Tara Watson

Tara Watson

Professor of Economics

Schapiro Hall Rm 204
At Williams since 2004


B.A. Wesleyan University (1996)
Ph.D. Harvard University, Economics (2003)

Areas of Expertise

  • Applied microeconomics
  • Health economics
  • Economic demography
  • Urban economics
  • Labor economics
  • Public economics
  • U.S. social policy

Scholarship/Creative Work


Schmidt, Lucie, Lara Shore-Sheppard, and Tara Watson, 2019. “The Impact of Expanding Public Health Insurance on Safety Net Program Participation: Evidence from the ACA Medicaid Expansion,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper w26504.

Schmidt, Lucie, Lara Shore-Sheppard, and Tara Watson, 2019. “The Impact of the ACA Medicaid Expansion on Disability Program Applications,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper w26192, revision requested.

Beam, Emily, Yusufcan Masatlioglu, Tara Watson, and Dean Yang, 2019. “Do Ex Ante Incentives Generate Endowment Effects or Trust? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment Promoting Preventive Health Care,” under review.

Chou, Tiffany, Adam Looney, and Tara Watson, 2017.  “Measuring Loan Outcomes at Postsecondary Institutions: Cohort Repayment Rates as an Indicator of Student Success and Institutional Accountability,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper w23118.

Schmidt, Lucie, Lara Shore-Sheppard, and Tara Watson, 2016.  “The Effect of Safety Net Programs on Food Insecurity,” Journal of Human Resources 51(3): 589-614.  (Earlier draft:  National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 19558.)

Watson, Tara, 2014.  “Inside the Refrigerator:  Immigration Enforcement and Chilling in Immigrant Medicaid Participation.”  American Economic Journal:  Economic Policy 6: 313-338.  (Earlier draft:  National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 16278.)

Watson, Tara, 2013.  “Enforcement and Immigrant Location Choice,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 19626.  (Previous version:  Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Working Paper 13-10.)  Revision requested, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Watson, Tara, and Sara McLanahan, 2011.  “Marriage Meets the Joneses:  Relative Income, Identity, and Marital Status.”   Journal of Human Resources 46:  568-586.

Beeson, Patricia, Lara Shore-Sheppard, and Tara Watson, 2010.  “Local Fiscal Policies and Urban Wage Structures.”  Public Finance Review 38:  540-584.

Watson, Tara, 2009.  “Inequality and the Measurement of Residential Segregation by Income.” Review of Income and Wealth 55: 820-844.  (Earlier draft: National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 14908, April 2009.)

Fertig, Angela, and Tara Watson, 2009. “Minimum Drinking Ages and Infant Health Outcomes.” Journal of Health Economics  28: 737-747.  (Earlier draft: National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 14118, June 2008.)

Watson, Tara, 2006.  “Public Health Investments and the Infant Mortality Gap:  Evidence from Federal Sanitation Interventions on U.S. Indian Reservations.” Journal of Public Economics 90:  1537-1560.

Watson, Tara, 2006.  “Inequality, Metropolitan Growth, and Residential Segregation by Income,” in Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs 1-52. Gary Burtless and Janet Rothenberg Pack, eds.

Morrison, Steven. A., Clifford Winston, and Tara Watson, 1999.  “Fundamental Flaws of Social Regulation:  The Case of Airplane Noise.” Journal of Law and Economics 42:  723-43.


Shorter Pieces

Watson, Tara, 2020.  “Will the Public Charge Rule Reduce Safety Net Expenditures?,” Econofact website, (https://econofact.org/will-the-public-charge-rule-reduce-safety-net-expenditures).

Watson, Tara, 2019.  “SNAP Benefits and the Government Shutdown,” Econofact website,(https://econofact.org/snap-benefits-and-the-government-shutdown).

Looney, Adam, and Tara Watson, 2018.  “Student Loans: Sharing the Risk,” Milken Quarterly, (http://www.milkenreview.org/articles/sharing-the-risk).

Watson, Tara, 2018. “Proposed Immigration Rules and the Safety Net,” Econofact website, (https://econofact.org/proposed-immigration-rules-and-the-safety-net).

Chou, Tiffany, Adam Looney, and Tara Watson, 2017. “A Risk-Sharing Proposal for Student Loans,” Hamilton Project Policy Proposal 2017-04.

Watson, Tara, 2017.  “Who Gains and Who Loses if We Turn off the Immigration Jobs Magnet?,” Econofact website. (http://econofact.org/who-gains-and-who-loses-if-we-turn-off-the-immigrant-jobs-magnet).

Watson, Tara, 2017.  “Do Safety Net Programs Impact Food Security in the United States?,” Econofact website. (http://econofact.org/do-safety-net-programs-impact-food-security-in-the-u-s).

