Our goal is to use the cutting-edge techniques of economics, but ground this work in the enduring insights begun by Adam Smith and continuing through the work of many economists today. In the questions we pursue, we avoid projects that maintain the status quo and focus on transformative projects. Every project we select disrupts, challenges, and changes the way people think about ongoing public policy questions, and will paint an optimistic vision that provides a clear path for insightful, innovative, and responsible solutions.

Research Areas

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Ideas and experimentation are accepted as necessary precursors for invention. Oversight of new technologies is market-driven, adaptive, and flexible. A culture of optimism grounds our shared perspective on innovation and technology. Individuals prefer dynamism to stagnation.

Health, Wealth, and Human Capital

Individuals are empowered to pursue their dreams of economic betterment. Society is open to change, inquiry, commerce, and trade. Public policies support lifelong learning and help to fuel human capital accumulation and economic growth across the income distribution.

Business, Government, and Civil Society

Institutions encourage cooperative solutions over conflict. Policymakers use legislation mindful of freedom of choice, economic efficiency, and fiscal responsibility. Civil society plays a central role as a source of protection and support for the least advantaged.

Research Papers

What Should be Included in a State’s Sales Tax Base?

Tax policy researchers across the political spectrum agree that narrow, targeted policies (such as tax credits) are usually a better way to address the regressive nature of the tax than blanket exemptions. Current policies exempting services and partially exempting groceries are unlikely to effectively minimize the tax burden on Utah’s consumers. More targeted policies combined with a broad tax base and low tax rates may achieve the same levels of public revenue at a much lower fiscal and [...]

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How Does Occupational Licensing Affect U.S. Consumers and Workers?

This paper examines the existing research on the effects of occupational licensing and concludes with a discussion of possible reforms. Existing studies have yet to find a definitive link between licensing restrictions and their stated purpose of improving service quality. Several studies do find, however, that licensing requirements raise pay for licensed workers, but with a cost: reduced employment and higher consumer prices. Overall, the evidence suggests there may be gains from policy [...]

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How Do Refugees Impact Labor Markets in the United States?

Current crises around the world, from Syria to Venezuela, have displaced an estimated 25.4 million refugees. Historically, the United States has played a leading role in permanently resettling the world’s refugees, maintaining a refugee admission ceiling around 70,000 per fiscal year over the last two decades. However, the current ceiling has been lowered to 45,000 for fiscal year 2018, its lowest level in history. The global refugee population, by contrast, is growing.

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Cooperative Conservation: Determinants of Landowner Engagement in Saving Endangered Species

Since it was passed in 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has enabled federal agencies to protect species listed as endangered or threatened by enforcing strict prohibitions against any harm to the species. Although the condition of many listed species has stabilized or improved, very few have recovered fully, signaling the need for a more effective approach to conserving species.

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How Does Lobbying Regulation Affect the Stock Prices of Firms That Lobby the Most?

This research examines the effect of political activity on a firm’s value by analyzing the impact of a policy change that increased public disclosure requirements associated with lobbying. In 2007, Congress passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government (HLOG) Act to close loopholes left by previous legislation. The study’s authors use the Act as a negative shock to the effectiveness of lobbying to examine how the stock prices of firms that lobby were impacted surrounding passage of the [...]

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An experiment on first-price common-value auctions with asymmetric information structures: The blessed winner

This paper studies the effect of holding private information on bidding behavior in common-value auctions. Three environments are studied. In the first, no bidder has any private information. In the second, all bidders hold private information. Lastly, we allow one bidder to hold private information when the opposing bidder does not. Our experiments reveal that bidders who are informed overbid, while uninformed bidders tend to underbid.

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A Review of the Environmental Effects of the Renewable Fuel Standard’s Corn Ethanol Mandate

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates the use of ethanol in domestic gasoline supplies. The law, which was originally created chiefly to help secure energy independence, is now typically justified by its purported environmental benefits. Ongoing academic research, however, indicates that the RFS has numerous unintended environmental consequences and may not reduce emissions relative to gasoline. This paper reviews that literature and details the broad environmental impact of the corn [...]

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Net Metering in the States

Net metering allows an owner of rooftop solar panels to participate in the electric grid as a distributed energy producer. Solar panels first supply power to the home, and at times when the solar panel produces more power than the home is using the power is sent back onto the grid to be used by other customers. The meter “spins” backwards, subtracting the power sent onto the grid from the total power used by the consumer. That is how net metering gets its name—it means that at the end of [...]

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Failure to Launch: Housing, Debt Overhang, and the Inflation Option

A decade after the 2007-2008 financial crisis, US unemployment has receded to near historic lows, economic growth has returned, and house prices are approaching their previous heights. However, in the shadow of the slow recovery, policymakers are left wondering what could have been done differently to accelerate the return to economic health and avoid years of misery and dislocation. This paper examines various outside-the-box policy interventions that could have prevented or mitigated much [...]

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Social Security and the Increasing Longevity Gap

This working paper contributes to the discussion about Social Security reform by developing a new measure of the progressivity of a Social Security system. The authors use this new measure to show that the growing gap in life expectancy between low-income and high-income Americans reduces the progressivity of the Social Security system by approximately three-quarters.

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