Publications //

Farah N, Boyce JR (2019). Elephants and Mammoths: The Effect of an Imperfect Legal Substitute on Illegal Activity. Environment and Development Economics 00, 1–27.


Abstract: In response to the ban on trade in elephant ivory, mammoth ivory began to be produced in post-Soviet Russia. We investigate how this substitute to elephant ivory has affected the poaching of elephants. We argue that the early success of the 1989 ivory ban at increasing the African elephant population was driven in part by increasing supply of mammoth ivory. The more recent increases in poaching appear to be driven by increasing demand and falling African institutional quality. We find that absent the eighty tonnes of Russian mammoth ivory exports per annum 2010-2012, that elephant ivory prices would have doubled from their $100 per kilogram level and that the current poaching level of 34,000 elephants per year may have increased by as many as 55,000 elephants per year on a population of roughly a half-million animals.

(Featured in Inside Science, Marginal Revolution, and Pacific Standard)

Working Papers//



Feed or Frac? The Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing on Agricultural Productivity

(Under Review for Publication)

(Won First- Runner up Dennis J. O'Brien USAEE Best Student Paper Award- United States Association of Energy Economics)

Abstract: Recently, agricultural producers have been concerned that they will be affected by the large-scale use of hydraulic fracturing; yet, there is little evidence of these external effects. Exploiting highly detailed data from Alberta, Canada, I quantify the external effects of hydraulic fracturing on agricultural productivity using temporal and spatial variation in the count of wells, water used by these wells, and in agricultural production. I find that the yield of irrigated crops decreases by 4.2% when hydraulically fractured oil and natural gas wells are drilled during the agriculturally active months within the township. I also find that the yield of irrigated crops decreases by 1.4% when hydraulic fracturing water use increases by 1000 m3 during the agriculturally active months within the township. These effects become smaller and weaker as the distance between the township and the well location increases. This study has implications for potential spatial and temporal regulations on the use of hydraulic fracturing and its associated water use.


Farah, N., & Torell, G. L. ( 2019). Defensive Investment in Municipal Water Hardness Reduction. Water Resources Research, 55.

Abstract: We produce estimates of household's willingness to pay (WTP) for reduction in water hardness using a defensive investment framework. Using total dissolved solids (TDS) data observed in municipal water supplies in combination with product-by-store level point-of-sale scanner data on consumable water softening product sales, we provide among the first revealed preference estimates of WTP for water hardness reduction and quality control. Using instrumental variable regressions, We find that household's marginal WTP increases as the observed TDS in municipal water increases.

Aggregating these estimated WTP at county level, we show how total WTP varies geographically, after controlling for income and fixed effects. Our estimations provide evidence that households have a non-negligible WTP for water hardness reduction, which has important policy implications for optimal water hardness management by municipal water authorities, and those policies aimed to target salinity management within surface and subsurface water supplies.


The King is Dead, Long Live the King? The Effects of Power Plants on Housing Prices in the Age of Coal-Switching (with Andrew Boslett and Elaine Hill) (Job Market Paper)

Abstract: Since the mid-2000s, there has been a shift in United States’ electricity generation from coal to natural gas. There is growing evidence that the environmental footprint of natural gas is lower than coal. In this paper, we use the hedonic valuation method to value environmental quality changes near (1) coal-fired power plants that have ceased operations; (2) previously coal-fired power plants that have shifted to natural gas-fired generation; and (3) new natural gas fired power plants. We identify the downwind exposure effects of these three kinds of power plants' closures and openings on the property values using a triple difference-in-differences approach. Our estimated results show that closure of a coal fired power plant within a two mile radius of a downwind property increases the property's value by 9.2-9.3 percent. This effect dissipates as the distance between properties and power plants increases. We also find dual-fired power plants' decreased coal use increases downwind property values by 0.2-1.3 percent. Using the baseline estimates, our back-of-the-envelope calculation implies an average housing market capitalization gain of $11.5 million per coal-fired plant closure.

Catch Me if You Can: Measuring Corruption in Cyclone Relief and Reconstruction (with Asad Islam and Paul Raschky)

Abstract: In this study we examine the corruption magnitude and determinants during the post-cyclone period in Bangladesh. After cyclone Aila in 2009, the government of Bangladesh announced a transfer of 20,000 taka (US $250) to the affected households. We pay particular attention to the role of different networks in getting relief grant and associated corruption. Our results indicate that missing grant and bribery are considerably less in the post Aila house building grant- contrary to the general level of the graft in Bangladesh. Results suggest that individuals’ social (political) networks play an important role in both receiving disaster relief and reporting corruption. We provide some suggestive evidence of the role of the local and central government in allocating and distributing relief funds. This study has important implications for policymakers and serves as guide in further efforts to impede corruption in disaster relief. 

Trade and Coal Use: The Effects of Openness to Trade on Clean Energy Preference






Food-Energy-Water Nexus in Texas (with Gregory Torell)

The Effects of Terrorism on Economic Growth: An Application of Nighttime light and Land Cover Data to Measure Economic Growth (with Andrew Boslett, Gregory Torell, and Elaine Hill)

The Effects of Algae Production on Biodiesel Consumption and Emission Reduction (with Greg Torell, Frank Ward, and Alex Meyer)

The Effects of Political Ideology on Willingness to Reduce Emission