Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith
  • Applied Economics Doctoral Candidate

Contact Information

Research Interests: Urban Economics, Environmental Economics, Education Economics

Links: CV, Personal Website


I am a 5th year doctoral candidate in Wharton’s Applied Economics program. My primary interest is in housing markets, where I study the impact of water supply on housing production, the effects of school choice on house prices, and the impacts of neighborhood social connections on household mobility.

Prior to graduate school, I worked at the American Enterprise Institute’s Housing Center where I am now an Adjunct Fellow and completed my BA in economics at the University of Southern California.

I can be reached at . Please see my personal site for the most up-to-date information.

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  • Benjamin Smith, Fernando Ferreira, Jeanna Kenney (Working), Household Mobility, Networks, and Gentrification of Minority Neighborhoods in the US.

    Abstract: We study how recent gentrification shocks impact Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, including where minority households move to after a shock and if the subsequent spatial distribution of households within a labor market area affects segregation. We first report that household moves from a given neighborhood are concentrated to a few destinations. For minority neighborhoods, destinations tend to have similar minority shares but are farther away from downtown. Those mobility patterns are partially explained by neighborhood networks. We then use Bartik-style labor market income shocks to show that gentrification has many effects. In Black neighborhoods, gentrification increases house prices and reduces the share of Black households while increasing the share of White households. For movers from Black neighborhoods, gentrification increases the share of movers going to top 1 and 2 destinations based on neighborhood networks and increases the share of households moving out of the MSA, but does not change the pattern of households moving to neighborhoods with similar Black shares that are farther away from downtown areas. Hispanic neighborhoods have negligible effects from gentrification. Finally, our model reveals that overall labor market area segregation decreases after a gentrification shock because highly Black neighborhoods become less segregated.

  • Benjamin Smith, Morris Davis, Stephen Oliner, William Larson (2023), A Quarter Century of Mortgage Risk, Review of Finance.

    Abstract: This article provides a comprehensive history of default risk for newly originated home mortgages in the USA over the past quarter century. The loan-level source data include the entire guarantee book for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We track many loan characteristics and produce a summary measure of risk. Among our many results, we show that mortgage risk had already risen in the 1990s, planting seeds of the financial crisis well before the actual event. Our results also cast doubt on explanations of the crisis that focus on borrowers with low credit scores. The aggregate series are available for download at



    This course will introduce you to “managerial economics” which is the application of microeconomic theory to managerial decision-making. Microeconomic theory is a remarkably useful body of ideas for understanding and analyzing the behavior of individuals and firms in a variety of economic settings. The goal of the course is for you to understand this body of theory well enough so that you can effectively analyze managerial (and other) problems in an economic framework. While this is a “tools” course, we will cover many real-world applications, particularly business applications, so that you can witness the usefulness of these tools and acquire the skills to use them yourself. We will depart from the usual microeconomic theory course by giving more emphasis to prescription: What should a manager do in order to achieve some objective? That course deliverable is to compare with description: Why do firms and consumers act the way they do? The latter will still be quite prominent in this course because only by understanding how other firms and customers behave can a manager determine what is beswt for him or her to do. Strategic interaction is explored both in product markets and auctions. Finally, the challenges created by asymmetric information – both in the market and within the firm – are investigated.

Awards and Honors

  • Babbitt Dissertation Fellowship, 2023 Description

    The Lincoln Institute’s Babbitt Dissertation Fellowship Program assists Ph.D. students at U.S. universities whose research builds on, and contributes to, the integration of land and water policy to advance water sustainability and resilience, particularly in the West. Administered through the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the program provides a link between the Institute’s educational mission and its research objectives by supporting scholars early in their careers.

  • Amy Morse Prize, 2020