Selected Publications

  • The Case for Ends Paternalism: Extending Le Grand and New’s Framework for Justification of Government Paternalism

    Dan Acland (2018), Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 5: No. 1, pp 1-22.

    Le Grand and New, in their recent book, “Government Paternalism: Nanny State or Helpful Friend,” present a novel definition of paternalism and a framework for thinking about whether any given paternalistic policy can be considered justifiable. I show that their framework is flawed in that it restricts justifiable paternalism to that which is intended to alter individuals’ judgment about the means they use to pursue their self-determined ends. I show that the principles they use to justify certain kinds of means paternalism also justify certain kinds of ends paternalism. In particular, when there is a body of rigorous social-science evidence that individuals select ends that they themselves, if they had adequate information or experience would prefer not to pursue, and when other conditions are met, ends paternalism may be considered to improve the wellbeing of the individual as determined by the individual themselves. I present examples of policies that could be justified under this framework, and offer cautionary notes.

  • When Does a Group of Citizens Influence Policy? Evidence from Senior Citizen Participation in City Politics

    Anzia, Sarah F. Forthcoming. “When Does a Group of Citizens Influence Policy?  Evidence from Senior Citizen Participation in City Politics.” Journal of Politics.

    When does a group of citizens influence public policy?  Mainstream American politics research emphasizes the importance of the group’s turnout and presence in the electorate, but there have been few empirical tests of those hypotheses.  Meanwhile, other scholars argue that group cohesiveness, organization, and non-voting political activity are potentially more important than voting for shaping policy.  These two strands of the literature have largely developed in parallel, however, in part because they tend to employ different empirical methods.  In this paper, I attempt to bridge the divide between them and test these ideas within the same empirical framework, using senior citizens and senior-friendly transportation policy as a test case.  My results show that senior voting does not unconditionally predict policies friendlier to seniors.  Instead, I find that city policies are friendlier to seniors when seniors are a more cohesive, meaningful group, and when they engage in activities other than voting.

  • Sustainable silicon photovoltaics manufacturing in a global market: A techno-​​economic, tariff and

    Solar photovoltaics (PV) manufacturing has experienced dramatic worldwide growth in recent years, enabling a reduction in module costs, and a higher adoption of these technologies. Continued sustainable price reductions, however, require strategies focused in further technological innovation, minimization of capital expenditures, and optimization of supply chain flows. We present a framework: Techno-economic Integrated Tool For Tariff And Transportation (TIT-4-TAT), that enables the study of these different strategies by coupling a techno-economic model with a tariff and transportation algorithm to optimize supply chain layouts for PV manufacturing under equally-weighted objectives.

    We demonstrate the use of this framework in a set of interacting countries (Mexico, China, USA, and Brazil) and two extreme tariff scenarios: no tariffs, and high tariff levels imposed. Results indicate that introducing tariffs between countries significantly increase the minimum sustainable price for solar PV manufacturing, alter the optimal manufacturing locations, and render a more expensive final solar PV module price which can hinder the adoption rates required to mitigate climate change. Recommendations for stakeholders on the optimization process, and techno-economic drivers are presented based on our results. This framework may be utilized by policymakers for the spatially-resolved planning of incentives, labor and manufacturing programs, and proper import tariff designs in the solar PV market.

  • Rooftop solar photovoltaic potential in cities: how scalable are assessment approaches?

    Distributed photovoltaics (PV) have played a critical role in the deployment of solar energy, currently making up roughly half of the global PV installed capacity. However, there remains significant unused economically beneficial potential. Estimates of the total technical potential for rooftop PV systems in the United States calculate a generation comparable to approximately 40% of the 2016 total national electric-sector sales. To best take advantage of the rooftop PV potential, effective analytic tools that support deployment strategies and aggressive local, state, and national policies to reduce the soft cost of solar energy are vital. A key step is the low-cost automation of data analysis and business case presentation for structure-integrated solar energy. In this paper, the scalability and resolution of various methods to assess the urban rooftop PV potential are compared, concluding with suggestions for future work in bridging methodologies to better assist policy makers.

