James Sears

James Sears

Contact Me

Assistant Professor
Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics



Publications on Google Scholar

James Sears is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Sears received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and his M.S. from Montana State University.

Dr. Sears is an applied microeconomist who focuses on topics in environmental and consumer behavioral economics, with an emphasis on urban water, nutritional assistance and health, and decision-making by economic agents. Much of his work seeks to measure how consumers respond to shocks – whether environmental, informational, social, or public policy-driven – and use these insights to inform the design of more efficient, more equitable, and better-targeted policies. Dr. Sears’ work frequently combines administrative and spatial data with forefront econometric techniques for identifying causal treatment effects and exploring heterogeneous responses. Recent topics include residential water consumers’ responses to price and non-price behavioral drought policies, estimation of long- and short-run urban water price elasticities, the interplay between local and federal nutrition assistance, and COVID-19 stay-at-home policies and travel behavior changes.

Dr. Sears has published his research in a range of journals, including The American Journal of Health Economics, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, IEEE Access, and The Journal of Behavioral Data Science. He has presented his research at dozens of conferences and seminars, had his work featured on national news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, and has been interviewed by regional news outlets including Bridge Michigan. Moreover, his research carries important policy insights for national and regional stakeholders including public utilities and water districts, nutrition assistance agencies, and state health departments.

Dr. Sears’ current teaching is concentrated in the area of data analytics. At the undergraduate level, he teaches the skills necessary to effectively manipulate, draw insights from, and communicate though data. At the graduate level, he provides training in the modern economics research workflow with an emphasis on the skills and methods that lie outside the scope of traditional econometrics instruction. Previously, he helped pioneer the use of cloud-based, interactive resources for econometric instruction at UC Berkeley, where he won multiple awards for his graduate-level teaching.

Research Interests

  • Urban water use and drought policy design
  • National, state, and local nutrition assistance
  • Consumer decision-making
  • Applied microeconometrics

Teaching Experience

  • AFRE 203: Data Analysis for the Agri-Food System (fall and spring semesters)
  • AFRE 891: Data Analytics and Emerging Methods in Applied Economics (spring semester)

Selected Articles

Sears, J., S. Villas-Boas, J.M. Villas-Boas, and V. Villas-Boas. 2023. Are We #Stayinghome to Flatten the Curve? American Journal of Health Economics, 9(1), 71-95. doi:10.1086/721705

Serang, S., and J. Sears. 2021. Tree-based Matching on Structural Equation Model Parameters. Journal of Behavioral Data Science, 1(2), 31-53.

Jin, L., A. Lazar, J. Sears, A. Todd-Blick, A. Sim, K. Wu, H. Yang, and C.A. Spurlock. 2020. Clustering Life Course to Understand the Heterogeneous Effects of Life Events, Gender, and Generation on Habitual Travel Modes. IEEE Access, 8, 190964-190980.

C.A. Spurlock, J. Sears, G. Wong-Parodi, V. Walker, L. Jin, M. Taylor, A. Duvall, A. Gopal, and A. Todd. 2019. Describing the Users: Understanding the Adoption of and Interest in Shared, Electrified, and Automated Transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 71, 283-301.