Grain Today, Gain Tomorrow: Evidence from a Storage Experiment with Savings Clubs in Kenya -- by Shilpa Aggarwal, Eilin Francis, Jonathan Robinson
Many farmers in the developing world lack access to effective savings and storage devices. Such devices might be particularly valuable for farmers since income is received as a lump sum at harvest but expenditures are incurred throughout the year, and because grain prices are low at harvest but rise over the year. We experimentally provided two saving schemes to 132 ROSCAs in Kenya, one designed around communally storing maize and the other around saving cash for inputs. About 56% of respondents took up the products. Respondents in the maize storage intervention were 23 percentage points more likely to store maize (on a base of 69%), 37 percentage points more likely to sell maize (on a base of 36%) and (conditional on selling) sold later and at higher prices. We find no effects of the individual input savings intervention on input usage, likely because baseline input adoption was higher than expected.
Sequential Bargaining in the Field: Evidence from Millions of Online Bargaining Interactions -- by Matthew Backus, Thomas Blake, Bradley Larsen, Steven Tadelis
We study patterns of behavior in bilateral bargaining situations using a rich, new dataset describing over 88 million listings from eBay's Best Offer platform, with back-and-forth bargaining occurring in over 25 million of these listings. We document patterns of behavior and relate them to "rational" and "psychological" theories of bargaining and find that bargaining patterns are consistent with elements of both approaches. Most notably, players with more bargaining strength typically receive better outcomes, and players exhibit equitable behavior by making offers that split-the-difference between negotiating positions. We are publicly releasing this new dataset to support additional empirical bargaining research.
Dangers of a Double-Bottom Line: A Poverty Targeting Experiment Misses Both Targets -- by Dean Karlan, Adam Osman, Jonathan Zinman
Two for-profit Philippine social enterprises, aiming to demonstrate corporate social responsibility by increasing microlending to the poor, incorporated a widely-used poverty measurement tool into their loan applications and tested the tool using randomized training content. Treated loan officers were instructed why and how to use the tool for targeting; control group training merely labelled the tool "additional household information". The targeting training backfired, leading to no additional poor applicants and lower-performing loans. Descriptive evidence suggests the targeting training exacerbated loan officer misperceptions and multitasking problems. Our results help explain why corporate social responsibility efforts are often siloed from core operations.
Do Ban the Box Laws Increase Crime? -- by Joseph J. Sabia, Taylor Mackay, Thanh Tam Nguyen, Dhaval M. Dave
Ban-the-box (BTB) laws, which prevent employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal histories at initial job screenings, have been adopted by 25 states and the District of Columbia. Using data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System, the Uniform Crime Reports, and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, this study is the first to estimate the effect of BTB laws on crime. We find some evidence that BTB laws are associated with an increase in property crime among working-age Hispanic men. This finding is consistent with employer-based statistical discrimination as well as potential moral hazard. A causal interpretation of our results is supported by placebo tests on policy leads and a lack of BTB-induced increases in crime for non-Hispanic whites and women. Finally, we find that BTB laws are associated with a reduction in property crime among older and white individuals, consistent with labor-labor substitution toward those with perceived lower probabilities of having criminal records (Doleac and Hansen 2017).
Does tax code complexity alter corporate behavior? This paper investigates this question by focusing on the decision to claim refunds for tax losses. In a sample of 1.2M observations from the population of corporate tax returns, only 37% of eligible firms claim their refund. A simple cost-benefit analysis of the tax loss choice cannot explain low take-up, which motivates an investigation of how tax complexity alters this calculation. A research design exploiting tax preparer switches, deaths, and relocations shows that sophisticated preparers increase the claiming behavior of small and mid-market firms. Tax complexity decreases take-up among large firms through interactions of refund claims with other tax code provisions and with the audit process.
Making Moves Matter: Experimental Evidence on Incentivizing Bureaucrats through Performance-Based Postings -- by Adnan Q. Khan, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Benjamin A. Olken
Bureaucracies often post staff to better or worse locations, ostensibly to provide incentives. Yet we know little about whether this works, with heterogeneity in preferences over postings impacting effectiveness. We propose a performance-ranked serial dictatorship mechanism, whereby bureaucrats sequentially choose desired locations in order of performance. We evaluate this using a two-year field experiment with 525 property tax inspectors in Pakistan. The mechanism increases annual tax revenue growth by 30-41 percent. Inspectors that our model predicts face high equilibrium incentives under the scheme indeed increase performance more. Our results highlight the potential of periodic merit-based postings in enhancing bureaucratic performance.
