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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Gold men

Risk Targeting and Policy Illusions — Evidence from the Announcement of the Volcker Rule

Jussi Keppo & Josef Korte

Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We analyze the Volcker Rule’s announcement effects on U.S. bank holding companies. In line with the rule and the banks’ public compliance announcements, we find that those banks that are affected by the Volcker Rule already reduced their trading books relative to their total assets 2.34% more than other banks. However, the announcement of the rule did not reduce the banks’ overall risk taking. To keep their risk targets, the affected banks raised the riskiness of their asset returns. We also find some evidence that the affected banks raised their trading risk and decreased the hedging of their banking business.

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Cross-Sectional Patterns of Mortgage Debt during the Housing Boom: Evidence and Implications

Christopher Foote, Lara Loewenstein & Paul Willen

NBER Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
The reallocation of mortgage debt to low-income or marginally qualified borrowers plays a central role in many explanations of the early 2000s housing boom. We show that such a reallocation never occurred, as the distribution of mortgage debt with respect to income changed little even as the aggregate stock of debt grew rapidly. Moreover, because mortgage debt varies positively with income in the cross section, equal percentage increases in debt among high- and low-income borrowers meant that wealthy borrowers accounted for most new debt in dollar terms. Previous research stressing the importance of low-income borrowing was based on the inflow of new mortgage originations alone, so it could not detect offsetting outflows in mortgage terminations that left the allocation of debt stable over time. And while defaults on subprime mortgages played an important part in the financial crisis, the data show that subprime lending did not cause a reallocation of debt toward the poor. Rather, subprime lending prevented a reallocation of debt toward the wealthy.

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Finance and Growth at the Firm Level: Evidence from SBA Loans

David Brown & John Earle

Journal of Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
We analyze linked databases on all SBA loans and lenders and on all U.S. employers to estimate the effects of financial access on employment growth. Estimation exploits the long panels and variation in local availability of SBA-intensive lenders. The results imply an increase of 3 to 3.5 jobs for each million dollars of loans, suggesting real effects of credit constraints. Estimated impacts are stronger for younger and larger firms and when local credit conditions are weak, but we find no clear evidence of cyclical variation. We estimate taxpayer costs per job created in the range of $21,000 to $25,000.

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The effect of TARP on the propagation of real estate shocks: Evidence from geographically diversified banks

Karen Jang

Journal of Banking & Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines the effect of TARP on the propagation of real estate shocks via geographically diversified banks in the U.S. I find that TARP money provided for banks exposed to distressed areas (i.e., “affected” banks) was positively associated with small business loan originations in “non-distressed” areas (i.e., counties with smaller real estate shocks), mitigating the shock transmission. In addition, the bailout funds facilitated “affected” banks’ faster return to their pre-crisis level of franchise value. Overall, the marginal benefit of TARP funds seems to have been greater for “affected” TARP banks. I conclude that this policy helped “affected” banks cleanse/strengthen their balance sheets and recapitalize, which paved the way for increased lending.

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Contagion effects in strategic mortgage defaults

Ryan Goodstein et al.

Journal of Financial Intermediation, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using a large sample of U.S. mortgages observed over the 2005–2009 period, we document contagion effects in strategic mortgage defaults. Strategic defaults result from borrowers choosing to exercise their in the money default option and our findings suggest this choice is influenced by the delinquency rate in surrounding zip codes (within a 5 mile radius), after controlling for other known determinants of mortgage default. These controls include a large array of borrower and loan characteristics, local demographic and economic conditions, spatial correlations, and changes in property values. Our findings that the local area delinquency rate is an important factor for strategic defaulters (borrowers that can be influenced in their decision) but not for defaults that are the result of inability to pay (borrowers that had no choice) lend support the contagion hypothesis. Our estimates suggest that a 1% increase in the local area delinquency rate may increase the probability of a strategic default by 7.25–16.5%.

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Arrested Development: Theory and Evidence of Supply-Side Speculation in the Housing Market

Charles Nathanson & Eric Zwick

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
This paper studies the role of disagreement in amplifying housing cycles. Speculation is easier in the land market than in the housing market due to frictions that make renting less efficient than owner-occupancy. As a result, undeveloped land both facilitates construction and intensifies the speculation that causes booms and busts in house prices. This observation reverses the standard intuition that cities where construction is easier experience smaller house price booms. It also explains why the largest house price booms in the United States between 2000 and 2006 occurred in areas with elastic housing supply.

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Does bank supervision impact bank loan growth?

Paul Kupiec, Yan Lee & Claire Rosenfeld

Journal of Financial Stability, February 2017, Pages 29–48

Abstract:
We estimate the impact of a poor bank examination rating on the growth rates of individual bank loan portfolios. We use a novel approach to control for loan demand variation and estimate a fixed-effect model using an unbalanced panel with over 381,000 bank-quarter observations from the period 1994–2011. Our estimates show that a poor examination rating has a large negative impact on bank loan growth, even after controlling for the impact of monetary policy, bank capital and liquidity conditions, and any voluntary reduction in lending triggered by weak legacy loan portfolio performance or other bank losses. This previously unidentified effect is consistent with the hypothesis that the bank supervision process successfully constrains the lending activities of banks operating in an unsafe and unsound manner.

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Measuring Foreclosure Impact Mitigation: Evidence from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Chicago

Xian Bak & Geoffrey Hewings

Regional Science and Urban Economics, March 2017, Pages 38–56

Abstract:
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) is a $7 billion nationwide government program that was established to reduce the negative impacts of the housing crisis in foreclosure-concentrated neighborhoods. NSP rehabilitations aim to bring foreclosed and abandoned properties back to productive use. Very few quantitative studies have evaluated NSP and provided policy suggestions for future stabilization. Furthermore, there is some ambiguity about the channels through which foreclosures influence neighboring properties. This study fills the gap in the literature by evaluating the effects of NSP acquisition and rehabilitation in terms of the impact on elevating neighboring property values. In addition, it provides evidence that disamenity effects are a source of the negative impacts of foreclosures on their neighbors. Using a 2008–2014 repeated cross-section dataset for housing sales in the city of Chicago, the difference-in-differences estimates reveal that the average sales prices of homes within 0.1 miles of the NSP projects increased by 14.3% and these effects do not appear until the completion of the rehabilitation. Furthermore, large program effects are found for normal homes but not for foreclosure-related homes. The results vary under different contexts of NSP implementation, but the analytical approach presented in this study is reproducible for NSP studies in other regions.

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Public Investment and Housing Price Appreciation: Evidence from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program

Victor Westrupp

Stanford Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
This study assesses impact of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), a federal program designed to convert foreclosed properties into renovated affordable housing through public investment. To identify the impact, I exploit a discontinuity in how neighborhoods were selected with respect to a critical threshold. The program caused non-foreclosure housing prices in targeted neighborhoods to appreciate 6.5% between 2009 and 2011. These pricing gains remained stable through the end of my sample in 2014. Furthermore, the program caused changes in neither the supply of foreclosures nor neighborhood income. This suggests quality improvement externalities were behind the price appreciation. Lastly, low market liquidity and asymmetric information in targeted neighborhoods may justify the NSP public initiative, despite foreclosure resale profitability after 2009.

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Runs versus Lemons: Information Disclosure and Fiscal Capacity

Miguel Faria-e-Castro, Joseba Martinez & Thomas Philippon

Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
We study the optimal use of disclosure and fiscal backstops during financial crises. Providing information can reduce adverse selection in credit markets, but negative disclosures can also trigger inefficient bank runs. In our model, governments are thus forced to choose between runs and lemons. A fiscal backstop mitigates the cost of runs and allows a government to pursue a high disclosure strategy. Our model explains why governments with strong fiscal positions are more likely to run informative stress tests, and, paradoxically, how they can end up spending less than governments that are more fiscally constrained.

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Mortgage Debt Overhang: Reduced Investment by Homeowners at Risk of Default

Brian Melzer

Journal of Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
Homeowners at risk of default face a debt overhang that reduces their incentive to invest in their property: in expectation, some value created by investments in the property will go to the lender. This agency conflict affects housing investments. Homeowners at risk of default cut back substantially on home improvements and mortgage principal payments, even when they appear financially unconstrained. Meanwhile, they do not reduce spending on assets that they may retain in default, including home appliances, furniture, and vehicles. These findings highlight an important financial friction that has stifled housing investment since the Great Recession.

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Incentives for Loan Repayments: Evidence from a Randomized Field Study

Michael Collins, Leah Gjertson & Justin Sydnor

Journal of Consumer Affairs, forthcoming

Abstract:
This field experiment tests an innovative approach for helping automobile loan borrowers make their loan payments on time. Borrowers were randomly assigned to a loan with an interest rate reduction after three on-time payments; borrowers assigned to this loan show fewer late payments compared to a control group. While the financial incentive of the interest rate reduction was small, the offer of a rate reduction appears to result in borrowers attending to due dates. This result illustrates that lenders can use simple mechanisms to encourage more positive repayment patterns among borrowers with a history of late payments.

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Is something better than nothing? The impact of foreclosed and lease-purchase properties on residential property values

Youngme Seo & Michael Craw

Urban Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
Lease-purchase (L-P) programmes that rehabilitate foreclosed property for sale as affordable housing may provide a way to reduce foreclosure externalities on nearby property values. This paper investigates the feasibility of such a strategy by estimating the effects of foreclosed properties on nearby residential property values compared with those of an L-P programme operated by the Cleveland Housing Network, Cleveland, Ohio. The findings indicate that although both L-P and foreclosed properties have a negative effect on the value of nearby non-distressed homes, the negative effect of foreclosure is larger. At the same time, the scope of the foreclosure externality is greater in low- and moderate-income neighbourhoods, while the foreclosure externality is generally smaller in high income neighbourhoods. Such results imply that an L-P strategy is likely to be more effective in offsetting foreclosure externalities in low- and moderate-income neighbourhoods than in high income neighbourhoods.

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Borrower Selection into Credit Markets: Evidence from Peer-to-Peer Lending

Inessa Liskovich & Maya Shaton

Federal Reserve Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
We exploit a quasi-natural experiment in the peer-to-peer lending market to show that the mechanism determining interest rates, irrespective of their levels, influences households' decisions to participate in credit markets. A large online platform unexpectedly switched from auction pricing of loans to centralized price assignment by credit grade. After the change all borrowers in a given credit grade were assigned the same interest rate, potentially exacerbating asymmetric information between borrowers and lenders. Surprisingly, we find that the creditworthiness of borrowers listing on the platform improves. This effect is mainly driven by lower quality borrowers leaving the platform, and is most pronounced for households looking to consolidate existing debt. As a result, less credit is allocated to lower credit quality borrowers. Our findings suggest that the manner in which interest rates are set is an important determinant of households' financing decisions and of selection into credit markets.

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Assessing bankruptcy reform in a model with temptation and equilibrium default

Makoto Nakajima

Journal of Public Economics, January 2017, Pages 42–64

Abstract:
A life-cycle model with equilibrium default in which agents with and without temptation coexist is constructed to evaluate the 2005 bankruptcy law reform. The calibrated model indicates that the 2005 reform reduces bankruptcies, as seen in the data, and improves welfare, as lower default premia allows better consumption smoothing. A counterfactual reform of changing income garnishment rate is also investigated. Interesting contrasting welfare effects between two types of agents emerge. Agents with temptation prefer a lower garnishment rate as tighter borrowing constraint prevents them from over-borrowing, while those without prefer better consumption smoothing enabled by a higher garnishment rate.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, February 13, 2017

Invisible hands

The Neural Inhibition of Learning Increases Asset Market Bubbles: Experimental Evidence

Levan Efremidze et al.

Journal of Behavioral Finance, Winter 2017, Pages 114-124

Abstract:
The authors tested a leading theory of bubble formation, insufficient learning, in a laboratory asset market using a drug, Naltrexone, which inhibits reinforcement learning. We found that asset price bubbles in Naltrexone sessions were larger compared with placebo sessions, averaging 60% higher in amplitude and 77% larger in the deviation from fundamental value in the final 12-period trading round. There was no difference between conditions in understanding of the trading rules, overconfidence, or confusion. Participants on Naltrexone appeared unable to determine appropriate trading strategies as prices changed. The findings indicate that specific neural mechanism of reinforcement learning is involved in the formation of asset market bubbles.

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In-Group Bias in Financial Markets

Sima Jannati et al.

University of Miami Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
This paper investigates in-group bias in financial markets. Specifically, we argue that equity analysts may have less favorable opinions about firms that are not headed by CEOs of their own "group". We define groups based on gender, ethnicity and political attitudes. Examining analysts' earnings forecasts, we find that male analysts have lower assessments of firms headed by female CEOs than of firms headed by male CEOs. Results are very similar if in-groups are defined based on ethnicity or political attitudes: Earnings forecasts of domestic analysts are lower for firms headed by foreign CEOs and earnings forecasts of Republican analysts are lower for firms headed by Democrat CEOs. As a result, earnings surprises of firms headed by female, foreign, or Democrat CEOs are systematically upward biased. Overall, our results provide robust evidence for in-group bias in financial markets.

