Research Summary

My research explores policy-relevant questions in the field of public economics. My particular areas of specialization are in tax policy, fiscal federalism, and the economics of education. My research seeks to analyze how stakeholders--residents, firms, and policymakers at different levels of government--respond to incentives created by policy and institutions. I exploit large datasets and frontier strategies to provide causal evidence of those responses.

Research in Progress

Who Needs Liquidity, When, and Where? Evidence from Penalized Withdrawals

with Itzik Fadlon and Tommaso Porzio

We offer a revealed preference approach to study the anatomy of household liquidity needs by leveraging a simple yet powerful intuition—households who are willing to take up pricey borrowing in the form of penalized withdrawals from retirement accounts reveal a high marginal rate of substitution between consumption today and consumption tomorrow. We use U.S. tax records on American households from 1999-2018 to exploit different sources of variation across time and space. We find that location plays an important role in determining household liquidity needs, both cross-sectionally and dynamically. We identify an important channel by which location shapes behavior and welfare.

Many school districts allocate funding across constituent schools at the discretion of elected school boards and other district officials. As a result, there is a high amount of variation in school resources within district. School accountability systems have previously been shown to produce potentially perverse incentives for teachers and school leaders, but almost no attention has been paid to the incentives facing district leaders, or how relative funding within districts is impacted by those incentives. I develop a conceptual framework in which district officials are pressured to boost standardized test performance across their schools in an asymmetric manner, specifically to maximize the probability of receiving higher accountability ratings that are determined by reaching different standardized test passing rate thresholds. This provides an incentive for districts to allocate more funding towards schools close to those thresholds. I find support for this prediction empirically, exploiting Texas public schools data from 1995-2011. I show that "bubble" schools--those with math test pass rates predicted to be near accountability rating thresholds--receive relatively higher funding. This redistributes funding away from lower-performing and higher-performing schools. Contingent on how close a school is predicted to perform in relation to an accountability threshold, I find that a typical school can receive anywhere from $30 per pupil up to $130 per pupil in district funding (0.6-2.5 percent of a school's per pupil spending) if predicted to be one percentage point closer to that threshold.

This paper analyzes how taxes are passed through to consumers around state borders in the context of state motor fuels taxes. Using high-frequency retail gas price data from Gasbuddy, a popular price tracking platform with user-submitted gas prices, and precise location data, I compare how prices respond to changes in tax rates conditional on distance to an out-of-state competitor. I show that stations within 10 miles of an out-of-state competitor pass through about 93 percent of a tax change. This is 43 percentage points lower than stations on the interior of a state. Furthermore, I show that stations near a border pass-through tax changes from neighboring states, as well, albeit at a discounted rate of about 35 percent. I also test for asymmetry in pass-through by which side of a tax gradient a station is located and by whether the station is responding to a tax hike or tax cut, but do not find strong evidence for either. The results of this analysis suggest that interstate gas price competition significantly adds to motor fuels elasticity of demand when measured at the state level, and suggest that the incidence of a motor fuels tax falls more heavily on residents towards the interior of a state and more heavily on firms closer to state borders.

This paper analyzes how the 2017 total solar eclipse and its resulting shock to outside visitors in areas in the path of totality influenced retail gasoline prices. Panel analysis at the station level reveals that the premium for stations within the path of totality relative to those in an area experiencing less than 75 percent obscuration grew as high as 5 cents per gallon leading up the eclipse. Regional effects were even larger, with stations in the path of totality in Oregon setting a premium of over 13 cents per gallon. This is one of the first papers to analyze the impact of demand shocks with unanticipated magnitudes on gas prices, and provides a useful comparison to the growing literature on the effect of supply shocks.

Incidence of Residential Energy Tax Credits

with Isla Globus-Harris

Boots to Business: The Impact of an Entrepreneurial Training Course on Veterans' Business Outcomes

with Yael Hochberg, Katherine Lim, Javier Miranda, and William Skimmyhorn

Portfolio Choice in the Presence of Earnings Risk

with Lorenz Kueng

Did College Admissions Committees Discriminate Against Students Who Received Nonstandard Testing Accommodations on the SAT?

with Isla Globus-Harris and Erin Wolcott

Bowed, Bent, Broken? An Analysis of the Mismatch Between School Budgets and Actual School Spending

Peer-Reviewed Publications

with Bo Zhao

Public Budgeting & Finance

Vol. 37 No. 3 pp. 3-23, 2017

National Tax Journal

Vol. 70 No. 2 pp. 223-256, 2017

(Online Appendix)

with Bo Zhao

Public Finance Review

Vol. 43 No. 1 pp. 32-52, 2015

with Chih Ming Tan

Economics Bulletin

Vol. 32 No. 2 pp. 1442-1454, 2012

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Publications

with Bo Zhao

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Working Paper Series no. 13-18, 2013

with Bo Zhao

Communities & Banking magazine

Spring issue, pp. 24-26, 2012

with Bo Zhao

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston NEPPC Policy Brief Series no. 11-2, 2011

with Bo Zhao

Communities & Banking magazine, Spring issue, pp. 23-25, 2011

with Bo Zhao

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston NEPPC Policy Brief Series no. 10-2, 2010

Other Publications

with Bo Zhao


Volume 13, Issue 2, 2011