2020 Dissertation Award Honorable Mention: Francis Wong

Francis Wong, University of California, Berkeley, will be awarded an honorable mention at the 2020 Virtual NTA Annual Conference.

Francis Wong is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Aging and Health Research at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His primary fields of interest are public finance and consumer finance, with a particular focus on the relationship between public policies and consumer financial distress. His work includes research on property taxes, medical debt, and racial disparities in financial well-being. Francis completed his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of California, Berkeley in May 2020.

Francis’ dissertation, Essays in Public Finance and Consumer Financial Behavior, explores the impacts of property taxes on homeowners in the context of financial and behavioral constraints. The first chapter uses an event study methodology applied to administrative data to examine homeowner responses around the month that property taxes increase, and shows that property taxes create financial distress. The second chapter presents evidence from a survey of 3,000 US homeowners which indicates that homeowners are debt averse. Contrary to behavior in standard models, homeowners appear to have a distaste for drawing on housing wealth. The third chapter presents a calibrated structural model of homeowner decision-making that incorporates debt aversion, behavioral inattention, and impatience to rationalize empirically observed behavior.