Research Papers

How Sticky Is Retirement Behavior in the U.S.?

with Manasi Deshpande, Itzik Fadlon.

Review of Economics and Statistics (Forthcoming)

We study how increases in the U.S. Social Security full retirement age (FRA) affect benefit claiming behavior and retirement (workforce exit) behavior, and in particular how these two behaviors differ in their responses to FRA increases. Using a long panel of Social Security administrative data, we implement complementary research designs of a traditional cohort analysis and a regression-discontinuity design. We find that while claiming ages strongly and immediately shift in response to increases in the FRA, retirement ages exhibit persistent “stickiness” at the old FRA of 65. We use several strategies to explore the likely mechanisms behind the stickiness in retirement, and we find suggestive evidence that employers play a role in workers’ responses to the FRA.

Employed in a SNAP? The Impact of Work Requirements on Program Participation and Labor Supply.

with Adam Leive, Elena Prager, Kelsey Pukelis, and Mary Zaki.

American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, Vol. 15 No. 1 (2023)

Work requirements are common in U.S. safety net programs. Evidence remains limited, however, on the extent to which work requirements increase economic self-sufficiency or screen out vulnerable individuals. Using linked administrative data on food stamps (SNAP) and earnings with a regression discontinuity design, we find robust evidence that work requirements increase program exits by 23 percentage points (64 percent) among incumbent participants after 18 months. There is a 53 percent overall reduction in program participation among adults who are subject to work requirements. Homeless adults are disproportionately screened out. We find no effects on employment, and suggestive evidence of increased earnings in some specifications. Our findings indicate that, per dollar of public expenditure, eliminating work requirements would likely transfer more resources to low-income adults than other programs targeting the same population.

Leaving Benefits on the Table: Evidence from SNAP

Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 179 (2019)

Many social insurance programs require that beneficiaries periodically reverify eligibility, allowing officials to identify ineligible applicants but risking the loss of eligible applicants who do not complete these requirements. While many states have invested in simplified verification procedures to reduce that risk, the extent of exit among eligible beneficiaries and the efficacy of these simplifications is not well established. This paper uses administrative data from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to establish three facts. First, retention in SNAP is low, with approximately one-half of entering cases leaving in the first year. Second, qualitative evidence and quantitative simulations suggest that approximately half of those who exit in the first year remain eligible. Third, using the staggered roll-out of an online case management tool in Michigan, I find that this simplification reduced the rate of long-term exit at key verification dates by almost 2pp (12%). These facts suggest that eligible retention is very incomplete, and that ongoing simplification efforts increase retention among eligible beneficiaries.

The Impact of Community Health Centers on Nearby Households and Providers

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) offer heavily subsidized or free care to over 20 million low-income patients each year, yet their causal impacts are not well understood. This paper estimates the impacts of nearby FQHC entry on household insurance coverage, self-reported health, and nearby providers by linking geocoded data on new FQHCs to household and hospital survey data. The results suggest that FQHCs increase Medicaid take-up, although increased Medicaid coverage is partially counteracted by reduced private coverage. I do not find evidence that FQHCs impact self-reported health. Finally, FQHCs appear to divert low-income patients away from nearby hospitals, moderately reducing the number of Medicaid inpatient discharges. 

The Equilibrium Impact of Appeals: Evidence from Social Security Disability Programs

Many administrative and legal processes involve the option to appeal an initial decision. This provides an additional opportunity to demonstrate eligibility for a program, innocence in a criminal case, or fitness for residency in a country. However, researchers and policymakers know very little about the effects of adding or subtracting stages of appeal. On one hand, fewer stages of appeal means fewer opportunities to demonstrate eligibility, which may decrease overall allowances, administrative costs, and processing times. On the other hand, if applicants and adjudicators anticipate future appeals and infer information from past appeals, eliminating an appeals stage may induce initial adjudicators to increase allowances or encourage applicants to pursue higher levels of appeal. After illustrating the key theoretical parameters dictating these impacts, I study a 1999 reform to the Social Security disability adjudication process in which an intermediate appeals stage was eliminated for ten states. In line with the latter model, I find evidence that eliminating this appeals stage increased allowances onto the program and saved little in terms of processing time and administrative costs due to these dynamic responses. In practice, appeals are not simply extra chances to demonstrate eligibility: they are tools for switching between equilibria whose effects depend on a set of key behavioral parameters.  

Responding to the Monetary Superpower: Investigating Behavioral Spillovers of U.S. Monetary Policy

Atlantic Economic Journal, Vol 31 Issue 2 (2013)

Between 2002 and 2006, the Federal Reserve set interest rates significantly below the rates suggested by well-known monetary policy rules. There is a growing body of research suggesting that this helped fuel an excess of liquidity in the U.S. that contributed to the 2008 worldwide financial crash. It is less well known that a number of other central banks also lowered interest rates during this period. An important question, then, is what role the Federal Reserve played in influencing other central banks to alter their own monetary policies, which could have magnified the Fed’s actions in creating global liquidity. This paper addresses the issue by showing how spillovers in central bank behavior occur in theoretical rational expectations models. It then establishes empirically how U.S. monetary policy actions affect the actions of other major central banks, particularly in terms of interest rates and currency interventions. The models and data suggest that the U.S. lowering its policy rate, either in general or in reference to a monetary policy rule, influences other central banks to lower their own policy rates and intervene in currency markets, even when controlling for worldwide macroeconomic trends. It thus appears that U.S. actions were a factor in the worldwide lowering of interest rates and the increase in currency reserves in the early 2000s that may have contributed to the subsequent global liquidity boom.