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Divya Singh
Divya Singh
Job Market Candidate
Fields: Public Economics, Urban Economics
Sponsor(s): Wojciech Kopczuk


Welcome! I am a Ph.D. Candidate in Economics at Columbia University. My areas of interest include Public Economics (primary), Urban Economics, and Development Economics (secondary). I defend my dissertation in May 2020.



Wojciech Kopczuk (Sponsor) Michael Best
Donald Davis Brendan O’Flaherty
Bernard Salanie


Job Market Paper

Recently, many cities have proposed property tax incentives on new construction to counteract rising rents. However, to date, there is little empirical evidence on their local effects. This paper uses a natural experiment in New York City to estimate the local effects of new tax-exempt residential construction. In 2006, the city government decided to make property tax incentives on new construction less generous, but only starting in 2008. Developers rushed to build and claim incentives before the deadline in response. I instrument the number of new units developed within 150 meters from a rental building by the baseline number of vacant parcels available within the same distance. Using a new dataset of rents and investment at the level of a building, I find that the existing rental building's rent increased by 2.3% in response to an additional tax-exempt unit built within a 150 meters radius. I provide evidence consistent with the hypothesis that new residential investment rendered neighborhoods more desirable by attracting affluent households and facilitating the entry of businesses and consumption amenities. Overall, the results indicate that tax-exempt new construction spurred gentrification.

Awards: Honorable Mention, Best Student Paper, Urban Economics Association Philadelphia 2019.

Presented at: Urban Economics Association Philadelphia; Association for Public Policy and Management meetings Denver; National Tax Association Meetings Tampa; ZEW Advances in Empirical Public Economics 2018; Fiscal Policy Breakfast, NY Federal Reserve Bank; Mayor's Office of Management and Budget; Independent Budget Office, New York; Young Economists Symposium, Columbia.


 Working Papers

“Merging to Dodge Taxes? Unexpected Consequences of VAT Adoption in India”

This paper investigates whether tax evasion creates incentives among firms to reorganize their production under Value Added Tax (VAT). The VAT is the world’s most popular consumption tax and is considered revenue efficient since cross-reporting of firm-to-firm transactions facilitates self-enforcement. However, the ability to evade tax on consumer transactions creates incentives for the last two firms in the production chain to integrate vertically. In this paper, I test this hypothesis by using a quasi-experiment in India where the sales tax was replaced with VAT in a staggered manner between 2003 and 2008, changing tax evasion opportunities along the production chain. A differences-in-differences analysis reveals that after the reform, treated firms sourced more “upstream” products and had greater vertical mergers, indicating greater vertical integration under VAT. In addition, the effect is largest for firms that are closest to the final demand indicating that tax-evasion is one of the channels. Overall, the results suggest that VAT is no longer production efficient in settings of low compliance.


Awards: Rueben’s Fellowship, Columbia Economics Department, 2017.

Presented at: National Tax Association Meetings Tampa; Conference on Value Added of Value Added Taxes, World Bank, DC; Conference on Public Finance in Developing countries, Zurich; Young Economists Symposium, NYU; Development and Political Economy Conference, UC Berkeley; Ph.D. Conference, University of Warwick, UK.

“Safer Elections, Women Turnout, and Political Outcomes: Evidence from India”

This paper measures the effects of improving security at the polling booths in a significant state election in India. Using a novel dataset on voting and political outcomes at the booth level and a regression discontinuity design, I find that the women share in total turnout is higher by 1.4 percentage points in the booths with a greater probability of treatment. Additionally, there are effects on political outcomes. In particular, the incumbent party, corrupt candidates lose, whereas the educated candidates gain vote shares, as a result of poll-booth safety. Overall, the evidence suggests that improving safety in elections has consequences for the political-economic equilibrium.

Awards: Harriss Prize for Best Second year paper, 2016.

Presented at: Annual Conference on Economic Growth and Development, ISI Delhi; APPAM Regional Student Conference, D.C., 2017.


Columbia University

Instructor Positions

Summer 2017-S4500: International Trade

Teaching Assistant Positions

Fall 2017 and 2018-GU4465 Public Economics, TA for Prof. Wojciech Kopczuk

Spring 2018 and 2019– GU4321: Economic Development, TA for Professor Jack Willis

Fall 2016-UN2105: American Economy, TA for Prof. Sally Davidson

Spring 2016-UN1105: Principles of Economics, TA for Prof. Brendan O’Flaherty

Fall 2015-UN1105: Principles of Economics, TA for Prof. Anna Musatti

1022 International Affairs Building (IAB)
Mail Code 3308  
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
Ph: (212) 854-3680
Fax: (212) 854-0749
Business Hours:
Mon–Fri, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

1022 International Affairs Building (IAB)

Mail Code 3308

420 West 118th Street

New York, NY 10027

Ph: (212) 854-3680
Fax: (212) 854-0749
Business Hours:
Mon–Fri, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.