocery chain, we test whether consumers reduced egg purchases. Using a difference-in-difference approach, we find a 9 percent reduction in egg sales in California following the three egg recalls. Given an overall price elasticity for eggs in U.S. households of -0.1, this sales reduction is comparable to an almost 100% increase in price. We find no evidence of substitution toward other “greener" type of eggs, such as organic or cage free eggs. We also find no correlation with demographics such as income, but we do find that areas that had a larger than average household size decreased egg purchases more. We also find differentiated effects among Northern and Southern Californian stores. Although the national grocery chain had infected eggs only in Northern California, we find that Southern Californian stores had lower egg sales as well. The sales reduction in Southern California was half as large as the reduction in Northern California, and is consistent with media and reputation effects being significant determinants of demand, even in the absence of an actual food infection occurring in a region.