ABFM Doctoral Student Profiles: Ani Ter-Mkrtchyan

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

Ani Ter-Mkrtchyan (University of Oklahoma – Political Science) will be presenting “Political Environments, Public Finance Outcomes and Financial Development” at the conference. Her dissertation (chaired by Hank Jenkins-Smith) is on Governance, Ideology and the Nuclear Waste Stalemate in the USA. I have the first part of her job market paper, “Global Financial System Outcomes after 2008: A Longitudinal Comparison,” here is the abstract:

The paper examines the condition of global financial systems before and after the 2008 financial crisis that was felt worldwide. Using a comparative perspective, we assess longitudinal trends in the functioning of the financial systems to explore the nature of financial market recovery and how financial system outcomes may have been on a different trajectory after 2008 than they were before 2008. We measure financial system outcomes across four dimensions: financial depth, access, efficiency, and stability. In addition, we compare differences in the level of development of a country to explore how variations in the external environment for a country’s financial system influenced the rate of decline in 2008 as well as the rate of recovery after 2008. Our findings indicate that the recovery of financial system outcomes was stronger for developed countries as opposed to transition and developing economies. As suspected, we also find evidence for the impact of the environmental context on financial system outcomes. In particular, the correlations are stronger for regulatory quality and the rule of law: political stability seems to have no effect on financial system outcomes for the 180 cases in our study.

Visit Ani’s website to learn more.

ABFM Doctoral Student Profiles: Chuanyi Guo

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

Chuanyi Guo (University of Illinois-Chicago, Department of Economics) is presenting “The Impact of State Intervention on School District Fiscal Performance: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design” on Saturday morning at 8am. This is also his job market paper, which has an R&R at the National Tax Journal, and the abstract is as follows:

State monitoring and intervention has been implemented to reveal and address fiscal problems in local governments, yet we know very little about its role in promoting financial performance in a causal sense. This paper estimates the causal effect of state intervention on fiscal performance of monitored school districts by using district-level administrative data from Illinois State Board of Education. Utilizing the system design that only low-performing districts receive intervention from the state, I employ a regression discontinuity design based on financial indicators that are introduced in the system to evaluate fiscal positions and determine intervention. Results indicate that there are precisely zero effects on future financial outcomes of school districts. However, in heterogeneity analysis, I document statistically significant positive impacts on financial indicators reflecting long-run fiscal health in a relatively long term for districts with certain characteristics. For elementary school districts, I show that state intervention improves the long-term debt capacity remaining by 15-20 percentage points more on average for districts just receiving the intervention in three to four years since the intervention, compared to those barely not. This indicates that they are less reliant on issuing long-term debt in order to meet obligations. Similarly, among accrual basis school districts, I find that the intervention decreases the value of Expenditure to Revenue Ratio by 0.035-0.050 unit more for districts barely receiving the intervention, suggesting that their budget is becoming more structurally balanced.

His dissertation committee is chaired by Darren Lubotsky and David Merriman. Check out Guo’s website to find his CV and other working papers.

ABFM Doctoral Student Profiles: Juniper Katz

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

Juniper Katz is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado Denver. She will be presenting “Built to Last: Endowment Building Strategies and Repercussions for Charitable Nonprofits” in the 11:00am Thursday session.

Juniper is an environment and nonprofit scholar with applied and academic research experience. Juniper has two areas of research. One focuses on nonprofit financial management and the other focuses on citizen-state interactions in environmental policy settings.

Her dissertation, The Effects of Land Conservation Policy on the Creation of Public Values, examines how the process of land conservation policy implementation not only produces policy outcomes, but also changes how citizens and nonprofits conceive of their obligations to society. Using original surveys, text analysis, and content coding, she finds that agency managers use instrumental policy purposes to define a set of preferred values that are conveyed to landowners during implementation. The effect of such value conveyance was the voluntary adoption of new conservation practices by landowners. When asked why agency value promotion was meaningful, landowners report an increased awareness of the public benefit of their actions. These insights expand conventional understandings of democracy by including public administration in the creation and enforcement of public values.

