The socio-economic consequences of housing assistance     [draft]

This paper analyzes the effect of Europe's largest public housing program on socio-economic outcomes for low-income households. Using lotteries for housing units in the Netherlands and data linking national registers to application choices, I show that the average move into public housing negatively affects labor market outcomes and proxies for neighborhood quality, and increases public assistance receipt. However, consistent with a model of labor supply responses to conditional in-kind transfers, average impacts miss substantial heterogeneity both across neighborhoods and, within neighborhood, across recipients. Moves into high-income neighborhoods generate positive effects, which are driven by 'upward' moves made by individuals previously living in low- or middle-income neighborhoods. Lateral and 'downward' moves have the opposite effect. To evaluate whether these results generalize to non-recipients, I develop a model of application behavior that utilizes panel data on application choices and exploits variation induced by the housing allocation mechanism. Using the model, I recover the distribution of heterogeneity that drives selection into and returns from lotteries, and estimate that selection on gains is limited. This suggests that targeting public housing in high-income neighborhoods based on observable characteristics can increase economic self-sufficiency.


Does eviction cause poverty? Quasi-experimental evidence from Cook County, IL (with John Eric HumphriesNick Mader, and Daniel Tannenbaum)     [draft]

In Cook County, IL, more than 32,000 eviction cases appear before the circuit court every year, the majority involving tenants from the poorest areas in Chicago. Influential research, based on high-quality surveys and ethnographic work, suggests that eviction may not only be a symptom of poverty but may, in fact, cause or exacerbate poverty by contributing to circumstances that are adverse to economic mobility. Yet households facing eviction are likely to have recently faced negative economic shocks, which makes establishing the proposed causal relationship difficult. This paper proposes a quasi-experimental design for evaluating the causal impact of eviction on employment, earnings, public assistance receipt, financial distress, residential mobility, and children's schooling outcomes. Using over 700,000 eviction case histories, our research design leverages Cook County's random assignment of eviction court cases to judges, where some judges are more lenient than others. This provides a source of exogenous variation, allowing us to study the effect of eviction on a wide range of short- and long-run household outcomes associated with poverty.

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Kreisman Initiative on Housing Law and Policy. The project was selected as part of the "Using Linked Data to Advance Evidence-Based Policymaking" initiative, a partnership of the Census Bureau and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

School choice with unequal outside options (with Mohammad Akbarpour)     [draft]

Students with identical valuations for public schools but unequal outside options have different opportunity costs of revealing their preferences. Consequently, manipulable mechanisms need not resolve conflicting preferences in a Pareto-improving manner. Moreover, when they do not, welfare improvements for students with outside options come at the expense of students without outside options. This result strengthens the argument that strategy-proof mechanisms "level the playing field." Our model predicts that students without outside options are more likely to strategize, consistent with recent findings in empirical studies of education markets.


Choice and welfare in rationing goods by waitlist

Waitlists are often used as rationing devices for government-provided goods. For heterogeneous goods, wait lists can be combined with choice procedures for matching goods to potential recipients. These procedures determine both which goods people receive, and when they receive them, implying a trade-off between quickly allocating to those with high disutility from waiting and using willingness-to-wait as a signal of (unobserved) valuation. In this paper, I study a setting where public housing applicants periodically report their preferences over available public housing units, and ties are broken based on wait time. A simple model shows that congestion externalities from individuals with low disutility from waiting can cause inefficiencies that can be mitigated by limiting agents' ability to choose among housing units. Using a dynamic model of application and acceptance behavior, I estimate preferences over neighborhood and housing characteristics, quantify the cost of congestion to different groups among applicants, and draw lessons from the ex-post evaluation of three policy changes that attempted to limit congestion.

Creating the educated class: measuring the multigenerational impacts of need-based scholarships (with Bas van der Klaauw) – in data-collection phase

Can access to post-secondary education increase intergenerational mobility and economic prosperity of multiple future generations? Using historical public education archives from the Netherlands, combined with genealogical records and administrative data, this project will trace how post-secondary education for children of low-income families affected the educational attainment and earnings of their children and grandchildren. We study a period in which financial aid schemes were introduced with the aim of increasing participation in higher education, after which college enrollment increased substantially. Using selection procedures that generated exogenous variation in the receipt of financial aid, we analyze whether estimates of the returns to education and cost-benefit analyses of public financial aid schemes have overlooked an important element by omitting intergenerational effects.


Public housing allocation: mechanics of redistribution-in-kind (for Fair by Design: Economic Design Responses to Inequalityeds. Scott Kominers and Alex Teytelboym, Oxford University Press)