Katherine M. O'Regan

Professor of Public Policy and Planning; Director of Master of Science in Public Policy Program

212.998.7498
The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street
Room 3029
New York, NY 10012
On sabbatical 2018-2019
Katherine M. O'Regan

Katherine O'Regan is Professor of Public Policy and Planning at NYU Wagner. She also serves as Faculty Director of the Master of Science in Public Policy Program and Faculty Director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.  She spent April, 2014-January, 2017 in the Obama Administration, serving as the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley and spent ten years teaching at the Yale School of Management prior to joining the Wagner faculty in 2000. She teaches courses in microeconomics, poverty, program evaluation, and urban economics, and has received teaching awards from Berkeley, Yale, and NYU.

Her primary research interests are at the intersection of poverty and space --the conditions and fortunes of poor neighborhoods and those who live in them.  Her research includes work on a variety of affordable housing topics, from whether the Low Income Tax Credit contributes to increased economic and racial segregation, to whether the presence of housing voucher households contributes to neighborhood crime rates.   Recent work also includes several projects examining neighborhood transitions over the past few decades, including possible broad causes (changes in federal housing policy, and changes in crime, in particular), and outcomes (including possible displacement, and improvements in neighborhood conditions).  Among others, she has served on the board of the Reinvestment Fund, the advisory board for NYU's McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, and the editorial board for the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

The primary purpose of the microeconomics core course is to enable you to use microeconomic thinking, concepts and tools in your professional public service work. Accomplishing this also requires refreshing and strengthening your quantitative skills.

The course begins with the basics of supply and demand and market operations, and uses this as the context for considering consumer and organizational decisions within a given market structure. The course builds to applying economic analysis to a variety of public issues such as the effects of taxation, the market structure of health care, the impacts of the minimum wage, the effects of international trade and various approaches to environmental externalities.

By the end of the course you should be able to articulate the economic context and analysis of a public problem, use economic concepts in managerial and policy decisions, and progress to second level courses confident of your understanding of microeconomics and its tools.

Download Syllabus

The primary purpose of the microeconomics core course is to enable you to use microeconomic thinking, concepts and tools in your professional public service work. Accomplishing this also requires refreshing and strengthening your quantitative skills.

The course begins with the basics of supply and demand and market operations, and uses this as the context for considering consumer and organizational decisions within a given market structure. The course builds to applying economic analysis to a variety of public issues such as the effects of taxation, the market structure of health care, the impacts of the minimum wage, the effects of international trade and various approaches to environmental externalities.

By the end of the course you should be able to articulate the economic context and analysis of a public problem, use economic concepts in managerial and policy decisions, and progress to second level courses confident of your understanding of microeconomics and its tools.

Download Syllabus

The primary purpose of the microeconomics core course is to enable you to use microeconomic thinking, concepts and tools in your professional public service work. Accomplishing this also requires refreshing and strengthening your quantitative skills.

The course begins with the basics of supply and demand and market operations, and uses this as the context for considering consumer and organizational decisions within a given market structure. The course builds to applying economic analysis to a variety of public issues such as the effects of taxation, the market structure of health care, the impacts of the minimum wage, the effects of international trade and various approaches to environmental externalities.

By the end of the course you should be able to articulate the economic context and analysis of a public problem, use economic concepts in managerial and policy decisions, and progress to second level courses confident of your understanding of microeconomics and its tools.

Download Syllabus

The primary purpose of the microeconomics core course is to enable you to use microeconomic thinking, concepts and tools in your professional public service work. Accomplishing this also requires refreshing and strengthening your quantitative skills.

The course begins with the basics of supply and demand and market operations, and uses this as the context for considering consumer and organizational decisions within a given market structure. The course builds to applying economic analysis to a variety of public issues such as the effects of taxation, the market structure of health care, the impacts of the minimum wage, the effects of international trade and various approaches to environmental externalities.

By the end of the course you should be able to articulate the economic context and analysis of a public problem, use economic concepts in managerial and policy decisions, and progress to second level courses confident of your understanding of microeconomics and its tools.

Download Syllabus

2017

Abstract

The articles in this forum appearing in Housing Policy Debate help update the evidence on two key housing policies and help frame the broader issues. The title of this focus issue, People AND Place, captures two key points raised in the articles but which are worth repeating as they are themes of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) approach to our housing policy and more broadly.