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CEO Ethnoracial Characteristics and Analyst Forecasts

Musaib Ashraf

University of Arizona Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
I analyze the effect of ethnoracial differences between CEOs and analysts on analyst forecasts. I find analyst forecasts are significantly lower and analyst forecast errors are significantly larger when the race of analysts and CEOs differ, while controlling for relevant factors that may affect analyst forecasts (such as return on assets and actual earnings-per-share) and incorporating firm fixed effects. I focus on firms with minority CEOs but find the effect in other settings as well. I also find this effect is offset with selective information sharing with analysts prior to 2000 when Regulation Fair Disclosure was passed. Overall, these results indicate a systematic downwards bias in analyst forecasts for firms with minority CEOs, raising questions about public policy and market efficiency.

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Hispanic Culture, Local Return Chasing, and Momentum Returns

Jawad Addoum, Alok Kumar & Stuart Webb

University of Miami Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
We examine the effect of Hispanic culture on portfolio choice decisions and asset returns in the United States. We demonstrate that investors residing in predominantly Hispanic ZIP codes are significantly more likely to chase returns and overweight small, local stocks than the average U.S. investor. Importantly, we find that these results cannot be attributed to unobserved heterogeneity correlated with Hispanic population concentration. We also find evidence that Hispanic investors' preferences affect prices and returns in local asset markets. In particular, momentum in stock returns is more pronounced (nonexistent) among firms headquartered in MSAs with a high (low) proportion of Hispanics. Further, high-Hispanic MSAs experience larger housing booms and subsequent busts than low-Hispanic localities.

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Investment Professionals' Ability to Detect Deception: Accuracy, Bias and Metacognitive Realism

Maria Hartwig et al.

Journal of Behavioral Finance, Winter 2017, Pages 1-13

Abstract:
In the first empirical study on the topic, the authors examined the ability of investment professionals to distinguish between truthful and deceptive statements. A random sample of 154 investment professionals made judgments about a series of truthful and deceptive statements, some of which involved financial fraud. Investment professionals' lie detection accuracy was poor; participants performed no better than would be expected by chance. Accuracy in identifying lies about financial fraud was especially poor. Further, participants displayed poor metacognitive realism when assessing their own performance. The theoretical and practical implications for lie detection in the financial industry are discussed.

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Investor Sentiment and Economic Forces

Junyan Shen, Jianfeng Yu & Shen Zhao

Journal of Monetary Economics, April 2017, Pages 1-21

Abstract:
Economic theory suggests that pervasive factors should be priced in the cross-section of stock returns. However, our evidence shows that portfolios with higher risk exposure do not earn higher returns. More important, our evidence shows a striking two-regime pattern for all 10 macro-related factors: high-risk portfolios earn significantly higher returns than low-risk portfolios following low-sentiment periods, whereas the exact opposite occurs following high-sentiment periods. These findings are consistent with a setting in which market-wide sentiment is combined with short-sale impediments and sentiment-driven investors undermine the traditional risk-return tradeoff, especially during high-sentiment periods.

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Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?

Hendrik Bessembinder

Arizona State University Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
Most common stocks do not outperform Treasury Bills. Fifty eight percent of common stocks have holding period returns less than those on one-month Treasuries over their full lifetimes on CRSP. When stated in terms of lifetime dollar wealth creation, the entire gain in the U.S. stock market since 1926 is attributable to the best-performing four percent of listed stocks. These results highlight the important role of positive skewness in the cross-sectional distribution of stock returns. The skewness in long-horizon returns reflects both that monthly returns are positively skewed and the fact that compounding returns over multiple periods itself induces positive skewness. The results also help to explain why active strategies, which tend to be poorly diversified, most often underperform.

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Do Weather-Induced Moods Affect the Processing of Earnings News?

Ed Dehaan, Joshua Madsen & Joseph Piotroski

Journal of Accounting Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigate whether unpleasant environmental conditions affect stock market participants' responses to information events. We draw from psychology research to develop a new prediction that weather-induced negative moods reduce market participants' activity levels. Exploiting geographic variation in equity analysts' locations, we find compelling evidence that analysts experiencing unpleasant weather are slower or less likely to respond to an earnings announcement relative to analysts responding to the same announcement but experiencing pleasant weather. Price association tests find evidence consistent with reduced activity due to weather-induced moods delaying equilibrium price adjustments following earnings announcements. We also use our analyst-based research design to re-examine an existing prediction that unpleasant weather induces investor pessimism, and find evidence of both analyst pessimism and reduced activity in the presence of unpleasant weather. Together, our study provides new evidence that both extends and reaffirms findings of a relation between unpleasant weather and market activities, and contributes to the broader psychology and economics literature on the impact of weather-induced mood on labor productivity.

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From Returns to Tweets and Back: An Investigation of the Stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average

Pieter de Jong, Sherif Elfayoumy & Oliver Schnusenberg

Journal of Behavioral Finance, Winter 2017, Pages 54-64

Abstract:
A sizeable percentage of investors are using social media to obtain information about companies (Cogent Research [2008]). As a consequence, social media content about firms may have an impact on stock prices (Hachman [2011]). Various studies utilize social media content to forecast stock market-related factors such as returns, volatility, or trading volume. The objective of this article is to investigate whether a bidirectional intraday relationship between stock returns and volatility and tweets exists. The study analyzed 150,180 minute-by-minute stock price and tweet data for the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average over a random 13-day interval from June 2 to June 18, 2014 using a BEKK-MVGARCH methodology. Findings indicate that 87% of stock returns are influenced by lagged innovations of the tweets data, but there is little evidence to support that the direction is reciprocal, with only 7% of tweets being influenced by lagged innovations of the stock returns. Results further show that the lagged innovations from 40 percent of stock returns affect the current conditional volatility of the tweets, while 73 percent of tweets affect the current conditional volatility of stock returns. Moreover, there is strong evidence to suggest that the volatility originating from the returns to the tweets persists for 33 percent of stocks; the volatility originating from the tweets to the returns persists for 73 percent of stocks. Last, 53 percent of stocks exhibit both immediate and persistent impacts from returns to tweets, while 90 percent of stocks exhibit both immediate and persistent impacts from tweets to returns. These results may help traders achieve superior returns by buying and selling individual stocks or options. Also, asset and mutual fund managers may benefit by developing a social media strategy.

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Dangerous infectious diseases: Bad news for Main Street, good news for Wall Street?

Michael Donadelli, Renatas Kizys & Max Riedel

Journal of Financial Markets, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine whether investor mood, driven by World Health Organization (WHO) alerts and media news on dangerous infectious diseases, is priced in pharmaceutical companies' stocks in the United States. We argue that disease-related news (DRNs) should not trigger rational trading. We find that DRNs have a positive and significant sentiment effect among investors (on Wall Street). The effect is stronger (weaker) for small (large) companies, who are less (more) likely to engage in the development of new vaccines. A potential negative investor climate (on Main Street) - induced by disease-related fear - does not alter the positive sentiment effect.

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Sentiment and Stock Returns: Anticipating a Major Sporting Event

Brian Payne, Jiri Tresl & Geoffrey Friesen

Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study documents the effect of the Super Bowl on the stock returns of firms that are geographically associated with the competing teams. We find significant upward return drift in the 9 trading days leading up to the Super Bowl, a pattern consistent with investors trading in anticipation of the game itself. The "anticipatory behavior" among investors leads to widespread pregame returns, which is not documented in prior studies. These pre-event abnormal returns are positive and statistically and economically significant for all firms, and the size of pre-event returns varies according to each team's favored status. In addition, firms associated with the winning team exhibit significant positive return drift over the 10-day period after their win. Firms associated with the losing team exhibit moderate downward drift. Our findings are strongest among the smallest quintile of firms and are robust to various risk adjustments and using a matched sample control group. The collective findings suggest that only by standing on the sideline will investors avoid winning around the Super Bowl.

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It pays to write well

Byoung-Hyoun Hwang & Hugh Hoikwang Kim

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We quantify the effects of easy-to-read disclosure documents on firm value by analyzing shareholder reports of closed-end investment companies in which the company's value can be estimated separately from the value of the company's underlying assets. Using a copy-editing software application that counts the pervasiveness of the most important 'writing faults' that make a document harder to read, our analysis provides evidence that issuing financial disclosure documents with low readability causes firms to trade at significant discounts relative to the value of their fundamentals. Our estimates suggest that a one-standard-deviation decrease in readability decreases firm value by a full 2.5%. In situations in which investors are more likely to rely on annual reports, the readability effect on firm value increases to 3.3%.

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The Persistent Effect of Initial Success: Evidence from Venture Capital

Ramana Nanda, Sampsa Samila & Olav Sorenson

Harvard Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
We used data on individual investments in the portfolios of venture capital firms to study persistence in their performance. Each additional IPO among a VC's first five investments predicted a 13% higher IPO rate for its subsequent 50 investments. Roughly half of this performance persistence stemmed from investment "styles" ― investing in particular regions and industries. We found no evidence of performance persistence stemming from a differential ability to select or govern portfolio companies. Rather, our results suggest that early success in venture investing yields better deal flow in subsequent investments, thereby perpetuating differences in the outcomes of initial investments.

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Does the Scope of the Sell-Side Analyst Industry Matter? An Examination of Bias, Accuracy, and Information Content of Analyst Reports

Kenneth Merkley, Roni Michaely & Joseph Pacelli

Journal of Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine changes in the scope of the sell-side analyst industry and whether these changes impact information dissemination and the quality of analysts' reports. Our findings suggest that changes in the number of analysts covering an industry impact analyst competition and have significant spillover effects on other analysts' forecast accuracy, bias, report informativeness, and effort. These spillover industry effects are incremental to the effects of firm level changes in analyst coverage. Overall, a more significant sell-side analyst industry presence has positive externalities that can result in better functioning capital markets.

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Political money contributions of U.S. IPOs

Dimitrios Gounopoulos et al.

Journal of Corporate Finance, April 2017, Pages 19-38

Abstract:
We produce the first study to explore the effect of political money contributions on IPOs. Exploiting a hand-collected database, we show that both lobbying and PAC expenditure pay off on issue day as donors incur less underpricing, an effect that can be amplified by contribution size and strategic targeting of recipients. Investigating the causes in multiple channels, we also associate donor IPOs with negative offer price revisions and lower aftermarket volatility. Collectively, our results offer new empirical grounding to the information asymmetry theory.

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Information Shocks and Short-Term Market Underreaction

George Jiang & Kevin Zhu

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using jumps in stock prices as a proxy for large information shocks, we provide evidence consistent with short-term underreaction in the US equity market. Strategies long (short) stocks with positive (negative) lagged jump returns earn significantly positive returns over the next one- to three-month horizons. The results based on intraday jumps, especially overnight jumps, provide further evidence consistent with underreaction. The underreaction is robust to controlling for other firm characteristics, extends stock return momentum over intermediate to short horizons, and captures market underreaction to information shocks beyond earnings surprises. We further show that limited investor attention contributes to short-term underreaction.

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Perceptions and Price: Evidence from CEO Presentations at IPO Roadshows

Elizabeth Blankespoor, Bradley Hendricks & Gregory Millee

Journal of Accounting Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines the relation between cognitive perceptions of management and firm valuation. We develop a composite measure of investor perception using 30-second content-filtered video clips of initial public offering (IPO) roadshow presentations. We show that this measure, designed to capture viewers' overall perceptions of a CEO, is positively associated with pricing at all stages of the IPO (proposed price, offer price and end of first day of trading). The result is robust to controls for traditional determinants of firm value. We also show that firms with highly perceived management are more likely to be matched to high-quality underwriters. In further exploratory analyses, we find the impact is greater for firms with more uncertain language in their written S-1. Taken together, our results provide evidence that investors' instinctive perceptions of management are incorporated into their assessments of firm value.

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Outcomes of Investing in OTC Stocks

Joshua White

U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
This paper analyzes three aspects of over-the-counter (OTC) stocks: (1) the recent trends in the OTC stock market structure and size; (2) the documented properties of OTC stocks; and (3) the differences in returns based on investor and stock characteristics. Approximately 10,000 OTC stocks were quoted at the end of 2013 through 2015, generating a total trading volume of over $200 billion per year. Dollar volume has grown substantially since 2012 and is now concentrated in the segment of the OTC market with no requirements of registration or reporting to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). A synthesis of recent academic literature reveals troubling properties of OTC stocks. Academic studies find that OTC stocks tend to be highly illiquid; are frequent targets of alleged market manipulation; generate negative and volatile investment returns on average; and rarely grow into a large company or transition to listing on a stock exchange. Moreover, these properties tend to worsen when the OTC company has fewer disclosure-related eligibility requirements. I examine the relationship between OTC investor demographics and investment outcomes using a proprietary database of transaction-level OTC data with confidential investor information. Analysis of 1.8 million trades by over 200,000 individual investors confirms that the typical OTC investment return is severely negative. Investor outcomes worsen for OTC stocks that experience a promotional campaign or have weaker disclosure-related eligibility requirements. Demographic analysis reveals that older, retired, low-income, and less educated investors experience significantly poorer outcomes in OTC stock markets. Given that retail investors are the predominant owners of OTC stocks, and the documented trend towards less transparent OTC companies, the results of this study have important implications for investor protection.

