The Effect of Changes in the Skill Premium on College Degree Attainment and the Choice of Major -- by Ran Abramitzky, Victor Lavy, Maayan Segev
We study the impact of financial incentives on higher education decisions and the choice of major. We rely on a reform whereby Israeli kibbutzim shifted from their traditional policy of equal sharing to productivity-based wages. We use for identification the staggered implementation of this reform in different kibbutzim. In this setting of very low initial returns to education, we find that the dramatic increase in the rate of return and its sharp variation across fields of study led to a large increase in the probability of receiving a Bachelor degree, especially in STEM fields of study that are expected to yield higher financial returns. For men this increase was largely in computer science and engineering, and for women in biology, chemistry and computer science. Our findings suggest that investment in higher education and the choice of major are responsive to increases in the return to education for both men and women.
The Welfare Magnet Hypothesis: Evidence From an Immigrant Welfare Scheme in Denmark -- by Ole Agersnap, Amalie Sofie Jensen, Henrik Kleven
We study the effects of welfare generosity on international migration using a series of large changes in welfare benefits for immigrants in Denmark. The first change, implemented in 2002, lowered benefits for immigrants from outside the EU by about 50%, with no changes for natives or immigrants from inside the EU. The policy was later repealed and re-introduced. The differential treatment of immigrants from inside and outside the EU, and of different types of non-EU immigrants, allows for a quasi-experimental research design. We find sizeable effects: the benefit reduction reduced the net flow of immigrants by about 5,000 people per year, or 3.7 percent of the stock of treated immigrants, and the subsequent repeal of the policy reversed the effect almost exactly. Our study provides some of the first causal evidence on the widely debated “welfare magnet” hypothesis. While there are many non-welfare factors that matter for migration decisions, our evidence implies that, conditional on moving, the generosity of the welfare system is important for destination choices.
How do Hospitals Respond to Payment Incentives? -- by Gautam Gowrisankaran, Keith A. Joiner, Jianjing Lin
A literature has found that medical providers inflate bills and report more conditions given financial incentives. We evaluate whether Medicare reimbursement incentives are driven more by bill inflation or coding costs. Medicare reformed its payment mechanism for inpatient hospitalizations in 2007, increasing coding costs. We first examine whether increased extra reimbursements from reporting more diagnoses lead hospitals to report more high bill codes. We find that increases in reimbursements within narrow patient groups led to more high bill codes before 2007 but not after. Using the payment reform, we then test for costly coding by comparing hospitals that adopted electronic medical records (EMRs) to others. Adopters reported relatively more top bill codes from secondary diagnoses after the reform, exclusively for medical patients, with a negative effect for surgical patients. This is consistent with EMRs lowering coding costs for medical discharges but increasing them for surgical ones. We further use a 2008 policy where Medicare implemented financial penalties for certain hospital-acquired conditions. EMR hospitals coded relatively more of these conditions following the penalization, lowering revenues. Together, this evidence is contrary to bill inflation but consistent with costly coding. Reducing coding costs may increase inpatient Medicare costs by $1.04 billion annually.
Recruit to Reject? Harvard and African American Applicants -- by Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler, Tyler Ransom
Over the past 20 years, elite colleges in the US have seen dramatic increases in applications. We provide context for part of this trend using detailed data on Harvard University that was unsealed as part of the SFFA v. Harvard lawsuit. We show that Harvard encourages applications from many students who effectively have no chance of being admitted, and that this is particularly true for African Americans. African American applications soared beginning with the Class of 2009, with the increase driven by those with lower SAT scores. Yet there was little change in the share of admits who were African American. We show that this change in applicant behavior resulted in substantial convergence in the overall admissions rates across races yet no change in the large cross-race differences in admissions rates for high-SAT applicants.
By exploiting variation in state capital gains taxation as an instrument, we analyze the economic consequences of housing speculation during the U.S. housing boom in the 2000s. We find that housing speculation, anchored, in part, on extrapolation of past housing price changes, led not only to greater price appreciation, economic expansions, and housing construction during the boom in 2004-2006, but also to more severe economic downturns during the subsequent bust in 2007-2009. Our analysis supports supply overhang and local household demand as two key channels for transmitting these adverse effects.
We provide novel systematic evidence on the extent and terms of direct lending by nonbank financial institutions, and explore whether banks are still special in lending to informationally opaque firms. Analyzing hand-collected data for a random sample of publicly-traded middle-market firms during the 2010-2015 period, we show that nonbank lending is widespread, with 32% of all loans being extended by nonbanks. Nonbank borrowers are less profitable, more levered, and more volatile than bank borrowers. Firms with a small negative EBITDA are 34% more likely to borrow from a nonbank than firms with a small positive EBITDA. While nonbank lenders are less likely to monitor by including financial covenants, they are more likely to align incentives through the use of warrants. Controlling for firm and loan characteristics, nonbank loans carry 190 basis points higher interest rates. Overall, our results provide evidence of market segmentation in the commercial loan market, where bank and nonbank lenders utilize different lending techniques and cater to different types of borrowers.
