Skill versus Voice in Local Development -- by Katherine Casey, Rachel Glennerster, Edward Miguel, Maarten Voors
Where the state is weak, traditional authorities often control the local provision of land, justice, and public goods. These authorities are criticized for ruling in an undemocratic and unaccountable fashion, and are typically quite old and poorly educated relative to younger cohorts who have benefited from recent schooling expansions. We experimentally evaluate two solutions to these problems in rural Sierra Leone: an expensive long-term intervention to make local institutions more inclusive; and a low-cost test to rapidly identify skilled technocrats and delegate project management to them. In a real-world competition for local infrastructure grants, we find that technocratic selection dominates both the status quo of chiefly control and the institutional reform intervention, leading to an average gain of one standard deviation unit in competition outcomes. The results uncover a broader failure of traditional autocratic institutions to fully exploit the human capital present in their communities. We compare these findings to the prior beliefs of experts on likely impacts, and discuss implications for competing views on the sustainability of foreign aid.
Do Neighborhoods Affect Credit Market Decisions of Low-Income Borrowers? Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment -- by Sarah Miller, Cindy K. Soo
This paper provides new evidence on the role of neighborhood in the financial decisions and outcomes of low-income borrowers. We link participants in the Moving to Opportunity experiment to credit reports and "alternative" credit bureau data that tracks payday loan usage. We find that participants who were randomly selected to receive a voucher experienced better access to credit in adulthood; we also find evidence that, among some subgroups, moving to a lower poverty neighborhood reduced payday loan usage and delinquency behavior. We explore the mechanisms underlying our results by investigating the credit market behavior of peers, the presence of banks and payday loan stores, and approval rates in the neighborhoods in which MTO participants live as adults. Our analysis suggests that the presence of payday loan stores and peer behavior play an important role in the observed improvements in credit market outcomes.
Deduction Dilemmas: The Taiwan Assignment Mechanism -- by Umut M. Dur, Parag A. Pathak, Fei Song, Tayfun Soenmez
This paper analyzes the properties of the Taiwan mechanism, used for high school placement nationwide starting in 2014. In the Taiwan mechanism, points are deducted from an applicant's score with larger penalties for lower ranked choices. Deduction makes the mechanism a new hybrid between the well-known Boston and deferred acceptance mechanisms. Our analysis sheds light on why Taiwan's new mechanism has led to massive nationwide demonstrations and why it nonetheless still remains in use.
This paper examines demand systems where the demand for a good depends only on its own price, consumer income, and a single aggregator synthesizing information on all other prices. This generalizes directly-separable preferences where the Lagrange multiplier provides such an aggregator. As indicated by Gorman (1972), symmetry of the Slutsky substitution terms implies that such demand can take only one of two simple forms. Conversely, here we show that only weak conditions ensure that such demand systems are integrable, i.e. can be derived from the maximization of a well-behaved utility function. This paper further studies useful properties and applications of these demand systems.
Insurance Contracts when Individuals "Greatly Value" Certainty: Results from a Field Experiment in Burkina Faso -- by Elena Serfilippi, Michael Carter, Catherine Guirkinger
In discussing the paradoxical violation of expected utility theory that now bears his name, Maurice Allais noted that individuals tend to "greatly value" payoffs that are certain. Allais' observation would seem to imply that people will undervalue insurance relative to the predictions of expected utility theory because as conventionally constructed, insurance offers an uncertain benefit in exchange for a certain cost that certainty-loving individuals will overvalue. Pursuing this logic, we implemented insurance games with cotton farmers in Burkina Faso. On average, farmer willingness to pay for insurance increases significantly when a premium rebate framing is used to render both costs and benefits of insurance uncertain. We show that the impact of the rebate frame on the willingness to pay for insurance is driven by those farmers who exhibit a well-defined discontinuous preference for certainty, a concept that we adapt from the u-v model of utility and measure with a novel behavioral experiment. Given that the potential impacts of insurance for small scale farmers are high, and yet demand for conventionally framed contracts is often low, the insights from this paper suggest welfare-enhancing ways of designing insurance for low-income farmers.
Public Health Efforts and the Decline in Urban Mortality -- by D. Mark Anderson, Kerwin Kofi Charles, Daniel I. Rees
Using data on 25 major American cities for the period 1900-1940, we explore the effects of municipal-level public health efforts that were viewed as critical in the fight against food- and water-borne diseases. In addition to studying interventions such as treating sewage and setting strict bacteriological standards for milk, which have received little attention in the literature, we provide new evidence on the effects of water filtration and chlorination, extending the work of previous scholars. Contrary to the consensus view, we find that none of the interventions under study contributed substantially to the observed declines in total and infant mortality.