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Uncovering Expected Returns: Information in Analyst Coverage Proxies

Charles Lee & Eric So

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We show that analyst coverage proxies contain information about expected returns. We decompose analyst coverage into abnormal and expected components using a simple characteristic-based model and show that firms with abnormally high analyst coverage subsequently outperform firms with abnormally low coverage by approximately 80 basis points per month. We also show abnormal coverage rises following exogenous shocks to underpricing and predicts improvements in firms' fundamental performance, suggesting that return predictability stems from analysts more heavily covering underpriced stocks. Our findings highlight the usefulness of analysts' actions in expected return estimations, and a potential inference problem when coverage proxies are used to study information asymmetry and dissemination.

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A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Change: Confirmatory Bias in Financial Markets

Sebastien Pouget, Julien Sauvagnat & Stephane Villeneuve

Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper studies the impact of the confirmatory bias on financial markets. We propose a model in which some traders may ignore new evidence inconsistent with their favorite hypothesis regarding the state of the world. The confirmatory bias provides a unified rationale for several existing stylized facts, including excess volatility, excess volume, and momentum. It also delivers novel predictions for which we find empirical support using data on analysts' earnings forecasts: traders update beliefs depending on the sign of past signals and previous beliefs, and, at the stock level, differences of opinion are larger when past signals have different signs.

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Asset Managers: Institutional Performance and Smart Betas

Joseph Gerakos, Juhani Linnainmaa & Adair Morse

NBER Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
Using a dataset of $17 trillion of assets under management, we document that actively-managed institutional accounts outperformed strategy benchmarks by 86 (42) basis points gross (net) during 2000-2012. In return, asset managers collected $162 billion in fees per year for managing 29% of worldwide capital. Estimates from a Sharpe (1992) model imply that their outperformance comes from factor exposures ("smart beta"). If institutions had instead implemented mean-variance portfolios of institutional mutual funds, they would not have earned higher Sharpe ratios. Recent growth of the ETF market implies that asset managers are losing advantages held during our sample period.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Be nice

Increasing generosity by disrupting prefrontal cortex

Leonardo Christov-Moore et al.

Social Neuroscience, March/April 2017, Pages 174-181

Abstract:
Recent research suggests that prosocial outcomes in sharing games arise from prefrontal control of self-maximizing impulses. We used continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) to disrupt the functioning of two prefrontal areas, the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC). We used cTBS in the right MT/V5, as a control area. We then tested subjects' prosocial inclinations with an unsupervised Dictator Game in which they allocated real money anonymously between themselves and low and high socioeconomic status (SES) players. cTBS over the two prefrontal sites made subjects more generous compared to MT/V5. More specifically, cTBS over DLPFC increased offers to high-SES players, while cTBS over DMPFC caused increased offers to low-SES players. These data, the first to demonstrate an effect of disruptive neuromodulation on costly sharing, suggest that DLPFC and MPFC exert inhibitory control over prosocial inclinations during costly sharing, though they may do so in different ways. DLPFC may implement contextual control, while DMPFC may implement a tonic form of control. This study demonstrates that humans' prepotent inclination is toward prosocial outcomes when cognitive control is reduced, even when prosocial decisions carry no strategic benefit and concerns for reputation are minimized.

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Empathy is a Choice: People are Empathy Misers Because They are Cognitive Misers

Daryl Cameron et al.

Pennsylvania State University Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
Empathy is considered a core virtue, yet fails in many situations. Understanding empathy lapses addresses a basic question about pro-sociality: to what extent do people choose to avoid empathy? Answering this question informs debates over the automaticity of empathy, and in particular, experience sharing: our tendency to resonate with the experiences of others. Experience sharing is often assumed to be effortless and automatic; here, we suggest that people perceive experience sharing to be effortful, aversive, and difficult, and avoid it for that reason. We develop a new measure of empathy regulation behavior called the Empathy Selection Task. In this task, participants make a series of binary choices, selecting into situations that instruct them to engage in empathy or an alternative course of action. Across 19 studies (N = 2,174) we find strong and replicable empathy avoidance, which is associated with perceiving empathy as effortful, aversive, and inefficacious. People avoid sharing in both negative and positive experiences of others, and empathy avoidance is not reducible to emotion avoidance. People subjectively devalue empathy, requiring higher financial compensation to empathize in an Empathy Discounting Paradigm, and empathy avoidance reduces when the alternative to empathy is comparably effortful. Finally, experimentally increasing perceived efficacy at empathizing eliminates avoidance of experience sharing, suggesting that psychological costs directly cause empathy regulation. These results qualify claims that empathy is a default, and that empathy limits are fixed rather than chosen. When given the choice to share in others' feelings, people act as if it's not worth the effort.

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Signaling Virtue: Charitable Behavior Under Consumer Elective Pricing

Minah Jung et al.

Marketing Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Two field experiments examined generosity under consumer elective pricing. In shared social responsibility (SSR), consumers choose how much to pay, knowing that a percentage of their payment goes to support a charitable cause. Replicating past research, consumers in our experiments were sensitive to the presence of charitable giving, paying more when a portion of their payment went to charity. Notably, however, they were largely insensitive to the percentage of payment allocated to charity - customers paid little more when 99% of the payment went to charity than when only 1% went to charity. Neither self-selection nor social pressure fully explained higher payments under SSR.

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Power Distance Belief, Power, and Charitable Giving

Dahee Han, Ashok Lalwani & Adam Duhachek

Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Three studies examined the relation between power distance belief (PDB), the tendency to accept and expect inequalities in society; power, the control one has over valued resources; and charitable giving. Results suggested that the effect of PDB depends on the power held by the donor. In low-PDB contexts, people high (vs. low) in psychological power tend to be more self-focused (vs. other-focused), and this leads them to be less charitable. In high-PDB contexts, however, people high (vs. low) in psychological power tend to be more other-focused (vs. self-focused), and this leads them to be more charitable. The authors also explore several boundary conditions for these relationships and conclude with the implications of these findings.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Less is more

The tipping point of perceived change: Asymmetric thresholds in diagnosing improvement versus decline

Ed O'Brien & Nadav Klein

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, February 2017, Pages 161-185

Abstract:
Change often emerges from a series of small doses. For example, a person may conclude that a happy relationship has eroded not from 1 obvious fight but from smaller unhappy signs that at some point "add up." Everyday fluctuations therefore create ambiguity about when they reflect substantive shifts versus mere noise. Ten studies reveal an asymmetry in this first point when people conclude "official" change: people demand less evidence to diagnose lasting decline than lasting improvement, despite similar evidential quality. This effect was pervasive and replicated across many domains and parameters. For example, a handful of poor grades, bad games, and gained pounds led participants to diagnose intellect, athleticism, and health as "officially" changed; yet corresponding positive signs were dismissed as fickle flukes (Studies 1a, 1b, and 1c). This further manifested in real-time reactions: participants interpreted the same graphs of change in the economy and public health as more meaningful if framed as depicting decline versus improvement (Study 2), and were more likely to gamble actual money on continued bad versus good luck (Study 3). Why? Effects held across self/other change, added/subtracted change, and intended/unintended change (Studies 4a, 4b, and 4c), suggesting a generalized negativity bias. Teasing this apart, we highlight a novel "entropy" component beyond standard accounts like risk aversion: good things seem more truly capable of losing their positive qualities than bad things seem capable of gaining them, rendering signs of decline to appear more immediately diagnostic (Studies 5 and 6). An asymmetric tipping point raises theoretical and practical implications for how people might inequitably react to smaller signs of change.

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The Accuracy of Less: Natural Bounds Explain Why Quantity Decreases Are Estimated More Accurately Than Quantity Increases

Pierre Chandon & Nailya Ordabayeva

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, February 2017, Pages 250-268

Abstract:
Five studies show that people, including experts such as professional chefs, estimate quantity decreases more accurately than quantity increases. We argue that this asymmetry occurs because physical quantities cannot be negative. Consequently, there is a natural lower bound (zero) when estimating decreasing quantities but no upper bound when estimating increasing quantities, which can theoretically grow to infinity. As a result, the "accuracy of less" disappears (a) when a numerical or a natural upper bound is present when estimating quantity increases, or (b) when people are asked to estimate the (unbounded) ratio of change from one size to another for both increasing and decreasing quantities. Ruling out explanations related to loss aversion, symbolic number mapping, and the visual arrangement of the stimuli, we show that the "accuracy of less" influences choice and demonstrate its robustness in a meta-analysis that includes previously published results. Finally, we discuss how the "accuracy of less" may explain asymmetric reactions to the supersizing and downsizing of food portions, some instances of the endowment effect, and asymmetries in the perception of increases and decreases in physical and psychological distance.

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Short-Term Upper Limb Immobilization Affects Action-Word Understanding

Christel Bidet-Ildei et al.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present study aimed to investigate whether well-established associations between action and language can be altered by short-term upper limb immobilization. The dominant arm of right-handed participants was immobilized for 24 hours with a rigid splint fixed on the hand and an immobilization vest restraining the shoulder, arm, and forearm. The control group did not undergo such immobilization. In 2 experiments, participants had to judge whether a verb involved movements of the hands or feet. In Experiment 1, the response times for controls were shorter for hand-action verbs than for foot-action verbs, whereas there was no significant difference in the immobilized group. Experiment 2 confirmed these results with a pre/posttest procedure. Shorter response times were shown for hand-action verbs than for foot-action verbs in the pretests and posttests for the control group and in the pretest for the immobilized group (i.e., before immobilization). This difference was not observed for participants undergoing 24 hr of hand immobilization, who showed little progress in assessing hand-action verbs between pretest and posttest. Moreover, participants with the highest motor imagery capacities clearly demonstrated shorter response times in Experiment 2 for both hand-action and foot-action verbs, regardless of hand immobilization. Overall, these findings demonstrate for the first time that short-term sensorimotor deprivation can affect action verb processing. We discuss our results in light of the embodiment view, which considers that cognition is grounded in sensorimotor experiences.

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The Elephant in the Road: Auditory Perceptual Load Affects Driver Perception and Awareness

Gillian Murphy & Ciara Greene

Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Perceptual load theory research has shown that the level of perceptual load in a task affects processing of additional information. Less certain are the cross-modal effects of perceptual load - does load in one modality affect processing in another? The current study assessed the effect of auditory perceptual load on visual attention in a driving simulator task. While driving, participants listened to traffic updates on the radio, which imposed either low or high perceptual load. Awareness for an unexpected animal as well as less novel objects (such as billboards and other vehicles) was markedly reduced under high load. Driver behaviour was also significantly affected, with impaired lateral control, longer reaction times to hazards and more collisions under high load. This study has important implications for load theory and also more general implications for road safety, as it suggests that auditory load may be an important, often overlooked factor in driver attention.

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Can observing a Necker cube make you more insightful?

Ruben Laukkonen & Jason Tangen

Consciousness and Cognition, February 2017, Pages 198-211

Abstract:
It is a compelling idea that an image as simple as a Necker cube, or a duck-rabbit illusion, can reveal something about a person's creativity. Surprisingly, there are now multiple examples showing that people who are better at discovering 'hidden' images in a picture, are also better at solving some creative problems. Although this idea goes back at least a century, little is known about how these two tasks - that seem so different on the surface - are related to each other. At least some forms of creativity (and indeed scientific discoveries) may require that we change our perspectives in order to discover a novel solution to a problem. It's possible that such problems involve a similar cognitive process, and perhaps the same cognitive capacities, as switching perspectives in an ambiguous image. We begin by replicating previous work, and also show metacognitive similarities between the sudden appearance of hidden images in consciousness, and the sudden appearance of solutions to verbal insight problems. We then show that simply observing a Necker cube can improve subsequent creative problem-solving and lead to more self-reported insights. We speculate that these results may in part be explained by Conflict Monitoring Theory.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, February 10, 2017

He's got class

Social affiliation in same-class and cross-class interactions

Stéphane Côté et al.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, February 2017, Pages 269-285

Abstract:
Historically high levels of economic inequality likely have important consequences for relationships between people of the same and different social class backgrounds. Here, we test the prediction that social affiliation among same-class partners is stronger at the extremes of the class spectrum, given that these groups are highly distinctive and most separated from others by institutional and economic forces. An internal meta-analysis of 4 studies (N = 723) provided support for this hypothesis. Participant and partner social class were interactively, rather than additively, associated with social affiliation, indexed by affiliative behaviors and emotions during structured laboratory interactions and in daily life. Further, response surface analyses revealed that paired upper or lower class partners generally affiliated more than average-class pairs. Analyses with separate class indices suggested that these patterns are driven more by parental income and subjective social class than by parental education. The findings illuminate the dynamics of same- and cross-class interactions, revealing that not all same-class interactions feature the same degree of affiliation. They also reveal the importance of studying social class from an intergroup perspective.

