Department Brown Bag Seminars

Wednesday 12:001:05 p.m.
499 Engineering II

Winter 2018

February 7
Ajay Shenoy
"Untenable Hypothesis: Do Insecure Land Rights deter Investment?"
We study an intervention in Zambia that cross-randomized an agroforestry extension with the distribution of customary land certificates, which grant official recognition of a household's tenure. We find that although the intervention improved perceptions of tenure security, it had no impact on investments like agroforestry, land fallowing, or the use of fertilizer. The reason seems to be that the improvements in perceived security were broad but shallow. Already secure households became fully certain of their tenure. There was little effect on feelings of deep insecurity because such feelings are generally transient. Insecure households regain confidence even without outside intervention.

February 21
Eric Aldrich
"Experiments in High-Frequency Trading: Testing the Frequent Batch Auction"
Using laboratory experiments, we compare two leading financial market formats in the presence of high-frequency trading (HFT):  the Continuous Double Auction (CDA), also known as continuous limit order book, which organizes trade in the majority of equities, futures and currency exchanges around the world; and the Frequent Batch Auction (FBA), which gives equal time priority to orders received within a short batching period. Our evidence suggests that, relative to the CDA, the FBA (1) reduces predatory trading behavior, (2) disincentivizes investment in low-latency messaging technology, and (3) results in lower transaction costs. Further, volatility, both in market spreads as well as in liquidity, is higher in CDA compared to the FBA. Finally, we examine transitory, off-equilibrium behavior. In the CDA, transitory changes in the environment impact market dynamics substantially more than in the FBA.

March 14
Axel Ockenfels, University of Cologne
"Norm Enforcing on eBay"

Fall 2017

September 27
Soo Hong Chew, National U of Singapore
"Ellsberg Meets Keynes: Missing Links Among Attitudes Toward Sources of Uncertainty"
Engineering 2, room 280

October 11
Theresa Beltramo
“Reaching Poor Refugees: Targeting Food and Multi-Sectoral Cash Transfers in Niger”
The demand for humanitarian financing globally has steadily increased from 2012 (16.1 billion) to 2016 (27.3 billion) in pace with the growing number of forcibly displaced people globally- 65.6 million forcibly displace, 17.2 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. UNHCR’s funding levels and gaps resemble those at the global level for humanitarian actors, between 2010 and 2016, as contributions to UNHCR have more than doubled, increasing from US $1.8 billion to US $3.9 billion over the same time period.  While UNHCR’s financing has reached historic highs, the needs continue to grow at an even faster pace. As of July 31, 2017 the total amount pledged to UNHCR was 38% of the total global appeal or 2.55 billion pledged of 7.91 billion assessed as needed. In light of this financing gap, UNHCR and other humanitarian partners are forced to prioritize among the needs assessed. Due to this funding gap, basic assistance particularly for protracted forcibly displaced situations like the Malian refugees in Niger, has to be prioritized. Traditionally humanitarian agencies and partners have targeted assistance using categorical targeting, or criteria based on certain vulnerabilities or needs of individuals or household. In Niger, UNHCR and WFP faced the resource challenge of targeting limited food assistance and forthcoming multi-purpose cash. To identify the best tool for targeting assistance to Malian refugees in Niger, we estimate household welfare by producing a household capacity score for each of the methods implemented (Proxy Means Testing, Household Economy Approach, and Principal Components Analysis). All models show that the predictive power of the HEA models are weaker than the PMT model. The levels of R2 range between 10 to 26 percent, corresponding to approximately half of the levels reached in the PMT models. The PCA model confirms the relationship between explanatory variables for monetary poverty but PMT performs better than RCA as a larger share of variance is explained by the model.  We find for the Intikane site, the pre-existing categorical targeting used to target food assistance prior to this exercise is performing poorly as those who receive the equivalent of half of a daily food ration are poorer than those who receive 100%. 