First, housing policy is a both/and, not either/or proposition: people and place in terms of housing policies to support access to better places and policies to improve the places where low-income people live. Second, people and place is an acknowledgment that the ultimate goal of each approach is to foster better outcomes for people, with explicit recognition of the role and importance of place in shaping their opportunities, and life outcomes. This is true for all approaches, not just those that have been labeled place based.

Broadly, the articles and discussions (a) lay out what we know about housing policy impacts on people and places, with a focus on two of the largest federal policies; and (b) ask what might be the most fruitful way of framing and moving the people and place conversation forward? I am going to thread a bit between the articles to focus on five points.

2016

Abstract

New evidence on the effects of growing up in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty has heightened policy interest in understanding the role housing programs may play in shaping the distribution of poverty. In particular, as the nation’s largest source of funding for the construction of affordable rental housing, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) could play a critical role in shaping the distribution of poverty. This paper examines whether the LIHTC affects the concentration of poverty by examining who lives in tax credit developments in different neighborhoods, and how neighborhoods and metropolitan areas change after LIHTC developments are built. Through assessing both the effects of siting and tenant composition, we find little evidence that the LIHTC is increasing the concentration of poverty – and we find some evidence that it is reducing poverty rates in high-poverty neighborhoods. We also make suggestions for states who want to use LIHTC to do more to deconcentrate poverty.

2013

Abstract

Noting the decline in segregation between blacks and whites over the past several decades, some recent work argues that racial segregation is no longer a concern in the 21st century. In response, this paper revisits some of the concerns that John Quigley raised about racial segregation and neighborhoods to assess their relevance today. We note that while segregation levels between blacks and whites have certainly declined, they remain quite high; Hispanic and Asian segregation have meanwhile remained unchanged. Further, our analysis shows that the neighborhood environments of minorities continue to be highly unequal to those enjoyed by whites. Blacks and Hispanics continue to live among more disadvantaged neighbors, to have access to lower performing schools, and to be exposed to more violent crime. Further, these differences are amplified in more segregated metropolitan areas.

Abstract

Using tenant-level data from 18 states that represent almost 40% of all Low-Income Housing Tax Credit units, this article examines tenant incomes, rental assistance, and rent burdens to shed light on key questions about our largest federal supply-side affordable housing program. Specifically, what are the incomes of the tenants, and does this program reach those with extremely low incomes? What rent burdens are experienced, and is economic diversity within developments achieved? We find that approximately 45% of tenants have extremely low incomes, and the overwhelming majority of such tenants also receive some form of rental assistance. Rent burdens are lower than that for renters with similar incomes nationally but generally higher than that presumed for housing programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Rent burdens vary greatly by income level and are lowered by the sizable share of owners who charge below federal maximum rents. Finally, we find evidence of both economically diverse developments and those with concentrations of households with extremely low incomes.

Abstract

This paper offers several hypotheses about which US higher-income households choose to move into low-income neighbourhoods and why. It first explores whether the probability that a household moves into a relatively low-income neighbourhood (an RLIN move) varies with predicted household and metropolitan area characteristics. Secondly, it estimates a residential choice model to examine the housing and neighbourhood preferences of the households making such moves. Thirdly, it explores responses to survey questions about residential choices. Evidence is found that, in the US, households who place less value on neighbourhood services and those who face greater constraints on their choices are more likely to make an RLIN move. No evidence is found that households making RLIN moves are choosing neighbourhoods that are more accessible to employment. Rather, it is found that households making RLIN moves appear to place less weight on neighbourhood amenities than other households and more weight on housing costs.

2012

Abstract

Potential neighbors often express worries that Housing Choice Voucher holders heighten crime. Yet, no research systematically examines the link between the presence of voucher holders in a neighborhood and crime. Our article aims to do just this, using longitudinal, neighborhood-level crime, and voucher utilization data in 10 large US cities. We test whether the presence of additional voucher holders leads to elevated crime, controlling for neighborhood fixed effects, time-varying neighborhood characteristics, and trends in the broader sub-city area in which the neighborhood is located. In brief, crime tends to be higher in census tracts with more voucher households, but that positive relationship becomes insignificant after we control for unobserved differences across census tracts and falls further when we control for trends in the broader area. We find far more evidence for an alternative causal story; voucher use in a neighborhood tends to increase in tracts that have seen increases in crime, suggesting that voucher holders tend to move into neighborhoods where crime is elevated.

