Review of Economic Studies

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Bobtcheff, C., et al. (2017). "Researcher’s Dilemma." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 969-1014.

We propose and analyse a general model of priority races. Researchers privately have breakthroughs and decide how long to let their ideas mature before disclosing them, thereby establishing priority. Two-researcher, symmetric priority races have a unique equilibrium that can be characterized by a differential equation. We study how the shapes of the breakthrough distribution and of the returns to maturation affect maturation delays and research quality, both in dynamic and comparative statics analyses. Making researchers better at discovering new ideas or at developing them has contrasted effects on research quality. Being closer to the technological frontier enhances the value of maturation for researchers, which mitigates the negative impact on research quality of the race for priority. Finally, when researchers differ in their abilities to do creative work or in the technologies they use to develop their ideas, more efficient researchers always let their ideas mature more than their less efficient opponents. Our theoretical results shed light on academic competition, patent races, and innovation quality.

Caldara, D. and C. Kamps (2017). "The Analytics of SVARs: A Unified Framework to Measure Fiscal Multipliers." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1015-1040.

Do tax cuts and spending increases stimulate output? Studies that identify fiscal shocks using structural vector autoregressions (SVAR) have reached different conclusions. In this article, we show analytically that this lack of consensus reflects different assumptions on the fiscal rules that—by relating tax and spending policies to macroeconomic conditions—determine the identification of fiscal shocks and the associated fiscal multipliers. We then propose a new identification strategy based on a proxy SVAR that uses non-fiscal instruments to directly estimate the parameters of the fiscal rules. We find that spending increases stimulate output more than tax cuts..

Cheron, A. and B. Decreuse (2017). "Matching with Phantoms." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1041-1070.

Searching for partners involves informational persistence that reduces future traders’ matching probability. In this article, traders who are no longer available but who left tracks on the market are called phantoms. We examine a dynamic matching market in which phantoms are a by-product of search activity, no coordination frictions are assumed, and non-phantom traders may lose time trying to match with phantoms. The resulting aggregate matching technology features increasing returns to scale in the short run, but has constant returns to scale in the long run. We embed a generalized version of this matching function in the canonical continuous-time equilibrium search unemployment model. Long-run constant returns to scale imply there is a unique steady state, whereas short-run increasing returns generate excess volatility in the short run and endogenous fluctuations based on self-fulfilling prophecies.

Grieco, P. L. E. and R. C. McDevitt (2017). "Productivity and Quality in Health Care: Evidence from the Dialysis Industry." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1071-1105.

We show that healthcare providers face a tradeoff between increasing the number of patients they treat and improving their quality of care. To measure the magnitude of this quality-quantity tradeoff, we estimate a model of dialysis provision that explicitly incorporates a centre’s unobservable and endogenous choice of treatment quality while allowing for unobserved differences in productivity across centres. We find that a centre that reduces its quality standards such that its expected rate of septic infections increases by 1 percentage point can increase its patient load by 1.6%, holding productivity, capital, and labour fixed; this corresponds to an elasticity of quantity with respect to quality of $$-$$0.2. Notably, our approach provides estimates of productivity that control for differences in quality, whereas traditional methods would misattribute lower-quality care to greater productivity.

Ifrach, B. and G. Y. Weintraub (2017). "A Framework for Dynamic Oligopoly in Concentrated Industries." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1106-1150.

In this article we introduce a new computationally tractable framework for Ericson and Pakes-style dynamic oligopoly models that overcomes the computational complexity involved in computing Markov perfect equilibrium (MPE). First, we define a new equilibrium concept that we call moment-based Markov equilibrium (MME), in which firms keep track of their own state, the detailed state of dominant firms, and few moments of the distribution of fringe firms’ states. Second, we provide guidelines to use MME in applied work and illustrate with an application how it can endogenize the market structure in a dynamic industry model even with hundreds of firms. Third, we develop a series of results that provide support for using MME as an approximation. We present numerical experiments showing that MME approximates MPE for important classes of models. Then, we introduce novel unilateral deviation error bounds that can be used to test the accuracy of MME as an approximation in large-scale settings. Overall, our new framework opens the door to study new issues in industry dynamics.

Johnson, J. P. (2017). "The Agency Model and MFN Clauses." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1151-1185.