Nevertheless She Persisted? Gender Peer Effects in Doctoral STEM Programs -- by Valerie K. Bostwick, Bruce A. Weinberg
We study the effects of peer gender composition, a proxy for female-friendliness of environment, in STEM doctoral programs on persistence and degree completion. Leveraging unique new data and quasi-random variation in gender composition across cohorts within programs, we show that women entering cohorts with no female peers are 11.9pp less likely to graduate within 6 years than their male counterparts. A 1 sd increase in the percentage of female students differentially increases the probability of on-time graduation for women by 4.6pp. These gender peer effects function primarily through changes in the probability of dropping out in the first year of a Ph.D. program and are largest in programs that are typically male-dominated.
Eliminating the Pass-Through: Towards FDI Statistics that Better Capture the Financial and Economic Linkages between Countries -- by Maria Borga, Cecilia Caliandro
FDI plays a central role in managing global production networks, but FDI statistics also reflect other factors, including tax avoidance, that make it difficult to differentiate between FDI for "long-term" investments that serves as a source of growth and FDI that is purely financial and has little real economic impact as it merely passes through an economy. This latter FDI also obscures the ultimate sources and destinations of FDI. This paper addresses these challenges by developing a framework for consolidated FDI statistics based on the nationality of the MNE group that complements residency-based FDI statistics. While residency-based statistics are useful to identify where financial claims and liabilities are held, nationality-based statistics provide information on who makes the decisions, reaps the benefits, and bears the risk. Consolidated FDI statistics remove pass-through capital and are better for understanding 'real' financial integration between economies and for analysing the relationship between the financing of MNEs and their operations. While some countries produce separate FDI statistics for resident Special Purpose Entities (SPEs) to identify pass-through capital, we demonstrate that this only provides a partial view and that about one-quarter of the inward FDI positions in a selection of European countries reflects pass-through capital through non-SPEs.
Evidence from different sources shows that spouses' retirement decisions are correlated. Retirement policies affecting individuals in couples are therefore also likely to affect behavior of their spouses. It is therefore important to account for joint features in modeling retirement. This paper studies a structural collective model of labor supply and retirement of both partners in a couple with interdependent preferences, imperfect knowledge of preferences of the spouse, and subjective expectations about the future. We propose a novel method to estimate preferences and the intra-household bargaining process, which relies on stated preferences data collected in the Health and Retirement Study. Respondents were asked to choose between hypothetical retirement trajectories describing the retirement ages and replacement rates of both spouses from three perspectives: considering their own preferences only, the preferences of their spouse only, or the most likely decision for the household. With these data, all model parameters are identified and potential sources of joint retirement can be disentangled. We find that males misperceive their wives' preferences, overestimating their disutility of work. Our estimates correct for this bias. They suggest that correlation in unobserved heterogeneity components of the partners' marginal utility of leisure explains a large share of joint retirement decisions. We also find significant positive complementarities in leisure, but this explains a much smaller part of joint retirement.
Rare Disasters, Financial Development, and Sovereign Debt -- by Sergio Rebelo, Neng Wang, Jinqiang Yang
We study the implications of the interaction between rare disasters and financial development for sovereign debt markets. In our model, countries vary in their financial development, by which we mean the extent to which shocks can be hedged in international capital markets. The model predicts that low levels of financial development generate a key feature of sovereign debt in emerging economies known as "debt intolerance": high credit spreads associated with lower debt-to-output ratios than those of developed countries.
We quantify the importance of non-monetary news in central bank communication. Using evidence from four major central banks and a comprehensive classification of events, we decompose news conveyed by central banks into news about monetary policy, economic growth, and separately, shocks to risk premia. Our approach exploits high-frequency comovement of stocks and interest rates combined with monotonicity restrictions across the yield curve. We find significant differences in news composition depending on the communication channel used by central banks. Non-monetary news prevails in about 40% of policy decision announcements by the Fed and the ECB, and this fraction is even higher for communications that provide context to policy decisions such as press conferences. We show that non-monetary news accounts for a significant part of financial markets' reaction during the financial crisis and in the early recovery, while monetary shocks gain importance since 2013.
We study optimal policy experimentation by a committee. We consider a dynamic bargaining game in which committee members choose either a risky reform or a safe alternative each period. When no redistribution is allowed the unique equilibrium outcome is generically inefficient. When redistribution is allowed (even small amounts), there always exists an equilibrium that supports optimal experimentation for any voting rule without veto players. With veto players, however, optimal policy experimentation is possible only with a sufficient amount of redistribution. We conclude that veto rights are more of an obstacle to optimal policy experimentation than constraints on redistribution.