Emiliano Huet-Vaughn

California Policy Lab Research Director, UCLA
Emiliano Huet-Vaughn is an economist at UCLA with the California Policy Lab. His research interests include public economics, behavioral economics, political economy, and labor economics, with special interest in tax policy, worker labor supply, pay transparency, government benefit acquisition, gender, and electoral and extra-electoral forms of political influence. His work has used experiments in the field to investigate the effect of social comparisons on worker output as well as quasi-experimental forms of identification to study the causal efficacy of riots.

He received his Ph.D. in Economics from UC Berkeley in 2014. Prior to his doctorate, he attended the London School of Economics, where he received a masters degree in Economics & Philosophy, and, Washington University in St. Louis where he received a bachelors degree in both Economics and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology. Prior to joining UCLA, he was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Middlebury College.

Research      CV     Teaching


    Stimulating the Vote: ARRA Road Spending and Vote Share [Revise and Resubmit, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy]

Abstract: This paper estimates the impact of public good spending on voting behavior in the United States, using a quasi-experimental design and the distribution of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) road improvement projects across the state of New Jersey. I find an approximate 1.7 percentage point increase in the presidential vote share for the Democratic party - largely responsible for ARRA’s passage and widely perceived to be the more “tax-and-spend” friendly party - in areas close to highway and bridge improvement expenditures. I find no evidence of an effect on turnout. Results are consistent with two alternative mechanisms: one, a salience mechanism whereby spending and associated “funded-by” signage affect voter underlying political preferences; the other, a possible political multiplier effect through which stimulus spending improves local economic outcomes, making voters more willing to support incumbents. I present evidence at odds with the later explanation.

    A Taste for Taxes: Minimizing Distortions Using Political Preferences [Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Public Economics] with Andrea Robbett and Matthew Spitzer

Abstract: We conduct an experiment with online workers to assess whether the distortionary effect of a tax is sensitive to the ideological match between taxpayer and tax expenditures. We find that, among self-identified political moderates, the labor supply elasticity with respect to the net of tax wage is significantly smaller when individuals pay taxes to a favored government agency as compared to an unfavored one. While the tax has a significant distortionary effect in the latter case, with a point estimate for the labor supply elasticity of approximately 0.75, the elasticity point estimate is virtually zero when taxes go to a favored agency. There is also an increase in total output for the matched population. There is no evidence of similar effects for those on the ends of the ideological spectrum.

Do Social Comparisons Motivate Workers? A Field Experiment on Relative Earnings, Labor Supply and the Inhibitory Effect of Pay Inequality (UPDATED)

Abstract: In a field experiment where presentation of co-worker earnings and the shape of the earnings distribution are exogenously controlled, I test whether relative earnings information itself influences effective labor supply. Piece-rate workers who are shown their earnings position in comparison to their peers provide significantly more labor effort than those without such information, demonstrating a new peer effects result with absent and anonymous peers. However, the productivity boost from peer earnings disclosure disappears when inequalities in the underlying piece rates exist. Additionally, women and men respond differently upon learning of high or low relative standing, with only the former ever motivating significant productivity gains in men. Utilizing randomized piece rates, I also estimate the labor supply elasticity with respect to the net of tax wage, yielding one of the first field experimental estimates; I find the elasticity unchanged by the relative standing information. These results suggest social comparisons can be used to grow the tax base and firm output - but not to affect optimal labor income tax rates - and that underlying inequalities in compensation schemes may inhibit the ability of social comparisons to incentivize work.  

(An early version of this paper circulated in 2013 as Striving for Status: A Field Experiment on Relative Earnings and Labor Supply)

      In Media: The Wall Street JournalThe Atlantic, The Independent, Harvard Business Review, Ted: Ideas Worth Spreading (Ted Talk)Brad DeLong at The Equitablog for Washington Center for Equitable Growth

   Quiet Riot: Estimating A Causal Effect of Protest Violence

Abstract: Estimating the effect of violent forms of political protest on protest success is complicated by endogeneity and omitted variable bias. In this work, I utilize instrumental variables methods to estimate the causal effect of violent protest on the probability that protesters win policy concessions. Using daily French protest data and a set of weather and school holiday instruments, I find a significant and negative relationship between property destruction associated with protests and the chance of near term success in changing policy. The IV estimates are larger than OLS estimates and are robust to a variety of alternative specifications. Such findings are predicted by several posited endogeneity channels, and, they suggest that political violence does not, in fact, pay off.

