Valentin Bolotnyy

Kleinheinz Fellow

Hoover Institution

Stanford University

I am a Kleinheinz Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and a member of the State and Local Governance Initiative. I work on topics across public, labor, and health economics, often forming research partnerships with government agencies to improve public services and gain insight into social behavior. I am also a Research Affiliate at the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA) and an Affiliated Scholar with the Deliberative Democracy Lab at Stanford's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL).

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: Shultz 323
434 Galvez Mall
Stanford, CA 94305


A Blueprint for Measuring and Improving Graduate Student Mental Health

We provide a step-by-step guide for developing, administering, evaluating, and acting on a survey-based study of graduate student mental health. Blueprint focuses on forging student-faculty collaboration and is based on Harvard University’s Graduate Student Mental Health Initiative (GSMHI). The survey tool we use includes validated screening instruments for depression, anxiety, imposter phenomenon, self-esteem, alcohol consumption, exercise and sleep habits, and loneliness. It also includes environmental questions that collect epidemiologic data, as well as ratings of advising relationships and student dynamics. After 6 years, GSMHI has analyzed data from 30 different PhD programs and 4,866 students, overseen the implementation of more than 60 departmental action plans, and performed 9 follow-up surveys to assess progress. It has achieved high response rates (60–90%), discovered wide variation in mental health and environmental factors across departments, and supported experiments with interventions. We hope this blueprint helps other universities run similar initiatives.

Can Deliberation Have Lasting Effects?

Does deliberation produce any lasting effects? “America in One Room” was a national field experiment in which more than 500 randomly selected registered voters were brought from all over the country to deliberate on five major issues facing the country. A pre-post control group was also surveyed on the same questions after the weekend and about a year later. There were significant differences in voting intention and in actual voting behavior a year later among the deliberators compared to the control group. This article accounts for these differences by showing how deliberation stimulated a latent variable of political engagement. If deliberation has lasting effects on political engagement, then it provides a rationale for attempts to scale the deliberative process to much larger numbers. The article considers methods for doing so in the context of the broader debate about mini-publics, isolated spheres of deliberation situated within a largely non-deliberative society.

Backlash Against Repression: Evidence from Refugees Fleeing the Former Soviet Bloc

State repression durably impacts political behaviors in repressed populations, yet research has largely focused on individuals remaining in affected places. Seldom considered are behaviors of individuals who flee to other countries. We examine one such population, Jews exiting the Soviet Bloc, using a unique administrative dataset rarely available in the immigration context. Applying a within-family research design, we examine the impact of having lived longer in the Soviet Bloc on political behavior. In contrast with typical findings of state repression's demobilizing effects, we find that siblings who lived longer in the Soviet Union are significantly more likely to vote in elections. We also find a differentially greater tendency to affiliate with conservative political parties, which we attribute to backlash against communism. We consider alternative mechanisms including family dynamics and economics, and find supportive evidence for similar effects in Israel, one of the other major recipients of this refugee population.

Adapting to Heat: Evidence from the Texas Criminal Justice System

Using administrative criminal records from Texas, we show that heat increases crime in a heterogeneous way across neighborhoods with different housing and economic characteristics. The heterogeneity allows us to predict how effective certain forms of adaptation will be at reducing the impacts of climate change on criminal activity. Our simulations show adaptation reducing, but not completely offsetting, these impacts. Differential rates of adaptation across neighborhoods will likely exacerbate the consequences of already unequal exposure to climate change across society.

Moving to Adaptation? Understanding the Migratory Response to Hurricanes in the United States

Using data on the paths of all hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin from 1992 to 2017, this paper studies whether migration has served as a form of adaptation to hurricane risk. The findings show that on average hurricanes have little to no impact on county out-migration, with population-weighted exposure to hurricanes increasing slightly over the sample period. Counties with high economic activity see net in-migration in the years after a hurricane. Further, return migration likely plays a role in offsetting any out-migration in the year of the storm. The intensity of pre-hurricane migration between county pairs is a strong predictor of excess migration after a hurricane, suggesting that existing economic and social ties dominate in post-hurricane migration decisions. Given existing policies and incentives, the economic and social benefits that people derive from living in high-risk areas currently outweigh the incentive to adapt to future storms by relocating across counties.

Other Projects

Can Deliberative Discussions Heal Political Divides?

Policy Story for PolicyEd. December 13th, 2022. A national experiment called “America in One Room” brought together more than 500 randomly selected voters from around the country for a weekend of guided deliberation. Those who participated were more likely in the short run to moderate their political attitudes and more likely in the long run to engage in civil society.

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.

Graduate School and Mental Health

Interview with the AEA Research Highlights Podcast. February 21st, 2023. I discuss graduate student mental health and what students, faculty, and administrators can do to make things better.

How Unpredictable Schedules Widen the Gender Pay Gap

With Natalia Emanuel. July 1st, 2022. The authors analyzed seven years of pay data for bus and train operators employed by the MBTA at union-negotiated rates and found that even among people in exactly the same role at the same seniority level, women still took home 11% less than men. They identified three factors driving this persistent earnings gap: unpredictable, unconventional, and uncontrollable schedules.

How Unpredictable Schedules Widen the Gender Pay Gap

Policy Story for PolicyEd with Natalia Emanuel. January 4th, 2023. The gender pay gap can remain even among workers with the same role, seniority, and pay structure. One reason is due to unpredictable scheduling. When schedules are unpredictable, women are less likely than men to be able to accept last-minute overtime opportunities and to work odd hours. Making schedules more predictable can help reduce the gap.

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.