October 18
Asha Shepard
"School Entry and Criminal Behavior"

November 1
Dan Friedman
"High Frequency Trading, Order Protection, and Exchange Delay"
Investors Exchange LLC (IEX) is a newly approved public exchange that is designed to discourage aggressive high-frequency trading. We explain how IEX differs from traditional continuous double auction markets and present summary data on IEX transactions by trader class and order type. Our primary contribution is a simple analytic model of IEX as a constrained version of the continuous double auction. The model predicts that IEX will generally improve price efficiency and lower transactions cost while increasing delay costs. A subset of the model's predictions are testable in the field or in a laboratory environment.

November 8
Jon Robinson
"Market Access, Trade Costs, and Technology Adoption: Evidence from Northern Tanzania"
We study how geographical remoteness affects agricultural productivity via access to input and output markets using novel, self-collected data on the supply chains for chemical fertilizer and maize in all of the 570 villages in the Kilimanjaro region of Northern Tanzania. In reduced form, we find that adoption is much lower in remote areas: adoption of fertilizer in the 3rd and 4th highest remoteness quartiles is 21-32 percentage points lower than in the lowest quartile (equivalent to 31-47% in percentage terms); villages in the highest remoteness quartiles are 21 percentage points less likely (36%) to have a maize-buying intermediary visit their village. We find evidence that reduced access to markets (either directly, or through middlemen) is an important contributing factor to this disparity. Using point-to-point travel costs for the universe of villages in Kilimanjaro, we find that the standard deviation of travel cost-adjusted fertilizer prices is 15% of the mean, and that 20% of the villages face prices that are 30% higher than the lowest-cost village. To quantify these effects, we develop a spatial model of agro-retailer pricing, farmer investment, and intermediary activity, and find that a counterfactual 50% reduction in travel costs along the supply chain accounts for about 20% of the reduced form relationship between remoteness and adoption of fertilizer. Targeted counterfactuals suggest that access to local input and output markets are equally important for this effect, while there is little effect of the costs to bring inputs to retailers from urban hubs. 

November 15
Jeremy West
"How Moral Suasion Complements Pecuniary Policy"
Despite substantial use of prosocial persuasion to reduce negative externalities, there remains scant evidence on how moral suasion interacts with conventional pecuniary policies. We empirically examine this question in the context of water conservation. Methodologically, we use a randomized control trial that provided households with peer comparisons to their neighbors’ water consumption, coupled with a regression discontinuity design based on an arbitrary cutoff for pecuniary threats regarding irrigation violations. We find the pecuniary threat was effective only during targeted hours of the week, with evidence of significant intertemporal substitution. In contrast, the prosocial treatment yielded blanket reductions in water consumption.

November 22
Grace Gu
"New Evidence on Cyclical Variation in Labor Costs in the U.S."
Over the last three decades, the share of employer-provided nonwage benefit expenditures in U.S. firms' labor costs has risen to nearly one-third. In this paper, we document that a broad measure of real labor costs that includes such benefit expenditures is countercyclical over the period 1982-2014. This stands in sharp contrast to the conventional view that the price of labor is procyclical. Using BLS establishment-job data, we control for various composition effects and find that even real wages, which have been the main focus of prior literature, have become countercyclical. The same is true of benefit expenditures. We also document that nominal nonwage benefit expenditures are less rigid than nominal wages, although the rigidity of both components of labor costs has risen over time. The paper provides some suggestive evidence that these stronger nominal rigidities, in combination with the rising relative importance of aggregate demand shocks (including the financial crisis and its aftermath), may account for the countercyclical variation in firms' real labor costs.

November 29
Dario Pozzoli
"The Impact of Immigration on Firm-Level Offshoring"
This paper studies the relationship between immigration and offshoring by examining whether an influx of foreign workers reduces the need for firms to offshore jobs abroad. Using the Danish employer-employee matched dataset covering the universe of workers and firms over the period 1995-2011, the findings show that an exogenous influx of immigrants into a municipality reduces firm-level offshoring at both the extensive and intensive margins. The fact that immigration and offshoring are substitutes has important policy implications, since restrictions on one may encourage the other. While the aggregate relationship is negative, a subsequent bilateral analysis shows that immigrants have connections in their country of origin which can help their employers offshore to that particular foreign country

December 6
Nirvikar Singh
"The 0.0003 Percent: Sources of Extreme Wealth in America"