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Working Paper Series

  • Exuberance and Municipal Bankruptcy: A Case Study of San Bernardino, Stockton and Vallejo, CA

    Larry A. Rosenthal, Tracy Gordon, Michael Lens, Paavo Monkkonen

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (May 2017)

    A series of municipal bankruptcies across the United States during and after the financial crisis of 2007-2008 revealed the need for a better understanding of the many factors that shape cities’ fiscal operating environments and solvency conditions. The larger project this study is part of focuses on the role of real estate price changes in the spending and revenues of local governments, examining specifically the issue of irrational exuberance at city hall. We know that property value changes can influence revenue expectations, and ask whether perceptions about future growth conditions may increase propensity to commit to spending revenue that might not materialize. One understudied aspect of this hypothesis is the way in which local governments of various structures process information about local real estate market conditions and revenue expectations. In work completed recently, we analyzed how city councils and fiscal managers learn about real estate market conditions. We found that cities see themselves as budgeting conservatively, and that the housing boom and bust was secondary to declines in sales tax and other revenues during the recession. In this paper, we extend the inquiry to cover the bankruptcies of San Bernardino, Vallejo, and Stockton, CA. We explore these cases relying upon contemporaneous news reports and commentaries, as well as background sources providing municipal history. While exuberance may set the stage for the very extreme policy choice to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, we find that the perceptions of local administrators and lawmakers relative to economic growth and revenue expectations alone were likely not sufficient to predict, or explain, these cases. Instead, a number of political, budgetary, and financial factors must coincide in order to place leaders and managers into the kind of predicaments which place bankruptcy on the table as a rational, if unappetizing, option. 

  • How do the U.S and Canadian social safety nets compare for women and children?

    Hilary Hoynes, Mark Stabile

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (May 2017)

  • The Effects of California's Enhanced Drug and Contraband Interdiction Program on Drug Abuse and Inmate Misconduct in California's Prisons

    Steven Raphael, Magnus Lofstrom, Brandon Martin

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (April 2017)

  • Challenges Facing Social Housing Organizations in the US: Insights from the Boston and SF Regions

    Larry A. Rosenthal, Rachel G. Bratt, Robert J. Wiener

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (November 2016)

    Nonprofit housing development organizations in the U.S. have played a central role in affordable housing provision for decades, but are now encountering a number of challenges, some of which are arising within the organizations, while others stem from changes in the context in which they carry out their work. Our work in this area constitutes the U.S component of a four‐country study of current and anticipated future challenges and opportunities confronting the nonprofit housing sector. Our previous work reported on the findings from a survey modified from one deployed in England, the Netherlands, and Australia. This chapter summarizes our findings from in‐depth interviews that we carried out with leaders from the 12 organizations in our study in two major metropolitan areas of the US: the Boston and San Francisco Regions.

  • Political Parties and Policy Demanders in Local Elections

    Sarah F. Anzia, Olivia M. Meeks

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (May 2016)

    The theory of political parties advanced by Cohen et al. (2008) and Bawn et al. (2012) has stimulated a productive debate about the form, activity, and influence of parties in American politics. So far, however, it has mainly sought to explain the role of parties in U.S. national politics. We propose that studying political organizations in local politics—where we cannot take it for granted that parties will always be active—has great potential to advance our understanding of parties, interest groups, and the relationships between them. In this paper, we start by presenting descriptive information on the activity of political parties in over 300 municipal governments across the United States. We find that parties are highly engaged in many of the cities, but we also find that their presence is far from universal. We then set out to explain the variation in party activity across cities, showing that they are more active in cities with partisan elections and in cities with a great deal of interest group activity. Importantly, though, we also find that there are many cities where parties are absent but interest groups are still active. It is possible, then, that the parties we do find to be active in local elections are not acting as umbrella groups steered by coalitions of local policy demanders, but instead are just another type of group trying to influence elections, working alongside but not in coordination with local interest groups. We then use these findings as a jumping off point for an extension and revision of some of the theoretical ideas advanced by Bawn et al., arguing that there are conditions under which policy demanders have incentives to work alone—not within party coalitions.

  • The Effect of Pension Income on Elderly Earnings: Evidence from Social Security and Full Population Data (revise and resubmit, Quarterly Journal of Economics)

    Alexander Gelber, Adam Isen, Jae Song

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (May 2016)

  • Firm Regulations and Employment: Evidence from Administrative Data

    Alexander Gelber, Adam Isen

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (May 2016)

  • Reducing Student Absences at Scale

    Avi Feller, Todd Rogers

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (February 2016)