Essays in Urban Economics and Public Finance

Rui Yu, University of Pennsylvania


Housing policy poses unique and outsized economic significance. The first chapter, "Returns to Political Contributions in Local Housing Markets" investigates whether firms donate to political campaigns in order to influence supply in local housing markets. Using new data on local campaign donors in the U.S. and a regression discontinuity design in close mayoral elections, I uncover three key findings. Politically connected residential development firms sell more new housing units, consistent with mayors awarding discretionary favors to donors. Favors shape the supply of new housing citywide, as mayors with more residential development donors double permits for new housing construction. But differences in housing policy between mayors are empirically more important than favors for determining local housing supply. The second chapter, "Poverty Alleviation by a Large-Scale Homeownership Program" evaluates whether homeownership alleviates poverty by exploiting a large-scale affordable housing program in Brazil. Linking applicants to administrative data on formal employment, we investigate the impact homeownership has on labor supply, earnings, mobility, occupations, and formalization. Becoming a homeowner reduces wages, increases hours worked, and increases formal labor market participation. New homeowners increase public sector employment and, consistent with the home voter hypothesis, political participation. Expanding homeownership primarily accelerates formalization of the poor.

Subject Area

Public policy|Economic theory

Recommended Citation

Yu, Rui, "Essays in Urban Economics and Public Finance" (2022). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI29162163.