She has a paper from the dissertation under peer review. In addition to the dissertation paper, Juniper has several other publications:

  • A solo-authored paper that examines the effects of policy belief on the perceptions of actors engaged in debates over hydraulic fracking in New York was published in Review of Policy Research in 2018.
  • A co-authored publication in the Journal Environmental Policy & Planning examines advocacy coalitions engaged in policy change in Indian shale gas development.
  • A publication in Review of Policy Research analyzes the use of policy narratives in assessing the politics of climate and air issues.

Prior to returning to graduate school, Juniper worked for ten years in land and water conservation and was a nonprofit executive director. In that work, she raised over $5 million in grant awards for operations and program support from local, state, and federal sources and protected over 49,000 acres of agricultural, natural, and recreational land. Her applied experience informs her nonprofit and environmental policy research and teaching.

Juniper’s website and CV can be found at: juniperkatz.com

ABFM Doctoral Student Profiles: Andrew Duggan

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

Andrew “Andy” Duggan is a fourth year PhD candidate, and a Graduate Teaching Assistant of Public Policy and Administration at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs in Richmond, Virginia.  He’ll be presenting “State Environmental Agency Budgets: Providing a Portal into Focal Determinants and Key Moderating Roles” in the Saturday 9:30am session. His key research interest—and dissertation under the supervision of Professor Wenli Yan—examines political, legal, and institutional determinants to national and subnational agency appropriations drawing from the fields of public budgeting, public administration, economics, and environmental policy.  Current research efforts also include exploring the linkages between risk perceptions, policy processes, and governmental responsiveness to civil society in the context of human and ecological risks.  A separate qualitative research project underway investigates the participation and utilization of public health benefit programs drawing from a behavioral framework.  In addition, he is working on pilot research in the area of alternative delivery through the lens of principle agent theory; public choice theory; and transactional cost economics to explain barriers to privatization of information technology functions.

Andy has also has a co-authored article on the costs and benefits of distributed solar energy in the Journal of Environmental Management and Planning. You can find his CV here.

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.

ABFM Doctoral Student Profile: JoEllen Pope

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

JoEllen Pope (UNC-Charlotte, Public Policy) is presenting “New Public Disaster Management: Does Managerial Discretion Impact Organizational Performance” in the 8:00 session on Friday. She has a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Emergency Management. She is a practicing Certified Public Accountant with over twenty years’ experience and served as a firefighter for seven years. Her dissertation, supervised by Dr. Suzanne M. Leland, is titled Flooded with Complexity: Do Organizational Structural Complexity, Coordination, and Managerial Discretion Impact Natural Disaster Preparedness?.  JoEllen will defend her dissertation Fall 2019. She has a publication on political influences over county-level election administration expenditures in the American Journal of Political Science, two at Social Science Quarterly, one at Urban Affairs Review, and another three papers under review. JoEllen researches public finance, emergency preparedness and disaster, and local election administration finance. Here is the abstract of her job market paper, which is the paper being presented at ABFM:

Between 1953 and February 2017, United States presidents declared 2288 major natural disaster declarations and 369 emergency declarations (FEMA, 2017). Hurricane Katrina alone affected 31 colleges and universities in the areas along the Gulf Coast (Kapucu & Khosa, 2013). Improved preparedness performance can impact response effectiveness (Kapucu, 2008). Organizational performance is a global issue regarding how management influences the performance of public organizations and how we measure it (Boyne et. al., 2006). Also, allocation of resources and decision-making are key areas of research (Pugh et al., 1968). Previous literature on public management presents a gap regarding institutions of higher education (IHE). This is especially important since public and private nonprofit colleges include over 90% of enrollment (NCES, 2016). Regarding IHEs and performance of the natural disaster preparedness function, this study asks: How do we measure preparedness outputs? How does budgetary discretion affect performance? How does the centralization of decision-making affect performance? and How does organizational red tape affect it? New public management (NPM) reforms to improve effectiveness and efficient have impacted public sector over last 25 years (Christensen & Laegreid, 2011; Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2004). As a part of NPM, public managerialism claims that there is a similar set of management skills and methods that are applicable to public organizations and there is a shift in emphasis from inputs to outputs and outcomes (Pollitt, 1998; Christensen & Laegreid, 2011). This study uses survey data merged with secondary data on IHEs to perform exploratory factor and regression analysis to answer these questions.

