Kyle Coombs

Research Papers

Gifts and loans from friends and family play a largely unstudied informal insurance role in high-income countries, making it difficult to assess their implications for social insurance policy. I present new results on informal insurance paid via person-to-person (P2P) payment platforms using a survey-linked administrative bank transaction dataset covering 130,502 low-income users from the US who experienced at least one unemployment spell between July 2019 and September 2020. Event study estimates show average monthly inflows from all P2P platforms increase by $30, or 2% of lost earnings, one month after job loss before returning to baseline over 10 months. Single mothers and the long-term unemployed receive the largest increases, as do those living in high-income areas. I leverage three plausibly exogenous changes to federal pandemic unemployment insurance (UI) policy to estimate that UI benefits crowd out at most $0.04 of informal P2P transfers. Using the social insurance framework introduced in Chetty and Saez (2010), my crowd-out estimates indicate negligible welfare consequences for an additional dollar of benefits. Altogether these results imply that public UI benefits raise welfare by pooling risk across networks without reducing within-network targeting of informal insurance.

Effect of CARES Expiration on Consumption and Labor Supply

One-page summary

with Arindrajit Dube, Calvin Jahnke, Raymond Kluender, Suresh Naidu, Michael Stepner

In June 2021, 22 states ended all supplemental pandemic unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, eliminating benefits entirely for over 2 million workers and reducing benefits by $300 per week for over 1 million workers. Using anonymous bank transaction data and a difference-in-differences research design, we measure the effect of withdrawing pandemic UI on the financial and employment trajectories of unemployed workers in states that withdrew benefits, compared to workers with the same unemployment duration in states that retained these benefits. In our data through August 6, we find that ending pandemic UI increased employment by 4.4 percentage points while reducing UI recipiency by 35 percentage points among workers who were unemployed and receiving UI at the end of April 2021. In the first week of August, average UI benefits for these workers fell by $278 per week and earnings rose by $14 per week, offsetting only 5% of the loss in income. Spending fell by $145 per week, as the loss of benefits led to a large immediate decline in consumption.

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Effects of Pandemic Unemployment Policies on Consumption, Savings, and Incomes of Workers: Evidence from Linked Survey-Transactions Data

NBER Innovative Data in Household Finance: Opportunities and Challenges (Fall 2020).

with Arindrajit Dube, Calvin Jahnke, Raymond Kluender, Suresh Naidu, Michael Stepner

We present new results on the consumption, savings, and income effects of the introduction of the unusually generous unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, their abrupt expiration at the end of July 2020, and their short-term partial reintroduction through August and September 2020. We use a new dataset of administrative bank account balances and transactions 1.2 million workers and 258,065 recipients of UI. We link these administrative data with a large-scale survey (N = 24,671) of expectations and economic preferences. We find that account outflows fell by 20% among July UI recipients in the 12 weeks since expiration relative to non-recipients. We find that consumption drops around expiration were muted owing to accumulated savings out of the expanded UI over the March-July period; end of July savings were roughly three times as large as savings in January. The magnitude of the drop in savings following the expiration was larger in households with low expectations of continuing benefits, no children, low risk aversion, and high discount rates. We also find that the temporary Lost Wages Assistance program provided a small but temporary boost to savings and consumption, and the timing of this boost varied based on the staggered adoption by states.

Research In Progress

After the 2001 Boston Globe Spotlight report on decades of alleged child abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston Archdiocese and cover-ups by Catholic leadership, news agencies, and law enforcement agencies started to uncover similar cases in dioceses and archdioceses around the US and world. Building on past findings that suggest local reports of a scandal reduced local enrollment in Catholic schools and led to many Catholic schools closing, this article asks what happens to the equilibrium enrollment in and number of other types of schools. An event study methodology that assumes the timing of scandal reports are exogenous shows that neither enrollment nor membership increased much for other other schools with the exception of charter schools. The results suggest that 10 years after a public accusation against a Catholic leader, charter school enrollments increase 10 percent in that zipcode and an average of 0.1 charter schools open. Pretrends are minimal and disappear after controlling for state, locality, and demographic quantile fixed effects.

The Price of Politics: How much are evangelical Presbyterians willing to pay to separate?

In 2010, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to ordain openly LGBTQ members of the faith as Ministers of the Word and Sacrament and ruling elders, who serve on church governing bodies. The unexpected and close vote led many historically conservative churches in the Confessing Church Movement to commit to leaving the denomination for other reformed denominations. I exploit the PC(USA)'s Property Trust Clause, which states that church property exists to advance the denomination's work, often requiring congregations to make payments for property and past expenses to the denomination before dismissal, to measure congregation willingness to pay to leave. Additionally, congregations can only be dismissed to approved reformed congregations, which have well-known levels of theological conservativism on matters including the ordination of women among other issues. I plan to use this ranking to establish a model of demand for conservativism to explore how willingness-to-pay changes for the level of conservativism in the receiving denomination.

Best responses to banning the box? Extensive Labor Supply Responses to Statistical Discrimination

In this project, I leverage the staggered roll out of Ban-The-Box (BTB) laws, which prevent employers from learning about felony history of job applicants, to look at how the unemployed change their job search behavior in a difference-in-difference design. BTB laws have been linked in the literature to statistical discrimination in the private sector against young black and hispanic men, as employers rely on their, often inaccurate stereotypes of felony rates by race. This leads to lower employment in the private sector, but there are opposite employment effects in the public sector. Using the Current Population Survey data's job search variables, I ask whether young black men substitute to apply to fewer jobs, certain types of jobs, or use methods that rely on familiarity with the applicant. I find non-hispanic black men apply for more jobs, specifically within the public sector, possibly reconciling the disparate employment effects after BTB laws are passed, with effects greater for those with a college degree.

Charitable Contributions and the Federal Government

with Michael Best and Daniel Rogger

We exploit the plausibly exogenous changes in which senator chairs the Senate Finance Committee as an instrument for state-level federal spending to explore the relationship between government financing and charitable contributions for public goods. Using data from USAspending, the Consolidated Federal Funds Report, and the Statistics of Income, we document a modest increase in federal transfers to state and local governments with a substantial increase to charitable giving as a percentage of adjusted gross income, driven by the top earners in each state. Using data on nonprofit balance sheets from the National Center of Charitable Statistics, we see an increase in contributions to nonprofits in the same states, but interestingly that alliance and advocacy organizations, which lobby governments see the largest increases. These results suggest that charitable giving may act as a channel for lobby dollars when a state's senators have more leverage over federal dollars.