Modern Econometric Methods for the Analysis of Housing Markets

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Virginia Tech

The increasing availability of richer, high-dimensional, home sales data-sets, as well as spatially geocoded data, allows for the use of new econometric and computational methods to explore novel research questions. This dissertation consists of three separate research papers which aim to leverage this trend to answer empirical inferential questions, propose new computational approaches in environmental valuation, and address future challenges.

The first research chapter estimates the effect on home values of 10 large-scale urban stream restoration projects situated near the project sites. The study area is the Johnson Creek Watershed in Portland, Oregon. The research design incorporates four matching model approaches that vary based on the temporal bands' width, a narrow and a wider band, and two spatial zoning buffers, a smaller and larger that account for the affected homes' distances. Estimated effects tend to be positive for six projects when the restoration projects' distance is smaller, and the temporal bands are narrow, while two restoration projects have positive effects on home values across all four modeling approaches.

The second research chapter focuses on the underlying statistical and computational properties of matching methods for causal treatment effects. The prevailing notion in the literature is that there is a tradeoff between bias and variance linked to the number of matched control observations for each treatment unit. In addition, in the era of Big Data, there is a paucity of research addressing the tradeoffs between inferential accuracy and computational time across different matching methods. Is it worth employing computationally costly matching methods if the gains in bias reduction and efficiency are negligible? We revisit the notion of bias-variance tradeoff and address the subject of computational time considerations. We conduct a simulation study and evaluate 160 models and 320 estimands. The results suggest that the conventional notion of a bias-variance tradeoff, with bias increasing and variance decreasing with the number of matched controls, does not hold under the bias-corrected matching estimator (BCME), developed by Abadie and Imbens (2011). Specifically, for the BCME, the trend of bias decreases as the number of matches per treated unit increases. Moreover, when the pre-matching balance's quality is already good, choosing only one match results in a significantly larger bias under all methods and estimators. In addition, the genetic search matching algorithm, GenMatch, is superior compared to the baseline Greedy Method by achieving a better balance between the observed covariate distributions of the treated and matched control groups. On the down side, GenMatch is 408 times slower compared to a greedy matching method. However, when we employ the BCME on matched data, there is a negligible difference in bias reduction between the two matching methods.

Traditionally, environmental valuation methods using residential property transactions follow two approaches, hedonic price functions and Random Utility sorting models. An alternative approach is the Iterated Bidding Algorithm (IBA), introduced by Kuminoff and Jarrah (2010). This third chapter aims to improve the IBA approach to property and environmental valuation compared to its early applications. We implement this approach in an artificially simulated residential housing market, maintaining full control over the data generating mechanism. We implement the Mesh Adaptive Direct Search Algorithm (MADS) and introduce a convergence criterion that leverages the knowledge of individuals' actual pairing to homes. We proceed to estimate the preference parameters of the distribution of an underlying artificially simulated housing market. We estimate with significantly higher precision than the original baseline Nelder-Mead optimization that relied only on a price discrepancy convergence criterion, as implemented during the IBAs earlier applications.

Environmental Economics, Econometrics, Treatment Effects, Matching Methods, Iterated Bidding Algorithm