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Selected Publications

  • 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.

  • AMERICAN​ ​UNIVERSITIES​ ​IN​ ​TRUMPLAND​ ​-​ ​Financial​ ​Ruin​ ​Averted?

    The Trump administration has no significant plan or strategy related to higher education. The only major policy declarations—to eliminate federal regulations on for-profit colleges and revisit federal guidelines on sexual assault on college campuses – both unravel policies developed under the Obama administration. Where the fate of higher education lies is in the innumerable initiatives bent on pleasing Trump’s base and in the search for some sort of major legislative victory. As of this writing, this now includes a Republican coalition that wants to cut the funding for most federal agencies to ease the way for massive tax cuts. In the Trump administration’s initial federal budget proposal presented last May, Trump planned huge reductions in federal programs, with two glaring exceptions: boosting military spending—including for veterans but also for hardware and more troops—and funding for a continent stretching border wall with Mexico. What about the funding future, and health and well-being, of America’s great universities? To make financial room, and to placate some on the right, it is hard to imagine increased or even stable federal spending for research and financial aid. To partially offset tax cuts, spending must come down, at least in a rationale policy world. If this scenario plays out, higher education will be one of many casualties. Then again, confusion regarding the Trump agenda, discord among Republicans, lobbying by the many stakeholders of the current tax system, and even independent analysis of whatever convoluted plan emerges, could derail or significantly alter the tax-cut momentum. Or the thirst for a legislative tax-cut victory might simply temporarily blind Republican deficit hawks. In these scenarios, or a combination, federal funding for academic research and financial aid might only suffer minor cuts, or remain relatively stable – in the short run. For now, muddling through might not be good policymaking, but could be the best one can hope for. For American higher education in the volatile Trump era, disaster averted?

  • 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.

  • Sustainability lessons from shale development in the United States for Mexico
  • Taking the Long View: The “Forever Legacy” of Climate Change

    Climate change projections often focus on 2100. But the geological record shows that unless we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will be locking in drastic increases in temperatures and sea levels that will alter the earth not just for centuries, but for millennia.

  • Insurer Market Power Lowers Prices In Numerous Concentrated Provider Markets
  • Sustainable Low-​​Carbon Expansion for the Power Sector of an Emerging Economy: The Case of Kenya

    Fast growing and emerging economies face the 9 dual challenge of sustainably expanding and improving their 10 energy supply and reliability while at the same time reducing 11 poverty. Critical to such transformation is to provide affordable 12 and sustainable access to electricity. We use the capacity 13 expansion model SWITCH to explore low carbon development 14 pathways for the Kenyan power sector under a set of plausible 15 scenarios for fast growing economies that include uncertainty in 16 load projections, capital costs, operational performance, and 17 technology and environmental policies. In addition to an 18 aggressive and needed expansion of overall supply, the Kenyan 19 power system presents a unique transition from one basal 20 renewable resource−hydropower−to another based on geo21 thermal and wind power for ∼90% of total capacity. We find 22 geothermal resource adoption is more sensitive to operational degradation than high capital costs, which suggests an emphasis on 23 ongoing maintenance subsidies rather than upfront capital cost subsidies. We also find that a cost-effective and viable suite of 24 solutions includes availability of storage, diesel engines, and transmission expansion to provide flexibility to enable up to 50% of 25 wind power penetration. In an already low-carbon system, typical externality pricing for CO2 has little to no effect on technology 26 choice. Consequently, a “zero carbon emissions” by 2030 scenario is possible with only moderate levelized cost increases of 27 between $3 and $7/MWh with a number of social and reliability benefits. Our results suggest that fast growing and emerging 28 economies could benefit by incentivizing anticipated strategic transmission expansion. Existing and new diesel and natural gas 29 capacity can play an important role to provide flexibility and meet peak demand in specific hours without a significant increase in 30 carbon emissions, although more research is required for other pollutant’s impacts.