Tatiana Homonoff

Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy

212-998-7443
The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street
Room 3046
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.

Download Syllabus

Public economics uses the tools of microeconomics and empirical analysis to study the impact of government policies on economic behavior and the distribution of resources in the economy. The course begins with a review of market failures and preferences for income redistribution to answer questions such as: When should the government intervene in the economy? How might the government intervene? And, what are the effects of those interventions on economic outcomes? Topics include issues related to revenue spending (e.g., education, means-tested programs, social insurance) and revenue raising (e.g., tax incidence, tax efficiency, personal income taxes).

Download Syllabus

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.

Download Syllabus

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.

Download Syllabus

Public economics uses the tools of microeconomics and empirical analysis to study the impact of government policies on economic behavior and the distribution of resources in the economy. The course begins with a review of market failures and preferences for income redistribution to answer questions such as: When should the government intervene in the economy? How might the government intervene? And, what are the effects of those interventions on economic outcomes? Topics include issues related to revenue spending (e.g., education, means-tested programs, social insurance) and revenue raising (e.g., tax incidence, tax efficiency, personal income taxes).

Download Syllabus

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.

Download Syllabus

Public economics uses the tools of microeconomics and empirical analysis to study the impact of government policies on economic behavior and the distribution of resources in the economy. The course begins with a review of market failures and preferences for income redistribution to answer questions such as: When should the government intervene in the economy? How might the government intervene? And, what are the effects of those interventions on economic outcomes? Topics include issues related to revenue spending (e.g., education, means-tested programs, social insurance) and revenue raising (e.g., tax incidence, tax efficiency, personal income taxes).

Download Syllabus

2019

Abstract

We document low rates of recertification for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which we attribute partly to procedural issues associated with the recertification process. Current recipients, who must complete a recertification interview by the end of their recertification month, are 9 percentage points less likely to recertify when assigned an interview date at the end rather than the beginning of the month. The majority of these cases “churn” back on the program shortly after suggesting that these discontinuations were likely not due to ineligibility. The effects are larger for long-term recipients and cases with children, characteristics associated with higher need.

Abstract

Can financial incentives induce healthy behaviors? We examine this question by evaluating a large-scale wellness program at a major American university. The program offers gym membership reimbursements for students who attend the gym at least 50 times in a six-month period. Our analysis exploits individual-level administrative data on daily gym attendance for the universe of students over a five-year period: the three years that the policy was in place, one year before implementation, and one year after termination. This provides us with 100,000 student-year observations and 1.5 million gym visits. Using a combination of bunching methods and difference-in-difference strategies, we provide four empirical results. First, we document significant bunching at the 50-visit threshold in years when the policy is in place. Second, we show that this effect translates into a statistically significant and economically meaningful increase in gym attendance: the program increased average gym visits by almost five visits per semester, a 20% increase from the mean. Third, we show that the policy not only motivated students who were previously near the threshold, but that it increased attendance across the entire visit distribution. Finally, we show that approximately 50% of the effect persists after program termination, providing strong evidence of habit formation. Taken together, these results suggest that rebate-framed incentives with a high attendance threshold can successfully induce healthy behaviors in the short-term, and also create new habits in the long-run.

Abstract

Traditional financial literacy interventions are frequently ineffective at improving financial outcomes. We test an alternative approach using a field experiment with over 400,000 student loan borrowers in which treatment group members received communications about the availability of their FICO Score, a personalized metric of creditworthiness. Treatment messages led to a large reduction in the likelihood of having a past due account, an improvement that also contributed to a significant increase in FICO Scores. Survey data on a subsample of borrowers find treatment group members were less likely to overestimate their own FICO Score, indicating the intervention may correct for overoptimism.

Abstract

Tax authorities must make many decisions about how to present payment incentives to
taxpayers. We analyze a large field experiment conducted in partnership with the Colorado
Department of Revenue to study the effect of varying the presentation of financial and non-
financial incentives in tax delinquency notices. We find that making salient the specifics of
a financial penalty for nonpayment can modestly raise the payment rate among delinquent
taxpayers. We find suggestive evidence that describing the existence of a penalty (but not its
details) can also raise payments, but to a lesser degree. In contrast, emphasizing social norms
for timely payment yields a point estimate that is near zero and statistically insignificant. The
effects we observe are concentrated among taxpayers with low balances due. Our results suggest
that attention to seemingly minor decisions about the wording of notices sent by tax authorities
can reduce administrative costs associated with taxpayer delinquency.

2018

Abstract

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.

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests consumers fail to account for taxes that are excluded from a good’s displayed price. What is less understood is whether and how such “salience effects” depend on the magnitude of the tax. We conduct a laboratory shopping experiment with real stakes to study the effect of tax size on salience. We find no evidence that salience effects decline as the tax rate increases; we document a statistically significant salience effect at a tax rate that is considerably larger than the tax rates at which such effects have been previously documented. In fact, our results are more consistent with the hypothesis that higher taxes make consumers less attentive (at least for the range of taxes we consider). This result can be explained by a confirmation bias theory of salience: consumers tend to disregard information (like a tax) that does not align with their intention to purchase an item, and this lack of alignment increases in the size of the tax.

Rizwan Javaid, Brenda Schafer, Jacob Goldin, Adam Isen, and Tatiana Homonoff. Can IRS move paper-filers to assisted tax preparation?. IRS White Paper, 2018.

2017

Abstract

In-kind benefit transfer programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP) are an increasingly important part of the U.S. safety net. Because states issue SNAP
benefits to each recipient once per month, retailers experience predictable cyclicality in consumer demand for food. In response to these fluctuations, retailers face incentives to vary
food prices throughout the month, potentially shaping the incidence of the benefits transferred
through the SNAP program. Using a large panel data set from households and retailers, we
document large intra-month cycles in food expenditures among that closely track state issuance policies. However, we find evidence that retailers do not vary their prices in response
to such fluctuations by an economically significant magnitude. This finding is consistent with
recent evidence showing that grocery retailers largely adopt a strategy of uniform pricing at
the expense of substantial increases in profits.

Abstract

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.

2016

Abstract

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.

2013

Abstract

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.