Tianyi Wang

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Research Interest

Political Economy, Economic History, Health Economics

Job-market Paper

"Media, Pulpit, and Populist Persuasion: Evidence from Father Coughlin"  Revision requested by the American Economic Review.  

New technologies make it easier for charismatic individuals to influence others. This paper studies the political impact of the first populist radio personality in American history. Father Charles Coughlin blended populist demagoguery, anti-Semitism, and fascist sympathies to create a hugely popular radio program that attracted tens of millions of listeners throughout the 1930s. I evaluate the short- and long-term impacts of exposure to Father Coughlin’s radio program. Exploiting variation in the radio signal strength as a result of topographic factors, I find that a one standard deviation increase in exposure to Coughlin’s anti-FDR broadcast reduced FDR’s vote share by about two percentage points in the 1936 presidential election. Effects were larger in counties with more Catholics and persisted after Father Coughlin left the air. An alternative difference-in-differences strategy exploiting Coughlin’s switch in attitude towards FDR during 1932-1936 confirms the results. More- over, I find that places more exposed to Coughlin’s broadcast in the late 1930s were more likely to form a local branch of the pro-Nazi German- American Bund, sell fewer war bonds during WWII, and harbor more negative feelings towards Jews in the long run.

Other Works

Waves of Empowerment: Black Radio and the Civil Rights Movement

In the early 1960s, as the civil rights movement was gaining momentum, black-oriented radio stations were broadcasting across large swaths of the South. This paper uses newly digitized data to provide the first empirical evidence on the effects of black radio on the civil rights movement.  Exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in signal reception resulting from topographic factors, I find strong evidence that black radio increased black political participation and activism in the South during the early 1960s, as measured by black voter registration and the presence of a local chapter of the NAACP. For mechanisms, I provide evidence from individual survey data that black radio increased the support for civil rights groups such as the NAACP, decreased TV consumption, and reduced racial stereotyping among blacks. Moreover, consistent with black radio increasing Southern blacks’ political power, results suggest that places with higher exposure to black radio and higher proportions of black residents saw greater state aid as well as greater legislative support for civil rights bills after the passage of the Voting Rights Act.


The Electric Telegraph, News Coverage and Political Participation Revision requested by the Journal of Economic History.

How does timely access to national news shape political outcomes? Using newly digitized data on the growth of the telegraph network, the paper studies the impact of the electric telegraph on political participation in the mid-19\nth century America. I use proximity to daily newspapers with telegraphic connection to Washington to generate plausibly exogenous variation in access to telegraphed news from Washington. I find that access to Washington news with less delay increased presidential election turnout. Effects were concentrated in regions least connected to Washington prior to the telegraph. For mechanisms, I provide evidence that newspapers facilitated the dissemination of national news to local areas. Text analysis on historic newspapers shows that the improved access to news from Washington led newspapers to cover more national political news, including coverage of Congress, the presidency, and sectional divisions involving slavery. The results suggest that the telegraph made newspapers less parochial, facilitated a national conversation and increased political participation.


Water Purification Efforts and the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap, 1906-1938(with D. Mark Anderson, Kerwin Kofi Charles, and Daniel I. Rees), Revision requested by the Journal of Urban Economics.

According to Troesken (2004), efforts to purify municipal water supplies at the turn of the 20th century dramatically improved the relative health of blacks. There is, however, little empirical evidence to support the Troesken hypothesis. Using city-level data published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census for the period 1906-1938, we explore the relationship between water purification efforts and the black-white infant mortality gap. Our results suggest that, while water filtration was effective across the board, adding chlorine to the water supply reduced mortality only among black infants. Specifically, chlorination is associated with an 11 percent reduction in black infant mortality and a 13 percent reduction in the black-white infant mortality gap. We also find that chlorination led to a substantial reduction in the black-white diarrhea mortality gap among children under the age of 2, although this estimate is measured with less precision.


Is an Army of Robots Marching on Chinese Jobs? (with Osea Giuntella and Yi Lu), IZA Discussion Paper No. 12281.

A handful of studies have investigated the effects of robots on workers in advanced economies. According to a recent report from the World Bank (2016), 1.8 billion jobs in developing countries are susceptible to automation. Given the inability of labor markets to adjust to rapid changes, there is a growing concern that the effect of automation and robotization in emerging economies may increase inequality and social unrest. Yet, we still know very little about the impact of robots in developing countries. In this paper we analyze the effects of exposure to industrial robots in the Chinese labor market. Using aggregate data from Chinese prefectural cities (2000-2016) and individual longitudinal data from China, we find a large negative impact of robot exposure on employment and wages of Chinese workers. Effects are concentrated in the state-owned sector and are larger among low-skilled, male, and prime-age and older workers. Furthermore, we find evidence that exposure to robots affected internal mobility and increased the number of labor-related strikes and protests.


Industrial Robots, Workers’ Safety, and Health (with Rania Gihleb, Osea Giuntella, and Luca Stella), IZA Discussion Paper No. 12281.

This study explores the relationship between the adoption of industrial robots and workplace injuries using data from the United States and Germany. Our empirical analyses, based on establishment-level data for the US, suggest that a one standard deviation increase in robot exposure reduces work-related injuries by approximately 16%. These results are driven by manufacturing firms (-28%), while we detect no impact on sectors that were less exposed to industrial robots. We also show that the US counties that are more exposed to robot penetration experience a significant increase in drug- or alcohol-related deaths and mental health problems, consistent with the extant evidence of negative effects on labor market outcomes in the US. Employing individual longitudinal data from Germany, we exploit within-individual changes in robot exposure and document similar effects on job physical intensity (-4%) and disability (-5%), but no evidence of significant effects on mental health and work and life satisfaction, consistent with the lack of significant impacts of robot penetration on labor market outcomes in Germany.



The Phenomenon of Summer Diarrhea and its Waning, 1910-1930 (with D. Mark Anderson and Daniel I. Rees), Explorations in Economic History, Forthcoming.

During the first two decades of the 20th century, diarrheal deaths among American infants and children surged every summer. Although we still do not know what pathogen (or pathogens) caused this phenomenon, the consensus view is that it was eventually controlled through public health efforts at the municipal level. Using data from 26 major American cities for the period 1910-1930, we document the phenomenon of summer diarrhea and explore its dissipation. We find that water filtration is associated with a 15 percent reduction in diarrheal mortality among children under the age of two during the non-summer months, but does not seem to have had an effect on diarrheal mortality during the summer. In general, we find little evidence to suggest that public health interventions undertaken at the municipal level contributed to the dissipation of summer diarrhea.

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