Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Applied economic strategies to evaluate policies and environmental outcomes: case studies from immigration and ecosystem services

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  • My dissertation title is, “Applied economic strategies to evaluate policies and environmental outcomes: case studies from immigration and ecosystem services.” The first two chapters of this dissertation concern the relationship between local immigration policies and societal welfare. The third chapter examines the impact of human activity on the environment and the valuation of ecosystem services. The first two chapters examine the outcomes accompanying the institutional adoption of inclusive and exclusive immigration policies. I am studying sanctuary cities as an example of inclusive institutions, where I seek to understand the benefits that inclusivity confers on cities, as well as the costs of exclusive approaches to immigration. In these studies, I test whether economic outcomes vary according to a county's openness to immigrants and determine whether these economic indicators drive the choice of immigration policy. To the extent that sanctuary cities exemplify inclusivity, sanctuary cities' economic characteristics may inform the transition of other institutions to greater inclusivity. The third chapter documents the economic consequences of eutrophication in one of North America's Great Lakes. It also seeks to quantify the broader value of the ecosystem services the lake provides using revealed preference methods. This strategy may, in turn, influence decision-making and incentivize conservation. The first manuscript exploits quasi-experimental variation in the time and space of policy implementation to isolate the effects of local immigration policies on U.S. counties. To assess the impact of a county's openness to immigrants on the local economy, I use county-level data from the American Community Survey on economic indicators and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data detailing policy intensity. These policies range from areas where immigrants are strictly regulated via collaboration with ICE compared to those that provide protections. The study finds evidence that providing protections to immigrants increases overall per capita income, wages, GDP, and total employment, while unemployment experienced a decline. Meanwhile, the data show that punitive measures have no statistically significant effect on income and unemployment but adverse effects overall on GDP, total employment, and the proportion of the foreign-born population. These results support a model of immigration policy as an institution that can either support or suppress productivity. They confirm that immigrant labor is a positive driver of economic well-being at the local and regional levels. The second manuscript builds upon the first study data to determine whether the selection of pro- or anti-immigrant policies is consistent with the narrative that economic conditions drive the choice of immigration policy. While also exploiting the variation in economic indicators across time and space to isolate the effects of these indicators on immigration policy choice by counties, this study finds no correlations between included economic variables and selecting immigrant-friendly policies. When using cross-sectional variation, the probability of choosing anti-immigrant policies increases with unemployment, non-citizen population, voting for a Republican president, and wages decline. All correlations between economic variables and policy outcomes disappear once fixed effects at the county level are included. This suggests that policy choice has a stronger relationship with longer-term trends and unobservables. Hence, the policy choice is not driven by short-term fluctuations in per capita income, unemployment, wages, and immigrant presence. In the third manuscript, I examine the economic consequences of eutrophication in one of North America's Great Lakes by measuring whether property values decline due to harmful algal blooms in the urban and suburban areas of the city of Toledo, Ohio. I quantify the broader value of the ecosystem services that the lake provides. With housing sales from around the city of Cleveland, Ohio as a control group, I apply a difference-in-difference model to pre-matched data on housing prices, control for census tract as well as time fixed effects, and in one of the specifications, limit the data to houses sold repeatedly over the study period. Pre-trend tests suggest valid counterfactuals. Estimates show a decline in house prices of 13 and 25 percent in 2008 and 2011, respectively, and comparisons between locations near and far from HABs in Toledo show 9 and 24 percent declines in 2008 and 2011. Results imply an overall loss due to HABs, totaling close to 3 billion dollars during the study period.
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  • Oregon State University - Applied Economics Department
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