I provide an analysis of vertical relations in markets with imperfect competition at both layers of the supply chain and where exchange is intermediated either with wholesale prices or revenue-sharing contracts. Revenue-sharing is extremely attractive to firms that are able to set the revenue shares but often makes the firms that set retail prices worse off. This is so whether revenue-sharing lowers or raises industry profits. These results are strengthened when a market moves from “the wholesale model” of sales to “the agency model” of sales, which results in retailers setting revenue shares and suppliers setting retail prices. I also show that retail price-parity restrictions raise industry prices. These results provide a potential explanation for why many online retailers have adopted the agency model and retail price-parity clauses.

Landier, A. and G. Plantin (2017). "Taxing the Rich." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1186-1209.

Affluent households can respond to taxation with means that are not economically viable for the rest of the population, such as sophisticated tax plans and international tax arbitrage. This article studies an economy in which an inequality-averse social planner faces agents who have access to a tax-avoidance technology with subadditive costs, and who can shape the risk profile of their income as they see fit. Subadditive avoidance costs imply that optimal taxation cannot be progressive at the top. This in turn may trigger excessive risk-taking. When the avoidance technology consists in costly migration between two countries that compete fiscally, we show that an endogenous increase in inequality due to risk-taking makes progressive taxation more fragile, which vindicates in turn risk-taking and can lead to equilibria with regressive tax rates at the top, and high migrations of wealth towards the smaller country.

Marie, O. and U. Zölitz (2017). "“High” Achievers? Cannabis Access and Academic Performance." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1210-1237.

This paper investigates how legal cannabis access affects student performance. Identification comes from an exceptional policy introduced in the city of Maastricht in the Netherlands that discriminated access via licensed cannabis shops based on an individual’s nationality. We apply a difference-in-difference approach using administrative panel data on course grades of local students enrolled at Maastricht University before and during the partial cannabis prohibition. We find that the academic performance of students who are no longer legally permitted to buy cannabis substantially increases. Grade improvements are driven by younger students and the effects are stronger for women and low performers. In line with how cannabis consumption affects cognitive functioning, we find that performance gains are larger for courses that require more numerical/mathematical skills. Our investigation of underlying channels using course evaluations suggests that performance gains are driven by an improved understanding of the material rather than changes in students’ study effort.

Merlo, A. and Á. d. Paula (2017). "Identification and Estimation of Preference Distributions When Voters Are Ideological." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1238-1263.

This article studies the non-parametric identification and estimation of voters’ preferences when voters are ideological. We establish that voter preference distributions and other parameters of interest can be identified from aggregate electoral data. We also show that these objects can be consistently estimated and illustrate our analysis by performing an actual estimation using data from the 1999 European Parliament elections.

Pavoni, N. and H. Yazici (2017). "Intergenerational Disagreement and Optimal Taxation of Parental Transfers." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1264-1305.

We study optimal taxation of bequests and inter vivos transfers in a model where altruistic parents and their offspring disagree on intertemporal trade-offs. We show that the laissez-faire equilibrium is Pareto inefficient, and whenever offspring are impatient from their parents’ perspective, optimal policy involves a positive tax on parental transfers. Cautioned by the technical complications present in this class of models, our normative prescriptions do not rely on the assumption of differentiability of the agents’ policy functions.

Qu, Z. and D. Tkachenko (2017). "Global Identification in DSGE Models Allowing for Indeterminacy." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1306-1345.

This article presents a framework for analysing global identification in log linearized Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) models that encompasses both determinacy and indeterminacy. First, it considers a frequency domain expression for the Kullback–Leibler distance between two DSGE models and shows that global identification fails if and only if the minimized distance equals 0. This result has three features: (1) it can be applied across DSGE models with different structures; (2) it permits checking whether a subset of frequencies can deliver identification; (3) it delivers parameter values that yield observational equivalence if there is identification failure. Next, the article proposes a measure for the empirical closeness between two DSGE models for a further understanding of the strength of identification. The measure gauges the feasibility of distinguishing one model from another based on a finite number of observations generated by the two models. It is shown to represent the highest possible power under Gaussianity when considering local alternatives. The above theory is illustrated using two small-scale and one medium-scale DSGE models. The results document that certain parameters can be identified under indeterminacy but not determinacy, that different monetary policy rules can be (nearly) observationally equivalent, and that identification properties can differ substantially between small and medium-scale models. For implementation, two procedures are developed and made available, both of which can be used to obtain and thus to cross validate the findings reported in the empirical applications. Although the article focuses on DSGE models, the results are also applicable to other vector linear processes with well-defined spectra, such as the (factor-augmented) vector autoregression.

Schumacher, H., et al. (2017). "One, Two, Many—Insensitivity to Group Size in Games with Concentrated Benefits and Dispersed Costs." The Review of Economic Studies 84(3): 1346-1377.

