Ortega's research focuses on the economics of migration and the economic effects of climate change for coastal cities. Overarching themes in Ortega's writings include analyses of the economic contribution of unauthorized workers and the gains from legalization.
Estimates the economic contribution of unauthorized workers to the U.S. economy at approximately 3.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) annually. Finds that the legalization of unauthorized workers would increase their contribution to 4.8% of private-sector GDP.
Shows that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) incentivized work over educational investments but that the effect of DACA on educational investments depends on how easily colleges accommodate working students. Shows that, at 4-year colleges, DACA induced undocumented students to drop out of school. Suggests that the precarious and temporary nature of DACA distorted educational investments.
Analyzes the effects of hurricane Sandy on the New York City housing market using a large parcel-level dataset. Provides robust evidence of a persistent negative impact on flood zone housing values.