Abstract

Few researchers have studied integrated neighborhoods, yet these neighborhoods offer an important window into broader patterns of segregation.  We explore changes in racial integration in recent decades using decennial census tract data from 1990, 2000, and 2010.  We begin by examining changes in the prevalence of racially integrated neighborhoods and find significant growth in the presence of integrated neighborhoods during this time period, with the share of metropolitan neighborhoods that are integrated increasing from just under 20 percent to just over 30 percent.  We then shed light on the pathways through which these changes have occurred.  We find both a small increase in the number of neighborhoods becoming integrated for the first time during this period and a more sizable increase in the share of integrated neighborhoods that remained integrated.  Finally, we offer insights about which neighborhoods become integrated in the first place and which remain stably integrated over time.

2011

Abstract

This article examines an important potential justification for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, namely, whether participants are able to access safer neighborhoods. Using neighborhood crime and subsidized housing data for 91 large cities, we examined whether voucher holders are able to reach communities with lower levels of crime. We found that, in 2000, voucher households occupied neighborhoods that were about as safe as those housing the average poor renter household and were significantly safer than those in which households assisted through place-based programs lived. Notably, Black voucher holders lived in significantly lower crime neighborhoods than poor households of the same race, but Hispanic and White voucher holders did not. In a separate analysis of seven cities, we found that voucher holders lived in considerably safer neighborhoods in 2008 than they did in 1998, largely because crime rates fell more in the neighborhoods where voucher holders live than in other neighborhoods.

Ellen, Ingrid and Katherine O'Regan. Exploring Changes in Low-Income Neighborhoods in the 1990s. In Harriet Newburger, Eugenia Birch and Susan Wachter, Eds., Neighborhood and Life Chances: How Place Matters in Modern America.  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, pp. 103-121.
Ellen, Ingrid and Katherine O'Regan. Gentrification: Perspectives of Economists and Planners. In Nancy Brooks, Kieran Donaghy, and Gerrit Knaap, Eds., Handbook of Urban Economics and Planning.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming
Abstract

 

This paper examines whether the economic gains experienced by low-income neighborhoods in the 1990s followed patterns of classic gentrification (as frequently assumed) -- that is, through the in migration of higher income white, households, and out migration (or displacement) of the original lower income, usually minority residents, spurring racial transition in the process. Using the internal Census version of the American Housing Survey, we find no evidence of heightened displacement, even among the most vulnerable, original residents. While the entrance of higher income homeowners was an important source of income gains, so too was the selective exit of lower income homeowners. Original residents also experienced differential gains in income and reported greater increases in their satisfaction with their neighborhood than found in other low-income neighborhoods. Finally, gaining neighborhoods were able to avoid the losses of white households that non-gaining low income tracts experienced, and were thereby more racially stable rather than less.

Abstract

This paper addresses a critical but almost unexamined aspect of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program — whether its use (and in particular, the siting of developments in high-poverty/high-minority neighborhoods), is associated with increased racial segregation in the metropolitan area. Using data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Census, supplemented with data on the racial composition of LIHTC tenants in three states, we examine three potential channels through which the LIHTC could affect segregation: where LIHTC units are built relative to where other low income households live, who lives in these tax credit developments, and changes in neighborhood racial composition in neighborhoods that receive tax credit projects. The evidence on each of these channels suggests that LIHTC projects do not contribute to increased segregation, even those in high poverty neighborhoods. We find that increases in the use of tax credits are associated with declines in racial segregation at the metropolitan level.

2010

Abstract

The ‘flight from blight' and related literatures on urban population changes and crime have primarily considered times of high or increasing crime rates. Perhaps the most cited recent work in this area, Cullen and Levitt (1999), does not extend through 1990s, a decade during which crime rates declined almost continuously, to levels that were lower than experienced in decades. This paper examines whether such declines contributed to city population growth and retention (abated flight). Through a series of population growth models that attempt to identify causality through several strategies (including instrumental variables) we find at best weak evidence that overall city growth is affected by changes in crime. We find no evidence that growth is differentially sensitive to reductions in crime, as compared to increases. Focusing more narrowly on within MSA migration, residential decisions that are more likely to be sensitive to local conditions, we do find evidence supporting abatement of ‘flight' - that is, lower levels of crime in central cities in the 1990s are associated with lower levels of migration to the suburbs. This greater ability to retain residents already in the city does not appear to be accompanied by a greater ability to attract new households from the suburbs, or from outside of the metropolitan area.