We experimentally analyse distributional preferences when a decider chooses the provision of a good that benefits herself or a receiver, and creates costs for a group of payers. The treatment variation is the number of payers. We observe that subjects provide the good even if there are many payers so that the costs of provision exceed the benefits by far. This result holds regardless of whether the provision increases the decider’s payoff or not. Intriguingly, it is not only selfish or maximin types who provide the good. Rather, we show that a substantial fraction of subjects are “insensitive to group size”: they reveal to care about the payoff of all parties, but attach the same weight to small and large groups so that they ignore large provision costs that are dispersed among many payers. Our results have important consequences for the approval of policies with concentrated benefits and large, dispersed cost, as well as the analysis of ethical behaviour, medical decision-making, and charity donations.

Bonatti, A., et al. (2017). "Dynamic Oligopoly with Incomplete Information." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 503-546.

We consider learning and signalling in a dynamic Cournot oligopoly where firms have private information about their production costs and only observe the market price, which is subject to unobservable demand shocks. An equilibrium is Markov if play depends on the history only through the firms’ beliefs about costs and calendar time. We characterize symmetric linear Markov equilibria as solutions to a boundary value problem. In every such equilibrium, given a long enough horizon, play converges to the static complete information outcome for the realized costs, but each firm only learns its competitors’ average cost. The weights assigned to costs and beliefs under the equilibrium strategies are non-monotone over time. We explain this by decomposing incentives into signalling and learning, and discuss implications for prices, quantities, and welfare.

Booij, A. S., et al. (2017). "Ability Peer Effects in University: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 547-578.

This article estimates peer effects originating from the ability composition of tutorial groups for undergraduate students in economics. We manipulated the composition of groups to achieve a wide range of support, and assigned students—conditional on their prior ability—randomly to these groups. The data support a specification in which the impact of group composition on achievement is captured by the mean and standard deviation of peers’ prior ability, their interaction, and interactions with students’ own prior ability. When we assess the aggregate implications of these peer effects regressions for group assignment, we find that low- and medium-ability students gain on an average 0.19 SD units of achievement by switching from ability mixing to three-way tracking. Their dropout rate is reduced by 12 percentage points (relative to a mean of 0.6). High-ability students are unaffected. Analysis of survey data indicates that in tracked groups, low-ability students have more positive interactions with other students, and are more involved. We find no evidence that teachers adjust their teaching to the composition of groups.

Braun, R. A., et al. (2017). "Old, Sick, Alone, and Poor: A Welfare Analysis of Old-Age Social Insurance Programmes." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 580-612.

All individuals face some risk of ending up old, sick, alone, and poor. Is there a role for social insurance for these risks and, if so, what is a good programme? A large literature has analysed the costs and benefits of pay-as-you-go public pensions and found that the costs exceed the benefits. This article, instead, considers means-tested social insurance (MTSI) programmes for retirees such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. We find that the welfare gains from these programmes are large. Moreover, the current scale of MTSI in the U.S. is too small in the following sense. If we condition on the current Social Security programme, increasing the scale of MTSI by 1/3 benefits both the poor and the affluent when a payroll tax is used to fund the increase.

Cheremukhin, A., et al. (2017). "The Industrialization and Economic Development of Russia through the Lens of a Neoclassical Growth Model." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 613-649.

This article studies the structural transformation of Russia in 1885–1940 from an agrarian to an industrial economy through the lens of a two-sector neoclassical growth model. We construct a data set that covers Tsarist Russia during 1885–1913 and Soviet Union during 1928–1940. We develop a methodology that allows us to identify the types of frictions and economic mechanisms that had the largest quantitative impact on Russian economic development. We find that entry barriers and monopoly power in the non-agricultural sector were the most important reason for Tsarist Russia’s failure to industrialize before World War I. Soviet industrial transformation after 1928 was achieved primarily by reducing such frictions, albeit coinciding with a significantly lower performance of productivity in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. We find no evidence that Tsarist agricultural institutions were a significant barrier to labour reallocation to manufacturing, or that “Big Push” mechanisms were a major driver of Soviet growth.

Fort, T. C. (2017). "Technology and Production Fragmentation: Domestic versus Foreign Sourcing." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 650-687.

