Headshot of Evan Soltas

Evan Soltas

Job Market Candidate

Research Fields

Public Economics, Urban Economics, Labor Economics

Contact Information

Phone (732) 865-4570
Email Address esoltas@mit.edu
Personal Website evansoltas.com

Job Market Paper

The Supply of Subsidized Housing (coming soon).

Subsidies to developers are a core instrument of housing policy. How much reaches households, and should the government use rent vouchers instead? I assess incidence and cost-effectiveness with a dynamic model of the housing market and new data on developers competing for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. I estimate the model with three sources of policy variation: quasi-random assignment of subsidies, shocks to subsidy generosity, and kinked incentives to reduce rents. I find 31 percent of the subsidy accrues to households, while the remainder goes to developer profits (44 percent) or is dissipated in application costs (25 percent). Household benefits mostly reflect below-market rents rather than general-equilibrium effects. In counterfactuals, vouchers achieve the same household benefit at a 25-percent fiscal savings. 


A Welfare Analysis of Occupational Licensing in U.S. States (with Morris M. Kleiner).
Review of Economic Studies, Vol. 90 (October 2023), 2481-2516. [Preprint] [Slides]

We assess the welfare consequences of occupational licensing for workers and consumers. We estimate a model of labor market equilibrium in which licensing restricts labor supply but also affects labor demand via worker quality and selection. On the margin of occupations licensed differently between U.S. states, we find that licensing raises wages and hours but reduces employment. We estimate an average welfare loss of 12 percent of occupational surplus. Workers and consumers respectively bear 70 and 30 percent of the incidence. Higher willingness to pay offsets 80 percent of higher prices for consumers, and higher wages compensate workers for 60 percent of the cost of mandated investment in occupation-specific human capital. Welfare effects appear more favorable in occupations in which licensing is more common.

The Price of Inclusion: Evidence from Housing Developer Behavior.
Forthcoming, Review of Economics and Statistics. [Preprint] [Slides]
Selected as Best Student Paper at the 2020 Urban Economics Association meeting.

In many cities, incentives and regulations lead developers to integrate low-income housing into market-rate buildings. How cost-effective are these policies? I study take-up of a tax incentive in New York City using a model in which developers trade off between tax savings and pre-tax income. I estimate the model using policy variation and microdata on all development from 2003 to 2015. The citywide marginal fiscal cost is $1.6 million per low-income unit. Differences in neighborhoods, not developer incidence, explain the cost premium over other housing programs. Weighing costs against external estimates of neighborhood effects, I find middle-class neighborhoods offer "opportunity bargains."

The Impacts of Covid-19 Absences on Workers (with Gopi Shah Goda). 
Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 222 (June 2023): 104889. [Preprint] [Slides]

We show that Covid-19 illnesses and related work absences persistently reduce labor supply. Using an event study, we estimate that workers with week-long Covid-19 absences are 7 percentage points less likely to be in the labor force one year later compared to otherwise-similar workers who do not miss a week of work for health reasons. Our estimates suggest Covid-19 absences have reduced the U.S. labor force by approximately 500,000 people (0.2 percent of adults) and imply an average labor supply loss per Covid-19 absence equivalent to $9,000 in earnings, about 90 percent of which reflects losses beyond the initial absence week.

A Natural Experiment on Discrimination in Elections (with David E. Broockman). 
Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 188 (August 2020): 104201. [Preprint] [Slides]

We exploit a natural experiment to study discrimination in elections. In Illinois Republican presidential primaries, voters vote for delegates bound to presidential candidates, but delegates' names convey information about their race and gender. We identify discrimination from variation in vote totals among delegates bound to the same presidential candidate and who face the same voters. Examining delegate vote totals from 2000 to 2016, we estimate nonwhite delegates receive 9 percent fewer votes. We find essentially no gender discrimination. Negligible incentives for statistical discrimination, costs to preferred presidential candidates, and heterogeneity are consistent with an interpretation of this behavior as taste-based.

Working Papers

Eviction as Bargaining Failure: Misperceptions and Hostility in the Rental Housing Market (with Charlie Rafkin, coming soon).

Formal eviction from rental housing is widespread and costly, spurring interest in anti-eviction policies. The desirability of policy intervention depends on whether evictions come from efficient non-bargaining or inefficient bargaining failures. We test for two causes of bargaining failure — hostile social preferences and misperceptions — by conducting lab-in-the-field experiments in Memphis, Tennessee with 1,808 tenants and 373 landlords facing eviction. We find that 25–39% of relationships engage in dominated hostile behaviors in real-stakes Dictator Games. Both parties misperceive court or bargaining payoffs in ways that undermine bargaining. Motivated by the possibility of inefficient eviction, we evaluate an emergency rental assistance program in Memphis using administrative data. Event-study estimates suggest the program had small effects on eviction. Combining the event-study and lab-in-the-field results, we estimate a bargaining model and find that 22% of evictions are inefficient, of which 72% are caused by hostility. These forces affect eviction policy: Perverse selection on altruism partially explains the program's small treatment effects.

Self-Targeting in U.S. Transfer Programs (with Charlie Rafkin and Adam Solomon).
Honorable Mention for Best Student Paper (ITAX Award) at the 2023 International Institute of Public Finance. [Slides]

Transfer receipt is voluntary and costly, generating "self-targeting" through selective take-up among the eligible. How does self-targeting select on need, and what are its policy implications? We show self-targeting is advantageous in eight U.S. transfers: On average, recipients have lower consumption and lifetime incomes than eligible nonrecipients with similar current incomes. Due to self-targeting, these transfers provide 50 to 75 percent more to the consumption-poorest and lifetime-poorest than would automatic transfers that are distributionally equivalent by income. Self-targeting makes automatic transfers undesirable: We estimate the social benefits of self-targeting are approximately six cents per transfer dollar, generally exceeding the social costs of ordeals.