Selected Publications

  • An analytic framework to assess future electricity options in Kosovo

    We have developed an analytic platform to analyze the electricity options, costs, and impacts for Kosovo, a nation that is a critical part of the debate over centralized versus distributed electricity generation and the role of fossil fuels versus cleaner electricity options to meet growing demands for power. We find that a range of alternatives exists to meet present supply constraints all at a lower cost than constructing a proposed 600 MW coal plant. The options include energy efficiency measures, combinations of solar PV, wind, hydropower, and biomass, and the introduction of natural gas. A 30 EUR ton–1 shadow price on CO2 increases costs of coal generation by at least 330 million EUR. The results indicate that financing a new coal plant is the most expensive pathway to meet future electricity demand.

  • Health Labor Market Analyses in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: An Evidence-Based Approach
  • The Effect of Disability Insurance Payments on Beneficiaries’ Earnings

    With Timothy Moore and Alexander Strand. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2017, 9(3), 229-261.

    A crucial issue is whether social insurance affects work decisions through income or substitution effects. We examine this in the context of U.S. Social Security Disability Insurance (DI), exploiting discontinuous changes in the benefit formula with a regression kink design to estimate the income effect of payments on earnings and employment. Using administrative data on all new DI beneficiaries from 2001 to 2007, our preferred estimate is that an increase in DI payments of one dollar causes an average decrease in beneficiaries’ earnings of twenty cents and that annual employment rates decrease by 1.3 percentage points per $1,000 of DI payments. These findings suggest that the income effect accounts for a majority of DI-induced reductions in earnings.

  • KNOWLEDGE BASED ECONOMIC AREAS AND FLAGSHIP UNIVERSITIES: A Look at the New Growth Ecosystems in the US and California

    The acceptance of new growth theory relates, in part, to a number of highly touted regional success stories – or what I term “Knowledge Based Economic Areas” (KBEAs) in this and past essays. The United States, and California in particular, is viewed as perhaps the most robust creators of KBEAs, providing an influential model that is visited and revisited by business and government leaders, and other Flagship (or leading national) universities, that wish to replicate their strengths within their own cultural and political terms.  While California has a number of unique characteristics, including a robust University of California system with a strong internal academic culture and devotion to public service, the story of its historical and contemporary success as an agent of economic development is closely linked to a number of key contextual factors. These relate to the internal culture, governance and management capacity of major universities in the United States, national investment patterns in R&D, the business environment, including the concentration of Knowledge Based Businesses, the acceptance of risk, and the availability of venture capital, legal variables related to Intellectual Property (IP) and tax policies, the quality of regional workforces, and quality of life factors that are important components for attracting and retaining talent. In most of these KBEAs variables, California has enjoyed an advantage that helps to partially explain the success of the University of California (UC) and other major research universities as agents of economic development. This study focuses on seven contextual variables common to all KBEAs in the United States and much of the world, and with particular attention to the UC system – a network of ten research-intensive campuses.

  • College Affordability and the Emergence of Progressive Tuition Models: Are New Financial Aid Policies at Major Public Universities Working?

    In an era of significant disinvestment in public higher education by state governments, many public universities are moving toward a “progressive tuition model” that attempts to invest approximately one-third of tuition income into institutional financial aid for lower-income and middle-class students. The objective is to mitigate the cost of tuition and keep college affordable. But is this model as currently formulated working? What levels of financial stress are students of all income groups experiencing? And are they changing their behaviors? Utilizing data from the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Survey of undergraduates and other data sources, this study explores these issues by focusing on students at the University of California and ten AAU institutions that are members of the SERU Consortium. At least to date, the increase in tuition, and costs related to housing and other living expenses, have not had a negative impact on the number of lower-income students attending UC. Reflecting to some degree UC’s robust financial aid policies, and perhaps the growing number of lower-income families in California, there has been an actual increase in their number – a counterintuitive finding to the general perception that higher tuition equals less access to the economically vulnerable. At the same time, there is evidence of a “middle-class” squeeze, with a marginal drop in the number of students from this economic class. Students’ concerns for paying for higher education and accumulated student debt in the 2014 SERU are predictably higher among lower-income students, yet upper-middle income students (with annual family incomes from $80–125,000) are the least likely to agree that the cost of attendance is manageable. With these and other nuances and caveats briefly discussed in this study, the progressive tuition model appears to be working in terms of affordability and with only moderate indicators of increased financial stress and changed student behaviors. These results are not necessarily predictive of the future if tuition rates go up further. But they do indicate the higher tuition rates at highly selective public universities, if accompanied by robust federal, state and institutional financial aid, may be the best path for maintaining access to lower-income students, and for generating income needed for institutions to maintain or improve student-to-faculty ratios and other markers of quality. Freezing tuition, as currently demanded by state lawmakers in California, does not appear to be based on any clear analysis of the correlation of tuition and affordability. It appears more as a politically attractive way to appeal to voters while ignoring the financial consequences for public colleges and universities and the quality of the student experience.

  • Strengthening Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

    The Hamilton Project, Policy Proposal 2016-04, May 2016

    The Great Recession was the longest and by some measures the most severe economic downturn in the postwar period. The experience revealed important weaknesses in the central cash welfare program for families with children in the United States, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). First, TANF fails to reach a sizeable share of needy families, does little to reduce deep poverty, and is not targeted to the most needy. Second, in its current form the program does not automatically expand during economic downturns, when the need for the program is likely greatest and the additional consumer spending would be particularly welcome. To strengthen TANF, we propose reforms to expand its reach, improve its responsiveness to cyclical downturns, and enhance its transparency. Together these reforms would make the program more effective in protecting families from deep poverty.

  • City-​​integrated renewable energy for urban sustainability

    To prepare for an urban influx of 2.5 billion people by 2050, it is critical to create cities that are lowcarbon, resilient, and livable. Cities not only contribute to global climate change by emitting the majority of anthropogenic greenhouse gases but also are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and extreme weather.We explore options for establishing sustainable energy systems by reducing energy consumption, particularly in the buildings and transportation sectors, and providing robust, decentralized, and renewable energy sources. Through technical advancements in power density, city-integrated renewable energy will be better suited to satisfy the high-energy demands of growing urban areas. Several economic, technical, behavioral, and political challenges need to be overcome for innovation to improve urban sustainability.

  • Impact of Market Concentration on Premiums: Evidence from Covered California and New York State of Health