Output-based carbon regulations—such as fuel economy standards and the rate-based standards in the Clean Power Plan—create well-known incentives to inefficiently increase output. Similar distortions are created by attribute-based regulations. This paper demonstrates that, despite these distortions, output and attribute-based standards can always yield greater expected welfare than “flat” emission standards given uncertainty in demand for output (or attributes), assuming locally constant marginal damages. For fuel economy standards, the welfare-maximizing amount of attribute or mileage-basing is likely small relative to current policy. For the electricity sector, however, an intensity standard may yield greater expected welfare than a flat standard.
The Behavioralist Goes Door-To-Door: Understanding Household Technological Diffusion Using a Theory-Driven Natural Field Experiment -- by Matilde Giaccherini, David H. Herberich, David Jimenez-Gomez, John A. List, Giovanni Ponti, Michael K. Price
This paper uses a field experiment to estimate behavioral parameters from a structural model of residential adoption of technology. As our model includes both economic and psychological factors, we are able to identify the role of prices, social norms, social pressure, and curiosity on the adoption decision. We find that prices and social norms influence the adoption decision along different margins, opening up the opportunity for economics and psychology to be strong complements in the diffusion process. In addition, welfare estimates from our structural model point to important household heterogeneities: whereas some consumers welcome the opportunity to purchase and learn about the new technology, for others the inconvenience and social pressure of the ask results in negative welfare. As a whole, our findings highlight that the design of optimal technological diffusion policies will require multiple instruments and a recognition of individual household heterogeneities.
The Effects of Foreign Multinationals on Workers and Firms in the United States -- by Bradley Setzler, Felix Tintelnot
Governments go to great lengths to attract foreign multinational enterprises because these enterprises are thought to raise the wages paid to their employees (direct effects) and to improve outcomes at incumbent local firms (indirect effects). We construct the first U.S. employer-employee dataset with foreign ownership information from tax records to measure these direct and indirect effects. We find the average direct effect of a foreign multinational firm on its U.S. workers is a 7 percent increase in wages. This premium is larger for higher skilled workers and for the employees of firms from high GDP per capita countries. We leverage the past spatial clustering of foreign-owned firms by country of ownership to identify the indirect effects. An expansion in the foreign multinational share of commuting zone employment substantially increases the employment, value added, and—for higher earning workers—wages at local domestic-owned firms. Per job created by a foreign multinational, our estimates suggest annual gains of 16,000 USD to the aggregate wages of local incumbents, of which about two-thirds is due to indirect effects. We compare our findings to the value of subsidy deals received by foreign multinationals.
Tax Administration vs. Tax Rates: Evidence from Corporate Taxation in Indonesia -- by M. Chatib Basri, Mayara Felix, Rema Hanna, Benjamin A. Olken
Developing countries collect a far lower share of GDP in taxes than richer countries. This paper asks whether changes in tax administration and tax rates can nevertheless raise substantial additional revenue – and if so, which approach is most effective. We study corporate taxation in Indonesia, where the government implemented two reforms that differentially affected firms. First, we show that increasing tax administration intensity by moving the top firms in each region into “Medium-Sized Taxpayer Offices,” with much higher staff-to-taxpayer ratios, more than doubled tax revenue from affected firms over six years, with increasing impacts over time. Second, using non-linear changes to the corporate income tax schedule, we estimate an elasticity of taxable income of 0.59, which implies that the revenue-maximizing rate is almost double the current rate. The increased revenue from improvements in tax administration is equivalent to raising the marginal corporate tax rate on affected firms by about 23 percentage points. We suggest one reason improved tax administration was so effective was that it flattened the relationship between firm size and enforcement, removing the additional “enforcement tax” on large firms. On net, our results suggest that improving tax administration can have significant returns for developing country governments.
Reducing Frictions in College Admissions: Evidence from the Common Application -- by Brian G. Knight, Nathan M. Schiff
College admissions in the U.S. is decentralized, with students applying separately to each school. This creates frictions in the college admissions process and, if substantial, might ultimately limit student choice. In this paper, we study the introduction of the Common Application (CA) platform, under which students submit a single application to all member schools, potentially reducing frictions and increasing student choice. We first document that joining the CA increases the number of applications received by schools, consistent with reduced frictions. Joining the CA also reduces the yield on accepted students, consistent with increased student choice, and institutions respond to the reduced yield by admitting more students. In line with these findings, we document that the CA has accelerated geographic integration: upon joining, schools attract more foreign students and more out-of-state students, especially from other states with significant CA membership, consistent with network effects. Finally, we find some evidence that joining the CA increases freshmen SAT scores. If so, and given that CA members tend to be more selective institutions, the CA has contributed to stratification, the widening gap between more selective and less selective schools.
Inspecting the Mechanism of Quantitative Easing in the Euro Area -- by Ralph S. J. Koijen, Francois Koulischer, Benoit Nguyen, Motohiro Yogo
Using new data on security-level portfolio holdings by investor type and across countries in the euro area, we study portfolio rebalancing during the European Central Bank’s (ECB) purchase programme that started in March 2015. To quantify changes in risk concentration, we estimate the evolution of the distribution of duration, government, and corporate credit risk exposures across investor sectors and regions until the last quarter of 2017. Using these micro data, we show that 60% of ECB purchases are sold by non-euro area investors, and we do not find evidence that risks get concentrated in certain sectors or geographies. We estimate a sector-level asset demand system using instrumental variables to connect the dynamics of portfolio rebalancing to asset prices. Our estimates imply that government yields declined by 47bp, on average, but the estimates range from -28bp to -57bp across countries.
