Matthew Davis

Matthew Davis
  • Applied Economics Doctoral Student

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3000 Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall
    Philadelphia, PA 19104


Matt’s research interests are in public economics and housing markets.  He earned his undergraduate degree in Economics from Princeton University in 2009 and subsequently worked as a research analyst at the Environmental Defense Fund and the Education Innovation Lab at Harvard University.

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Working Papers

Housing Disease and Public School Finances (with Fernando Ferreira).  [NBERpdf]

Abstract: Median expenditure per student in U.S. public schools grew 41% in real terms from 1990 to 2009.  We propose a new mechanism to explain part of this increase: housing disease, a fiscal externality from local housing markets in which unexpected booms generate extra revenues that schools administrators have incentives to spend, independent of local preferences for provision of public goods.  We establish the importance of housing disease by: (i) assembling a novel microdata set containing the universe of housing transactions for a large sample of school districts; and (ii) using the timelines of school district housing booms to disentangle the effects of housing disease from reverse causality and changes in household composition.  We estimate housing price elasticities of per-pupil expenditures of 0.16-0.20, which accounts for approximately half of the rise in public school spending.  School districts did not boost administrative costs with those additional funds.  Instead, they primarily increased spending on instruction and capital projects, suggesting that the cost increase was accompanied by improvements in the quality of school inputs.


“No Excuses” Charter Schools and College Enrollment: New Evidence From a High-School Network in Chicago (with Blake Heller).  Forthcoming, Education Finance and Policy.  [SSRN, pdf, Education Next version].

Abstract: While it is well-known that certain charter schools dramatically increase students’ standardized test scores, there is considerably less evidence that these human capital gains persist into adulthood. To address this matter, we match three years of lottery data from a high-performing charter high school to administrative college enrollment records and estimate the effect of winning an admissions lottery on college matriculation, quality, and persistence. Seven to nine years after the lottery, we find that lottery winners are 10.0 percentage points more likely to attend college and 9.5 percentage points more likely to enroll for at least four semesters. Unlike previous studies, our estimates are powerful enough to uncover improvements on the extensive margin of college attendance (enrolling in any college), the intensive margin (persistence of attendance), and the quality margin (enrollment at selective, four-year institutions). We conclude by providing non-experimental evidence that more recent cohorts at other campuses in the network increased enrollment at a similar rate.

Awards and Honors

  • C. Lowell Harris Dissertation Fellowship (Lincoln Land Institute), 2017
  • Amy Morse Prize, 2014
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, 2013


Awards and Honors

C. Lowell Harris Dissertation Fellowship (Lincoln Land Institute) 2017
All Awards