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Voting, Education, and the Great Gatsby Curve

Christopher Rauh

Journal of Public Economics, February 2017, Pages 1–14

Abstract:
High inequality goes hand in hand with low intergenerational earnings mobility across countries. Little is known about why the US is characterized by high inequality and low mobility, while the opposite tends to hold for Scandinavian countries. In an overlapping generations model, calibrated to the US, education policies are endogenized via probabilistic voting. By exploiting cross-country variation in the bias in voter turnout towards the educated and elderly, the model replicates the negative relation between inequality and public education expenditures and accounts for more than a quarter of the variation in inequality and mobility. For the US, I find that compulsory voting could foster mobility, whereas inequality would be hardly affected.

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The Historical Evolution of the Wealth Distribution: A Quantitative-Theoretic Investigation

Joachim Hubmer, Per Krusell & Anthony Smith

NBER Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
This paper employs the benchmark heterogeneous-agent model used in macroeconomics to examine drivers of the rise in wealth inequality in the U.S. over the last thirty years. Several plausible candidates are formulated, calibrated to data, and examined through the lens of the model. There is one main finding: by far the most important driver is the significant drop in tax progressivity that started in the late 1970s, intensified during the Reagan years, and then subsequently flattened out, with only a minor bounce back. The sharp observed increases in earnings inequality, the falling labor share over the recent decades, and potential mechanisms underlying changes in the gap between the interest rate and the growth rate (Piketty's r-g story) all fall far short of accounting for the data.

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Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility

Raj Chetty et al.

Stanford Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
We characterize rates of intergenerational income mobility at each college in the United States using administrative data for over 30 million college students from 1999-2013. We document four results. First, access to colleges varies greatly by parent income. For example, children whose parents are in the top 1% of the income distribution are 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college than those whose parents are in the bottom income quintile. Second, children from low and high-income families have very similar earnings outcomes conditional on the college they attend, indicating that there is little mismatch of low socioeconomic status students to selective colleges. Third, upward mobility rates – measured, for instance, by the fraction of students who come from families in the bottom income quintile and reach the top quintile – vary substantially across colleges. Much of this variation is driven by differences in the fraction of students from low-income families across colleges whose students have similar earnings outcomes. Mid-tier public universities such as the City University of New York and California State colleges tend to have the highest rates of bottom-to-top quintile mobility. Elite private colleges, such as Ivy League universities, have the highest rates of upper-tail (e.g., bottom quintile to top 1%) mobility. Finally, between the 1980 and 1991 birth cohorts, the fraction of students from bottom-quintile families fell sharply at colleges with high rates of bottom-to-top-quintile mobility, and did not change substantially at elite private institutions. Although our descriptive analysis does not identify colleges’ causal effects on students’ outcomes, the publicly available statistics constructed here highlight colleges that deserve further study as potential engines of upward mobility.

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Educational Homogamy and Assortative Mating Have Not Increased

Rania Gihleb & Kevin Lang

NBER Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
Some economists have argued that assortative mating between men and women has increased over the last several decades, thereby contributing to increased family income inequality. Sociologists have argued that educational homogamy has increased. We clarify the relation between the two and, using both the Current Population Surveys and the decennial Censuses/American Community Survey, show that neither is correct. The former is based on the use of inappropriate statistical techniques. Both are sensitive to how educational categories are chosen. We also find no evidence that the correlation between spouses' potential earnings has changed dramatically.

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Exposure to inequality affects support for redistribution

Melissa Sands

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 24 January 2017, Pages 663–668

Abstract:
The distribution of wealth in the United States and countries around the world is highly skewed. How does visible economic inequality affect well-off individuals’ support for redistribution? Using a placebo-controlled field experiment, I randomize the presence of poverty-stricken people in public spaces frequented by the affluent. Passersby were asked to sign a petition calling for greater redistribution through a “millionaire’s tax.” Results from 2,591 solicitations show that in a real-world-setting exposure to inequality decreases affluent individuals’ willingness to redistribute. The finding that exposure to inequality begets inequality has fundamental implications for policymakers and informs our understanding of the effects of poverty, inequality, and economic segregation. Confederate race and socioeconomic status, both of which were randomized, are shown to interact such that treatment effects vary according to the race, as well as gender, of the subject.

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Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States

Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman

NBER Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
This paper combines tax, survey, and national accounts data to estimate the distribution of national income in the United States since 1913. Our distributional national accounts capture 100% of national income, allowing us to compute growth rates for each quantile of the income distribution consistent with macroeconomic growth. We estimate the distribution of both pre-tax and post-tax income, making it possible to provide a comprehensive view of how government redistribution affects inequality. Average pre-tax national income per adult has increased 60% since 1980, but we find that it has stagnated for the bottom 50% of the distribution at about $16,000 a year. The pre-tax income of the middle class — adults between the median and the 90th percentile — has grown 40% since 1980, faster than what tax and survey data suggest, due in particular to the rise of tax-exempt fringe benefits. Income has boomed at the top: in 1980, top 1% adults earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50% adults, while they earn 81 times more today. The upsurge of top incomes was first a labor income phenomenon but has mostly been a capital income phenomenon since 2000. The government has offset only a small fraction of the increase in inequality. The reduction of the gender gap in earnings has mitigated the increase in inequality among adults. The share of women, however, falls steeply as one moves up the labor income distribution, and is only 11% in the top 0.1% today.

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Firm Heterogeneity in Consumption Baskets: Evidence from Home and Store Scanner Data

Benjamin Faber & Thibault Fally

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
A growing literature has emphasized the role of firm heterogeneity within sectors in accounting for nominal income inequality. This paper explores the implications for household price indices across the income distribution. Using detailed matched US home and store scanner microdata, we present evidence that rich and poor households source their consumption from different parts of the firm size distribution within disaggregated product groups. We use the microdata to examine alternative explanations, write down a quantitative model featuring two-sided heterogeneity across producers and consumers that rationalizes the observed moments, and calibrate it to explore general equilibrium counterfactuals. We find that larger, more productive firms endogenously sort into catering to the taste of wealthier households, and that this gives rise to asymmetric effects on household price indices. These effects amplify observed changes in nominal income inequality over time, and lead to a more regressive distribution of the gains from international trade.

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Linking Economic Complexity, Institutions, and Income Inequality

Dominik Hartmann et al.

World Development, forthcoming

Abstract:
A country’s mix of products predicts its subsequent pattern of diversification and economic growth. But does this product mix also predict income inequality? Here we combine methods from econometrics, network science, and economic complexity to show that countries exporting complex products — as measured by the Economic Complexity Index — have lower levels of income inequality than countries exporting simpler products. Using multivariate regression analysis, we show that economic complexity is a significant and negative predictor of income inequality and that this relationship is robust to controlling for aggregate measures of income, institutions, export concentration, and human capital. Moreover, we introduce a measure that associates a product to a level of income inequality equal to the average GINI of the countries exporting that product (weighted by the share the product represents in that country’s export basket). We use this measure together with the network of related products — or product space — to illustrate how the development of new products is associated with changes in income inequality. These findings show that economic complexity captures information about an economy’s level of development that is relevant to the ways an economy generates and distributes its income. Moreover, these findings suggest that a country’s productive structure may limit its range of income inequality. Finally, we make our results available through an online resource that allows for its users to visualize the structural transformation of over 150 countries and their associated changes in income inequality during 1963–2008.

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The Transmission of Educational Advantage across Three Generations: Grandparent Effects and Spousal Mediation in the Second Generation

Michael Gaddis & Jonathan Daw

Pennsylvania State University Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
The publication of research examining three-generational mobility processes has accelerated during the past half-decade, due in part to new and expanded data that now include large sample sizes of families with more than two generations. However, this area of inquiry is relatively new and little is known about the mechanisms of intergenerational effects beyond parent-child ties. In this article, we draw upon theory and research on intergenerational mobility, maternal education, educational homogamy, and status exchange to propose a new potential mechanism of the transmission of educational attainment from grandparents to grandchildren in the United States: second generation spousal mediation. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we find evidence that grandparent’s educational attainment positively effects their child’s spouse’s educational attainment net of child’s educational attainment. This pathway then mediates the effect of grandparent’s educational attainment on grandchild’s educational attainment. Further analysis suggests no gender differences in the spousal mediation effect. Overall, this research suggests that grandparent’s educational attainment matters to grandchildren, but is partially mediated through child’s spouse’s educational attainment. We suggest that three-generational transmission of educational advantage is a complex topic in need of further, careful examination of original mechanisms.

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The Social Genome Model: Estimating How Policies Affect Outcomes, Mobility and Inequality across the Life Course

Gregory Acs et al.

Journal of Social Issues, December 2016, Pages 656–675

Abstract:
Persistently high poverty among families with children, a lack of equal opportunity, stalled intergenerational mobility, and inequality have all risen up the agenda for federal, state, and local policymakers. Children born into low-income families face barriers to success in each stage of life from birth till age 40. Using data on a representative group of American children and a life cycle model to track their progress from the earliest years through school and beyond, we show that well-evaluated, targeted interventions can close over 80% of the gap between more and less advantaged children in the proportion that ends up middle class by middle age. These interventions can also greatly improve social mobility and enhance the lifetime incomes of less advantaged children.

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Inequality in Human Capital and Endogenous Credit Constraints

Rong Hai & James Heckman

NBER Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
This paper investigates the determinants of inequality in human capital with an emphasis on the role of the credit constraints. We develop and estimate a model in which individuals face uninsured human capital risks and invest in education, acquire work experience, accumulate assets and smooth consumption. Agents can borrow from the private lending market and from government student loan programs. The private market credit limit is explicitly derived by extending the natural borrowing limit of Aiyagari (1994) to incorporate endogenous labor supply, human capital accumulation, psychic costs of working, and age. We quantify the effects of cognitive ability, noncognitive ability, parental education, and parental wealth on educational attainment, wages, and consumption. We conduct counterfactual experiments with respect to tuition subsidies and enhanced student loan limits and evaluate their effects on educational attainment and inequality. We compare the performance of our model with an influential ad hoc model in the literature with education-specific fixed loan limits. We find evidence of substantial life cycle credit constraints that affect human capital accumulation and inequality. The constrained fall into two groups: those who are permanently poor over their lifetimes and a group of well-endowed individuals with rising high levels of acquired skills who are constrained early in their life cycles. Equalizing cognitive and noncognitive ability has dramatic effects on inequality. Equalizing parental backgrounds has much weaker effects. Tuition costs have weak effects on inequality.

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When Does Economic Growth Improve Life Satisfaction? Multilevel Analysis of the Roles of Social Trust and Income Inequality in 46 Countries, 1981–2012

Malgorzata Mikucka, Francesco Sarracino & Joshua Dubrow

World Development, forthcoming

Abstract:
Governments across the world seek to promote a better life for their citizens, but thus far scholars have provided contradictory advice. While some argue that economic growth leads to higher subjective well-being, and others argue that it does not, we are the first to specify two conditions that make economic growth compatible with subjective well-being over time: increasing social trust and declining income inequality. Our methodological contribution is to combine micro- and macro-level data from a large sample of developing, transition, and developed countries and to explicitly distinguish the cross-country differences from the changes over time. We perform a multilevel analysis of harmonized data composed of the World Values Survey, the European Values Study, and macro-level indicators of economic growth and income inequality for 46 countries, observed from 1981 to 2012. Our results show that in the long run economic growth improves subjective well-being when social trust does not decline and, in richer countries, when income inequality reduces. These results are compatible with the recommendation that, to pursue durable improvements in people’s subjective well-being, policy-makers should adopt a ”promote, protect and reduce” policy agenda: promote economic growth, protect and promote social trust, and reduce income inequality.

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Civic Life in the Divided Metropolis: Social Capital, Collective Action, and Residential Income Segregation

Amber Wichowsky

Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social capital is presumed to help individuals who lack financial or human capital achieve collective action through their social ties and networks of relationships. But does it help individuals overcome their socioeconomic disadvantages relative to their wealthier neighbors, or does the accumulation of social capital merely reproduce socioeconomic disparities, particularly in economically segregated places? Leveraging data from the Current Population Survey, I test whether residential income segregation is associated with larger income differences in social capital investments and collective action. I find that in more economically segregated places, wealthier residents are more likely to be members of neighborhood organizations and report working with other community members to address local issues. These results are robust to the inclusion of other potential confounders, including income inequality, racial context, and racial residential segregation. This research has implications for policy makers and stakeholders interested in building a more inclusive civic arena.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fear of God

Demonic Influence: The Negative Mental Health Effects of Belief in Demons

Fanhao Nie & Daniel Olson

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many religious traditions include a belief in the reality of demonic beings and evil powers. Previous research demonstrates that comforting beliefs, such as believing in an afterlife, can benefit mental health, but less is known about the potentially negative mental health effects of belief in evil supernatural powers. In cross-sectional analyses, we find that among young adults, believing in demons is one of the strongest (negative) predictors of mental health. More importantly, using three waves of the National Study of Youth and Religion and a cross-lagged structural equation model, we find that belief in demons can lead to lowered mental health in later waves but low mental health does not lead to greater belief in demons. In fact, when predicting changes in mental health from wave 2 to wave 3 of the study, the negative effect size of belief in demons on mental health is larger in magnitude than all other religion-related predictors.