The Role of Behavioral Frictions in Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollment and Risk: Evidence from a Field Experiment -- by Richard Domurat, Isaac Menashe, Wesley Yin
We experimentally varied information mailed to 87,000 households in California's health insurance marketplace to study the role of frictions in insurance take-up. Reminders about the enrollment deadline raised enrollment by 1.3 pp (16 percent), in this typically low take-up population. Heterogeneous effects of personalized subsidy information indicate systematic misperceptions about program benefits. Consistent with an adverse selection model with frictional enrollment costs, the intervention lowered average spending risk by 5.1 percent, implying that marginal respondents were 37 percent less costly than inframarginal consumers. We observe the largest positive selection among low income consumers, who exhibit the largest frictions in enrollment. Finally, the intervention raised average consumer WTP for insurance by $25 to $54 per month. These results suggest that frictions may partially explain low measured WTP for marketplace insurance, and that interventions reducing them can improve enrollment and market risk in exchanges.
What is the Optimal Immigration Policy? Migration, Jobs and Welfare -- by Joao Guerreiro, Sergio Rebelo, Pedro Teles
We study the immigration policy that maximizes the welfare of the native population in an economy where the government designs an optimal redistributive welfare system and supplies public goods. We show that when immigrants can be excluded from the welfare system, free immigration is optimal. It is also optimal to use the tax system to encourage the immigration of high-skill workers and discourage that of low-skill workers. When immigrants and natives must be treated alike, it is optimal to ban low-skill immigration and have free immigration for high-skill workers. However, high-skill workers may choose not to immigrate when there are heavy taxes levied on all high-skill workers, natives and immigrants alike. We use a calibrated version of the model to study how the optimal immigration policy responds to changes in the skill premia in the U.S. and abroad.
We develop a dynamic model of board decision-making. We show that a board could retain a policy all directors agree is worse than an available alternative. Thus, directors may retain a CEO they agree is bad—a deadlocked board leads to an entrenched CEO. We explore how to compose boards and appoint directors to mitigate deadlock. We find that board diversity and long director tenure can exacerbate deadlock. Moreover, we rationalize why CEOs and incumbent directors have power to appoint new directors: to avoid deadlock. Our model speaks to short-termism, staggered boards, and proxy access.
Who Becomes a Member of Congress? Evidence From De-Anonymized Census Data -- by Daniel M. Thompson, James J. Feigenbaum, Andrew B. Hall, Jesse Yoder
We link future members of Congress to the de-anonymized 1940 census to offer a uniquely detailed analysis of how economically unrepresentative American politicians were in the 20th century, and why. Future members under the age of 18 in 1940 grew up in households with parents who earned more than twice as much as the population average and who were more than 6 times as likely as the general population to hold college degrees. However, compared to siblings who did not become politicians, future members of Congress between the ages of 18 and 40 in 1940 were higher-earners and more educated, indicating that socioeconomic background alone does not explain the differences between politicians and non-politicians. Examining a smaller sample of candidates that includes non-winners, we find that the candidate pool is much higher-earning and more educated than the general population. At the same time, among the candidate pool, elections advantage candidates with higher earnings ability and education. We conclude that barriers to entry likely deter a more economically representative candidate pool, but that electoral advantages for more-educated individuals with more private-sector success also play an important role.
The Impact of the ACA on Insurance Coverage Disparities After Four Years -- by Charles J. Courtemanche, Ishtiaque Fazlul, James Marton, Benjamin D. Ukert, Aaron Yelowitz, Daniela Zapata
The purpose of this paper is to estimate the impact of the major components of the ACA (Medicaid expansion, subsidized Marketplace plans, and insurance market reforms) on disparities in insurance coverage after four years. We use data from the 2011–2017 waves of the American Community Survey (ACS), with the sample restricted to nonelderly adults. Our methods feature a difference-in-difference-in-differences model, developed in the recent ACA literature, which separately identifies the effects of the nationwide and Medicaid expansion portions of the law. The differences in this model come from time, state Medicaid expansion status, and local area pre-ACA uninsured rate. We stratify our sample separately by income, race/ethnicity, marital status, age, gender, and geography in order to examine access disparities. After four years, we find that the fully implemented ACA eliminated 44 percent of the coverage gap across income groups, with the Medicaid expansion accounting for this entire reduction. The ACA also reduced coverage disparities across racial groups by 26.7 percent, across marital status by 45 percent, and across age groups by 44 percent, with these changes being partly attributable to both the Medicaid expansion and nationwide components of the law.
Nudging at Scale: Experimental Evidence from FAFSA Completion Campaigns -- by Kelli A. Bird, Benjamin L. Castleman, Jeffrey T. Denning, Joshua Goodman, Cait Lamberton, Kelly Ochs Rosinger
Do nudge interventions that have generated positive impacts at a local level maintain efficacy when scaled state or nationwide? What specific mechanisms explain the positive impacts of promising smaller-scale nudges? We investigate, through two randomized controlled trials, the impact of a national and state-level campaign to encourage students to apply for financial aid for college. The campaigns collectively reached over 800,000 students, with multiple treatment arms to investigate different potential mechanisms. We find no impacts on financial aid receipt or college enrollment overall or for any student subgroups. We find no evidence that different approaches to message framing, delivery, or timing, or access to one-on-one advising affected campaign efficacy. We discuss why nudge strategies that work locally may be hard to scale effectively.