Policy Analysis

Preserving History or Restricting Development: The Heterogenous Effects of Historic Districts on Local Housing Markets in New York City

Preserving History or Restricting Development: The Heterogenous Effects of Historic Districts on Local Housing Markets in New York City
Journal of Urban Economics, Available online, 21 Dec, 2015

Vicki Been, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Michael Gedal, Edward Glaeser, and Brian McCabe
01/10/2016

Since Brooklyn Heights was designated as New York City's first landmarked neighborhood in 1965, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated 120 historic neighborhoods in the city. This paper develops a theory in which landmarking has heterogeneous impacts across neighborhoods and exploits variation in the timing of historic district designations in New York City to identify the effects of preservation policies on residential property markets. We combine data on residential transactions during the 35-year period between 1974 and 2009 with data from the Landmarks Preservation Commission on the location of the city's historic districts and the timing of the designations. Consistent with theory, properties just outside the boundaries of districts increase in value after designation. Further, designation raises property values within historic districts, but only outside of Manhattan. As predicted, impacts are more positive in areas where the value of the option to build unrestricted is lower. Impacts also appear to be more positive in districts that are more aesthetically appealing.

The CBO’s Crystal Ball: How Well Did It Forecast the Effects of the Affordable Care Act?

The CBO’s Crystal Ball: How Well Did It Forecast the Effects of the Affordable Care Act?
S. Glied, A. Arora, and C. Solís-Román, The CBO’s Crystal Ball: How Well Did It Forecast the Effects of the Affordable Care Act? The Commonwealth Fund, December 2015.

Sherry A. Glied, Anupama Arora, Claudia Solis-Roman
12/15/2015

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan agency of Congress, made official projections of the Affordable Care Act’s impact on insurance coverage rates and the costs of providing subsidies to consumers purchasing health plans in the insurance marketplaces. This analysis finds that the CBO overestimated marketplace enrollment by 30 percent and marketplace costs by 28 percent, while it underestimated Medicaid enrollment by about 14 percent. Nonetheless, the CBO’s projections were closer to realized experience than were those of many other prominent forecasters. Moreover, had the CBO correctly anticipated income levels and health care prices in 2014, its estimate of marketplace enrollment would have been within 18 percent of actual experience. Given the likelihood of additional reforms to national health policy in future years, it is reassuring that, despite the many unforeseen factors surrounding the law’s rollout and participation in its reforms, the CBO’s forecast was reasonably accurate.

Wholesale Prices, Retail Prices and the Lumpy Pass-Through of Alcohol Taxes

Wholesale Prices, Retail Prices and the Lumpy Pass-Through of Alcohol Taxes

Rao, Nirupama S. (with Chris Conlon)
11/11/2015

This paper examines the pass-through of taxation in the market for distilled spirits. By using detailed UPC level data from Nielsen Homescan, as well as state specific wholesale prices from the regulator in Connecticut we are able to measure the pass-through rate of taxation at both the wholesale and the retail level. We find that pass-through of taxes to wholesale prices is incomplete and approximately 70% while pass-through of taxation to retail prices is often excess of 100 and as high as 160%, consistent with other results on the pass-through of excise taxes for spirits. This over-shifting of the tax burden onto consumers is difficult to rationalize with profit maximizing firm behavior and log-concave demand (such as Linear Demand, Logit, or Probit). We offer an alternative explanation which incorporates dynamics in price adjustment, and shows that large pass-through rates are an artifact of small tax increases and lumpy price adjustment via $1.00 increments. When firms follow an (s, S) rule, this has implications for a policy where tax-increases minimize over-shifting behavior that generates additional deadweight loss per unit of government revenue.

Participation in the Wake of Adversity: Blame Attribution and Policy-Oriented Evaluations

Participation in the Wake of Adversity: Blame Attribution and Policy-Oriented Evaluations
Levin, I., Sinclair, J. A., & Alvarez, R. M. (2015). Participation in the Wake of Adversity: Blame Attribution and Policy-Oriented Evaluations. Political Behavior, 1-26.

Levin, Ines and J. Andrew Sinclair and R. Michael Alvarez
09/05/2015

In this paper we investigate to what extent perceptions of economic conditions, policy-oriented evaluations, and blame attribution affected Californians’ involvement in political activities in 2010. We use a statistical methodology that allows us to study not only the behavior of the average citizen, but also the behavior of “types” of citizens with latent predispositions that incline them toward participation or abstention. The 2010 election is an excellent case study, because it was a period when citizens were still suffering the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis and many were concerned about the state’s budgetary crisis. We find that individuals who blamed one of the parties for the problems with the budget process, and who held a position on the 2010 Affordable Care Act, were often considerably more likely to participate. We also find, however, that the impact of economic evaluations, positions on the health care reform, and blame attributions was contingent on citizens’ latent participation propensities and depended on the class of political activity.

