PhD Candidate, Department of Economics

Contact Information

Department of Economics
Northwestern University
2211 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Phone: 224-420-1734
stephaniejohnson2013@u.northwestern.edu

 

 

 

Education
Ph.D., Economics, Northwestern University, 2019 (expected)
M.A., Economics, Northwestern University, 2014
Bachelor of Economics (Hons), University of Tasmania, 2010.

Primary Fields of Specialization
Macroeconomics and Finance

Secondary Fields of Specialization
Real Estate, Household Finance

Curriculum Vitae

Download Vita (PDF)

Job Market Paper

“Mortgage Leverage and House Prices” (PDF)

I measure the effect of mortgage leverage restrictions on house prices using a change in the eligibility requirements imposed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 1999, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s debt-to-income requirements diverged, leading to tighter lending standards in places where local lenders had pre-existing relationships with Freddie Mac. Locations with tighter debt-to-income requirements experienced an immediate reduction in house prices, showing that changes in lending standards have powerful effects. The effect builds over time, resulting in a smaller house price boom and bust in these locations during the 2000s. I use a simple model to interpret the empirical results and extrapolate to other similar policies, finding that a relaxation of debt-to-income restrictions is important for explaining the 2000s housing boom.

Other Research Papers

“Are Mortgage Regulations Affecting Entrepreneurship?” (PDF)

I show that rules designed to reduce high debt-to-income mortgage lending restrict self-employed households’ access to credit and reduce entrepreneurship. I identify the effects of a recent policy by using local variation in exposure to banks subject to the regulation. The policy reduced mortgage credit in high self-employment census tracts and banks receiving exemptions expanded market share in these areas. Growth in self-employment and new small business employment was lower in areas where more banks were affected. I estimate that the policy reduced self-employment by around 2 per cent and new small business employment by at least 3 per cent. This unintended effect on entrepreneurship demonstrates that mortgage finance is important for early stage businesses, and is an additional cost to be taken into account when evaluating mortgage policy.

“Regulating Household Leverage” with Anthony DeFusco and John Mondragon (PDF)
Revise and resubmit at the Review of Economic Studies

This paper studies how credit markets respond to policy constraints on household leverage. Exploiting a sharp policy-induced discontinuity in the cost of originating certain high-leverage mortgages, we study how the Dodd-Frank “Ability-to-Repay” rule affected the price and availability of credit in the U.S. mortgage market. Our estimates show that the policy had only moderate effects on prices, increasing interest rates on affected loans by 10-15 basis points. The effect on quantities, however, was significantly larger; we estimate that the policy eliminated 15 percent of the affected market completely and reduced leverage for another 20 percent of remaining borrowers. This reduction in quantities is much greater than would be implied by plausible demand elasticities and suggests that lenders responded to the policy primarily by rationing credit. Finally, while the policy succeeded in reducing leverage, our estimates suggest this effect would have only slightly reduced aggregate default rates during the housing crisis.

“Shopping for Lower Sales Tax Rates” with Scott Baker and Lorenz Kueng (PDF)

Using comprehensive high-frequency state and local sales tax data, we show that shopping behavior responds strongly to changes in sales tax rates. Even though sales taxes are not observed in posted prices and have a wide range of rates and exemptions, consumers adjust in many dimensions. They stock up on storable goods before taxes rise and increase online and cross-border shopping in both the short and long run. The differences between short- and long-run spending responses have important implications for the efficacy of using sales taxes for counter-cyclical policy and for the design of an optimal tax framework. Interestingly, households adjust spending similarly for both taxable and tax- exempt goods. We embed an inventory problem into a continuous-time consumption-savings model and demonstrate that this seemingly irrational behavior is optimal in the presence of shopping trip fixed costs. The model successfully matches estimated short-run and long-run tax elasticities with an implied after-tax reservation wage of $7-10. We provide additional evidence in favor of this new shopping-complementarity mechanism.

 

References
Prof. Matthias Doepke (Committee Chair)
Prof. Martin Eichenbaum
Prof. John Mondragon
Prof. Lorenz Kueng