Research

Working Papers

“Tax Delinquency, Housing Distress, and U.S. City Budgets during the Great Depression” [paper]

Abstract: During the 1920s, city governments relied heavily on property taxes and special assessment fees as sources of revenue. Special assessment fees–often one-time charges–relied on new construction, while property tax collections relied on the value of local tax bases and prompt payments. Focusing on the roles of housing
markets and tax delinquencies, this paper studies why fluctuations in revenue and spending varied across 94 large U.S. cities between 1923 and 1936. While budgets grew most during the 1920s in cities where house prices and residential construction increased the most, they were relatively stable in the face of the housing distress that plagued many cities during the Great Depression. Nevertheless, most municipal budgets contracted during the 1930s, due principally to rising tax delinquency: a one-standard-deviation increase in the delinquency rate was associated with a 4 percent decline in total revenue and a 3 percent decline in current (non-capital) expenditures. High delinquency was specifically associated with decreased spending on community protection, sanitation, and health. These results not only provide insight into the variation in city budgetary experiences during the 1920s and 1930s, but also into the policy responses of local governments during the downturn.

Publications

“Clean Slate: Land-Use Changes in San Francisco after the 1906 Disaster,” 2017. Explorations in Economic History, 65 (July): 1-16. [link]

“Razing San Francisco: The 1906 Disaster as a Natural Experiment in Urban Redevelopment,” 2015. Journal of Urban Economics, 89 (September): 48-61. [link]

Work in Progress

“The 1906 San Francisco Disaster and Business Agglomeration in the City”

“Local Origins and Implications of the 1930s Urban Debt Crisis” (with Samara Gunter)

“The (Golden) Gated City: The Great Fire, the Cost of Zoning, and San Francisco Housing Prices” (with Devin Bunten)

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