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Outstanding Scholarly Achievement Award Recipient

Robert W. Wassmer


Outstanding Scholarly Achievement Award, 2010-11


Dr. Robert W. Wassmer

Professor and Chairperson, Public Policy and Administration


TITLE OF LECTURE: The Recent Pervasive External Effects of Residential Home Foreclosure PAPER>

The Outstanding Scholarly Achievement Award is given each year to a Sacramento State faculty member who has, over many years, made significant contributions to a discipline through scholarly activity, creative/artistic endeavors, research and publication. The award is intended to recognize work accomplished at Sacramento State and includes a monetary grant of $2,500 for professional development. Each year the Research and Creative Activity Subcommittee of the Faculty Senate solicits nominations and selects a faculty member to receive this award. This year’s recipient, Robert (Rob) W. Wassmer, Professor and Chair of Public Policy and Administration, is the forty-ninth recipient of this award.

Dr. Wassmer completed his BS in economics in 1983 at Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan. His master’s level work in economics was completed in 1985 at State University of New York, Binghamton. In 1989, he received a Ph.D. in economics from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. His doctoral dissertation was entitled Taxes, Property Tax Abatement, Expenditure, and the Composition of the Property Tax Base in a Metropolitan Area, which received honorable mention from the National Tax Association’s Annual Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Competition in 1990.


Dr. Wassmer joined the faculty at Sacramento State in 1995, and was promoted to Professor of Public Policy and Administration in 2000. He has been chair of the department since 2007, and was Interim Associate Director of the Doctorate of Education Program in 2009. In addition to teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate/doctoral levels, he has served on numerous college and university committees.

As an economist, Dr. Wassmer has made two major intellectual contributions in the field of economics as applied to the analysis of urban public policy. The first is toward a better understanding of the offering of local economic development incentives to business in a metropolitan area. Central to this research are the questions of what motivates a local government to offer business incentives and when offered, do they actually work to increase the amount of economic activity in the community, region, or state offering them. Dr. Wassmer’s second major contribution comes through his empirical examinations of the causes and consequences of urban sprawl. Through this work he has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the relative influence of the different causes of urban sprawl (auto reliance, fiscal and natural economic), and what can be used to slow it (urban containment policies).


Over the 10 years since he received the President’s Award for Research and Creative Activity, he has authored or co-authored 14 articles in refereed academic journals on subjects as varied as factors that influence personal happiness, manufacturing activity in California, high school test scores, public opinion about urban sprawl, public policy influences on housing prices, the influence of home foreclosures on neighboring homes, and effects of race and ethnicity on transfers to four year institutions from community colleges. Two of these publications were in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, widely considered the world’s premier journal in public policy, and two others were in the Journal of Urban Economics, another top journal in the field. He has also authored or co-authored five book reviews in academic journals, one article in conference proceedings, seven articles in non-refereed journals, eight book chapters in a variety of edited volumes, numerous op-ed pieces and other articles in mainstream publications, funded research reports, and has presented several papers at a variety of conferences. Some of these works have been coauthored with current and former graduate students exemplifying his commitment to working with students to provide them with valuable scholarly experience.

Dr. Wassmer’s impact is obvious in the number of citations received for his previous academic work, by the number of references to his work in the two top undergraduate textbooks, and the inclusion of his work in university syllabi. As a result of his national and international reputation he has been invited to serve on the editorial boards of California Politics and Policy, State and Local Government Review, Economic Development Quarterly, and Public Finance and Management (which comes from Erasmus University in the Netherlands). He has also been invited numerous times to review research and book proposals by prestigious organizations and major presses.


Wassmer has also been particularly active in the community, sharing his expertise on numerous public radio and television programs, and providing public testimony. He was just appointed by CA Forward as an advisor to a group of stakeholders designing governance reforms for our state. In 2010, the prestigious Brookings Institution sought only Professor Wassmer to summarize the impact of local income taxation on major U.S. cities’ increasing use of property tax abatement in the United States. This contribution appeared in the book Urban and Regional Policy and its Effects, Volume 3, Brookings Institution Press, 2010.



The Recent Pervasive External Effects of Residential Home Foreclosure

The United States faced an ongoing foreclosure crisis in the late 2000s. Federal and state governments responded with public policies designed to reduce foreclosures. Such policies are economically appropriate if the cost to implement them is less than the negative private and public external effects of mortgage foreclosure. A hedonic home price regression calculates the value of these external effects for a large United States’ Area (Sacramento, CA) hit particularly hard by the crisis over the period between January 2008 and June 2009.

The selling price of an average non-real estate owned homes, due to the presence of real estate owned sales of neighboring homes, fell by $48,827 or 31.9 percent. This estimate of the external neighborhood effect far exceeds similar estimates from previous regression studies using data from before the late 2000s foreclosure crisis and likely justifies public intervention into the curtailment of a regional foreclosure crisis of this magnitude.