Abstract

We argue in this paper that neighborhoods are highly relevant for the types of issues at the heart of regional science. First, residential and economic activity takes place in particular locations, and particular neighborhoods. Many attributes of those neighborhood environments matter for this activity, from the physical amenities, to the quality of the public and private services received. Second, those neighborhoods vary in their placement in the larger region and this broader arrangement of neighborhoods is particularly important for location choices, commuting behavior and travel patterns. Third, sorting across these neighborhoods by race and income may well matter for educational and labor market outcomes, important components of a region's overall economic activity. For each of these areas we suggest a series of unanswered questions that would benefit from more attention. Focused on neighborhood characteristics themselves, there are important gaps in our understanding of how neighborhoods change - the causes and the consequences. In terms of the overall pattern of neighborhoods and resulting commuting patterns, this connects directly to current concerns about environmental sustainability and there is much need for research relevant to policy makers. And in terms of segregation and sorting across neighborhoods, work is needed on better spatial measures. In addition, housing market causes and consequences for local economic activity are under researched. We expand on each of these, finishing with some suggestions on how newly available data, with improved spatial identifiers, may enable regional scientists to answer some of these research questions.

Abstract

We argue in this paper that neighborhoods are highly relevant for the types of issues at the heart of regional science. First, residential and economic activity takes place in particular locations, and particular neighborhoods. Many attributes of those neighborhood environments matter for this activity, from the physical amenities, to the quality of the public and private services received. Second, those neighborhoods vary in their placement in the larger region and this broader arrangement of neighborhoods is particularly important for location choices, commuting behavior and travel patterns. Third, sorting across these neighborhoods by race and income may well matter for educational and labor market outcomes, important components of a region's overall economic activity. For each of these areas we suggest a series of unanswered questions that would benefit from more attention. Focused on neighborhood characteristics themselves, there are important gaps in our understanding of how neighborhoods change - the causes and the consequences. In terms of the overall pattern of neighborhoods and resulting commuting patterns, this connects directly to current concerns about environmental sustainability and there is much need for research relevant to policy makers. And in terms of segregation and sorting across neighborhoods, work is needed on better spatial measures. In addition, housing market causes and consequences for local economic activity are under researched. We expand on each of these, finishing with some suggestions on how newly available data, with improved spatial identifiers, may enable regional scientists to answer some of these research questions.

2009

Abstract

The timing of this volume could not be more opportune. It is based on a 2007 conference to honor the work of Karl "Chip" Case, who is renowned for his scientific contributions to the economics of housing and public policy. The chapters analyze risk in the housing market, the regulation of housing markets by government, and other issues in U.S. housing policy. Chapters investigate derivative markets; the role that home equity insurance can play in reducing risk; the role that the regulation of government-sponsored enterprises has played in extending credit to home purchasers in low-income neighborhoods; and the growth in the market for subprime mortgages. The impact of local zoning regulations on housing prices and new construction is also considered. This is a must read during a time of restructuring our nation’s system of housing finance.

2008

Ellen, I.G., O'Regan, K. & Conger, D.. Dynamics of School Demographic Change: Immigrant Students and New York City. Education and Urban Society.
Abstract

The authors use a rich data set on New York City public elementary schools to explore how changes in immigrant representation have played out at the school level, providing a set of stylistic facts about the magnitude and nature of demographic changes in urban schools. They find that while the city experienced an overall increase in its immigrant representation over the 5 years studied, its elementary schools did not. Although the average school experienced little change during this period, a significant minority of schools saw sizable shifts. The change does not mirror the White flight and 'tipping' associated with desegregation but rather suggests a tendency to stabilize, with declines in immigrant enrollments concentrated in schools with larger immigrant populations at the outset. The authors also find that changes in the immigrant shares influence the composition of the school's students, and that overall school demographic changes do not mirror grade-level changes within schools.

Abstract

This paper offers new empirical evidence about the prospects of lower-income, US urban neighbourhoods during the 1990s. Using the Neighborhood Change Database, which offers a balanced panel of census tracts with consistent boundaries from 1970 to 2000 for all metropolitan areas in the US, evidence is found of a significant shift in the fortunes of lower-income, urban neighbourhoods during the 1990s. There was a notable increase in the 1990s in the proportion of lower-income and poor neighbourhoods experiencing a gain in economic status. Secondly, in terms of geographical patterns, it is found that this upgrading occurred throughout the country, not just in selected regions or cities. Finally, it is found that the determinants of changes in lower-income, urban neighbourhoods shifted during the 1990s. In contrast to earlier decades, both the share of Blacks and the poverty rate were positively related to subsequent economic gain in these neighbourhoods during the 1990s.

