Dean Spears

University of Texas at Austin
Department of Economics
1 University Station C3100
Austin, TX 78712

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliations: University of Texas at Austin and UTECS

NBER Working Papers and Publications

September 2019Inversions in US Presidential Elections: 1836-2016
with Michael Geruso, Ishaana Talesara: w26247
Inversions—in which the popular vote winner loses the election—have occurred in four US presidential races. We show that rather than being statistical flukes, inversions have been ex ante likely since the early 1800s. In elections yielding a popular vote margin within one point (one-eighth of presidential elections), about 40% will be inversions in expectation. We show this conditional probability is remarkably stable across historical periods—despite differences in which groups voted, which states existed, and which parties participated. Our findings imply that the US has experienced so few inversions merely because there have been so few elections (and fewer close elections).
July 2018Heat, Humidity, and Infant Mortality in the Developing World
with Michael Geruso: w24870
We study how extreme temperature exposure impacts infant survival in the developing world. Our analysis overcomes the absence of vital registration systems in many poor countries, which has been a limiting factor in the temperature-mortality literature, by extracting birth histories from household surveys. Studying 53 developing countries that span the globe, we find impacts of hot days on infant mortality that are an order of magnitude larger than estimates from rich country studies, with humidity playing an important role. The size and implied geographic distribution of harms documented here have the potential to significantly alter assessments of optimal climate policy.
December 2016Sanitation, Disease Externalities, and Anemia: Evidence From Nepal
with Diane Coffey, Michael Geruso: w22940
Anemia impairs physical and cognitive development in children and reduces human capital accumulation. The prior economics literature has focused on the role of inadequate nutrition in causing anemia. This paper is the first to show that sanitation, a public good, significantly contributes to preventing anemia. We identify effects by exploiting rapid and differential improvement in sanitation across regions of Nepal between 2006 and 2011. Within regions over time, cohorts of children exposed to better community sanitation developed higher hemoglobin levels. Our results highlight a previously undocumented externality of open defecation, which is today practiced by over a billion people worldwide.

Published: Diane Coffey & Michael Geruso & Dean Spears, 2018. "Sanitation, Disease Externalities and Anaemia: Evidence From Nepal," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 128(611), pages 1395-1432, June. citation courtesy of

May 2015Neighborhood Sanitation and Infant Mortality
with Michael Geruso: w21184
In this paper, we shed new light on a long-standing puzzle: In India, Muslim children are substantially more likely than Hindu children to survive to their first birthday, even though Indian Muslims have lower wealth, consumption, educational attainment, and access to state services. Contrary to the prior literature, we show that the observed mortality advantage accrues not to Muslim households themselves but rather to their neighbors, who are also likely to be Muslim. Investigating mechanisms, we provide a collage of evidence suggesting externalities due to poor sanitation are a channel linking the religious composition of neighborhoods to infant mortality.

Published: Michael Geruso & Dean Spears, 2018. "Neighborhood Sanitation and Infant Mortality," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, vol 10(2), pages 125-162. citation courtesy of

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