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Yanjun (Penny) Liao

Fellow

Resources for the Future

Biography

I am an applied microeconomist and Fellow at Resources for the Future. My current research focuses on issues of natural disaster risk management and climate adaptation. In ongoing projects, I investigate how flood risk and the design of flood insurance program affect housing markets, the mortgage system, and location decisions of households with different demographics. I have also studied the impacts of disasters on local government budgets, housing markets, and demographic changes. In a secondary research agenda, I examine consumer behavior regarding the adoption of clean technology in the electricity and transportation sector.

I am also a research fellow at the Wharton Risk Center, where I conducted my postdoctoral research during 2019-21. Before that, I earned my Ph.D. in economic from UC San Diego in 2019.

Click here for my full CV.

Interests

  • Climate adaptation
  • Natural disaster policy
  • Climate financial risk
  • Energy and transportation

Education

  • Ph.D. in Economics, 2019

    University of California, San Diego

  • B.A. in Economics, 2013

    University of Hong Kong

Research


Publications


“The Fiscal Impacts of Wildfires on California Municipalities” with Carolyn Kousky. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (2022), 9(3), 455-493.


“Extreme Weather and the Politics of Climate Change: a Study of Campaign Contributions and Elections” with Pablo Ruiz Junco. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management (2022), 111, 102550.


“Weather and the Decision to Go Solar: Evidence on Costly Cancellations” Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (2020), 7(1), 1-33.
Manuscript, Online Appendix


Working Papers


“What’s at Stake? Understanding the Role of Home Equity in Flood Insurance Demand” (with Philip Mulder)
– Current version: August 2021. In submission.
– Coverage: Resources Radio, E&E News

Millions of homeowners are exposed to increasing financial risk from natural disasters. Yet, many households are uninsured against the costliest disaster: flooding. We show that low home equity is an important driver of low flood insurance take-up. To isolate the causal effect of home equity on flood insurance demand, we exploit price changes over the housing boom and bust. Insurance take-up follows house price dynamics closely, with a home price elasticity around 0.3. Multiple mechanism tests suggest that mortgage default acts as implicit disaster insurance. As a result, households do not fully internalize their disaster risk.


“How Hurricanes Sweep Up Housing Markets: Evidence from Florida” (with Joshua Graff Zivin and Yann PanassiĆ©)
– Current version: April 2022. Revise and resubmit at Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.
– Also NBER Working Paper #27542

This paper studies the impact of hurricanes on housing markets and population turnover using microdata from Florida during 2000-2016. We find that hurricanes cause a temporary increase in home prices and a concurrent decrease in transactions, which together imply a negative transitory shock to the housing supply. Using mortgage application data, we find that incoming homeowners in this period have higher incomes, leading to an overall shift toward wealthier groups. Our findings suggest that market responses to natural disasters can lead to uneven and lasting demographic changes in affected communities, even with a full recovery in physical capital.


“Studying the Impacts of Environmental Amenities and Hazards with Nationwide Property Data: Best Data Practices for Interpretable and Reproducible Analyses” (with Christoph Nolte and others)
– Current version: August 2021. In submission.

Access to rich, nationwide property data has catalyzed rapid empirical work concerning land use choices in several fields of inquiry, including environmental economics, urban geography, and conservation biology. When data on property transactions and assessments are provided in its original or only partially pre-processed state, the accuracy, reliability, and generalizability of findings can be improved with a series of cleaning procedures and quality checks. We discuss issues inherent in using increasingly popular, nationwide data to perform econometric analyses and propose best practices for data preparation by example of ZTRAX, a U.S.-wide real estate database available to academics, non-profit, and government researchers between 2016 and 2023. We cover (1) the identification of arms-length sales, (2) the geo-location of parcels and buildings, (3) temporal linkages between transaction, assessor, and parcel data, (4) the identification of property types, such as single-family homes and vacant lands, and (5) dealing with missing or mismeasured data for standard housing attributes. We provide supplementary maps, filtering tables, and algorithmic descriptions to help analysts check and document their choices, improve the quality of ongoing and planned research, and help readers better understand the scope, reliability, and generalizability of findings and data products.


“Extreme Weather Events and Local Fiscal Responses: Evidence from U.S. Counties” (with Qing Miao, Michael Abrigo, and Yilin Hou)
– Revise and resubmit at Economics of Disasters and Climate Change.


“Unpriced Climate Risk and the Potential Consequences of Overvaluation in U.S. Housing Markets” (with Jesse Gourevitch and others)
– In submission.

Work in Progress


“Flood Insurance Reforms, Housing Market Dynamics, and Adaptation to Climate Risks”
– Working paper coming soon.


“Can Removing Development Subsidies Promote Adaptation? The Coastal Barrier Resources System as a Natural Experiment”
– Working paper coming soon.


“Negative Rebound: Fuel Economy Standards and Miles Traveled”


“Flood Risk Mapping: Is There a Blue-Lining Effect?"


Teaching


Graduate Courses

  • ECON 281: Economics of the Environment (2016, 2017, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UCSD)
    Co-instructor with Mark Jacobsen

  • GPEC 488: Environmental and Regulatory Economics (2017, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UCSD)
    Co-instructor with Joshua Graff Zivin

Undergraduate Courses

  • ECON 120A/B: Econometrics (2014-2019)
  • ECON 5: Data Analytics/Social Sciences (2018)
  • ECON 152: Public Economics (2018)
  • ECON 1: Principles of Microeconomics (2015, 2018)
    Teaching assistant at the Department of Economics, UCSD

Teaching Interests

  • Econometrics (R/Stata)
  • Economics of Climate Change
  • Environmental Economics

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