Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy
295 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012
Tatiana Homonoff is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.
Her research focuses on identifying areas in which behavioral economics can improve public policy, primarily in the areas of tax policy, public assistance, and consumer finance. Prior to joining NYU, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. She recently served as a Faculty Fellow at the White House's Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST).
Homonoff received a Bachelor’s from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University.
Standard economic theory assumes that individuals are fully rational decision-makers; however, that is often not the case in the real world. Behavioral economics uses findings from lab and field experiments to advance existing economic models by identifying ways in which individuals are systematically irrational. This course gives an overview of key insights from behavioral science and identifies ways in which these findings have been used to advance policies on education, health, energy, taxation, and more. Additionally, this course will review how government agencies and non-profit organizations have used behavioral insights to improve social policy.
Public finance (the economic analysis of revenues and expenditures of the public sector) and public economics (economic analysis of the public sector in a market economy) analyze the impact of public policy on the allocation of resources and the distribution of income in the economy. In this course, you will learn how to interpret economic analyses and how to use the tools of microeconomics and empirical analysis to investigate and predict the effects of public expenditures, regulation and government revenue-raising activities.
Simple interventions like changing the default or sending a short message can induce individuals to save more for retirement. However, messages that emphasize high savings rates may increase the amount that savings plan participants save while reducing the total number of plan participants. We study this possibility in the context of a field experiment designed to increase retirement savings by U.S. military service-members. We find that service-members who received a message emphasizing a low contribution rate were more likely to participate in a savings plan than were service-members whose message emphasized a high contribution rate, or no rate at all.
Previous research on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) suggests that participants consume more food on days immediately following benefit issuance, prompting retailers to raise food prices to capture a portion of the transfer. Partly in response to such findings, some have called for states to stagger benefit issuance over multiple days of the month. To study the effect of staggering benefits, we link variation among states in the timing
of benefit issuance to a large panel of transaction-level data from households and retailers. We document large intra-month cycles in food expenditures among SNAP-eligible households that closely track state issuance policies. However, we rule out economically significant effects on retailer pricing, which suggests that staggering benefits would not meaningfully shape the incidence of SNAP benefits.
High-interest payday loans have proliferated in recent years; so too have efforts to regulate them. Yet how borrowers respond to such regulations remains largely unknown. Drawing on both administrative and survey data, we exploit variation in payday-lending laws to study the effect of payday loan restrictions on consumer borrowing. We find that although such policies are effective at reducing payday lending, consumers respond by shifting to other forms of high-interest credit (for example, pawnshop loans) rather than traditional credit instruments (for example, credit cards). Such shifting is present, but less pronounced, for the lowest-income payday loan users. Our results suggest that policies that target payday lending in isolation may be ineffective at reducing consumers’ reliance on high-interest credit.
Recent evidence suggests consumers fail to account for taxes that are excluded from a good's displayed price. Bounded rationality models predict such salience effects should decline with tax size but empirical evidence is lacking. We conducted a laboratory shopping experiment with real stakes to study the effect of tax size on salience. Our results rule out all but a modest effect: at most, taxpayers were 86 percent more unresponsive to an 8 percent tax compared to a 22 percent tax. Salience effects may persist at tax rates substantially greater than those currently employed in the United States.
This paper examines a simple element of financial incentive design whether the incentive takes the form of a fee for bad behavior or a reward for good behavior to determine if the framing of the incentive influences the policy's effectiveness. I investigate the effect of two similar policies aimed at reducing disposable bag use: a five-cent tax on disposable bag use and a five-cent bonus for reusable bag use. While the tax decreased disposable bag use by over forty percentage points, the bonus generated virtually no effect on behavior. These results are consistent with a model of loss aversion.
Recent evidence suggests consumers pay less attention to commodity taxes levied at the register than to taxes included in a good's posted price. If this attention gap is larger for high-income consumers than for low-income consumers, policymakers can manipulate a tax's regressivity by altering the fraction of the tax imposed at the register. We investigate income differences in attentiveness to cigarette taxes, exploiting state and time variation in cigarette excise and sales tax rates. Whereas all consumers respond to taxes that appear in cigarettes' posted price, our results suggest that only low-income consumers respond to taxes levied at the register.