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From Existential to Social Understandings of Risk: Examining Gender Differences in Nonreligion

Penny Edgell, Jacqui Frost & Evan Stewart

Social Currents, forthcoming

Abstract:
Across many social contexts, women are found to be more religious than men. Risk preference theory proposes that women are less likely than men to accept the existential risks associated with nonbelief. Building on previous critiques of this theory, we argue that the idea of risk is relevant to understanding the relationship between gender and religiosity if risk is understood not as existential, but as social. The research on existential risk focuses on religious identification as solely a matter of belief; as part of the movement away from this cognitivist bias, we develop the concept of social risk to theorize the ways that social location and differential levels of power and privilege influence women's nonreligious choices. We show that women's nonreligious preferences in many ways mirror those of other marginalized groups, including nonwhites and the less educated. We argue that nonreligion is socially risky, that atheism is more socially risky than other forms of nonreligion, and that women and members of other marginalized groups avoid the most socially risky forms of nonreligion.

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Reconciling the God and Gender Gaps: The Influence of Women in Church Politics

Andre Audette, Maryann Kwakwa & Christopher Weaver

Politics, Groups, and Identities, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social scientists have long recognized women as being both more religious and more liberal than men. Indeed, men have been disaffiliating from churches and the Democratic Party at higher rates than women for several decades. Moreover, we show evidence to suggest that churchgoing women, while less liberal than women in the general population, are nevertheless more liberal than churchgoing men. Given these trends, one might expect churches to have become more liberal in response to these changing demographics. However, using nationally representative data of American congregations and their adherents, we show that churches with a higher percentage of female congregants are actually more conservative. We suggest that the institutional structure of churches limits the ideological influence and contributions of women within the church community. Specifically, women are often excluded formally or informally from decision-making leadership positions in the church. When women are allowed greater access to leadership positions, however, we find that congregations do tend to be less politically conservative. These findings suggest that churches and other civic organizations, which are major direct and indirect political actors, may be insulated from changes in the partisan or ideological makeup of their membership through their allocation of important leadership roles.

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Political Engagement Meets the Prosperity Gospel: African American Christian Zionism and Black Church Politics

Roger Baumann

Sociology of Religion, Winter 2016, Pages 359-385

Abstract:
How do religion and race affect political engagement in black churches? Studies of black church-based politics typically use religious frameworks of emancipation in the form of social gospels, associating politically engaged groups with socially liberal politics and movements for racial justice. In contrast, this article draws on two years of fieldwork as well as interviews with clergy and laity to explain how non-emancipatory religious frameworks and politically conservative religious activism operate in black churches. Using the case of African American Christian Zionism, which draws on racial and religious motivations to foster political support for the State of Israel, this article argues for increased attention to theologically and politically conservative social movements within black churches. The discourse of this movement provides an instructive example of how black church political engagement is increasingly focusing on alternative motivations and social solidarities, rather than exclusively operating in contexts that emphasize racial justice and emancipation.

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Happily Religious: The Surprising Sources of Happiness Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adults

M.N. Barringer & David Gay

Sociological Inquiry, February 2017, Pages 75-96

Abstract:
This article analyzes the impact of religion on reported levels of subjective well-being (general happiness) among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adults. Although previous studies find religious affiliation to be a significant predictor of subjective well-being among the general population in the United States, limited quantitative research investigates general happiness among sexual and gender minorities. This study augments the existing literature by using a national survey of LGBT adults conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013. The results show that religious affiliation is a significant predictor of LGBT individuals' happiness. LGBT individuals who identify as Catholic, agnostic or atheist, or with no particular religious affiliation report lower levels of happiness compared to mainline Protestants. Surprisingly, no significant differences are found between mainline Protestants (whose church doctrine often accepts same-sex relations) and evangelical Protestants (whose church doctrine often condemns same-sex relations). In addition, income is the only control variable that affects general happiness. Our analysis reveals interesting differences in the determinants of subjective well-being between the LGBT and general population.

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The Determinants of Religious Radicalization: Evidence from Kenya

Anselm Rink & Kunaal Sharma

Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

Abstract:
A variety of theories attempt to explain why some individuals radicalize along religious lines. Few studies, however, have jointly put these diverse hypotheses under empirical scrutiny. Focusing on Muslim-Christian tensions in Kenya, we distill salient micro-, meso-, and macro-level hypotheses that try to account for the recent spike in religious radicalization. We use an empirical strategy that compares survey evidence from Christian and Muslim respondents with differing degrees of religious radicalization. We find no evidence that radicalization is predicted by macro-level political or economic grievances. Rather, radicalization is strongly associated with individual-level psychological trauma, including historically troubled social relations, and process-oriented factors, particularly religious identification and exposure to radical networks. The findings point to a model of radicalization as an individual-level process that is largely unaffected by macro-level influences. As such, radicalization is better understood in a relational, idea-driven framework as opposed to a macro-level structural approach.

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The Long-Run Effects of Missionary Orders in Mexico

Maria Waldinger

Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines the long-run effects of different Catholic missionary orders in colonial Mexico on educational outcomes and Catholicism. The main missionary orders in colonial Mexico were all Catholic, but they belonged to different monastic traditions and adhered to different values. Mendicant orders were committed to poverty and sought to reduce social inequality in colonial Mexico by educating the native population. The Jesuit order, by contrast, focused educational efforts on the colony's elite in the city centers, rather than on the native population in rural mission areas. Using a newly constructed data set of the locations of 1,145 missions in colonial Mexico, I test whether long-run development outcomes differ among areas that had Mendicant missions, Jesuit missions, or no missions. Results indicate that areas with historical Mendicant missions have higher present-day literacy rates, and higher rates of educational attainment at primary, secondary and post-secondary levels than regions without a mission. Results show that the share of Catholics is higher in regions where Catholic missions of any kind were a historical present. Additional results suggest that missionaries may have affected long-term development by impacting people's access to and valuation of education.

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Gendered God Imagery and Attitudes Toward Mothers' Labor Force Participation: Examining the Transposable Character of Religious Schemas

Sarah Shah, John Bartkowski & Xiaohe Xu

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

Abstract:
God imagery has been shown to have a profound influence on a diverse array of attitudes and behaviors. Research has also underscored the religious antecedents of traditionalist gender ideologies. This study integrates these parallel literatures by examining the degree to which gendered God imagery is a transposable schema that is associated with attitudes toward mothers' paid labor force participation. We hypothesize that otherworldly schemas predicated on gender difference - namely, paternal and maternal images of God - have this-worldly consequences by reinforcing opposition to mothers' workforce participation. Analyses of General Social Survey data reveal strong support for this hypothesis. The evidence also demonstrates that paternal God images produce particularly robust and persistent opposition to mothers' labor force participation net of other factors. Additional hypotheses about the interaction effects exhibited by gendered God imagery, prayer, and worship service attendance are modestly supported. We conclude by discussing our study's implications and outlining directions for future research.

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The Effects of Extreme Rituals on Moral Behavior: The Performers-Observers Gap Hypothesis

Panagiotis Mitkidis et al.

Journal of Economic Psychology, April 2017, Pages 1-7

Abstract:
Religious rituals are found all over the world. Some cultures engage in extreme religious rituals in which individuals take on forms of bodily harm to demonstrate their devotion. Such rituals entail excessive costs in terms of physical pain and effort, but the equivalent societal benefits remain unclear. The field experiment reported here examined the interplay between extreme rituals and moral behavior. Using a die-roll task to measure honest behavior, we tested whether engaging or observing others engaging in extreme ritual activities affects subsequent moral behavior. Strikingly, the results showed that extreme rituals promote moral behavior among ritual observers, but not among ritual performers. The discussion centres on the moral effects of rituals within the broader social context in which they occur. Extreme religious rituals appear to have a moral cleansing effect on the numerous individuals observing the rituals, which may imply that these rituals evolved to advance and maintain moral societies.

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Does Religious Belief Matter for Grief and Death Anxiety? Experimental Philosophy Meets Psychology of Religion

David Feldman, Ian Fischer & Robert Gressis

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

Abstract:
It is commonly reasoned that religious belief moderates death anxiety and aids in coping with loss. However, a philosophical perspective known as meta-atheism includes the claim that avowed religious believers grieve deaths and experience death anxiety as intensely as avowed atheists. Thus, we report a study comparing religious believers and nonbelievers on measures of death anxiety and grief. We further investigated the relationships between certain religious beliefs (views of God, afterlife belief, religious orientation) and death anxiety, as well as both painful grief reactions and grief-related growth. We surveyed 101 participants across the United States, ranging in age (19 to 57), education, and ethnicity. Participants avowing some form of religious belief, in comparison to those not, did not demonstrate lower levels of death anxiety. They did, however, display higher levels of a certain type of death acceptance. Additionally, those professing belief reported less grief and greater growth in response to loss. Greater afterlife belief was not associated with less grief; however, it was associated with both greater grief-related growth and lower death anxiety.

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Exposure to science, perspectives on science and religion, and religious commitment in young adulthood

Jeremy Uecker & Kyle Longest

Social Science Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social scientists know very little about the consequences of exposure to scientific knowledge and holding different perspectives on science and religion for individuals' religious lives. Drawing on secularization and post-secular theories, we develop and test several hypotheses about the relationships among exposure to scientific knowledge, perspectives on religion and science, and religious commitment using panel data from the National Study of Youth and Religion. Our findings indicate that religious faith is strongest among young adults who: (1) accommodate scientific knowledge into their religious perspective, or (2) reject scientific knowledge that directly contradicts their religious beliefs about the origins of the world. Young adults are also more likely to have lower religious commitment when they view science and religion as independent institutions, lending support to secularization ideas about how social differentiation secularizes individuals. We further find that mere exposure to scientific knowledge, in terms of majoring in biology or acknowledging conflict between the teachings of religion and science, is usually not sufficient to undermine religious commitment.

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The effect of religious piety on managerial entrenchment: Evidence from entrenched boards of directors

Pandej Chintrakarn, Shenghui Tong & Pornsit Jiraporn

Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior research shows that religious piety is linked to honesty and risk-aversion. Religious piety alleviates the agency conflict by lessening the motivation for managers to exploit shareholders. Because of its role in mitigating the agency conflict, we argue that religious piety influences corporate governance arrangements. We exploit the variation in religious piety across U.S. counties and show that religious piety significantly influences the probability that a firm has an entrenched (staggered) board of directors. In particular, firms located in an area with stronger religious piety are significantly less likely to have a staggered board. This negative effect, however, is significant only when the degree of religiosity is higher than a certain threshold. Further analysis reveals that our results are unlikely confounded by endogeneity. Our results are especially interesting as they demonstrate that non-financial attributes, such as religious piety, has a significant influence on one of the most crucial governance mechanisms, i.e. the board of directors.

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Do Progressive Social Norms Affect Economic Outcomes? Evidence from Corporate Takeovers

Yangyang Chen et al.

Journal of Empirical Finance, March 2017, Pages 76-95

Abstract:
This paper investigates how religion-induced attitudes toward change and diversity affect corporate acquisition decisions. By studying the variation in religious adherence across U.S. counties, we find that acquirer announcement returns and total synergy are larger in counties in which progressive religious denominations are popular. In contrast, conservative religious denominations affect neither acquirer announcement returns nor total synergies. Our evidence indicates that religion-induced social norms are an important driver of large corporate transactions, while various religious denominations affect corporate outcomes differently.

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Are self-identified Christian fundamentalists really more supportive of capital punishment? Exploring the relationship between fundamentalism and death penalty attitudes

Robert Lytle & Tusty ten Bensel

Criminal Justice Studies, Fall 2016, Pages 309-324

Abstract:
Christian fundamentalism has often been linked to death penalty support, despite mixed results across more than a decade of empirical studies. More recently, a line of research has emerged that has called for a reconceptualization of fundamentalism as harsh and rigid, instead of being more a multifaceted concept. In the spirit of this call, we investigated the relative importance of Christian fundamentalism on death penalty attitudes when compared with non-religious social attitudes. Using 1,560 respondents from the 2008 General Social Survey data, we found self-identified Christian fundamentalism, though not biblical literalism or religious denomination, remained a significant predictor of death penalty attitudes when attitudes toward LGBT marriage equality were included in the model. Unexpectedly, white women who endorsed LGBT marriage equality were also more likely to support the death penalty. Based on our findings, we discuss implications and areas for future research.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Getting past customs

Suspiciously Timed Trade Disputes

Paola Conconi et al.

Journal of International Economics, March 2017, Pages 57-76

Abstract:
This paper shows that electoral incentives crucially affect the initiation of trade disputes. Focusing on WTO disputes filed by the United States during the 1995-2014 period, we find that U.S. presidents are more likely to initiate a dispute in the year preceding their re-election. Moreover, U.S. trade disputes are more likely to involve industries that are important in swing states. To explain these regularities, we develop a theoretical model in which re-election motives can lead an incumbent politician to file trade disputes to appeal to voters motivated by reciprocity.

