Stephan Whitaker |

Research Economist


Stephan Whitaker, Research Economist

Stephan Whitaker is a research economist in the Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. His current work includes research on housing markets and studies of state and local public finance.

Dr. Whitaker earned his PhD in public policy from the Harris School at the University of Chicago. He holds an MS in statistics from Colorado State University and a BA in economics from Columbia University. Before earning his doctorate, Dr. Whitaker served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.

  • Fed Publications
  • Other Publications
Title Date Publication Author(s) Type

 

December, 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, working paper no. 12-40 ; Thomas J Fitzpatrick; Lisa A Nelson; Francisca G-C Richter; Working Papers
Abstract: The housing and economic crises have exerted a strong and lingering impact on housing markets across the nation. In this paper, we assess the degree to which local anti-blight policies have infl uenced housing market outcomes following the crises. The analysis is performed for cities in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. We measure outcomes that characterize market distress and that may be influenced by local housing ordinances including foreclosure, bulk sales, flipping, vacancy, and tax delinquency. Using matching procedures on linked data containing property, loan, and transaction characteristics, we compare outcomes across properties in regulated and unregulated municipalities. Point of sale inspections and vacancy registrations both decrease the probability that homes are flipped (resold within two years). We find that point of sale inspections are positively associated with foreclosures, property tax delinquency, and sales prices below the tax assessed value. The inspections may be revealing the need for expensive repairs in some homes, which could push borrowers underwater and into foreclosure. We find evidence that vacancy registration requirements do lower vacancy. The discussion around policies for housing market recovery, for the most part, has addressed efforts at the federal level. This analysis integrates in discussion of efforts and policies arising at the local level.

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November, 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, working paper no. 12-31 ; Working Papers
Abstract: Raising the share of adults with college degrees in a region or jurisdiction is a nearly universal goal of regional policymakers. They believe that education, as summarized by this statistic, is the cause of increasing employment, productivity, and wages. Using statistics estimated from the decennial censuses and the American Community Survey, this analysis demonstrates how different measures would suggest different rankings of more successful versus less successful metro areas. The "place-of-birth" variable in Census data enables a disaggregation of the origins of the skilled and unskilled adult populations. This provides insight into whether high-skilled regions developed talent among natives or attracted talent nationally or globally. I find that metros in states that are successful at getting their natives through college have experienced lower growth in their native and migrant graduate populations. With a few exceptions, metro areas with high degree shares or large improvements in their degree share have not grown their graduate population at unusually high rates. The numbers suggest that metro areas held up as exemplars of educational attainment have achieved this distinction to a large extent by being unattractive to nongraduates.

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November, 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, working paper no. 12-30 ; Thomas J Fitzpatrick; Working Papers
Abstract: Cuyahoga County created a land bank in 2009 explicitly intended to acquire low-value properties, mitigate blighted housing, help stabilize neighborhoods, and slow the decline of property values. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of the land bank by estimating spatially-corrected hedonic price models using sales near the land bank homes. Homes that sold within 500 feet of a property that would be acquired by the land bank in the next six months show a 3 to 5 percent discount versus observationally similar homes. Homes that sold within 500 feet of a land bank owned home sold at prices approximately 5 percent higher than similar homes. A land bank demolition appears to have a positive externality, which adds 9 percent to the value of a nearby home sale. These results are consistent through a wide variety of specifications, but they are not measured precisely enough to be statistically significant.

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2012-03 ; Thomas J Fitzpatrick; Economic Commentary
Abstract: Swelling REO inventories are the latest fallout of the housing crisis, costing lenders money and contributing to neighborhood blight. Yet lenders could avoid taking on so much REO if they could more accurately estimate the value of the homes they foreclose on, especially in weak housing markets. Correcting this apparent misunderstanding of the market could speed the clearing of REO inventories, save lenders money, and help stabilize housing markets.

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September, 2011 Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, working paper no. 1123R ; Thomas J Fitzpatrick; Working Papers
Abstract: In this empirical analysis, we estimate the impact of vacancy, neglect associated with property-tax delinquency, and foreclosures on the value of neighboring homes using parcel-level observations. Numerous studies have estimated the impact of foreclosures on neighboring properties, and these papers theorize that the foreclosure impact works partially through creating vacant and neglected homes. To our knowledge, this is only the second attempt to estimate the impact of vacancy itself and the first to estimate the impact of tax-delinquent properties on neighboring home sales. We link vacancy observations from Postal Service data with property-tax delinquency and sales data from Cuyahoga County (the county encompassing Cleveland, Ohio). We estimate hedonic price models with corrections for spatial autocorrelation. We find that an additional property within 500 feet that is vacant, delinquent, or both reduces the home's selling price by at least 1.3 percent. In low-poverty areas, tax-current foreclosed homes have large negative impacts of 4.6 percent. In high-poverty areas, we observe positive correlations of sale prices with tax-current foreclosures and negative correlations with tax-delinquent foreclosures. This may reflect selective foreclosing on better-maintained properties or better maintenance by tax-paying foreclosure auction winners. The marginal medium-poverty census tracts display the largest negative responses to vacancy and delinquency in nearby nonforeclosed homes.

