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Dayanand Manoli

Assistant Professor University of Texas, Austin

Dayanand Manoli is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. Dayanand’s research focuses on empirical analyses to document and improve the impacts of government policies. His research interests include social security and retirement policy, income tax policy, and education policy.

In current and previous research projects, Dayanand has worked closely with private companies and government agencies to analyze data, test economic models, and implement large-scale field experiments. Dayanand received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley and his M.A. in Economics from the University of Chicago.

Featured Affiliate Interview

As a graduate student, I volunteered to help individuals file their income taxes at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site. Through this experience, I saw how many individuals valued their income tax refunds, but were confused by various income tax policies.

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Why did you become interested in researching tax policy?
As a graduate student, I volunteered to help individuals file their income taxes at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site. Through this experience, I saw how many individuals valued their income tax refunds, but were very confused by various income tax policies. This experience got me interested in trying to understand how to better inform individuals about government programs and policies.

Do you have any advice for early career researchers? What has been particularly valuable advice that you have received from a mentor?
I still feel very early in my own research career, so I’m not sure that I have any useful advice that I can offer other researchers. If I did offer any advice, I would recommend being open to developing partnerships that combine central research questions with access to unique or novel data. To develop these kinds of partnerships, I think it’s essential to sincerely understand other people’s interests and goals so that commonalities can be identified and pursued. It’s also crucial to respect boundaries related to what partners are not interested in or are not able to pursue. Investing in partnerships like these over time can also grow common interests and expand boundaries to create more ambitious projects down the road.

Where do you see opportunities for interdisciplinary work to advance research related to your areas of interest?
Large datasets are becoming increasingly available through partnerships with government agencies, private companies, and other entities. These large datasets may create a variety of opportunities for interdisciplinary research. For example, applying tools from computer science and econometrics creates novel ways to process big data and credibly identify causal effects beyond statistical correlations. Similarly, insights from psychology and economics provide detailed models of decision-making in a variety of settings, and these theories can be uniquely tested using large datasets from different contexts. Overall, analysis of big data seems to create many opportunities to draw on insights from multiple fields to gain behavioral insights and improve policy design.

What is one of your most memorable stories from the field?
In April 2014, I received some mail from the US Internal Revenue Service reminding me that I needed to file my tax return. I was initially very nervous; receiving mail from the IRS was intimidating and stressful, but the reminder was helpful. I had lost track of time and then realized I didn’t have much time before the tax-filing deadline, April 15. After my initial anxieties passed, however, I remembered that the reminder was a part of a randomized evaluation that I was working on with coauthors at the IRS. I had simply forgotten that we had sent experimental mailings to ourselves!

Any other story/news you'd like to share with us, or hope for ongoing or future scale-ups with partners?
In “IRS Publication 1: The Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” the first right is The Right to Be Informed. Given the importance of this right in the IRS mission, I am excited to continue working with my coauthors at the IRS to improve tax compliance by better informing individuals about tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, and tax rules, such as filing requirements.