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Trade Liberalization and the Environment: Evidence from NAFTA and U.S. Manufacturing

Jevan Cherniwchan

Journal of International Economics, March 2017, Pages 130-149

Abstract:
The unobserved responses of individual polluters are often used to rationalize the aggregate effects of international trade on the environment. In this paper, I provide the first evidence of these responses. I estimate the effects of NAFTA on the emissions of particulate matter (PM10) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) from manufacturing plants in the United States. My findings suggest that trade liberalization led to significant reductions of these pollutants at affected plants. On average, nearly two-thirds of the reductions in PM10 and SO2 emissions from the U.S. manufacturing sector between 1994 and 1998 can be attributed to trade liberalization following NAFTA.

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Domestic Gains from Offshoring? Evidence from TAA-linked U.S. Microdata

Ryan Monarch, Jooyoun Park & Jagadeesh Sivadasan

Journal of International Economics, March 2017, Pages 150-173

Abstract:
We construct a new linked data set with over one thousand offshoring events by matching Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program petition data to U.S. Census Bureau microdata. We exploit these data to study the short- and long-term effects of offshoring on domestic firm-level employment, output, wages, and productivity in this large sample of offshoring events. As implied by heterogeneous firm models with high fixed costs of offshoring, we find that the average offshoring firm in the TAA sample is larger, more productive, older, and more likely to be an exporter, than the average non-offshorer. After initiating offshoring, TAA-certified offshorers experience large declines in employment (0.38 log points), output (0.33 log points) and capital (0.25 log points), and a concomitant increase in capital and skill intensity, relative to their industry peers. We find no significant change in average wages or productivity measures. Even six years after the initial offshoring event, we find no recovery in employment, output, or capital, and a higher probability of exit. We find similar results (including decline in output, and unchanged wages and productivity) for the aggregate of non-TAA certified plants of multi-plant offshoring firms. We find that the substitution of domestic activity by offshoring is stronger for relatively lower wage, lower capital intensity, lower productivity offshorers. Our results are consistent across two separate difference-in-differences (DID) approaches, and a number of robustness checks.

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Does Compliance Pay? Firm-Level Trade and Social Institutions

Greg Distelhorst & Richard Locke

MIT Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
How does international trade shape social institutions in the developing world? The research literature is conflicted: importing firms may demand their trading partners adhere to higher labor and environmental standards, or they may penalize higher standards that raise costs. This study offers the first large-scale analysis of how firm-level trade responds to information about social standards. Contrary to the "race to the bottom" hypothesis, it finds that importers reward exporters for complying with labor and environmental standards. In difference-in-differences estimates from over two thousand manufacturing establishments in 36 countries, achieving compliance is associated a 4% [1%, 7%] average increase in annual purchasing. The effect is robust to controlling for manufacturing performance and reflects both rewards for reaching compliance and penalties for falling out of compliance. The results suggest that activist campaigns and transnational private regulation have created economic incentives for higher social standards in certain trade relationships.

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If the Fed sneezes, who catches a cold?

Luca Dedola, Giulia Rivolta & Livio Stracca

Journal of International Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper studies the international spillovers of US monetary policy shocks on a number of macroeconomic and financial variables in 36 advanced and emerging economies. In most countries, a surprise US monetary tightening leads to depreciation against the dollar; industrial production and real GDP fall, unemployment rises. Inflation declines especially in advanced economies. At the same time, there is significant heterogeneity across countries in the response of asset prices, and portfolio and banking cross-border flows. However, no clear-cut systematic relation emerges between country responses and likely relevant country characteristics, such as their income level, dollar exchange rate flexibility, financial openness, trade openness vs. the US, dollar exposure in foreign assets and liabilities, and incidence of commodity exports.

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State Export Promotion and Firm-level Employment

Andrew Cassey & Spencer Cohen

Public Finance Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Most US states have export promotion programs, but it is unknown if these programs create long-term employment, which is often the policy's stated goal. We merge administrative export promotion and employment data from Washington State to test the effect of firm-level export promotion on firm-level employment using the differences-in-differences estimator. We believe we are the first to have US state data at this level of detail. We find firm participation in an export assistance program increases firm-level employment fleetingly, but not in subsequent periods. Thus, we do not find a statistically significant impact to long-term employment from program participation.

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Import Competition and Internal Migration

Andrew Greenland, John Lopresti & Peter McHenry

College of William and Mary Working Paper, November 2016

Abstract:
We examine the U.S. internal migration response to increased import competition following the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China in 2001. Using a range of data sets, we find that local labor markets most exposed to the policy change experienced a reduction in population growth over the following decade. The result is more pronounced among young individuals and men. Examining annual data on migration, we find that approximately 30% of the response takes place within one year of the shock, while the majority of the remaining effect occurs at a lag of 7 to 10 years. Population adjustments like those we find should influence the interpretation of evidence in the large and growing literature on the effects of import competition on local labor markets. Selective migration away from trade-shocked areas (consistent with our findings) alters local demographics so that measured location-specific changes before and after shocks can be explained by both compositional changes and direct effects of import competition on local residents.

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The Wind of Change: Maritime Technology, Trade and Economic Development

Luigi Pascali

American Economic Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
The 1870-1913 period marked the birth of the first era of trade globalization. How did this tremendous increase in trade affect economic development? This work isolates a causality channel by exploiting the fact that the introduction of the steamship in the shipping industry produced an asymmetric change in trade distances among countries. Before this invention, trade routes depended on wind patterns. The steamship reduced shipping costs and time in a disproportionate manner across countries and trade routes. Using this source of variation and novel data on shipping, trade, and development, I find that 1) the adoption of the steamship had a major impact on patterns of trade worldwide, 2) only a small number of countries, characterized by more inclusive institutions, benefited from trade integration, and 3) globalization was the major driver of the economic divergence between the rich and the poor portions of the world in the years 1850-1905.

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Clash of Civilizations and the Impact of Cultural Differences on Trade

Gunes Gokmen

Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper studies the Clash of Civilizations hypothesis from an economic perspective. Using data on bilateral trade and measures of culture, we evaluate how the impact of cultural differences on trade evolves over time during and after the Cold War. Evidence suggests that the negative influence of cultural differences on trade is more prominent in the post-Cold War era than during the Cold War. For instance, ethnic differences reduce trade by 24% during the Cold War, whereas this reduction is 52% in the post-Cold War period. We also suggest a channel for the differential impact of cultural differences over time. By studying the evolution of the effects of cultural difference and cold-war blocs on trade, we provide evidence consistent with the hypothesis that cold-war blocs have trumped cultural differences during the Cold War. Thus, cultural determinants of trade replace cold-war blocs as a major impediment to international trade only after the end of the Cold War.

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Trade Policy Uncertainty and Exports: Evidence from China's WTO Accession

Ling Feng, Zhiyuan Li & Deborah Swenson

Journal of International Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper studies how reduction in trade policy uncertainty affects firm export decisions. Using a firm-product level dataset on Chinese exports to the United States and the European Union in the years surrounding China's WTO accession, we provide strong evidence that reduction in trade policy uncertainty simultaneously induced firm entries to and firm exits from export activity within fine product-level markets. In addition, we uncover accompanying changes in export product prices and quality that coincided with this reallocation: firms that provided higher quality products at lower prices entered the export market, while firms that had higher prices and provided lower quality products prior to the changes, exited. To explain the simultaneous export entries and exits, as well as the fact that new entrants are more productive than exiters, we provide a model of heterogeneous firms which incorporates trade policy uncertainty, tracing the effects of the changes in policy uncertainty on firm-level payoffs and the resulting selection effects.

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Market Practice and the Evolution of Foreign Sovereign Immunity

Mark Weidemaier & Mitu Gulati

Law & Social Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
The twentieth century witnessed a "tectonic" shift in international law, from absolute to restrictive theories of sovereign immunity. As conventionally understood, however, this transformation represented only a change in default rule. Under absolute immunity, courts could not hear lawsuits and enforce judgments against a foreign sovereign without its consent. Under restrictive immunity, foreign sovereigns were not immune to their commercial acts, regardless of consent. Using a two-century dataset of loan contracts, we show that market practice undermines this conventional understanding. For centuries, loan contracts were structured as if the rules of sovereign immunity could not be changed by contract. In the 1970s, however, market practice changed, seemingly in response to the codification of sovereign immunity law in the United States and United Kingdom. We explore why market practice conflicts with the conventional understanding of sovereign immunity, and we examine the association between codification and the structure of sovereign loan contracts.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Looking out for your health

Trends in premature mortality in the USA by sex, race, and ethnicity from 1999 to 2014: An analysis of death certificate data

Meredith Shiels et al.

Lancet, forthcoming

Methods: For this analysis, we used cause-of-death and demographic data from death certificates from the US National Center for Health Statistics, and population estimates from the US Census Bureau. We estimated annual percentage changes in mortality using age-period-cohort models. Age-standardised excess deaths were estimated for 2000 to 2014 as observed deaths minus expected deaths (estimated from 1999 mortality rates).

Findings: Between 1999 and 2014, premature mortality increased in white individuals and in American Indians and Alaska Natives. Increases were highest in women and those aged 25–30 years. Among 30-year-olds, annual mortality increases were 2.3% (95% CI 2.1–2.4) for white women, 0.6% (0.5–0.7) for white men, and 4.3% (3.5–5.0) and 1.9% (1.3–2.5), respectively, for American Indian and Alaska Native women and men. These increases were mainly attributable to accidental deaths (primarily drug poisonings), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and suicide. Among individuals aged 25–49 years, an estimated 111 000 excess premature deaths occurred in white individuals and 6600 in American Indians and Alaska Natives during 2000–14. By contrast, premature mortality decreased substantially across all age groups in Hispanic individuals (up to 3.2% per year), black individuals (up to 3.9% per year), and Asians and Pacific Islanders (up to 2.6% per year), mainly because of declines in HIV, cancer, and heart disease deaths, resulting in an estimated 112 000 fewer deaths in Hispanic individuals, 311 000 fewer deaths in black individuals, and 34 000 fewer deaths in Asians and Pacific Islanders aged 25–64 years. During 2011–14, American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest premature mortality, followed by black individuals.

Interpretation: Important public health successes, including HIV treatment and smoking cessation, have contributed to declining premature mortality in Hispanic individuals, black individuals, and Asians and Pacific Islanders. However, this progress has largely been negated in young and middle-aged (25–49 years) white individuals, and American Indians and Alaska Natives, primarily because of potentially avoidable causes such as drug poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. The magnitude of annual mortality increases in the USA is extremely unusual in high-income countries, and a rapid public health response is needed to avert further premature deaths.

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Mental retirement and health selection: Analyses from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study

Sean Clouston & Nicole Denier

Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Methods: We draw on data from the Health and Retirement Study (1998–2012) to examine the relationship between cognition and retirement for 18,575 labor force participants. Longitudinal regression discontinuity modeling was used to examine performance and decline in episodic memory. Models differentiated three forms of selection bias: indirect and direct selection as well as reverse causation. To further interrogate the disuse hypothesis, we adjust for confounding from health and socioeconomic sources.

Results: Results revealed that individuals who retired over the course of the panel were substantially different in terms of health, wealth and cognition when compared to those who remained employed. However, accounting for observed selection biases, significant associations were found linking longer retirement with more rapid cognitive decline.

Discussion: This study examined respondents who were in the labor force at baseline and transitioned into retirement. Analyses suggested that those who retired over the course of the panel had worse overall functioning, but also experienced more rapid declines after retirement that increased the rate of aging by two-fold, resulting in yearly losses of 3.7% (95% CI = [3.5, 4.0]) of one standard deviation in functioning attributable to retirement. Results are supportive of the view that retirement was associated with more rapid cognitive aging.

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Health, Human Capital and Domestic Violence

Nicholas Papageorge et al.

NBER Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
We study the impact of health shocks on domestic violence and illicit drug use. We argue that health is a form of human capital that shifts incentives for risky behaviors, such as drug use, and also changes options outside of violent relationships. To estimate causal effects, we examine chronically ill women before and after a medical breakthrough and exploit differences in these women's health prior to the breakthrough. We show evidence that health improvements induced by the breakthrough reduced domestic violence and illicit drug use. Our findings provide support for the idea that health improvements can have far-reaching implications for costly social problems. The policy relevance of our findings is compounded by the fact that both domestic violence and illicit drug use are social problems often seen as frustratingly impervious to interventions. One possible reason is that the common factors that drive them, such underlying health or labor market human capital, are themselves very persistent over time. Our study provides a unique test of this hypothesis by examining what happens when factors underlying violence or drug use exogenously shift due to a medical technological advancement. Our findings suggest that both violence and drug use could be reduced by improving women's access to better healthcare.

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Trends in Personal Belief Exemption Rates Among Alternative Private Schools: Waldorf, Montessori, and Holistic Kindergartens in California, 2000–2014

Julia Brennan et al.

American Journal of Public Health, January 2017, Pages 108-112

Methods: We used California Department of Public Health data on kindergarten PBE rates from 2000 to 2014 to compare annual average increases in PBE rates between schools.

