Sewin Chan

Associate Professor of Public Policy; Director of the PhD Program

212.998.7495
Sewin Chan

Sewin Chan is an economist who studies economic and financial risks faced by households. Her research includes mortgages and housing market risk, consumer credit behavior, housing for older people, the responsiveness of workers to financial retirement incentives, the impact of job loss at older ages, and Medicare enrollment decisions. Dr. Chan currently serves on the New York City Age Friendly Commission’s Working Group on Housing, and was previously a member of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans. She holds a B.A. from Cambridge University and a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University.

The Economics of Public Policy analyzes 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 use the tools of microeconomics and empirical analysis to answer these questions: When should the government intervene in the economy? How might the government intervene? And, what are the effects of those interventions on economic outcomes?  The course will include topics such as: income distribution and welfare programs, taxation and tax reform, government debt, market failures, Social Security, unemployment insurance and health insurance.

 
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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 Economics of Public Policy analyzes 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 use the tools of microeconomics and empirical analysis to answer these questions: When should the government intervene in the economy? How might the government intervene? And, what are the effects of those interventions on economic outcomes?  The course will include topics such as: income distribution and welfare programs, taxation and tax reform, government debt, market failures, Social Security, unemployment insurance and health insurance.

 
Download Syllabus

2016

Abstract

We use the American Housing Survey to examine the distribution and occupancy of homes that have, or could be modified to have, accessibility features that allow seniors to successfully remain in the community as they age. Despite the aging population and the growing need for accessible housing, the U.S. housing stock is woefully inadequate: fewer than 4% of housing units could be considered livable by people with moderate mobility difficulties, and a miniscule fraction are wheelchair accessible. Recent construction is no more likely to be accessible than homes built in the mid-1990s, suggesting that the housing market is not responding to the aging demographic profile. Only a small fraction of seniors, even among those with mobility difficulties, and even among recent movers, live in suitable homes. Modifications that potentially improve accessibility are more likely undertaken by households with a senior, but only once that senior develops mobility difficulties.

2015

Abstract

The mortgage default decision is part of a complex household credit management problem. We examine how factors affecting mortgage default spill over to other credit markets. As home equity turns negative, homeowners default on mortgages and HELOCs at higher rates, whereas they prioritize repaying credit cards and auto loans. Larger unused credit card limits intensify the preservation of credit cards over housing debt. Although mortgage non-recourse statutes increase default on all types of housing debt, they reduce credit card defaults. Foreclosure delays increase default rates for both housing and non-housing debts. Our analysis highlights the interconnectedness of debt repayment decisions.

Abstract

The American Housing Survey (AHS) is the most comprehensive national housing survey in the United States. Since 2009, AHS has included six core disability questions used in the American Community Survey. The questions address hearing, visual, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living difficulties for each household member. For 2011, AHS added a topical module on accessibility. The module asked about the presence of accessibility features in housing units, including wheelchair accessibility features, and whether the accessibility features were used or not. Together, these data provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine the accessibility of the U.S. housing stock and to ask whether people with disabilities reside in accessible homes.

In this report, we present summary measures of housing accessibility based on the 2011 AHS. To develop these summary measures, we examined United States (U.S.) and international standards and regulations regarding housing accessibility, reviewed the relevant literature, and conducted interviews with a set of disability and housing design experts. These interviews are further described in appendix A. Based on these summary measures, we describe how accessibility varies by housing market characteristics as well as resident characteristics such as age, disability status, and income. We also present evidence on the relationship between the need for and availability of accessible housing units, taking affordability of accessible units into account.

2014

Abstract

We use a detailed dataset of seriously delinquent mortgages to examine the dynamic process of mortgage default—from initial delinquency and default to final resolution of the loan and disposition of the property. We estimate a two-stage competing risk hazard model to assess the factors associated with post-default outcomes, including whether a borrower receives a legal notice of foreclosure. In particular, we focus on a borrower’s ability to avoid a foreclosure auction by getting a modification, by refinancing the loan, or by selling the property. We find that the outcomes of the foreclosure process are significantly related to: loan characteristics including the borrower’s credit history, current loan-to-value and the presence of a junior lien; the borrower’s post-default payment behavior, including the borrower’s participation in foreclosure counseling; neighborhood characteristics such as foreclosure rates, recent house price depreciation and median income; and the borrower’s race and ethnicity.

2013

Abstract

Using a rich database of non-prime mortgages from New York City, we find that census tract level neighborhood characteristics are important predictors of default behavior, even after controlling for an extensive set of controls for loan and borrower characteristics. First, default rates increase with the rate of foreclosure notices and the number of lender-owned properties (REOs) in the tract. Second, default rates on home purchase mortgages are higher in census tracts with larger shares of black residents, regardless of the borrower’s own race. We explore possible explanations for this second finding and conclude that it likely reflects differential treatment of black neighborhoods by the mortgage industry in ways that are unobserved in our data.

2012

Abstract

Because traditional Medicare leaves substantial gaps in coverage, many people obtain supplemental coverage to limit their exposure to out-of-pocket costs. However, some Medicare beneficiaries may not be well equipped to navigate the complex supplemental coverage landscape successfully because of their lower cognitive ability or numeracy—that is, the ability to work with numbers. We found that people in the lower third of the cognitive ability and numeracy distributions were at least eleven percentage points less likely than those in the upper third to enroll in a supplemental Medicare insurance plan. This result means that many Medicare beneficiaries do not have the financial protections and other benefits that would be available to them if they were enrolled in a supplemental insurance plan. Our findings suggest that policy makers may want to consider alternatives tailored to these high-need groups, such as enhanced education and enrollment programs, simpler sets of plan choices, or even some type of automatic enrollment with an option to decline coverage.

Abstract

This chapter examines the fiscal challenge posed by the aging of the U.S. population. We summarize the likely future of U.S. demographics, focusing on the evolution of the dependency ratio. We describe the main U.S. government programs related to aging and assess their fiscal positions. Forecasts for the unfunded liabilities in these programs exceed $40 trillion. We provide a review of economic theory useful for understanding the likely economic impact of budget deficits. We evaluate the fiscal adjustment that is likely to be needed given the 2009 status of the U.S. fiscal position and predicted demographic changes: it is likely to be approximately 8% of GDP, which, while large, is an adjustment that has been managed by many countries in the past. Finally, we provide a brief survey of potential policies to address the fiscal challenge of aging, and of economic research evaluating such policies.

2008

Abstract

This paper provides an answer to an important empirical puzzle in the retirement literature: while most people know little about their own pension plans, retirement behavior is strongly affected by pension incentives. We combine administrative and self-reported pension data to measure the retirement response to actual and perceived financial incentives and document an important role for self-reported pension data in determining retirement behavior. Well-informed individuals are far more responsive to pension incentives than the average individual. Ill-informed individuals seem to respond systematically to their own misperceptions of pension incentives.