  • Declaration of the Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility Climate Change, Air Pol

    With unchecked climate change and air pollution, the very fabric of life on Earth, including that of humans, is at grave risk. We propose scalable solutions to avoid such catastrophic changes. There is less than a decade to put these solutions in place to preserve our quality of life for generations to come. The time to act is now. We human beings are creating a new and dangerous phase of Earth’s history that has been termed the Anthropocene. The term refers to the immense effects of human activity on all aspects of the Earth’s physical systems and on life on the planet. We are dangerously warming the planet, leaving behind the climate in which civilization developed. With accelerating climate change, we put ourselves at grave risk of massive crop failures, new and re-emerging infectious diseases, heat extremes, droughts, mega-storms, floods and sharply rising sea levels. The economic activities that contribute to global warming are also wreaking other profound damages, including air and water pollution, deforestation, and massive land degradation, causing a rate of species extinction unprecedented for the past 65 million years, and a dire threat to human health through increases in heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disease, mental health, infections and cancer. Climate change threatens to exacerbate the current unprecedented flow of displacement of people and add to human misery by stoking violence and conflict. The poorest of the planet, who are still relying on 19th century technologies to meet basic needs such as cooking and heating, are bearing a heavy brunt of the damages caused by the economic activities of the rich. The rich too are bearing heavy costs of increased flooding, mega-storms, heat extremes, droughts and major forest fires. Climate change and air pollution strike down the rich and poor alike.

  • Defeating energy poverty: A call to invest in scalable, solutions to energy access for the poor

    Energy poverty, is arguably the most pervasive and crippling threat society faces today. Lack of access impacts several billion people, with immediate health, educational, economic, and social damages. Furthermore, how this problem is addressed will result in the largest accelerant of global pollution, or the largest opportunity to pivot away from fossil-fuels onto the needed clean energy path. In a clear example of the power of systems thinking, energy poverty and climate change together present a dual crisis of energy injustice along gender, ethnic, and socioeconomic grounds, which has been exacerbated if not caused outright by a failure of the wealthy to see how tightly coupled is our collective global fate if addressing climate change fairly and inclusively does not become an immediate, actionable, priority. While debate exists on the optimal path or paths to wean our economy from fossil fuels, there is no question that technically we have today a sufficient knowledge and technological foundation to launch and to even complete the decarbonisation (IPCC, 2011). Critically needed is an equally powerful social narrative to accelerate the clean energy transition. Laudato Si’ provides a compelling formulation of the injustice that is both greed and pollution, but an ongoing outreach and partnership effort is needed to truly leverage its powerful message. In this essay we present examples across scales of the evolving knowledge base needed to build universal clean energy access. This leads to a formulation of an action agenda to defeat energy poverty and energy injustice.

  • Making Work Pay Better Through an Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit

    Hilary Hoynes, Jesse Rothstein and Krista Ruffini, "Making Work Pay Better Through an Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit" in Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and Ryan Nunn, eds, The 51% Driving Growth through Women's Economic Participation, The Hamilton Project.

    The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit that promotes work. Research has shown that it also reduces poverty and improves health and education outcomes. The maximum credit for families with two or fewer children has remained flat in inflation-adjusted terms since 1996. Over the same period, earnings prospects have stagnated or diminished for many Americans, and prime-age employment rates have fallen. This paper proposes to build on the successes of the EITC with a ten percent acrossthe-board increase in the federal credit. This expansion would provide a meaningful offset to stagnating real wages, encourage more people to enter employment, lift approximately 600,000 individuals out of poverty, and improve health and education outcomes for millions of children.

  • Can Variation in Subgroups' Average Treatment Effects Explain Treatment Effect Heterogeneity? Evidence from a Social Experiment

    Marianne Bitler, Jonah Gelbach and Hilary Hoynes, Review of Economics and Statistics. 99(4): 683-697 (October 2017).

    In this paper, we assess whether welfare reform affects earnings only through mean impacts that are constant within but vary across subgroups. This is important because researchers interested in treatment effect heterogeneity typically restrict their attention to estimating mean impacts that are only allowed to vary across subgroups. Using a novel approach to simulating treatment group earnings under the constant mean-impacts within subgroup model, we find that this model does a poor job of capturing the treatment e ect heterogeneity for Connecticut's Jobs First welfare reform experiment. Notably, ignoring within-group heterogeneity would lead one to miss evidence that the Jobs First experiment's effects are consistent with central predictions of basic labor supply theory.