Working Papers

Job Market Paper 

"Is Mandatory Disclosure Really Mandatory? Evidence from Energy Assessments" 

Abstract: When buying and selling a home, there is asymmetric information about energy efficiency, as sellers tend to have more information. To address this problem, cities across the United States have begun to adopt mandatory disclosure policies. I study a mandatory disclosure policy in Portland, Oregon that requires sellers to (1) obtain an energy assessment and (2) publish the assessment in real estate listings. Similar to other settings with mandatory disclosure, this policy suffers from non-compliance: 64% of sellers obtain an assessment, and 72% of these sellers publish the assessment (46% overall). To understand the causes of non-compliance, I develop a theoretical model, evaluating this two-stage disclosure decision. Using administrative assessment data and proprietary housing transaction data, I test hypotheses from the model. Consistent with the theory of asymmetric information, I show that sellers act strategically, as they are more likely to obtain and publish an assessment if their home is efficient. This behavior was exacerbated with the COVID-19 pandemic when the city reduced enforcement, suspending fines for non-compliance. Surprisingly, there is not full compliance among the most efficient homes. This suggests that there is a coordination problem between sellers and realtors. There is also heterogeneity by realtor, as experienced realtors are more likely to publish the assessment. 

Other Dissertation Chapters

"The Evolution of Energy Efficiency: Impacts (or lack thereof) of Redlining and the Fair Housing Act" 

Abstract: While minority households face higher energy costs relative to white households, the mechanisms for this gap are not clear. One possible explanation is differences in the housing stock. In this paper, I examine to what extent the current housing stock is a reflection of past housing policies, especially those that are based on discriminatory behavior like redlining. If the redlining maps were binding, restricting lending access, then some homeowners may not have been able to invest in efficient technologies, like insulation, resulting in lower levels of energy efficiency. Using a difference-in-differences design, I examine the evolution of energy efficiency in Portland, Oregon for homes constructed between 1900 and 2020, focusing on the introduction of the redlining maps. Similarly, I consider the Fair Housing Act of 1968. I find that these housing policies did not impact the gap in energy efficiency between redlined and non-redlined neighborhoods. Likewise, using a spatial regression discontinuity design, I find no gap in energy efficiency at the boundaries of these maps. These results conform with new literature that argues that the redlining maps did not influence lending access. 

"What Energy Information Matters to Home Buyers? Lessons from the Home Energy Score Program"

Abstract: Created by the U.S. Department of Energy, the home energy score is a discrete metric (1-10) of energy efficiency. The score allows buyers to evaluate the energy efficiency level of a home prior to purchase. In this paper, I examine the sales price premium for energy efficiency, as measured by the score. I estimate a premium of about 0.5% ($2,929) for a one unit increase in the score, which is roughly equivalent to the present discounted value of the corresponding energy cost savings over a 30-year mortgage ($2,734). Since the premium for the score is greater than the energy cost savings, there is not an energy efficiency gap. The premium for the score varies with housing attributes, as it is greater when there is more uncertainty about energy efficiency, for example, in old homes. In addition to the score, the assessment includes other energy metrics like energy consumption, energy costs, and carbon emissions. I find that buyers respond more heavily to the score, as the premium for the score is greater than the other metrics. Since the score is a function of the other metrics, it provides less information than the underlying metrics. Thus, the results suggest that simple discrete metrics may be easier for consumers to comprehend than continuous metrics.

 Other Papers

"Do Foreclosure Assistance Programs Increase Home Retention? Evidence from the Hardest Hit Fund Program" (with Noah Durst)

Abstract: To promote financial stability during the Great Recession, the U.S. Department of Treasury established the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). A subset of TARP funds was allocated to housing programs, such as the Hardest Hit Fund program, to prevent foreclosures and increase home retention. We study the Hardest Hit Fund program in Michigan, where financial assistance was administered in the form of mortgage reinstatement and subsidized monthly mortgage payments. We combine administrative program data with housing transaction data to examine how the program influenced housing transactions (e.g., deeds, foreclosures, and mortgage modifications), comparing accepted applicants with declined and withdrawn applicants. We show that the program improved lending access, as accepted applicants were about 282% more likely to receive a mortgage modification. The improvements in lending access carried over to home retention, as accepted applicants were about 37% more likely to remain in their home five years after receiving financial assistance. Separating home retention by transaction type, we find that deeds explain about 70% of the effect on home retention, with the remainder coming from foreclosures. As many studies focus on foreclosures, we illustrate the importance of foreclosure assistance on deed transactions. Our results also add to the discussion of liquidity, as we find that subsidized monthly mortgage payments increase home retention while a borrower is unemployed. 

Works In Progress

"Decomposing Changes in Energy Efficiency: The Role of Building Codes"

"Do Emissions Tests Improve Vehicle Efficiency?"

"Land Use Regulation and Neighborhood Morphology: Evidence from Building Footprints" (with Noah Durst, and Danna Gutierrez Lanza, and Esther Sullivan)

"Manufactured Homes and Environmental (Dis)amenities" (with Noah Durst and Zachary Lamb)

"The Market for Third-Party Energy Assessors"

"Relighting  Detroit: Impacts on Crime and Traffic Accidents (with Soren Anderson, Prabhat Barnwal, Dylan Brewer, Alex Tybl, and Anna Wood)

"Single-Use Plastics and Pigou: Estimating the Willingness to Pay for Plastic Bags"