Results. Alternative schools had an average PBE rate of 8.7%, compared with 2.1% among public schools. Waldorf schools had the highest average PBE rate of 45.1%, which was 19 times higher than in public schools (incidence rate ratio = 19.1; 95% confidence interval = 16.4, 22.2). Montessori and holistic schools had the highest average annual increases in PBE rates, slightly higher than Waldorf schools (Montessori: 8.8%; holistic: 7.1%; Waldorf: 3.6%).

Conclusions. Waldorf schools had exceptionally high average PBE rates, and Montessori and holistic schools had higher annual increases in PBE rates. Children in these schools may be at higher risk for spreading vaccine-preventable diseases if trends are not reversed.

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Costs And Savings Associated With Community Water Fluoridation In The United States

Joan O’Connell et al.

Health Affairs, December 2016, Pages 2224-2232

Abstract:
The most comprehensive study of US community water fluoridation program benefits and costs was published in 2001. This study provides updated estimates using an economic model that includes recent data on program costs, dental caries increments, and dental treatments. In 2013 more than 211 million people had access to fluoridated water through community water systems serving 1,000 or more people. Savings associated with dental caries averted in 2013 as a result of fluoridation were estimated to be $32.19 per capita for this population. Based on 2013 estimated costs ($324 million), net savings (savings minus costs) from fluoridation systems were estimated to be $6,469 million and the estimated return on investment, 20.0. While communities should assess their specific costs for continuing or implementing a fluoridation program, these updated findings indicate that program savings are likely to exceed costs.

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Time Use and the Labor Market: The Wage Returns to Sleep

Matthew Gibson & Jeffrey Shrader

University of California Working Paper, August 2016

Abstract:
We investigate the labor market effects of the single largest use of time — sleep. Motivated by a productive sleep model, we show that sleep is complementary to work in the short run and complementary to home production for non-employed individuals in both the short and long run. Using time use diaries from the United States, we demonstrate in both parametric and non-parametric frameworks that later sunset time reduces worker sleep and wages. After investigating these relationships and ruling out alternative hypotheses, we implement an instrumental variables specification that provides the first causal estimates of the impact of sleep on wages. A one-hour increase in location-average weekly sleep increases wages by 1.3% in the short run and by 5% in the long run.

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Reduced Cardiovascular Disease Incidence With a National Lifestyle Change Program

Sandra Jackson et al.

American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forthcoming

Introduction: Lifestyle change programs implemented within healthcare systems could reach many Americans, but their impact on cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains unclear. The MOVE! program is the largest lifestyle change program implemented in a healthcare setting in the U.S. This study aimed to determine whether MOVE! participation was associated with reduced CVD incidence.

Methods: This retrospective cohort study, analyzed in 2013–2015, used national Veterans Health Administration databases to identify MOVE! participants and eligible non-participants for comparison (2005–2012). Patients eligible for MOVE! — obese or overweight with a weight-related health condition, and no baseline CVD — were examined (N=1,463,003). Of these, 169,248 (12%) were MOVE! participants. Patients were 92% male, 76% white, with mean age 52 years and BMI of 32. The main outcome was incidence of CVD (ICD-9 and procedure codes for coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, and heart failure).

Results: Adjusting for age, race, sex, BMI, statin use, and baseline comorbidities, over a mean 4.9 years of follow-up, MOVE! participation was associated with lower incidence of total CVD (hazard ratio [HR]=0.83, 95% CI=0.80, 0.86); coronary artery disease (HR=0.81, 95% CI=0.77, 0.86); cerebrovascular disease (HR=0.87, 95% CI=0.82, 0.92); peripheral vascular disease (HR=0.89, 95% CI=0.83, 0.94); and heart failure (HR=0.78, 95% CI=0.74, 0.83). The association between MOVE! participation and CVD incidence remained significant when examined across categories of race/ethnicity, BMI, diabetes, hypertension, smoking status, and statin use.

Conclusions: Although participation was limited, MOVE! was associated with reduced CVD incidence in a nationwide healthcare setting.

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The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study

Mustafa Chopan & Benjamin Littenberg

PLoS ONE, January 2017

Abstract:
The evidence base for the health effects of spice consumption is insufficient, with only one large population-based study and no reports from Europe or North America. Our objective was to analyze the association between consumption of hot red chili peppers and mortality, using a population-based prospective cohort from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III, a representative sample of US noninstitutionalized adults, in which participants were surveyed from 1988 to 1994. The frequency of hot red chili pepper consumption was measured in 16,179 participants at least 18 years of age. Total and cause-specific mortality were the main outcome measures. During 273,877 person-years of follow-up (median 18.9 years), a total of 4,946 deaths were observed. Total mortality for participants who consumed hot red chili peppers was 21.6% compared to 33.6% for those who did not (absolute risk reduction of 12%; relative risk of 0.64). Adjusted for demographic, lifestyle, and clinical characteristics, the hazard ratio was 0.87 (P = 0.01; 95% Confidence Interval 0.77, 0.97). Consumption of hot red chili peppers was associated with a 13% reduction in the instantaneous hazard of death. Similar, but statistically nonsignificant trends were seen for deaths from vascular disease, but not from other causes. In this large population-based prospective study, the consumption of hot red chili pepper was associated with reduced mortality. Hot red chili peppers may be a beneficial component of the diet.

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Prenatal exposure to famine and the development of hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes in adulthood across consecutive generations: A population-based cohort study of families in Suihua, China

Jie Li et al.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2017, Pages 221-227

Design: A total of 1034 families, including 2068 parents [parental generation (F1)] and 1183 offspring [offspring generation (F2)], were recruited from the Suihua rural area that was affected by the Chinese Famine of 1959–1961. Participants born between 1 October 1959 and 30 September 1961 were defined as famine exposed, and those born between 1 October 1962 and 30 September 1964 were defined as nonexposed. The F2 were classified as having 1) no parent exposed to famine, 2) only a mother exposed to famine, 3) only a father exposed to famine, or 4) both parents exposed to famine. Classical risk factors for T2D as well as fasting-glucose- and oral-glucose-tolerance tests were measured in both the F1 and F2.

Results: Prenatal exposure to famine was associated with elevated risks of hyperglycemia (multivariable-adjusted OR: 1.93; 95% CI: 1.51, 2.48) and T2D (OR: 1.75; 95% CI: 1.20, 2.54) in adulthood in F1. Furthermore, compared with the offspring of nonexposed parents, the F2 with exposed parents — especially both exposed parents — had increased hyperglycemia risk (OR: 2.02; 95% CI: 1.12, 3.66) in adulthood.

Conclusion: Prenatal exposure to famine remarkably increases hyperglycemia risk in 2 consecutive generations of Chinese adults independent of known T2D risk factors, which supports the notion that prenatal nutrition plays an important role in the development of T2D across consecutive generations of Chinese adults.

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Wireless Alerts for Extreme Weather and the Impact on Hazard Mitigating Behavior

Jeffrey Ferris & David Newburn

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, March 2017, Pages 239–255

Abstract:
Wireless alerts delivered through mobile phones are a recent innovation in regulatory efforts toward preparation for extreme weather events including flash floods. In this article, we use difference-in-differences models of the number of car accidents from days with government issued alerts for flash flood events in Virginia. We find that wireless alert messages for flash flood warnings reduced car accidents by 15.9% relative to the counterfactual with non-wireless alert protocols. We also use a regression discontinuity model to analyze hourly traffic volume data immediately before and after a flash flood warning message is issued. We find that traffic volume is reduced by 3.1% immediately following the issuance of a wireless alert relative to before the alert. These results imply that wireless alert messages effectively reduce exposure to hazards associated with extreme weather.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cutting down the rules

Safety Regulation in Professional Football: Empirical Evidence of Intended and Unintended Consequences

Andrew Hanson, Nicholas Jolly & Jeremy Peterson

Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
In response to increasing public awareness and negative long-term health effects of concussions, the National Football League implemented the “Crown-of-the-Helmet Rule” (CHR). The CHR imposes penalties on players who initiate contact using the top of the helmet. This paper examines the intended effect of this policy and its potential for unintended consequences. We find evidence supporting the intended effect of the policy- a reduction in weekly concussion reports among defensive players by as much as 32 percent (34 percent for all head and neck injuries), but also evidence of an increase in weekly lower extremity injury reports for offensive players by as much as 34%.

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Simplification of Privacy Disclosures: An Experimental Test

Omri Ben-Shahar & Adam Chilton

Journal of Legal Studies, June 2016, Pages S41-S67

Abstract:
Simplification of disclosures is widely regarded as an important goal and is increasingly mandated in a variety of areas. In the area of data privacy, lawmakers and interest groups developed best-practices techniques to help consumers understand how firms collect and use personal information. Commentators have even advocated going a step further and using simpler disclosures — warning boxes that alert consumers to the least-expected elements. But do these techniques succeed in better informing consumers or preventing unwise behavior? To answer this question, we engaged a leading market research firm to conduct a survey on risky sexual behaviors while randomizing the format of the privacy disclosures provided to the respondents. We find that best-practice simplification techniques have little or no effect on respondents’ comprehension of the disclosure, willingness to share personal information, and expectations about their rights. Our results challenge the wisdom of focusing regulatory effort on simplifying disclosures.

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End of 9-Endings and Price Perceptions

Haipeng (Allan) Chen, Daniel Levy & Avichai Snir

Bar Ilan University Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
We take advantage of a natural experiment to document an emergence of a new price ending that has the same effects as 9-endings. In January 2014, the Israeli parliament has passed a law prohibiting the use of non 0-ending prices. We find that one year after 9-ending prices have disappeared, 90-ending prices acquired the same status as 9-ending prices had before the law was passed. 90-ending prices became the new psychological price points. The retailers and the shoppers both reacted to the regulatory intervention optimally, which has eliminated the regulation’s intended effect.

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Investment-less Growth: An Empirical Investigation

Germán Gutiérrez & Thomas Philippon

NBER Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
We analyze private fixed investment in the U.S. over the past 30 years. We show that investment is weak relative to measures of profitability and valuation – particularly Tobin’s Q, and that this weakness starts in the early 2000’s. There are two broad categories of explanations: theories that predict low investment because of low Q, and theories that predict low investment despite high Q. We argue that the data does not support the first category, and we focus on the second one. We use industry-level and firm-level data to test whether under-investment relative to Q is driven by (i) financial frictions, (ii) measurement error (due to the rise of intangibles, globalization, etc), (iii) decreased competition (due to technology or regulation), or (iv) tightened governance and/or increased short-termism. We do not find support for theories based on risk premia, financial constraints, or safe asset scarcity, and only weak support for regulatory constraints. Globalization and intangibles explain some of the trends at the industry level, but their explanatory power is quantitatively limited. On the other hand, we find fairly strong support for the competition and short-termism/governance hypotheses. Industries with less entry and more concentration invest less, even after controlling for current market conditions. Within each industry-year, the investment gap is driven by firms that are owned by quasi-indexers and located in industries with less entry/more concentration. These firms spend a disproportionate amount of free cash flows buying back their shares.

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The Cumulative Cost of Regulations

Bentley Coffey, Patrick McLaughlin & Pietro Peretto

George Mason University Working Paper, April 2016

Abstract:
We estimate the effects of federal regulation on value added to GDP for a panel of 22 industries in the United States over a period of 35 years (1977–2012). The structure of our linear specification is explicitly derived from the closed-form solutions of a multisector Schumpeterian model of endogenous growth. We allow regulation to enter the specification in a flexible manner. Our estimates of the model’s parameters are then identified from covariation in some standard sector-specific data joined with RegData 2.2, which measures the incidence of regulations on industries based on a text analysis of federal regulatory code. With the model’s parameters fitted to real data, we confidently conduct counterfactual experiments on alternative regulatory environments. Our results show that economic growth has been dampened by approximately 0.8 percent per annum since 1980. Had regulation been held constant at levels observed in 1980, our model predicts that the economy would have been nearly 25 percent larger by 2012 (i.e., regulatory growth since 1980 cost GDP $4 trillion in 2012, or about $13,000 per capita).

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The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Estimating the Impact of Airbnb on the Hotel Industry

Georgios Zervas, Davide Proserpio & John Byers

Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Peer-to-peer markets, collectively known as the sharing economy, have emerged as alternative suppliers of goods and services traditionally provided by long-established industries. The authors explore the economic impact of the sharing economy on incumbent firms by studying the case of Airbnb, a prominent platform for short-term accommodations. The authors analyze Airbnb's entry into the state of Texas, and quantify its impact on the Texas hotel industry over the subsequent decade. The authors estimate that in Austin, where Airbnb supply is highest, the causal impact on hotel revenue is in the 8–10% range; moreover, the impact is non-uniform, with lower-priced hotels and those hotels not catering to business travelers being the most affected. The impact manifests itself primarily through less aggressive hotel room pricing, an impact that benefits all consumers, not just participants in the sharing economy. The price response is especially pronounced during periods of peak demand, such as SXSW, and is due to a differentiating feature of peer-to-peer platforms – enabling instantaneous supply to scale to meet demand.