2002

Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between nonprofit board governance practices and government contracting. Monitoring by a board is one way a governmental agency can help to insure quality performance by its contractors. Agencies could thus use both their selection process and their post-contracting power to influence board practice. Using a new, rich data set on the nonprofit contractors of New York City, we test a series of hypotheses on the effects of government funding on board practices. We find that significant differences exist in board practices as a function of government funding levels, differences that mark a shift of focus or energy away from some activities, towards others. Trustees of nonprofits which receive high government funding are significantly less likely to engage in the traditional board functions, such as fund raising, while more likely to engage in financial monitoring and advocacy.

2000

Abstract

During the past decade, federal housing policy has shifted to recognize a key role for nonprofit housing providers in providing affordable housing. Two federal programs, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and HOME, are now the primary federal housing production programs, and the legislation governing both programs provides explicit support for nonprofit providers of new housing. This article focuses on these two programs to document the change in emphasis, looking at the extent to which resources flow to nonprofit providers. We explicate the rationale for this shift and speculate on future federal policy toward nonprofits.

We find that both programs channeled sizable shares of their funding to nonprofits throughout the 1990s, in patterns consistent with program design. It is also possible that the scale and form of funding itself has affected the nonprofit sector. Changes in the funding of nonprofits have not been uniform spatially, and the nonprofit sector's share of such funding appears to have leveled off. As currently structured, these programs do little to simplify the complicated financial dealings and multiple sources of funding common among nonprofit housing providers. Shifts in policy priorities and emerging financial stresses may necessitate changes in federal policy toward the nonprofit sector.

 

1999

O'Regan, K. & Quigley, J.M.. Accessibility and Economic Opportunity. in Essays in Transportation Economics and Policy: A Handbook in Honor of John R. Meyer, Brookings Institution Press.

1998

Abstract

This paper synthesises a series of empirical analyses investigating the role of urban space in affecting minority employment outcomes. It broadens the focus beyond transport and the 'friction of space' and expands the data available for spatial research. The empirical analyses share a common framework linking 'access' to youth labour market performance. The first set of results is based on aggregate data relating access to employment outcomes for black youth at the metropolitan level. Access is broadly defined to include traditional measures of geographical distance, as well as measures of social isolation or social access. Metropolitan areas in which the black poor are more spatially isolated are also found to have higher black youth unemployment rates. The second body of evidence relies on the same type of metropolitan measures, combined with individual data on youth living with at least one parent. When individual and family characteristics are controlled for, and white and Hispanic youth are also considered, metropolitan measures of social access exert distinguishable effects upon youth employment-youth living in urban areas in which they have less residential contact with whites or the non-poor are less likely to be employed. The final piece of analysis links the individual records of such youth to tract-level measures of access, both social (neighbourhood composition variables) and geographical (job-access measures). This is accomplished through the creation of a unique data set at the Bureau of the Census. Again, after controlling for individual and family characteristics, the residential conditions of youth affect their employment. Ceteris paribus, youth living in census tracts with fewer employed adults, with fewer whites, and which are further from jobs are less likely to be employed. Results suggest that the overall effects of space on employment outcomes are substantial, explaining 10-40 per cent of the observed racial differences in employment in...

1996

Abstract

Provides tests of the relative importance of spatial factors on employment outcomes of teenagers in the United States. Relations between youth employment probabilities to individuals and family characteristics; Sources of statistical problems in the interpretation of findings about youth employment; Concerns on the youth's choice of neighborhood.

Abstract

This paper tests the importance of the spatial isolation of minority and poverty households for youth employment in large metropolitan areas. We estimate a model relating youth employment probabilities to individual and family characteristics, race, and metropolitan location. We then investigate the determinants of the systematic differences in employment probabilities by race and metropolitan area. A substantial fraction of differences in youth employment can be attributed to the isolation of minorities and poor households. Minority youth residing in more segregated cities or cities in which minorities have less contact with nonpoor households have lower employment probabilities than otherwise comparable youth. Simulations suggest that these spatial effects explain a substantial fraction of the existing differences in youth employment rates by race.

1993

Abstract

This paper examines empirically the effect of spatially concentrated poverty on minority youth employment and the role of "access" in youth labor markets. A model, in which information about jobs travels through social networks, links labor market outcomes and residential concentration of poverty. The empirical work uses U.S. Census employment data for the largest MSAs, in 1970 and 1980. The key findings are that, although concentration appears to have had no effect on black youth unemployment in 1970, the results for 1980 support "concentration effects" on unemployment for both black and hispanic youth. These effects are sizeable on average, and quite large in some cities.