Working papers
I study an effort by the Ecuadorian government to mitigate offshore tax avoidance through a tax havens outflows tax. First, I find that the outflows tax led to a sharp decrease in dividend payments to tax havens. I document a decrease by 66% in dividend payments sent to tax havens relative to non-havens following an increase in the relative cost of transacting with tax havens by 5%. I show that this drop implies net-of-tax elasticities of dividend payments abroad of between 13 and 40. Firms exposed to this legislative shock decreased overall dividend payouts by 50% and increased retained earnings in the short run by 600%. This response was largely unaccompanied by any change in post-tax investment behavior or extensive margin dividend payout behavior. Using administrative data on shareholder-company linkages to identify individuals highly connected to tax havens, I find that exposed individuals increased their domestic income reporting by 40% compared to the universe of unexposed taxpayers and paid 55% more in personal income taxes. This response was mainly driven by newly reported domestic capital and independent labor income flows and is consistent with a lasting reduction in offshore tax evasion. These results suggest the substantial scope for countries to act unilaterally in mitigating tax haven use and increasing tax collections.

I study how charitable contributions reported by nonprofit entities respond to variation in the federal and state estate tax rate. I focus on the asymmetric response by nonprofit vehicle type to changes in federal and state estate tax policy since 2002— distinguishing between private charities and public charities and between family foundations and non-familial private foundations. I find that private foundations respond between 2.5 and 5 times as strongly as public charities in response to variation in the top estate tax rate, exhibiting reported contributions elasticities of around 2.5 for changes in the federal estate tax and around .5 for same-state-level reforms. I also document a significant positive (negative) relationship between private foundation entry (exit) and estate tax rates. I document no significant difference in response between familial and non-familial foundations. Finally, I show that private foundations feature greater opacity in terms of their charitability objectives, demonstrate higher propensity to engage in self-benefiting transactions, and allocate greater shares of their expenses to administrative activities. This work demonstrates that the well-documented positive relationship between charitable bequests and estate taxation is largely driven by private foundations whose activity is associated with greater measures of private benefit.

We leverage variation in the timing of unconditional housing recipiency by homeless individuals in Los Angeles County to determine the effects of housing the homeless on their employment, earnings, and benefits absorption. Placement into 2-year Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) increases extensive-margin labor market participation by nearly 60% from a baseline of 19pp, while Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) recipients exhibit a 25% increase in extensive-margin employment from a baseline of 7pp. We find little evidence of heterogeneous response based on family-status for RRH recipients, but we do find a mildly positive employment effects for heads-of-households in PSH. We characterize earnings and benefits responses based on ex-post employment transition type and find that both U2E and E2E transitioners report income increases of approximately USD 800-1000 and USD 200 per month respectively while exhibiting little-to-no change in benefits absorption. These groups outnumber E2U transitioners by a factor of between 2.5-5. Finally, we estimate the program cost-offset specifically through earnings effects during program tenure (ignoring other externalities). We estimate the cost-offset of these policies during program tenure specifically attributable to earnings effects at 1% for RRH and 0 but nonnegative for PSH (5-10\% and 1-9\% for RRH and PSH recipients respectively employed post-event).

We evaluate the existence of the pink tax: the hypothesized price premium on women's consumer goods. Using scanner data, we find that women pay 4% more for consumer packaged goods in the same product-by-location market. This price differential is generated by women paying 17% higher average prices for explicitly gendered products, like personal care items, and 3.8% higher average prices for ungendered products. We estimate demand differences by gender, structurally decomposing price differences into markups and marginal costs. We find that the pink tax is not sustained by higher markups, but by women sorting into goods with higher marginal costs.

I study the first instance of federal funding to the arts in the US via New Deal programming ($4 billion present-day) to evaluate the long-run impact of artist employment programs on artist population shares of cities. I employ a New Deal spending instrument in an instrumental variables differences-in-differences design. The program increased shares of writers, theater/film workers, and designers (10-30 artists per 10,000 people) enduring to the present-day in a ``big-push'' manner. Musicians saw increases that lasted 1-2 decades. A variance decomposition demonstrates modest explanatory power (5-15\) of the program in determining subsequent variation of artist shares across cities.

Economics journal articles
We study panhandling in Downtown Manhattan. Surprisingly few people panhandle there at any given moment: about 8–10 people on average at a busy time, in a small area with an economy the size of Latvia's. The redevelopment of Ground Zero and the resulting surge in economic activity—including the opening of North America's tallest building—changed where panhandlers operated within the neighborhood, but did not significantly increase panhandling overall. The response was muted because the labor supply of panhandlers appears to be inelastic. On the other hand, good places to panhandle are relatively abundant. Hence the benefits of the boom in economic activity accrued mainly to incumbent panhandlers themselves; as would the benefits of greater donor generosity.

Non-economics journal articles
What does wise public policy toward panhandling look like? When a willing, reasonably well informed donor gives money to a panhandler, both are better off, and inequality goes down. Policy should encourage transactions like this. When a pedestrian is upset by a panhandler’s presence, does not give, and maybe even alters course, no one is better off and at least one person is worse off. Policy should discourage this kind of interaction. We examine an array of programs to deal with panhandling to see how well they encourage welfare-improving interactions and discourage welfare-reducing ones. Tentatively, credentialing programs are the most promising

  • Income tax non-compliance penalties: evidence and optimality (with Alstadsaeter, A. and Scheurer, J.)

  • One-time fiscal events: Behavioral responses, optimality, and evidence (with Bergeron, A.)

  • The Role of Tax Preparers in Individual Tax Optimization (with Avivi, H., Bilicka, K., Lobel, F. , and Yuskavage, A.)

  • Retaining your corporate income tax base: Effects of a tax haven shareholdership reform in Ecuador (with Bachas, P. and Bajaña, A.)

Jakob A. Brounstein


Postdoctoral Scholar
Institute for Fiscal Studies
London, United Kingdom

Design courtesy of Vasilios Mavroudis