ABFM Doctoral Student Profiles: Felipe Lozano Rojas

In preparation for ABFM’s upcoming conference, I am doing a series of profiles on the doctoral students on the job market.

Felipe Lozano Rojas (Indiana University – School of Public & Environmental Affairs) is on the ABFM conference schedule in several places:

  • Thursday, 1:45 PM, “Getting My Sugar Back: Effects of Soda Taxes Beyond Beverages”
  • Friday, 4PM, “Local Governments Fiscal Responses to the Opioid Epidemics”
  • Saturday, 8AM, “Do Sin Taxes Help Strengthen Local Government Finances?”

Maureen Pirog and I serve as Felipe’s dissertation committee chairs. Felipe’s minor was in data science, so big data topics (e.g. machine learning) are prevalent throughout his research that otherwise targets the intersection of public finance as social policy. His papers are also very long in their interrogation of the the topics he’s writing on. Here is a draft of one of his recent working papers:

Taxes on sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) are proposed with the promise to improve public health outcomes as people curve SSB consumption and thus, sugar intake, with price hikes, but they also come with an embedded equity concern due to their regressive nature. We evaluate the soda tax introduced by Berkeley in 2015 with two questions in mind: What has been the effect of the policy in actual sugar intake, and what are the differences in treatment effects across income groups. This article is the first to get closer to the aim of the policy by looking at actual sugar intake, feeding retailer POS data with the matched Nutrition Fact information on sugar. I find that sugar intake has fallen, but at a lower rate if compared to liquid content changes, an indication that the policy has provided an incentive to buy SSBs with higher sugar concentration. Furthermore, the evaluation is incomplete if equity is not addressed as well, especially when the public health concern affects low-income households disproportionately. By taking advantage of the richness in POS data, I follow baskets representing income groups’ SSB consumption. We find that the reduction in sugar and liquid consumption has been fairly homogeneous across the different baskets, with the middle income groups’ baskets facing the deepest reduction in consumption of sugar and liquid and the lowest hike in prices.

Felipe has couple of published papers and a recent revise and resubmit at National Tax Journal on the incidence of state sales tax holidays. He also has papers under review on cash subsidies for college loans using data from his work at the World Bank, which may prove to be informative to policy debates currently under way. His website and CV are available here.

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