E-Commerce Integration and Economic Development: Evidence from China -- by Victor Couture, Benjamin Faber, Yizhen Gu, Lizhi Liu
The number of people buying and selling products online in China has grown from practically zero in 2000 to more than 400 million by 2015. Most of this growth has occurred in cities. In this context, the Chinese government recently announced the expansion of e-commerce to the countryside as a policy priority with the objective to close the rural-urban economic divide. As part of this agenda, the government entered a partnership with a large Chinese e-commerce firm. The program invests in the necessary logistics to ship products to and sell products from tens of thousands of villages that were largely unconnected to e-commerce trading. The firm also installs an e-commerce terminal at a central village location, where a terminal manager assists households in buying and selling products through the firm's e-commerce platform. This paper combines a new collection of survey and administrative microdata with a randomized control trial (RCT) that we implement across villages in collaboration with the e-commerce firm. We use this empirical setting to provide evidence on the potential of e-commerce integration to foster economic development in the countryside, the underlying channels and the distribution of the gains from e-commerce across households and villages.
This paper reviews the basic theoretical models that are appropriate for analyzing different types of welfare reforms, and the related empirical literature. We first present the canonical labor supply model of a classical welfare program, and then extend this basic framework to include in-kind transfers, incomplete take-up, human capital, preference persistence, and borrowing and saving. The empirical literature on these models is presented. The negative income tax, earnings subsidies, US welfare reforms with features that differ from those in other countries, and child care reforms are then surveyed both in terms of the theoretical model and the empirical literature surrounding each.
What Would You Do With $500? Spending Responses to Gains, Losses, News and Loans -- by Andreas Fuster, Greg Kaplan, Basit Zafar
We use survey questions about spending in hypothetical scenarios to investigate features of propensities to consume that are useful for distinguishing between consumption theories. We find that (i) responses to unanticipated gains are vastly heterogeneous (either zero or substantially positive); (ii) responses to losses are much larger and more widespread than responses to gains; and (iii) even those with large responses to gains do not respond to news about future gains. These three findings suggest that limited access to disposable resources is an important determinant of spending behavior. We also find that (iv) households do not respond to the offer of a one-year interest-free loan, suggesting that this is not a consequence of short-term credit constraints; and (v) people do cut spending in response to news about future losses, suggesting that neither is this a consequence of myopia. A calibrated two-asset life-cycle precautionary savings model can account for these features of propensities to consume, but cannot account for (vi) a positive extensive-margin size-effect for spending responses to gains, which suggests that non-convexities due to durability, salience or attention costs may also be important.
The New Prescription Drug Paradox: Pipeline Pressure and Rising Prices -- by Alice M. Ellyson, Anirban Basu
Economic literature has extensively studied how prices for incumbent pharmaceutical drugs respond to generic competition after entry. However, less attention has been paid to pricing behavior in anticipation of brand-to-brand competition. We contribute to this gap in the literature by both developing a model of pricing strategies for incumbent drug manufacturers under tiered-insurance anticipating branded competition. Our model predicts rising prices for incumbent drugs for a range of elasticities as the likelihood of entry increases from competitors with horizontally-differentiated products. Using the insulin market as a natural experiment, we exploit exogenous variation in a potential entrant's completion of clinical trials to identify the effect of drug pipeline pressure on the prices of incumbent drugs. Results suggest that pipeline pressure significantly increases the prices of incumbent drugs. We expect that similar pricing effects will be prevalent with potential biosimilar entry.
Capital Markets and Grain Prices: Assessing the Storage Approach -- by Wolfgang Keller, Carol H. Shiue, Xin Wang
This paper evaluates an approach popularized by McCloskey and Nash (1984) that exploits the fact that grain prices provide information on interest rates. While the grain price approach enables a comparative analysis of capital market development across pre-modern economies and has been applied in various contexts, to date this is the first paper to show how well it captures the actual market development as based on financial data. Using matched data on bank interest rates and grain prices for early 19th century U.S. regions, we show that the grain price approach is useful for capturing differences in capital market development across regions. While estimating particular region-time specific interest rates can be challenging, using both cross-sectional and time-series information the grain price approach accurately reflects differences in capital market development. Furthermore, the approach is robust to employing time series filtering techniques as well as dealing with unavailable information on harvest times, outliers, and a range of other factors.
We study the impact of toxic emissions on the migration of corporate executives. We link data on the opening of industrial plants emitting toxic air pollutants with information on the career paths of executives at all S&P 1500 firms over the 1996-2014 period. We find that (1) the opening of toxic emitting plants increases the rate at which executives leave geographically close firms and move to firms in less polluted areas, (2) stock returns fall when these "treated" executives announce their departures, and (3) the replacement executives have less experience than the departing executives.