Watson, Tara, 2017.  “Do Undocumented Immigrants Overuse Government Benefits?,” Econofact website. (http://econofact.org/do-undocumented-immigrants-overuse-government-benefits).

Watson, Tara, 2016.  “We Must Avoid Another Lost Decade in Puerto Rico,” Treasury Notes, U.S. Department of Treasury. (https://www.treasury.gov/connect/blog/Pages/We-Must-Avoid-Another-Lost-Decade-in-Puerto-Rico.aspx)

Watson, Tara, 2016.  “Comments on ‘Socioeconomic Segregation between Schools in the U.S. and Latin America, 1970-2012’ by Anna K. Chmielewski and Corey Savage,” in Land and the City, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Watson, Tara, 2015. “Book Review: ‘Legacies of the War on Poverty’ by Martha J. Bailey and Sheldon Danziger, eds.,” Journal of Economic Literature 53(1):  126-27.

Watson, Tara, 2015. “Room for Debate:  Lowering the Drinking Age Has Serious Consequences,” New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/02/10/you-must-be-21-to-drink.)

Watson, Tara, 2014. “Aggressive immigration enforcement discourages non-citizen parents from enrolling their citizen children in Medicaid,” Usapp blog (blogs.lse.uk/usappblog).

Watson, Tara, 2014.  “Immigrants as a Potential Source of Growth for New England’s Highly Skilled Workforce,”  New England Public Policy Center Policy Brief 13-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.  (http://www.bostonfed.org/economic/neppc/briefs/2013/pb135.htm)

Watson, Tara, 2009. “Marriage Meets the Joneses,” Vox EU. (http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/3533).

Watson, Tara, 2007. “Book Review:  The Geography of American Poverty:  Is There a Need for Place-Based Policies? by Mark D. Partridge and Dan S. Rickman,”  Journal of Regional Science, 47(5), pp.1002-1004.

Watson, Tara, 2007. “New Housing, Income Inequality, and Distressed Metropolitan Areas,” Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program Policy Brief Series.


Work in Progress

Thompson, Kalee, and Tara Watson, Undocumented:  The High Costs of Immigration Enforcement (working title), University of Chicago Press, expected publication Spring 2021.

Beam, Emily, Gloria Palmisano, Tara Watson, and Dean Yang, “Information, Transaction Costs, Procrastination, and Inattention: Evidence from a Field Experiment Promoting Health Insurance Take-Up,” in progress.

Butcher, Kristin, and Tara Watson, “The Impact of Immigration on the Living Arrangements and Health of the Elderly,” in progress.

Schmidt, Lucie, Lara Shore-Sheppard, and Tara Watson, “Does Old Age Social Security Benefit Low-Income Children?” in progress.

Zoen, Adam, and Tara Watson, “More Pot, More Pills? The Effects of Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries on Opioid Overdose Mortality,” in progress.



Awards, Fellowships & Grants


Russell Sage Foundation, “Does Social Security Reduce Poverty and Boost the Academic Achievement of Low-Income Children?,” Award number G-1808-07222. Grant period June 2019-May 2021.  (PI Tara Watson, co-PIs Lucie Schmidt and Lara Shore-Sheppard.)

Peterson Foundation U.S. 2050 Initiative, “Immigration, Care-giving Labor, and Tomorrow’s Elderly,” Grant Period April 2018 to March 2019.  (PI Tara Watson, co-PI Kristin Butcher.)

Russell Sage Foundation, The Impact of the ACA Medicaid Expansion on Public Program Participation and Labor Market Outcomes of Low-Wage Workers,” Award Number 94-17-03.  Grant period December 2016 to November 2018.  (PI Lara Shore-Sheppard, co-PIs Lucie Schmidt and Tara Watson.)

National Institutes of Health, R03 Small Grant Program, “The Impact of Immigration on the Living Arrangements and Health of the Elderly,” Award Number 1R03AG051861-01.  Grant period September 2016 to May 2018.  (PI Kristin Butcher, Senior Investigator Tara Watson.)

University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, Understanding the Relationships between SNAP, Food Security, and Health in the National Health Interview Survey Grant Program, “The Effect of SNAP and the Broader Safety Net on Mental Health and Food Insecurity.” Grant Period August 2016 to February 2018.  (PI Lucie Schmidt, co-PIs Lara Shore-Sheppard and Tara Watson.)

National Institutes of Health, R21 Exploratory/Development Grant, “Barriers to Medicaid Participation among Immigrants:  A Randomized Experiment,” Award Number 1R21HD071361-01A1.  Grant Period September 2012 to September 2014 plus one year no-cost extension.  (PI Tara Watson, Other Investigator Dean Yang.)

