University of Chicago
Booth School of Business
5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
Harper Center HC431
239.822.8942
ezwick@chicagobooth.edu

For appointments please contact:
Jessica Henderson
University of Chicago
Booth School of Business
5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
773.834.1050
Jessica.Henderson@chicagobooth.edu

Bio

I study the interaction between public policy and corporate behavior, with a focus on fiscal stimulus, taxation, and housing policy. My research draws insights from finance and behavioral economics while using a variety of methods: new data, natural experiments, theory, and anecdotal exploration. I'm particularly interested in the problems that small and medium-sized private firms and new ventures face, from the perspective of owners, investors, managers, and workers. A secondary area of interest concerns the role of bounded rationality and imperfect information in the design of policies that promote behavior change. This work focuses on determinants of habit formation in health and workforce productivity settings.

I earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in business economics from Harvard University and a B.A. in economics and mathematics with high honors from Swarthmore College. Prior to grad school, I worked as a research assistant at the National Bureau of Economic Research and as a web and software developer for several start-ups and non-profits. In college, I captained the golf team and played lead guitar in a very mediocre rock band called Paul and the Bond Squad. After college, I played in a better band called The Horse Latitudes.

For more information, please see my CV.

If you are an undergrad or graduate student looking for RA work, please contact me with a resume and short cover letter stating fields of interest. Remote and flexible work options are available.

Research

Working Papers
  • Stimulating Housing Markets
    (with David Berger and Nicholas Turner)
    Manuscript (07/2016)

    Abstract: This paper studies temporary policy incentives designed to address capital overhang by inducing asset demand from buyers in the private market. Using variation across local geographies in ex ante program exposure and a difference-in-differences design, we find that the First-Time Homebuyer Credit induced a cumulative increase in home sales of at least 382 thousand, or 7.4 percent, nationally. We find little evidence of a sharp reversal of the policy response; instead, demand appears to come from several years in the future. The program likely sped the process of reallocating homes from distressed sellers to high value buyers and stabilized house prices. The response is concentrated in the existing home sales market, implying the stimulative effects of the program were less important than its role in accelerating reallocation.

  • Tax Policy and Heterogeneous Investment Behavior
    (with James Mahon), Forthcoming, American Economic Review
    Manuscript (06/2016) | NBER #21876

    Abstract: We estimate the effect of temporary tax incentives on equipment investment using shifts in accelerated depreciation. Analyzing data for over 120,000 firms, we present three findings. First, bonus depreciation raised investment in eligible capital relative to ineligible capital by 10.4% between 2001 and 2004 and 16.9% between 2008 and 2010. Second, small firms respond 95% more than big firms. Third, firms respond strongly when the policy generates immediate cash flows but not when cash flows only come in the future. This heterogeneity materially affects investment-weighted estimates and supports models in which financial frictions or fixed costs amplify investment responses.
        Replaces "Do Financial Frictions Amplify Fiscal Policy? Evidence from Business Investment Stimulus"

    • Best Paper at Oxford Centre for Business Taxation Doctoral Conference, 9/2013
  • Arrested Development: Theory and Evidence of Supply-Side Speculation in the Housing Market
    (with Charles Nathanson), R&R, Journal of Finance
    Manuscript (9/2015)

    Abstract: This paper studies the role of speculation in amplifying housing cycles. Speculation is easier in the land market than in the housing market due to frictions that make renting less efficient than owner-occupancy. As a result, undeveloped land both facilitates construction and intensifies the speculation that causes booms and busts in house prices. This observation reverses the standard intuition that cities where construction is easier experience smaller house price booms. It also explains why the largest house price booms in the United States between 2000 and 2006 occurred in areas with elastic housing supply.

  • Opting Out of Good Governance
    (with C. Fritz Foley, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, and Jonathan Greenstein), R&R, Review of Financial Studies
    Manuscript (5/2014) | NBER #19953

    Abstract: Cross-listing on a U.S. exchange does not bond foreign firms to follow the corporate governance rules of that exchange. Hand-collected data show that 80% of cross-listed firms opt out of at least one exchange governance rule. Relative to firms that comply, firms that opt out have a smaller share of independent directors. Cross-listed firms opt out more when coming from countries with weak corporate governance rules, but if firms based in such countries are growing and have a need for external finance, they are more likely to comply. Opting out also substantially affects the value of cash holdings.

Lightly Refereed Papers
  • Business in the United States: Who Owns It and How Much Tax Do They Pay?
    (with Michael Cooper, John McClelland, James Pearce, Richard Prisinzano, Joseph Sullivan, Danny Yagan, and Owen Zidar), Forthcoming, Tax Policy and the Economy
    Manuscript (9/2015) | Slides | NBER #21651 | Data

    Abstract: "Pass-through" businesses like partnerships and S-corporations now generate over half of U.S. business income and account for over half of the post-1980 rise in the top-1% income share. We use administrative tax data from 2011 to identify pass-through business owners and estimate how much tax they pay. We present three findings. (1) Relative to traditional business income, pass-through business income is substantially more concentrated among high-earners. (2) Partnership ownership is opaque: 20% of the income goes to unclassifiable partners, and 15% of the income is earned in circularly owned partnerships. (3) The average federal income tax rate on U.S. pass-through business income is 19%—much lower than the average rate on traditional corporations. If pass-through activity had remained at 1980's low level, strong but straightforward assumptions imply that the 2011 average U.S. tax rate on total U.S. business income would have been 28% rather than 24%, and tax revenue would have been at least $100 billion higher.

Unpublished Papers
  • Regulators vs. Zombies: Loss Overhang and Lending in a Long Slump
    (Manuscript available upon request)

    Abstract: Why are economic recoveries following financial crises so sluggish? This paper presents micro-level evidence that, in the recovery from the U.S. Great Recession, loss overhang in the banking sector restricted lending and slowed growth. Zombie banks suffer from a debt overhang problem caused by unrealized losses on past loans. To deter regulatory action, zombies restrict new lending in healthy categories, prop up lending in unhealthy categories, and overallocate to safe, liquid assets. FDIC-induced failures allow zombies to hive off bad loans and as a result lending resumes post resolution. In the slump that began in the United States in 2007, limited FDIC liquidity and manpower prevented it from a timely reboot of all zombie balance sheets. As a consequence, counties afflicted with unhealed zombies displayed a slower recovery in employment, even in tradable goods industries less subject to local demand conditions.

Grants

Public Goods

HOWTOs

While in grad school, I participated in a few panels on grad student life. I condensed my notes and the wisdom of many wonderful advisers into these one-page HOWTOs. People have found them useful, or at least amusing. They are living documents, so constructive comments are very welcome.

The Twelve Step Program for Grad School
A guide to doing research and finishing. (8/2013)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Job Market
A survival strategy for the job market. (4/2014)

Tools

Web Calculator for Optimal Mortgage Refinancing
A supplement to NBER #13487 by Agarwal, Driscoll, and Laibson. (10/2007)