Originally published in The Economic Journal, Volume 131, Issue 635, April 2021, Pages 1250–1268, https://doi.org/10.1093/ej/ueaa049.
AbstractSeveral behavioural models of choice assume that decision makers place more weight on attributes where options differ more, an assumption we test in a set of experiments. We find that subjects are more likely to choose an option when we add options increasing the maximal difference in the original option’s strongest attribute, suggesting that the decision maker’s focus is drawn to attributes with a high spread. Additional experiments corroborate this finding. Still, we document that the focusing effect diminishes when options are presented using numbers instead of graphs or when subjects are forced to wait before submitting their answers.
Time Preferences Across Language Groups: Evidence on Intertemporal Choices from the Swiss Language Border
AbstractDifferences in patience across language groups have recently received increased attention in the literature. We provide evidence on this issue by measuring time preferences of French and German speakers from a bilingual municipality in Switzerland where institutions are shared and socio-economic conditions are very similar across the two language groups. We find that French speakers are significantly more impatient than German speakers, and differences are particularly pronounced when payments in the present are involved. Estimates of preference parameters of a quasi-hyperbolic discounting model suggest significant differences in both present bias (β) and the long-run discount factor (δ) across language groups.
AbstractWe document a strong political cycle in bank credit and industry outcomes in Turkey. In line with theories of tactical redistribution, state-owned banks systematically adjust their lending around local elections compared with private banks in the same province based on electoral competition and political alignment of incumbent mayors. This effect only exists in corporate lending and creates credit constraints for firms in opposition areas, which suffer drops in assets, employment and sales but not firm entry. Financial resources and factors of production are misallocated as more efficient provinces and industries suffer the greatest constraints, reducing aggregate productivity.
AbstractWe show that limited wage flexibility in economic downturns generates strong and state-dependent amplification of uncertainty shocks. It also explains the cyclical behaviour of empirical measures of uncertainty. In the presence of matching frictions, an occasionally binding constraint on downward wage adjustment enhances the concavity of firms’ hiring rule, resulting in an endogenous profit risk-premium. In turn, higher uncertainty increases the profit risk-premium when the economy operates close to the wage constraint, deepening a recession. Non-linear local projections and vector autoregression estimates support the model predictions. In addition, we show that measured uncertainty rises in a recession even without uncertainty shocks.
Political Activism and the Provision of Dynamic Incentives: Growing the Pie in the Battle for Redistribution
AbstractThis paper studies the determination of income taxes in a dynamic setting with human capital accumulation. The goal is to understand the factors that support an outcome without complete redistribution, given a majority of relatively poor agents and the inability to commit to future taxes. All agents agree ex ante that limiting tax and transfers is beneficial but a majority favours large redistribution, ex post, at the time of the vote. In a political influence game, group activism limits the support for expropriatory taxation and preserves incentives. In some cases, the outcome corresponds to the optimal allocation under commitment.
AbstractWe study multi-lateral risk sharing when the state of nature is unverifiable, so that contracts are conditioned on a state-dependent signal (e.g., net earnings in a financial report). A subset of the agents can manipulate the signal’s realisation at some cost and, as a result, Pareto-optimal reallocation of risk is precluded. The agents can write additional side contracts that can be used to incentivise one of the parties to manipulate the signal. Using a novel stability notion that takes into account agents’ beliefs about contemporaneous deviations initiated by their counterparties, we explore the limits of risk sharing and risk bearing.
AbstractThis paper studies optimal taxation of families—a combination of an income tax schedule and child tax credits. Child-rearing requires both goods and parental time, which distinctly impact the design of optimal child tax credits. In the quantitative analysis, I calibrate my model to the US economy and show that the optimal child tax credits are U-shaped in income and decrease with family size. In particular, the optimal credits decrease in the first nine deciles of the income distribution and then increase thereafter. Implementing the optimum yields large welfare gains.
AbstractWe investigate strategic communication about the social impact of costly prosocial actions. A ‘sender’ with noisy information about impact sends a cheap-talk message to a ‘receiver’, upon which both agents choose whether to act. In the presence of social preferences and image concerns, the sender trades off persuasion, exaggerating impact to induce receiver action, and justification, downplaying impact to cast doubt on the effectiveness of action and excuse her own passivity. In an experiment on charitable giving we find evidence for both motives. In line with our theory and a justification motive, increasing image concerns reduces communication of positive impact.
AbstractUsing new data on county-level variation in alcohol prohibition from 1933 to 1939, we investigate whether the repeal of federal prohibition increased infant mortality, both in counties and states that repealed and in neighbouring counties. We find that repeal is associated with a 4.0% increase in infant mortality rates in counties that chose wet status via local option elections or state-wide legislation and with a 4.7% increase in neighbouring dry counties, suggesting a large role for cross-border policy externalities. These estimates imply that roughly twenty-seven thousand excess infant deaths could be attributed to the repeal of federal prohibition in this period.
AbstractThe allocation of bureaucrats across tasks constitutes a pivotal instrument for achieving an organisation’s objectives. In this paper, I measure the performance of World Bank bureaucrats by combining the universe of task assignment with an evaluation of task outcome and bureaucrat CVs. I introduce two stylised facts. First, bureaucrat performance correlates with task features and individual characteristics. Second, there exists a negative assortative matching between high-performing bureaucrats and low-performing countries. In response to natural disasters, which may further weaken countries’ performance, I observe that low-performing countries receive an additional allocation of high-performing bureaucrats. I discuss various interpretations of these findings.
AbstractBased on detailed administrative tax records, we implement a bunching design to explore how individual taxpayers respond to personal income taxation in Uruguay. We estimate a very modest elasticity of taxable income at the first kink point (0.06) driven by a combination of gross labour income and deduction responses. Taxpayers use personal deductions more intensively close to the kink point and underreport income to the tax authority. Our results suggest that the efficiency costs of taxation are not necessarily large in contexts characterised by limited deduction opportunities. Policy efforts should be directed at broadening the tax base and improving enforcement capacity.
AbstractWe pose technology shocks where the innovation is biased towards more recently installed plants. On one extreme, the shock is like a neutral technological shock, while on the other end it resembles investment-specific technological shocks. We embed these shocks in a model with putty–clay technology and estimate it requiring that the model replicates the volatility properties of the Solow residual and the overshooting property of the labour share of output. Our estimates show that putty–clay nature of technology, a time bias towards new plants and competitive wage setting replicate well the overshooting property.
AbstractThe paper identifies neighbourhood price spillovers in the housing market. Although this concept has attracted some theoretical research and is strongly supported by practitioners, it has proven very difficult to show in empirical data. By using the linear-in-means model, which is routinely applied to identify endogenous effects in groups of peers, the study summarises all threats to identification and demonstrates how they can be addressed by exploiting information asymmetry between buyers of different houses and delays in revealing transaction prices. The results show that a 1% increase in the price of a house increases the house price of its neighbour by up to 0.3%.