Find more of JoEllen Pope’s research, teaching, and interests see her website here.

ABFM Doctoral Student Profile: Andrew Grandage

Andrew J. Grandage is a PhD Candidate, Academic Advisor, and Instructor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at The University of Georgia. His research focuses on issues concerning public management, specifically acquisition, project, performance, and financial management. Andrew will be presenting research from his dissertation (chaired by Katherine Willoughby), Turning the Project Management Lights On: Earned Value Management in the States, Saturday at 8 AM.

Andrew’s dissertation explores the growing role of Enterprise Project Management Offices in aligning business and project management practices with organizational strategies and operational goals. Specifically, he examines how Earned Value Management (EVM), a practice with an extensive history in the U.S. federal government, can be used as an effective performance management and budgeting system in state government. In the project management community, EVM is often referred to as “project management with the lights on”. Notably, the academic fields of public administration have yet to contribute to the EVM body of knowledge, despite its historical role in professional practice.

In the early portion of his career, Andrew was a financial analyst at Harris Corporation (now L3Harris Technologies), a major aerospace defense and information communications technology contractor. During his time at Harris, he worked in government acquisition, project, performance, and financial management. His research is heavily motivated by his professional experiences, namely implementing EVM and other performance management tools for the U.S. federal government and in a multitude of other environments.

It is from Andrew that I learned that China used more concrete from 2011 to 2013 than did the United States in the entire 20th century.

ABFM Doctoral Student Profile: David Schwegman

David J. Schwegman (Maxwell-Syracuse) will be presenting “Do Street-Level Bureaucrats Discriminate against Racial and Sexual Minorities? Evidence from a Correspondence Study of Property Assessors” in the 9:30am Friday session. He will also be presenting his job market paper “Fiscal Spillovers from Local Property Tax Relief: Evidence from New York State” in the 11am Friday session. Here is the abstract for his job market paper:

This paper investigates if state aid to one type of government affects the fiscal decisions of a different overlapping government. Specifically, I exploit the change in the tax price for education services induced by the New York State School Tax Relief (STAR) program to identify the effect of intergovernmental aid for school districts on the fiscal decisions of overlapping county governments. I find that a 10 percent reduction in the tax price for education services increases county-level spending per household by approximately 0.84 percent, property tax levies by 1.45 percent, and long-term debt per household by 0.78 percent. I then examine whether changes in county spending translated into changes in county-level outcomes. I do not find any evidence that changes in school district tax price are associated with changes in county-level outcomes. Although the limited number of outcomes I am able to examine do not capture the full range of outcomes that residents value, these results do suggest that the increase in county spending induced by STAR was not used productively. Thus, this increase in spending may not be welfare maximizing. This is the first paper to examine if there is a fiscal spillover of intergovernmental aid onto the fiscal behavior of an overlapping, non-recipient government.

His dissertation, which is chaired by Robert Bifulco, examines property tax administration and policy. David’s research interests are in state and local public finance, financial management, education policy and finance, and experimental studies of discrimination. In addition to these papers, David has several other interesting papers:

  • A solo-authored paper that examines rental market discrimination against same-sex couples, which was published in Housing Policy Debate in 2019.
  • A publication in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management that examines the effects of accountability-driven school closure on student outcomes.
  • A publication in the National Tax Journal that examines the effects of Georgia’s education specific local option sales tax on the fiscal behavior of local school districts.
  • He also has a co-authored paper on the effects of high stakes teacher evaluations on the supply and quality of new teachers with a revise and resubmit at the Journal of Public Economics.

His website can be found: https://djschweg.weebly.com/


RIP, John L. Mikesell


Last Thursday, John Mikesell passed away after a prolonged bout with cancer, about which I will just say that he was characteristically stubborn to the end.