University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, Research Program on Childhood Hunger Small Grant, “The Effect of Safety Net Programs on Food Insecurity.”  Grant Period June 2011 to September 2012.  (PI Tara Watson, co-PIs Lara Shore-Sheppard and Lucie Schmidt.)

West Coast Poverty Center Small Grant Competition, “Inside the Refrigerator:  Welfare Reform, Immigration Enforcement, and Chilling Effects in Immigrant Medicaid Participation.”  Grant Period September 2009 to August 2010.  (PI Tara Watson.)

University of Michigan National Poverty Center Small Grant Competition, “Barriers to Medicaid Participation Among Immigrants.”  Grant Period March 2009 to March 2010.  (PI Tara Watson.)

Williams College Department of Economics Henry George Fund, “Excess School Segregation:  Are Schools More Segregated than Neighborhoods, and Why?”  Grant Period August 2009.  (PI Tara Watson.)


Workshops, Honors, and Professional Service

CeMENT Mentor for the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, November 2013 and January 2020.

GLCA Global Public Health Workshop, Denison University, May 2019.

Williams College Workshop on Inclusive Excellence via Constructive Listening to Student Thinking, January 2019.

Williams College Racial Consciousness in the STEM Classroom Workshop, January 2018 to June 2018.

Williams College Op-Ed Project Workshop, October 2017.

RAND Summer Institute Mini-Medical School for Social Scientists and Summer Institute on Demography, Economics, Psychology, and Epidemiology of Aging Participant, July 2017.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Microeconomic Analysis, U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Economic Policy, August 2015 to November 2016.

Williams College Teaching in the Diverse Classroom Workshop, February 2014 to May 2014.

Teaching Integrity in Empirical Research Workshop Participant, October 2013.

Inaugural Teaching Poverty 101 Workshop Participant, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty, June 2013.

Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research, August 2007 to July 2009.

Harvard Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy Doctoral Fellow, September 1999 to June 2003.

Social Science Research Council Program in Applied Economics Fellow, September 2001 to August 2002.

Lincoln Land Institute Dissertation Fellow, August 2001.

National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellow, September 1998 to August 2001.

Wesleyan University, Phi Beta Kappa Society and University Honors, May 1996.



Professional Affiliations

Journal of Human Resources, Co-Editor, March 2020 to present.

Rockefeller Institute of Government, Richard P. Nathan Fellow, September 2019-August 2020.

National Bureau of Economic Research, Research Associate, October 2011 to present.  Health Economics Program (effective 2011) and Children’s Program (effective 2017).

Current Committees

  • Committee on Academic Standing
  • Faculty Steering Committee, Chair, Fall
  • Public Health

College-Wide Service

Catholic Chaplain Search Committee (January 2020 to present)

Strategic Planning Working Group on Faculty and Staff Development (May 2019 to present)

Co-Organizer, Promoting Inclusion in Economic Research Conference (July 2019 to present)

Leader, Public Health Self-Study (January 2019 to present)

Advisory Committee for Program in Public Health (September 2011 to present)

Co-Organizer, Women in Economic Research conference (July 2018 to April 2019)

Chair, Program in Public Health (July 2014 to June 2015, and January 2017 to June 2019)

Committee on Priorities and Resources (July 2017 to June 2019)

Committee on Academic Standing (January 2017 to June 2017)

Bookstore Committee (July 2014 to June 2015)

Coordinator, Williams Poverty Initiative (September 2013 to present)

Advisory Committee for Program in Public Health (September 2011 to present)

Organizer, Williams Poverty Initiative Panel on First Generation Faculty (February 2015)

New Faculty Mentor (January 2014-December 2014)

Bolin Fellow Selection Committee (December 2011-January 2012)

Committee on Educational Policy, elected by the Faculty (February 2010-June 2012)

Committee on Undergraduate Life (September 2006-June 2007 and September 2009-February 2010)

Chair Minority Coalition Funding Subcommittee of CUL (September 2009-February 2010)

Co-chair Diversity Subcommittee of CUL (September 2006-June 2007)

Panelist for Students for Social Justice Dinner on Health Reform (Fall 2009)

Speaker for Women’s Center Lunch on Health Reform (Fall 2009)

Mead Internship Committee (September 2005-May 2006)

Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (January 2006-June 2007)


Departmental Service

Economics Department Bolin Committee (July 2018 to June 2019)

Economics Department Director of Research (July 2009 to June 2010, July 2014 to June 2015, and July 2017 to June 2018)

Economics Curriculum Committee Chair (2013-2014)

Economics Department Hiring Committee (2011-2012)

Economics Department Graduate/Post-graduate Advisor (2005-2006 and 2006-2007)

Co-organizer Brown Bag Lunch (2005-2006 and Fall 2006)