Valentin Bolotnyy

Kleinheinz Fellow

Hoover Institution

Stanford University

I am an economist and Kleinheinz Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. I work on topics across public and labor 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: Herbert Hoover Memorial Building (HHMB) 107
434 Galvez Mall
Stanford, CA 94305


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.

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 the amount of uncertainty in each auction, and the distribution of bidders’ private costs and risk aversion. 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.

Mental Health in European Economics Departments

We study the mental health of graduate students and faculty at 14 Economics departments in Europe. Using clinically validated surveys sent out in the fall of 2021, we find that 34.7% of graduate students experience moderate to severe symptoms of depression or anxiety and 17.3% report suicidal or self-harm ideation in a two-week period. Only 19.2% of students with significant symptoms are in treatment. 15.8% of faculty members experience moderate to severe depression or anxiety symptoms, with prevalence higher among non-tenure track (42.9%) and tenure track (31.4%) faculty than tenured (9.6%) faculty. We estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic accounts for about 74% of the higher prevalence of depression symptoms and 30% of the higher prevalence of anxiety symptoms in our European sample relative to a 2017 U.S. sample of economics graduate students. We also document issues in the work environment, including a high incidence of sexual harassment, and make recommendations for improvement.

Heat and Law Enforcement

Using administrative criminal records from Texas, we show how high temperatures affect the decision-making of police officers, prosecutors, and judges. We find that police reduce the number of arrests made per reported crime on the hottest days and that arrests made on these days are more likely to be dismissed in court. For prosecutors, high temperature on the day they announce criminal charges does not appear to affect the nature and severity of the charges. Judges, however, dismiss fewer cases, issue longer prison sentences, and levy higher fines when ruling on hot days. Our results suggest that the psychological and cognitive consequences of exposure to high temperatures have meaningful consequences for criminal defendants as they interact with the criminal justice system.

How Does Living Under Left-Wing Authoritarianism Affect Refugees Who Settle in Democracies? Evidence from Soviet Refugees

We use data on Jewish refugees resettled in the United States between 1938 and 2005, along with survey data on Israeli citizens born in the Former Soviet Union, to demonstrate the persistent downstream political consequences of socialization under left-wing authoritarian regimes. Using a within-family research design that allows us to identify the effect of spending more time under left-wing authoritarianism relative to younger siblings, we show that additional years spent under such regimes result in a higher likelihood of voting and of identifying with right-wing political parties after immigration to democratic countries.

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.