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2011-12 ; Economic Commentary
Abstract:

The national foreclosure crisis has caused there to be millions more vacancies in our housing stock than before. Vacant homes lower their community’s property values and quality of life. Neighbors and public officials know foreclosed homes sit empty for months, but precise measures of foreclosure-related vacancy are rare. Using data from Cuyahoga County, Ohio, I trace the rise and fall in the vacancy rates of homes during the 18 months following their foreclosure. Ominously, the data suggest that foreclosure may permanently scar some homes. Foreclosed homes still have higher vacancy rates than neighboring houses two to five years after a sheriff’s sale.


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2011-09 ; Economic Commentary
Abstract: In their search for strategies to spur economic development, one statistic civic leaders and researchers invariably use to identify the cities to emulate is the share of college graduates. That is because the college degree share of a region is highly correlated with its economic performance. But too narrow a focus on the graduates can lead to misguided policies. A more thorough analysis suggests that the reason some areas pull ahead and some fall behind in their college degree shares may be due to trends in nongraduate population growth that regional leaders either cannot or would not directly address with public policies.

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April, 2011 Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, working paper no. 11-10 ; Working Papers
Abstract: This paper proposes and tests a structural model reflecting the process of authorizing private-activity municipal bond issuance. Private-activity municipal bonds offer tax-exempt financing for programs including industrial development, utilities, low-income housing, and student loans. The Federal tax code sets annual caps on the total tax-exempt issuance within each state, so authorization becomes a scarce resource distributed via a political process. Interviews with program administrators in several states suggested the authorization process involves prioritizing categories of use, authorizing bonds for high-priority uses first, and then authorizing bonds for lower-priority uses until the cap is exhausted. A model representing this process suggests variables to include in reduced-form estimations and an alternative interpretation of the coefficients. The fit of the model can be improved by adding measures of political influence and imposing a structure that reflects the political prioritization process. In general, industrial development and utilities appear to be the highest priority uses of private-activity municipal bonds. Mortgage revenue bonds are the residual category most frequently.

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September, 2010 Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland working paper, no. 10-13 ; Working Papers
Abstract: State governments allocate authority, under a federally imposed cap, to issue tax-exempt bonds that fund “private activities” such as industrial expansion, student loans, and low-income housing. This paper presents political economy models of the allocation process and an empirical analysis. Due to an idiosyncrasy of the tax code, the annual per capita volume cap varies widely across states. I estimate that, on average, there is an additional $0.80 per capita per year of borrowing for each additional dollar per capita of volume cap. This confirms that the cap is a binding constraint in most cases, and authority to issue tax-exempt bonds is a scarce resource. I find that mortgage revenue bonds and student loan bonds are the most responsive to differences in the cap. The gross state product and employment in manufacturing and utilities drive allocations to industrial development bonds and utilities bonds. While controlling for the size of the education sector, I find campaign contributions from educational interests are associated with higher authorizations for student loans. One result runs counter to the theoretical models. Higher campaign contributions from utilities interests are associated with lower utilities borrowing. Unions do not have an independent effect on allocations.

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May, 2010 Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Policy Discussion Paper, no. 29 ; Policy Discussion Papers
Abstract: A conference organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland engendered an informative discussion of consumer protection in financial products markets. Anticipating significant changes in financial regulation, the conference asked the question, “How could regulators successfully protect consumers?” It intentionally looked beyond the existing institutions. The first of three panels discussed how consumers gather information and process it to make purchase decisions. Lessons learned from research on food labeling and shopping were discussed. Another panel examined the roles of professionals who guide consumers through a marketplace. Panelists discussed the legal obligations of brokers and rating agencies. The final panel focused on product preapproval processes like the FDA’s regulation of pharmaceuticals and the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s post-market tracking of injuries. This Policy Discussion Paper summarizes the presenters’ material and draws out themes that point a way forward for efficient, competitive financial product markets that are safe for consumers. [NOTE: This issue is available only on-line. It was not printed. Also, the publication of Policy Discussion Papers ended with this issue.]

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December, 2009 Vol. 1, No. 1 ; Thomas J Fitzpatrick; Daniel A Littman; Forefront
Abstract: In the wake of the mortgage meltdown, policymakers are discussing how best to protect consumers in financial product markets. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland hosted a seminar, “Consumer Protection in Financial Product Markets,” in September 2009 to exchange ideas with other regulators about consumer protection and the role of the courts.

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December, 2009 Vol. 1, No. 1 ; Thomas J Fitzpatrick; Daniel A Littman; Forefront
Abstract: Watch economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland discuss their takeaways from the September 11, 2009, seminar on consumer protection.

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Title Date Publication Author(s) Type
Adjusting the Volume: Private-Activity Municipal Bonds and the Variation in the Volume Cap

 

March, 2014 Public Budgeting and Finance. Spring 2014, Vol. 34 Issue 1, pp. 39-63 ; Journal Article

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Deconstructing Distressed-Property Spillovers: The Effects of Vacant, Tax-Delinquent, and Foreclosed Properties in Housing Submarkets

 

April, 2013 Journal of Housing Economics, vol. 22 ; Thomas J Fitzpatrick; Journal Article

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The Impact of Legalized Abortion on High School Graduation through Selection and Composition

 

April 2011 Economics of Education Review, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 228-246. ; Journal Article

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An Effective Method for Selecting the Number of Components in Density Mixtures

 

2007 Journal of Statistical Computation and Simulation, no. 77, vol. 10, pp. 907-914. ; Thomas C. M. Lee; Journal Article

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