Some Contributions of Economics to the Study of Personality -- by James J. Heckman, Tomáš Jagelka, Timothy D. Kautz
This paper synthesizes recent research in economics and psychology on the measurement and empirical importance of personality skills and preferences. They predict and cause important life outcomes such as wages, health, and longevity. Skills develop over the life cycle and can be enhanced by education, parenting, and environmental influences to different degrees at different ages. Economic analysis clarifies psychological studies by establishing that personality is measured by performance on tasks which depends on incentives and multiple skills. Identification of any single skill therefore requires isolation of confounding factors, accounting for measurement error using rich data and application of appropriate statistical techniques. Skills can be inferred not only by questionnaires and experiments but also from observed behavior. Economists advance the analysis of human differences by providing anchored measures of economic preferences and studying their links to personality and cognitive skills. Connecting the research from the two disciplines promotes understanding of the number and nature of skills and preferences required to characterize essential differences.
Does The Market Reward Quality?: Evidence from India -- by Zachary Wagner, Somalee Banerjee, Manoj Mohanan, Neeraj Sood
There are two salient facts about health care in low and middle-income countries; 1) the private sector plays an important role and 2) the care provided is often of poor quality. Despite these facts we know little about what drives quality of care in the private sector and why patients continue to seek care from poor quality providers. We use two field studies in India that provide unique insight into this issue. First, we use a discrete choice experiment to show that patients are willing to pay higher prices for better technical quality (defined by correct treatment and correct diagnosis). Second, we use standardized patients to show that private providers who provide better technical quality are not able to charge higher prices. Instead providers are able to charge higher prices for elements of quality that the patient can observe (good patient interactions and more effort), which are less important for health outcomes. Taken together, this research highlights a market inefficiency and suggests that engaging patients with accessible information on technical quality of the providers in their community could shift demand to providers that provide better care and thus improve health outcomes.
In the wake of the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, both the U.S. and Canada experienced a sustained increase in job reallocation, including firms moving into exporting. The change involved big firms as much as small firms. To mimic these patterns,we formulate a model of innovation by both domestic and foreign firms. In the model, trade liberalization quickens the pace of creative destruction, thereby speeding the flow of technology across countries. The resulting dynamic gains from trade liberalization are an order of magnitude larger than the gains in a standard static model.
Do Minimum Wages Reduce Employment in Developing Countries? A Survey and Exploration of Conflicting Evidence -- by David Neumark, Luis Felipe Munguia Corella
Evidence from studies of the employment effects of minimum wages in developing countries is mixed. One interpretation is that there is simply no clear evidence of disemployment effects in developing countries. Instead, however, we find evidence that the heterogeneity is systematic, with estimated effects more consistently negative when institutional factors or the competitive model predict more negative effects – for vulnerable workers, in the formal sector, and when minimum wage laws are strong and binding. That is, the evidence points to negative employment effects of minimum wages in developing countries when more features of estimates predict negative employment effects.
The Surrogate Index: Combining Short-Term Proxies to Estimate Long-Term Treatment Effects More Rapidly and Precisely -- by Susan Athey, Raj Chetty, Guido W. Imbens, Hyunseung Kang
A common challenge in estimating the long-term impacts of treatments (e.g., job training programs) is that the outcomes of interest (e.g., lifetime earnings) are observed with a long delay. We address this problem by combining several short-term outcomes (e.g., short-run earnings) into a \surrogate index," the predicted value of the long-term outcome given the short-term outcomes. We show that the average treatment effect on the surrogate index equals the treatment effect on the long-term outcome under the assumption that the long-term outcome is independent of the treatment conditional on the surrogate index. We then characterize the bias that arises from violations of this assumption, deriving feasible bounds on the degree of bias and providing simple methods to validate the key assumption using additional outcomes. Finally, we develop efficient estimators for the surrogate index and show that even in settings where the long-term outcome is observed, using a surrogate index can increase precision. We apply our method to analyze the long-term impacts of a multi-site job training experiment in California. Using short-term employment rates as surrogates, one could have estimated the program's impacts on mean employment rates over a 9 year horizon within 1.5 years, with a 35% reduction in standard errors. Our empirical results suggest that the long-term impacts of programs on labor market outcomes can be predicted accurately by combining their short-term treatment effects into a surrogate index.
Can massive online retailers such as Amazon and Alibaba issue digital tokens that potentially compete with bank debit accounts? We explore whether a large platform’s ability to guarantee value and liquidity by issuing prototype digital tokens for in-platform purchases constitutes a significant advantage that could potentially be leveraged into wider use. Our central finding is that unless introducing tradability creates a significant convenience yield, platforms can potentially earn higher revenues by making tokens non-tradable. The analysis suggests that if platforms have any comparative advantage in issuing tradable tokens, it comes from other factors.