As a walking encyclopedia of tax policy, John was a giant in public finance, collecting lifetime achievement awards from the National Tax Association and the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management. He was longtime editor of Public Budgeting and Finance, and served in numerous practitioner positions in service to the public. John was a Bloomington-born Indiana native, so he was particularly touched to receive the Sagamore of the Wabash award from the governor in recognition of his years of service in advising the legislature on public revenue forecasts and all manner of tax policy subjects.

If you’d like to walk through a “vintage Mikesell” article, you would do well with this working paper from last year on Retail Sales Taxation in the New Economy. He had a knack for exploring a topic in a way that cut directly to the questions policy makers were asking.  However, John was famous for his footnotes. I still read his papers all footnotes first, and if you follow in suit you’ll be rewarded with interesting anecdotes, historical details, and amusing jabs at legislators. My favorite “Mikesellian Footnote” is the first in a paper summarizing state programs that granted amnesty to self-reporting tax delinquents:

The first tax amnesty on record was reported on the Rosetta stone, an amnesty declared by Ptolemy V Epiphanes in Egypt, circa 200 BC. The stone itself expressed the appreciation of the priesthood for the program. It is not clear whether any state amnesties were based on this experience.

It is difficult to unite his work as he published on virtually every subject in public finance, but I will try to do so briefly. In my estimation, John was a very Schumpeterian scholar. Joseph Schumpeter is best known for his characterizing of capitalism as “creative destruction,” but what brings him and John together was their mode of inquiry in studying both history and how organizations really worked at a practical level. Schumpeter, for instance, required all of his econ PhD students to take accounting, rationalizing that anyone who didn’t understand t-accounts wouldn’t understand business production choices. John likewise approached subjects this way but to greater lengths. For John, to study something like sales taxes in the American states meant he studied how states taxed sales and he would start at the cash register. He would learn how everyone from the cashier, to the tax accountant, to the tax lawyer writing the legislation would have to do their job. Ideally, he would try to figure out how everyone’s jobs evolved over time. How did resource-constrained state tax collector’s enforce the use tax during the Great Depression? Pull over and search moving vans!

This approach began in his earliest work with his Masters thesis under John Due who, in addition to his father (also an IU public finance scholar), was an important professional role model for him. With admiration John said that Due in his sixties would arrive early in the morning so excited to get back to his work that he would run down the hallway when he’d reach his floor. John likewise loved his work and only sped up his research program in his retirement.

Not only did I never hear John once complain of his students or his teaching, he described it as his main reason for continuing his university employment. Research was fun, and service was a tolerable exchange for the gifts of teaching. His only reason for retiring was that he could not trust his health well enough to commit to teaching for a full semester. He liked writing exam questions, preparing notes, pulling examples from the news, etc. He thought serving as a member of the Indiana Revenue Technical Forecast Committee made him a better teacher even after many decades of service, so he stuck with that to the very end as well. He was proud of his students, and had a way of charming them with a gruff demeanor.

Speaking of demeanor, I think everyone who encountered John would come away with a story of him. For some he was an acquired taste and this was not hard to understand. A friendly colleague once remarked that he had the perfect mustache for his personality, an observation John would find amusing because this was not entirely unintentional. While he was outwardly very witty, I hope this anecdote conveys his subtle humor-behind-the-stern style that students would learn to love over a 16 week semester after perhaps fearing it in week 1. It has been my fortune to have had eleven years.


*The Lifecycle of the 47 Percent*

My previous post covered David Splinter’s “Who Pays No Tax” and so I’d like to point to another June publication, this one in the National Tax Journal, by Don Fullerton (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Nirupama Rao (University of Michigan) on “The Lifecycle of the 47 Percent“, which of course refers to the Americans with no federal income tax liability. The highlights are in the abstract:

News that 47 percent of Americans in 2009 paid no federal income tax drew considerable attention. For a longer view of not paying tax and of receiving transfers, we use the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics. Over all individuals, we find that 68 percent owe no income tax at least one year, of which 21 percent pay the following year and 45 percent pay within five years. Also, overall, 60 percent receive transfers other than Social Security at least one year, of which nearly 47 percent stop the next year and more than 94 percent stop within 10 years.

The paper is gated at the link but seems to be ungated here.