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Valentin Bolotnyy

Kleinheinz Fellow

Hoover Institution

Stanford University

I am an economist on a 5-year research fellowship at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. I work on topics across public and labor economics, often partnering with government agencies to improve public services and gain insight into social behavior.

I received a PhD in Economics from Harvard University and a BA in Economics and International Relations from Stanford University.

Email: vbolotnyy@stanford.edu
Office: Herbert Hoover Memorial Building (HHMB) 107
434 Galvez Mall
Stanford, CA 94305

Research

Heat, Crime, and Punishment

Using administrative criminal records from Texas, we show how heat affects criminal defendants, police officers, prosecutors, and judges. We find that arrests increase by up to 15% on hot days, driven by increases in violent crime. We see no evidence that charging-day heat impacts prosecutorial decisions. However, working alone, judges dismiss fewer cases, issue longer prison sentences, and levy higher fines when ruling on hot days. Higher incomes, newer housing, more teamwork, and less accessible weapons may decrease the adverse effects of heat. Even with adaptation, we forecast that climate change will increase crime and have substantial distributional consequences.

Immigrant Intergenerational Mobility: A Focus on Childhood Environment

We study how immigrant children integrate economically into a new society. Using administrative data from Sweden, we show that immigrant children who grow up in the 20th income percentile have incomes in adulthood that are about 12% lower than those of native children of similarly low-income parents. This income gap cannot be explained by differences in parent education levels, family structure, or municipality of residence. The gap can, however, be explained by differences in immediate, 100 x 100 square meter neighborhoods. Low-income immigrant children grow up in relatively denser neighborhoods with fewer high-earning and native-born neighbors. Administrative data from Stockholm suggest that immigrant neighborhoods are also less desirable than the ones where low income natives live and have worse schools. While we cannot rule out selection as a driving force for these results, our evidence suggests that urban planning decisions, especially ones that limit access to housing, can be significant barriers to immigrant intergenerational mobility.

Why Do Women Earn Less Than Men? Evidence from Bus and Train Operators

Female workers earn $0.89 for each male-worker dollar even in a unionized workplace where tasks, wages, and promotion schedules are identical for men and women by design. Using administrative time-card data on bus and train operators, we show that this earnings gap can be explained by female operators taking fewer hours of overtime and more hours of unpaid time-off than male operators. Female operators, especially those with dependents, pursue schedule conventionality, predictability, and controllability more than male operators. We demonstrate that while reducing schedule controllability can limit the earnings gap, it can also hurt female workers and their productivity.

Graduate Student Mental Health: Lessons from American Economics Departments

We study the mental health of graduate students at 8 top-ranked economics PhD programs in the U.S. using clinically validated surveys. We find that 24.8% experience moderate or severe symptoms of depression or anxiety - more than two times the population average. Though our response rate was 45.1% and sample selection concerns exist, conservative lower bounds nonetheless suggest higher prevalence rates of such symptoms than in the general population. Mental health issues are especially prevalent at the end of the PhD program: 36.7% of students in years 6+ of their program experience moderate or severe symptoms of depression or anxiety, versus 21.2% of first-year students. 25.2% of economics students with these symptoms are in treatment, compared to 41.4% of graduate students in other programs. A similar percentage of economics students (40-50%) say they cannot honestly discuss mental health with advisers as say they cannot honestly discuss research progress or non-academic career options. Only 26% find their work to be useful always or most of the time, compared to 70% of economics faculty and 63% of the working age population. We provide recommendations for students, faculty, and administrators on ways to improve graduate student mental health.

Scaling Auctions as Insurance: A Case Study in Infrastructure Procurement

Most U.S. government spending on highways and bridges is done through “scaling” procurement auctions, in which private construction firms submit unit price bids for each piece of material required to complete a project. Using data on bridge maintenance projects undertaken by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), we present evidence that firm bidding behavior in this context is consistent with optimal skewing under risk aversion: firms limit their risk exposure by placing lower unit bids on items with greater uncertainty. We estimate bidders’ risk aversion, the risk in each auction, and the distribution of bidders’ private costs. Simulating equilibrium item-level bids under counterfactual settings, we estimate the fraction of project spending that is due to risk and evaluate auction mechanisms under consideration by policymakers. We find that scaling auctions provide substantial savings relative to lump sum auctions and show how our framework can be used to evaluate alternative auction designs.

Other Projects

Counting on Coronavirus Luck is Not a Fall Election Strategy. Best Bet is Vote by Mail.

Op-ed with Larry Diamond. May 4th, 2020. Vote by mail is not a partisan plot, it's critical infrastructure to assure a safe election in a pandemic. Now is the time to invest and prepare.

The Immigrant Doctors Project

The Immigrant Doctors Project is an effort by (former) Harvard and MIT Economics PhD students to highlight the areas of the United States that rely most heavily on immigrant doctors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

To Address Collegiate Mental Health, Start with Vaccine Mandates and In-Person Classes

Op-ed with Paul Barreira. August 5th, 2021. Changing culture around mental health will mean envisioning college as a space where academic excellence is closely intertwined with meaningful social relationships and thriving mental health.