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On-demand high-capacity ride-sharing via dynamic trip-vehicle assignment

Javier Alonso-Mora et al.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 January 2017, Pages 462–467

Abstract:
Ride-sharing services can provide not only a very personalized mobility experience but also ensure efficiency and sustainability via large-scale ride pooling. Large-scale ride-sharing requires mathematical models and algorithms that can match large groups of riders to a fleet of shared vehicles in real time, a task not fully addressed by current solutions. We present a highly scalable anytime optimal algorithm and experimentally validate its performance using New York City taxi data and a shared vehicle fleet with passenger capacities of up to ten. Our results show that 2,000 vehicles (15% of the taxi fleet) of capacity 10 or 3,000 of capacity 4 can serve 98% of the demand within a mean waiting time of 2.8 min and mean trip delay of 3.5 min.

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Regulation and the cost of childcare

Devon Gorry & Diana Thomas

Applied Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Female labour market choices depend on the availability, affordability and quality of childcare. In this article, we evaluate different regulatory measures and their effect on both the quality and the cost of childcare. First, we analyse data on regulations and costs to estimate the effect of regulatory measures on the cost of childcare. Next, we summarize the existing literature on the effect of regulation on childcare quality. We find that regulation intended to improve quality often focuses on easily observable measures of the care environment that do not necessarily affect the quality of care but that do increase the cost. Thus, we find that the regulatory environment could be improved by eliminating costly measures that do not affect quality of care.

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Imperfect Markets versus Imperfect Regulation in U.S. Electricity Generation

Steve Cicala

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
This paper measures changes in electricity generation costs caused by the introduction of market mechanisms to determine output decisions in service areas that were previously using command-and-control-type operations. I use the staggered transition to markets from 1999- 2012 to evaluate the causal impact of liberalization using a nationwide panel of hourly data on electricity demand and unit-level costs, capacities, and output. To address the potentially confounding effects of unrelated fuel price changes, I use machine learning methods to predict the allocation of output to generating units in the absence of markets for counterfactual production patterns. I find that markets reduce production costs by $3B per year by reallocating output among existing power plants: Gains from trade across service areas increase by 20% based on a 10% increase in traded electricity, and costs from using uneconomical units fall 20% from a 10% reduction in their operation.

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Working Conditions and Regulation

Philipp Weinschenk

Labour Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Do employers invest sufficiently in the working conditions of employees? We examine this question in a simple principal-agent model. We show that, even though investment is contractible, the principal underinvests whenever her agent's alternatives are rather poor. This provides a reason for regulation. The indirect regulatory approach of taking measures that improve the agent's bargaining power or outside option at least weakly enhances the agent's well-being and welfare. The direct regulatory approach of demanding a certain standard of working conditions increases the principal's investment, but may nonetheless leave the agent's well-being unaffected and deteriorate welfare. This holds true since due to a standard, the principal may provide the agent with a lower-powered incentive scheme and implement a lower effort level.

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Is Privacy Policy Language Irrelevant to Consumers?

Lior Jacob Strahilevitz & Matthew Kugler

Journal of Legal Studies, June 2016, Pages S69-S95

Abstract:
This article reports the results of two experiments in which large, census-weighted samples of Americans read short excerpts from Facebook’s, Yahoo’s, and Google’s privacy policies, which are at issue in high-stakes privacy class-action lawsuits. Subjects were randomly assigned to read language from either vague policies, some of which had been adjudicated insufficient to notify consumers about the companies’ practices, or explicit policies. Though many experimental subjects read these privacy policy excerpts closely, subjects who saw the explicit policies did not differ from those who saw vague policies in their assessment of whether their assent to the policies would permit the corporate practices at issue. Subjects generally stated that agreement to either vague or explicit language authorized companies to collect or use their personal information, even though consumers regarded these corporate practices as intrusive. These experiments show that courts and laypeople can understand the same privacy policy language quite differently.

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Political Determinants of Competition in the Mobile Telecommunication Industry

Mara Faccio & Luigi Zingales

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
We study how political factors shape competition in the mobile telecommunication sector. We show that the way a government designs the rules of the game has an impact on concentration, competition, and prices. Pro-competition regulation reduces prices, but does not hurt quality of services or investments. More democratic governments tend to design more competitive rules, while more politically connected operators are able to distort the rules in their favor, restricting competition. Government intervention has large redistributive effects: U.S. consumers would gain $65bn a year if U.S. mobile service prices were in line with German ones and $44bn if they were in line with Danish ones.

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What Do Regulators Value?

Dennis Weisman

B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, October 2016

Abstract:
In a pioneering article entitled “Taxation by Regulation,” Judge Richard Posner challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that regulation emulates competition along the lines of the Public Interest Theory of regulation. He argued that regulation is best viewed as a branch of public finance in which the power of the state is leveraged to achieve non-competitive outcomes. We develop an indirect test of Posner’s theory by specifying the regulator’s welfare function as a convex combination of consumer surplus, profits shared with the regulator and profits retained by the regulated firm. The welfare weights cannot be observed directly, but can be inferred from the regulator’s behavior in equilibrium. To wit, when the regulator permits the regulated firm to earn positive profits and authorizes higher prices in response to a greater degree of profit sharing this establishes both an upper bound on the consumer surplus weight and a higher weight on shared profits than on profits retained by the regulated firm. Applying this test to the implementation of the 1996 Telecommunications Act lends support to Posner’s theory.

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Capture and Competition

Sudarshan Jayaraman, S.P. Kothari & Karthik Ramanna

MIT Working Paper, November 2016

Abstract:
The lobbying literature provides evidence of firms shaping their regulatory context, consistent with corporate rent-seeking. We propose that such rent-seeking, where it exists, is unlikely to enrich shareholders at the expense of customers when firms operate in competitive product markets. We test this proposition through an assessment of the dissipation of the cash benefits accrued from corporate tax inversions. We find lower accounting and stock-market returns to shareholders of inverting firms in competitive industries (relative to those in concentrated industries). Further, inverting firms in competitive industries are more likely to improve liquidity and invest in R&D relative to those in concentrated industries. The evidence suggests that in competitive industries lobbying “rents” accrue to customers over shareholders.

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On the impossibility of protecting risk-takers

Toomas Hinnosaar

Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Risk-neutral sellers can extract high profits from risk-loving buyers using lotteries. To limit risk-taking, gambling is heavily regulated in most countries. In this paper, I show that protecting risk-loving buyers is essentially impossible. Even if sellers are restricted from using mechanisms that resemble lotteries, they can still construct selling mechanisms that ensure unbounded profits as long as buyers are risk-loving, at least asymptotically. Asymptotically risk-loving preferences are both sufficient and necessary for unbounded profits. Buyers are asymptotically risk-loving, for example, when they are globally risk-loving, when they have cumulative prospect theory preferences, or when their utility is bounded from below.

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The Product Market Impact of Minority Stake Acquisitions

Amrita Nain & Yan Wang

Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We show that partial equity ownership of a rival firm reduces product market competition. Acquisitions of a minority equity stake in rival firms are followed by higher output prices and higher industry profits, particularly when barriers to entry are high. Stock-price reactions of nonparticipating competitors of the acquirer and target are positive while announcement returns of customer firms are negative. Moreover, announcement returns of rivals are significantly higher and those of customers weakly lower when the customer industry is more competitive and when the acquirer and target are larger firms.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Friendly faces

The Crowded Life Is a Slow Life: Population Density and Life History Strategy

Oliver Sng et al.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The world population has doubled over the last half century. Yet, research on the psychological effects of human population density, once a popular topic, has decreased over the past few decades. Applying a fresh perspective to an old topic, we draw upon life history theory to examine the effects of population density. Across nations and across the U.S. states (Studies 1 and 2), we find that dense populations exhibit behaviors corresponding to a slower life history strategy, including greater future-orientation, greater investment in education, more long-term mating orientation, later marriage age, lower fertility, and greater parental investment. In Studies 3 and 4, experimentally manipulating perceptions of high density led individuals to become more future-oriented. Finally, in Studies 5 and 6, experimentally manipulating perceptions of high density seemed to lead to life-stage-specific slower strategies, with college students preferring to invest in fewer rather than more relationship partners, and an older MTurk sample preferring to invest in fewer rather than more children. This research sheds new insight on the effects of density and its implications for human cultural variation and society at large.

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Association of Facebook Use With Compromised Well-Being: A Longitudinal Study

Holly Shakya & Nicholas Christakis

American Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Face-to-face social interactions enhance well-being. With the ubiquity of social media, important questions have arisen about the impact of online social interactions. In the present study, we assessed the associations of both online and offline social networks with several subjective measures of well-being. We used 3 waves (2013, 2014, and 2015) of data from 5,208 subjects in the nationally representative Gallup Panel Social Network Study survey, including social network measures, in combination with objective measures of Facebook use. We investigated the associations of Facebook activity and real-world social network activity with self-reported physical health, self-reported mental health, self-reported life satisfaction, and body mass index. Our results showed that overall, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with well-being. For example, a 1-standard-deviation increase in "likes clicked" (clicking "like" on someone else's content), "links clicked" (clicking a link to another site or article), or "status updates" (updating one's own Facebook status) was associated with a decrease of 5%-8% of a standard deviation in self-reported mental health. These associations were robust to multivariate cross-sectional analyses, as well as to 2-wave prospective analyses. The negative associations of Facebook use were comparable to or greater in magnitude than the positive impact of offline interactions, which suggests a possible tradeoff between offline and online relationships.

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Emotional support during times of stress: Can text messaging compete with in-person interactions?

Susan Holtzman et al.

Computers in Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
There has been a recent and dramatic surge in the popularity of text messaging as a means of connecting with our social networks. The current research represents the first randomized controlled studies to directly compare both the social and emotional impact of social support provided in-person versus through text messaging. In two lab-based experiments, emerging adults completed a stressful task and were randomly assigned to receive emotional support either in-person, via text messaging, or no support at all. Support was provided by a close friend in experiment 1 (n = 64), and by a similar-aged confederate in experiment 2 (n = 188). In both experiments, in-person support was associated with significantly higher positive affect compared to text messaging. In-person support also led to greater satisfaction with support, but only in experiment 2. Overall, this research suggests that there may be emotional costs to a reliance on digital forms of social communication during times of stress.

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The Novelty Penalty: Why Do People Like Talking About New Experiences but Hearing About Old Ones?

Gus Cooney, Daniel Gilbert & Timothy Wilson

Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
People often tell each other stories about their past experiences. But do they tell the right ones? Speakers and listeners predicted that listeners would enjoy hearing novel stories (i.e., stories about experiences the listeners had never had) more than familiar stories (i.e., stories about experiences the listeners had already had). In fact, listeners enjoyed hearing familiar stories much more than novel ones (Studies 1 and 2). This did not happen because the familiar and novel stories differed in their content or delivery (Study 3). Rather, it happened because human speech is riddled with informational gaps, and familiar stories allow listeners to use their own knowledge to fill in those gaps (Study 4). We discuss reasons why novel stories are more difficult to tell, and why familiar stories are more enjoyable to hear, than either speakers or listeners expect.

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Bowling alone, dying together: The role of social capital in mitigating the drug overdose epidemic in the United States

Michael Zoorob & Jason Salemi

Drug and Alcohol Dependence, forthcoming

Methods: We conducted an ecologic temporal trends study from 1999-2014 to investigate the association between mortality due to drug overdose and social capital. Data from multiple sources were compiled at the county-level to produce an analytic dataset comprising overdose mortality, social capital, and a host of potentially confounding variables indicated by the literature (N = 49,664 county-years). Multinomial logistic regression was used to estimate the likelihood that a county falls in low (<4 deaths per 100,000), moderate, or high (>16 deaths per 100,000) categories of annual overdose morality.

Results: We observed a strong and statistically significant inverse association between county-level social capital and age-adjusted mortality due to drug overdose (p < 0.01). Compared to the lowest quintile of social capital, counties at the highest quintile were 83% less likely to fall in the "high-overdose" category and 75% less likely to fall in the "moderate-overdose" category.

Conclusion: This study finds large-sample evidence that social capital protects communities against drug overdose. This finding could help guide policymakers in identifying where overdose epidemics are likely to occur and how to ameliorate them.

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Birds of a Feather Do Flock Together: Behavior-Based Personality-Assessment Method Reveals Personality Similarity Among Couples and Friends

Wu Youyou et al.

Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Friends and spouses tend to be similar in a broad range of characteristics, such as age, educational level, race, religion, attitudes, and general intelligence. Surprisingly, little evidence has been found for similarity in personality - one of the most fundamental psychological constructs. We argue that the lack of evidence for personality similarity stems from the tendency of individuals to make personality judgments relative to a salient comparison group, rather than in absolute terms (i.e., the reference-group effect), when responding to the self-report and peer-report questionnaires commonly used in personality research. We employed two behavior-based personality measures to circumvent the reference-group effect. The results based on large samples provide evidence for personality similarity between romantic partners (n = 1,101; rs = .20-.47) and between friends (n = 46,483; rs = .12-.31). We discuss the practical and methodological implications of the findings.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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