Publications and Accepted Papers
American Economic Review, 111(3), 2021
Adoption of Community Monitoring Improves Common Pool Resource Management Across Contexts (with Tara Slough, Daniel Rubenson, and 16 others)
Revise and Resubmit, American Economic Review
The diffusion of social media coincided with a worsening of mental health conditions among adolescents and young adults in the United States, giving rise to speculation that social media might be detrimental to mental health. In this paper, we provide the first quasi-experimental estimates of the impact of social media on mental health by leveraging a unique natural experiment: the staggered introduction of Facebook across U.S. colleges. Our analysis couples data on student mental health around the years of Facebook’s expansion with a generalized difference-in-differences empirical strategy. We find that the roll-out of Facebook at a college increased symptoms of poor mental health, especially depression, and led to increased utilization of mental healthcare services. We also find that, according to the students’ reports, the decline in mental health translated into worse academic performance. Additional evidence on mechanisms suggests the results are due to Facebook fostering unfavorable social comparisons.
Social movements are associated with large societal changes, but evidence on their causal effects is limited. We study the effect of the MeToo movement on an important personal decision—reporting a sex crime to the police. We construct a new quarterly dataset of crimes reported in 31 OECD countries and analyze the effect of the MeToo movement by employing a triple-difference strategy over time, across countries with strong and weak MeToo movements, and between crime types. The movement increased reporting of sex crimes by 10% during its first six months. The effect persists until the end of our data, more than a year after the movement started. Using more detailed US data, we show that the MeToo movement not only increased reporting, but also increased arrests for sexual assaults. In contrast to a common criticism of the movement, we do not find evidence for large differences in the effect across racial and socioeconomic groups. Based on additional survey and crime data, we show that the increased reporting reflects a higher propensity to report sex crimes, and not an increase in the incidence of sex crimes. The mechanism most consistent with our results is that victims were more motivated to report sex crimes because individuals perceived sexual misconduct to be a more serious problem following the MeToo movement. Our results demonstrate that social movements can rapidly and persistently change high-stakes personal decisions.