Grant Goehring

Hi! I'm a fourth year PhD student in Economics at Boston University.

My research interests lie in Economic History, Health, and Finance. Much of my work focuses on topics related to gender.

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Working Papers

The Progressive Era War on Vice: Public Health Consequences of Closing Red-Light Districts (R&R Journal of Economic History)

In the late 1800s, local leaders in the United States established red-light districts to confine prostitution within cities. Progressive Era reformers began lobbying against this policy, arguing they made health and crime worse, which precipitated the closure of these districts in the 1910s. This paper assesses the public health consequences of closing red-light districts using city-level mortality statistics. I find that infant mortality increased by approximately 7% after closure. Congenital syphilis was a significant problem during the period, and this finding is consistent with increased syphilis transmission. Overall, the results suggest the public health concerns raised by reformers were overstated.

How Successful Public Health Interventions Fail: Regulating Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Submitted)
With Walker Hanlon.

Public health interventions often involve a trade-off between improving health and protecting individual rights. We study this trade-off in a high-stakes setting: prostitution regulations aimed at reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Victorian Britain. These regulations, known as the Contagious Disease Acts (CDAs), introduced a system of registration of sex workers, compulsory medical inspections, and the involuntary confinement of infected workers, in a legal market for sex. The first part of our analysis shows that the CDAs led to substantial public health improvements. However, despite their effectiveness, the CDAs were ultimately repealed. The second part of our study examines the causes of this repeal. We show that repeal was driven by concerns about the violation of the basic rights of sex workers and unequal treatment relative to men who purchased sex. These findings emphasize that the success of a public health intervention depends not only on its effectiveness as a sanitary measure but also on how the costs of the regulation are distributed.

Technology Adoption and Career Concerns: Evidence from the Adoption of Digital Technology in Motion Pictures (Submitted)
With Filippo Mezzanotti and Avri Ravid.

This paper studies the impact of career concerns on technological change by analyzing the adoption of digital cinematography in the US motion picture industry. This setting allows us to collect rich data on the adoption of this new technology at the project-level (i.e., movie) as well as on the career of the main decision maker (i.e., director). We find that early career directors played a leading role in the adoption of digital technology and that this effect appears to be explained by career concerns, rather than alternative motives we consider and analyze. Technological savvy also plays a role.