The Role of Design-Build Procurement

The Role of Design-Build Procurement
Rudin Center for Transportation, sponsored by RBC Capital Markets and the Association for a Better New York


06/24/2015

In 2011, the New York State Legislature approved and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the New York State Infrastructure Investment Act. The new law authorized five state agencies – the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the New York State Thruway Authority, and the New York State Bridge Authority – to manage the delivery of construction projects using a method known in the industry as “Design-Build.”

Design-Build is a form of project delivery in which a public agency or private sector owner enters into a single contract with a single entity (usually a construction firm) that takes full responsibility for both design and construction of the project. The 2011 law also authorized the five agencies to hire firms based on qualifications and innovation, not just the lowest bid.

When used appropriately, Design-Build can effectively reduce the time required to complete a project, reduce the cost of a project, provide clearer accountability for a project, and encourage more innovation in design and construction.

Using Comparative Analysis to Address Health System Caricatures

Using Comparative Analysis to Address Health System Caricatures
International Journal of Health Services; 44(3): 547–559. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/HS.44.3.g

Gusmano, MK. Rodwin, VG. and Weisz, D.
07/29/2014

To learn from health care systems abroad, we must move beyond simplistic characterizations and compare different systems with respect to salient performance measures. Despite findings from recent cross-national studies suggesting that many health care systems outperform the United States, claims by U.S. public officials often fail to acknowledge the actual accomplishments of health care systems abroad. We document significant variation among the United States and France, Germany, and England, which provide universal coverage, albeit in different ways. As previously documented, the United States has the highest rate of mortality amenable to health care. We extend this work by adding two indicators: (a) access to timely and effective primary care as measured by hospital discharges for avoidable hospital conditions; and (b) use of specialty services as indicated by coronary revascularization (bypass surgery and angioplasty), adjusted for the burden of coronary artery disease. Our findings indicate that: (a) the United States suffers the gravest consequences of financial barriers to primary care; (b) in all four countries, older people (65+) receive fewer revascularizations than their younger counterparts once we account for disease burden; and (c) in France, patients receive the most revascularizations, after adjusting for the burden of disease.

Decentralization in Uganda: Reforms, Reversals, and an Uncertain Future

Decentralization in Uganda: Reforms, Reversals, and an Uncertain Future
In Tyler Dickovich and James Wunsch, eds., Decentralization in Africa: A Comparative Perspective. (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2014).

Smoke, P., W. Muhumuza and E. Ssewankambo
07/25/2014

Uganda was long considered one of the most successful cases of public sector devolution in the developing world. The post-conflict national government began robust empowerment of local governments in the early 1990s. The drive for reform emerged largely from domestic political forces with little involvement of the external donor agencies that have often promoted decentralization in countries with similar development profiles. Two decades after this highly touted reform began, the system has severely deteriorated on almost every aspect by which decentralization is usually judged. This chapter documents the economic, political and social dynamics that led to the rise of decentralization and also laid the foundation for its decline. The chapter concludes by suggesting possible future scenarios for the intergovernmental system in Uganda and drawing potential lessons for other countries considering such bold reforms.

What Passes and Fails as Health Policy and Management

What Passes and Fails as Health Policy and Management
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law; 39 (5): 1113-1126. doi: 10.1215/03616878-2813719

Rodwin, VG. and Chinitz, DP.
07/18/2014

The field of health policy and management (HPAM) faces a gap between theory, policy and practice. Despite decades of efforts at reforming health policy and health care systems, prominent analysts state that the health system is ‘‘stuck’’ and that models for change remain ‘‘aspirational.’’ We discuss four reasons for the failure of current ideas and models for redesigning health care: (1) the dominance of microeconomic thinking; (2) the lack of comparative studies of health care organizations and the limits of health management theory in recognizing the importance of local contexts; (3) the separation of HPAM from the rank and file of health care, particularly physicians; and (4) the failure to expose medical students to issues of HPAM. We conclude with suggestions for rethinking how the field of HPAM might generate more promising policies for health care providers and managers by abandoning the illusion of context-free theories and, instead, seeking to facilitate the processes by which organizations can learn to improve their own performance.

Can Democracy Survive Democracy

Can Democracy Survive Democracy
Public Administration Review Vol 74 Issue 4

David Elcott
06/04/2014

A review of Cornell W. Clayton and Richard Elgar, eds, Civility and Democracy in America: A Reasonable Understanding (Pullman, Washington: Washington State University Press, 2012).The focus is on the historical activist role of religion in policy formulation and implementation in the U.S. and the implications for present day faith communities' engagement in the public arena.

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