Rui Yu

Rui Yu
  • Applied Economics Doctoral Student

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    419C Vance Hall
    3733 Spruce Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: Urban Economics and Real Estate, Public Finance, Applied Microeconomics, and Political Economy

Links: Personal Website, CV, Job Market Paper


I am available for interviews in the 2021/2022 job market.

I am an Applied Microeconomist specializing in Urban Economics and Real Estate, Public Finance, and Political Economy. Currently, I am a PhD student in Applied Economics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Prior to graduate school, I worked as a RA at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I earned a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University with a degree in Economics-Mathematics in 2014.


  • Professor Fernando Ferreira (Advisor)
    • (215) 898-7181
  • Professor Joseph Gyourko
    • (215) 898-3003
  • Professor Gilles Duranton
    • (215) 898-2859
  • Professor Marc Meredith
    • (215) 746-7672
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Returns to Political Contributions in Local Housing Markets (JOB MARKET PAPER)

This paper investigates whether firms donate to political campaigns in order to influence supply in one of the largest markets in the U.S.—housing. A model of electoral competition and special interest politics highlights two mechanisms for this to occur: firms can be buying favors or supporting policy. To assess which mechanism dominates, I investigate residential construction firms that donate to mayoral candidates and their impact on local housing supply. To do this, I collect the first large-scale dataset of campaign donors in U.S. mayor’s races. I employ a firm-level regression discontinuity (RD) design in close mayoral races to evaluate the mechanism of buying favors. Donating to a narrowly elected mayor substantially increases that firm’s growth of new property sales by $243.8 thousand per year. Favors increase for bigger donations, are concentrated among powerful mayors, and matter more for incumbent firms. Participating in local politics does entail political risk; donors to the runner-up experience declining sales compared to firms that do not donate in mayor’s races. Otherwise, mayors do not appear to bar entry of their donor’s competitors. I then evaluate the mechanism of supporting policy by exploiting an aggregate, city-level RD design. Pro-development mayors that attract more construction donors more than double new housing permits citywide over five years. This total effect dwarfs the sum of private favors to donors, as even non-supporters sell more. Taking these estimates together, 70.1% of the impact of a pro-development mayor on housing supply is due to differences in housing policy between candidates. Translating the effect into levels, 10.2% of total permits issued every year in an American city are favors to political donors.


The Political Economy of Federal Procurement, with Philip Mulder

The federal government awards nearly $500 billion each year to firms and entities to deliver government services. We propose to study how firms use campaign contributions to influence federal contracts and the effect of this influence on procurement efficiency and local economic outcomes. We study these questions by quasi-experimental variation in contract awards stemming from close elections linked to contributions from contractors. Detailed micro-data on federal awards are matched to federal campaign donors. The merged dataset surfaces a number of salient findings. Although firms competing for federal contracts are forbidden from donating to politicians, 13.6% of contractors had an employee who donated to federal candidates in the 2014 election cycle. These contractors earned 83.7% of the total value of federal contracts in that period. Moreover, their employees who contributed disproportionately worked in executive or government affairs roles relative to the population of contributors. Federal contractors associated with donors earned more no-bid awards than non-donors. In the federal response to the Covid-19 crisis, doubling a contractor’s political beneficiaries in Congress caused the contractor to earn 54.0% more awards.

The Homeownership Society, with Rafael Pucci and Rafael Tavares

Can owning a home change your labor market outcomes or political beliefs? Programs promoting homeownership are a major political agenda around the world, yet the economic rationale is disputed. We investigate how becoming a homeowner can affect a range of labor market outcomes and political participation in a development context. To do this, we combine individual-level data from a large-scale housing lottery in Brazil between 2009 and 2016. We link individual recipients to new data on applicants and administrative micro-data on the universe of formal employment and political participation. We find evidence that becoming a homeowner increases both individuals’ formal labor participation and political participation.


Fall, 2020: Microeconomics for Managers (Executive MBA), TA for Professor Kent Smetters
Fall, 2019: Urban Fiscal Policy (Undergraduate/MBA), TA for Professor Fernando Ferreira
Fall, 2018: Microeconomics for Managers (Undergraduate), Head TA for Professor Eduardo Azevedo

Awards and Honors

2021: Urban Economics Association Prize for Best Student Paper
2021: Robert R. Nathan Fellowship
2019, 2020: Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Grants
2019: Becker-Friedman Institute Price Theory Summer Camp
2019: George James Term Fund
2018, 2019: Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center Research Grants
2018, 2019: Mack Institute for Innovation Management Research Grants
2018, 2019: Applied Economics Travel Grants
2016-2021: Wharton Doctoral Fellowship
2016: NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Honorable Mention

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