In Media:  The Washington Post, New RepublicChris Blattman

   Gender Differences in Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Competitive Behavior [IZA Discussion Paper No. 10626] with Jeffrey Carpenter and Rachel Frank

Abstract: Gender differences in competitive behavior have been well documented by economists and other social scientists; however, the bulk of the research addresses competition with others and excludes other economically relevant competition that may contribute to the gender pay gap. In this paper, we ask: How does gender affect how individuals react to competition against themselves? In a laboratory experiment in which some subjects compete against others and some compete against themselves, we find women select into intrapersonal competition at significantly higher rates than interpersonal competition, the first such finding. We find grit to be a poor predictor of interpersonal competition selection, but find familial effects such as parent’s education and number of brothers to be correlated with competition selection.    

   Choice Architecture to Improve Financial Decision Making [NEW] with Jeffrey Carpenter, Peter Matthews, Andrea Robbett, Dustin Beckett, and Julian Jamison

AbstractWe exploit the principles of choice architecture to evaluate interventions in the market for reloadable prepaid cards. Participants are randomized into three card menu presentation treatments - the market status quo, a regulation-inspired reform, or an enhanced reform designed to minimize attribute overload - and offered choices based on prior structural estimation of individual preferences. Consumers routinely choose incorrectly under the status quo, with tentative evidence the regulation-inspired presentation may increase best card choice, and clear evidence the enhanced reform reduces worst card choice. Welfare analysis suggests the regulation-inspired presentation offers modest gains, while minimizing attribute overload generates substantial benefits.

Work in Progress (Slides Available Upon Request)

   Ideology and Military Benefit Utilization: Evidence from Fox News (with Youssef Benzarti)

Abstract: We study the role of political ideology and mass media on the acquisition of government benefits. Making use of the early roll out of Fox News in local cable markets, shown to be largely idiosyncratic conditional on a set of controls by DellaVigna and Kaplan (2007), we provide evidence that the network's "support our troops messaging" may have increased service members' claimed entitlements. Specifically, we find a significant and positive effect of the introduction of Fox News on utilized military medical insurance benefits. Such results are consistent with a de-stigmatizaiton of welfare programs for those deemed to be deserving in a media context where government spending may be otherwise stigmatized. 

   Live Streaming Pollution: A New Form of Emissions Disclosure and a Catalyst for Citizen Complaints (with Nicholas Z. Muller and Yen-Chia Hsu)

Abstract: Most environmental policy assumes the form of standards and enforcement. More recently, market-based instruments have also been used to manage pollution. Both approaches require some form of information about the level of firm emissions, with the provision of such information serving as a policy goal in its own right as well. Scarce public budgets and imperfect monitoring have typically meant this information has come from firms required to publish quantitative estimates of their discharges into the natural environment. This study explores a new form of disclosure with significantly lower monitoring costs: the provision of real-time visual evidence of emissions on a publicly accessible livestreaming website. The empirical analysis then tests whether (1) the visual evidence is associated with more conventional measurements of environmental quality at a proximal monitoring station, and (2) if public response, in the form of discourse surrounding the emitting facility and citizen engagement with the governmental authorities regulating pollution, is correlated with the presence of the publicly available visual evidence. We find that the quantitative measure of visual smoke readings, which are gathered via a remote digital camera, are significantly associated with fine particulate levels at the nearby monitoring station. In addition, evidence of an association between visual smoke emissions and the frequency of online searches for the firm that owns the facility in question is detected, and, pollution levels at the proximal monitoring station are associated with the count of Twitter posts including the name of the emitting plant. Finally, calls to the local agency regulating air quality are found to spike during the periods of livestream onset, while statistically significant increases in call volume are found in zip codes out of sight from the facility during the period in which the camera is on, suggesting the increased emission transparency may temporarily shock the demand for environmental protections and emissions reduction, revealing a mediating effect of the new technology of disclosure on political economy of regulatory authority.

Additional Ongoing Work

   Corruption and Tax Evasion (with Liang Bai and Julian Jamison)

   Real Effort Tasks, forthcoming in Handbook of Research Methdos and Applications in Experimental Economics (with Jeffrey Carpenter)

   Social Comparisons, Debt, and Tax Collection: Evidence from Norway (with Salvatore Morelli)

   Elasticity of Elderly Abuse Reports with Respect to Wage Changes

   The Price of Moral Values (with Josh Tasoff and Eva Vivalt)