This article provides direct empirical evidence on the relationship between technology and firms’ global sourcing strategies. Using new data on U.S. firms’ decisions to contract for manufacturing services from domestic or foreign suppliers, I show that a firm’s adoption of communication technology between 2002 and 2007 is associated with a 3.1 point increase in its probability of fragmentation. The effect of firm technology also differs significantly across industries; in 2007, it is 20% higher, relative to the mean, in industries with production specifications that are easier to codify in an electronic format. These patterns suggest that technology lowers coordination costs, though its effect is disproportionately higher for domestic rather than foreign sourcing. The larger impact on domestic fragmentation highlights its importance as an alternative to offshoring, and can be explained by complementarities between technology and worker skill. High technology firms and industries are more likely to source from high human capital countries, and the differential impact of technology across industries is strongly increasing in country human capital.

Gershkov, A., et al. (2017). "Optimal Voting Rules." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 688-717.

We derive the incentive compatible and ex-ante welfare maximizing ($$i.e.$$ utilitarian) mechanism for settings with an arbitrary number of agents and alternatives where the privately informed agents have single-crossing and single-peaked preferences. The optimal outcome can be implemented by modifying a sequential voting scheme that is used in many legislatures and committees. The modification uses a flexible majority threshold for each of several alternatives, and allows us to replicate, via a single sequential procedure, the entire class of anonymous, unanimous, and dominant strategy incentive compatible mechanisms. Our analysis relies on elegant characterizations of this class of mechanisms for single-peaked and single-crossing preferences.

Lindenlaub, I. (2017). "Sorting Multidimensional Types: Theory and Application." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 718-789.

This article studies multidimensional matching between workers and jobs. Workers differ in manual and cognitive skills and sort into jobs that demand different combinations of these two skills. To study this multidimensional sorting problem, I develop a theoretical framework that generalizes the unidimensional notion of assortative matching and sufficient conditions on the technology under which sorting obtains. I derive the equilibrium in closed form and use this explicit solution to study biased technological change. The main finding is that an increase in worker-job complementarities in cognitive relative to manual inputs leads to more pronounced sorting and wage inequality across cognitive relative to manual skills. This can trigger wage polarization and boost aggregate wage inequality. I then estimate the model for the U.S. and identify sizable technology shifts: during the last two decades, worker-job complementarities in cognitive inputs strongly increased, whereas complementarities in manual inputs decreased. In addition to this bias in complementarities, there has been a cognitive skill-bias in production. Counterfactual exercises suggest that these technology shifts (as opposed to changes in skill supply and demand) can account for observed changes in worker-job sorting, wage polarization and a significant part of the increase in U.S. wage dispersion.

Madarász, K. and A. Prat (2017). "Sellers with Misspecified Models*." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 790-815.

Principals often operate on misspecified models of their agents’ preferences. When preferences are such that non-local incentive constraints may bind in the optimum, even slight misspecification of the preferences can lead to large and non-vanishing losses. Instead, we propose a two-step scheme whereby the principal: (1) identifies the model-optimal menu; and (2) modifies prices by offering to share with the agent a fixed proportion of the profit she would receive if an item were sold at the model-optimal price. We show that her loss is bounded and vanishes smoothly as the model converges to the truth. Finally, two-step mechanisms without a sharing rule like (2) will not yield a valid approximation.

Martimort, D., et al. (2017). "A Theory of Contracts with Limited Enforcement." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 816-852.

We develop a theory of contracts with limited enforcement in the context of a dynamic relationship. The seller is privately informed on his persistent cost, while the buyer remains uninformed. Public enforcement relies on remedies for breaches. Private enforcement comes from terminating the relationship. We first characterize enforcement constraints under asymmetric information. Those constraints ensure that parties never breach contracts. In particular, a high-cost seller may be tempted to trade high volumes at high prices at the beginning of the relationship before breaching the contract later on. Such “take-the-money-and-run” strategy becomes less attractive as time passes. It can thus be prevented by backloading payments and increasing volumes over a transitory phase. In a mature phase, enforcement constraints are slack and the optimal contract, although keeping memory of the shadow cost of enforcement constraints binding earlier on, looks stationary. Second-best distortions depend on a modified virtual cost that encapsulates this shadow cost of enforcement.

Melosi, L. (2017). "Signalling Effects of Monetary Policy." The Review of Economic Studies 84(2): 853-884.

We develop a dynamic general equilibrium model in which the policy rate signals the central bank’s view about macroeconomic developments to price setters. The model is estimated with likelihood methods on a U.S. data set that includes the Survey of Professional Forecasters as a measure of price setters’ inflation expectations. This model improves upon existing perfect information models in explaining why, in the data, inflation expectations respond with delays to monetary impulses and remain disanchored for years. In the 1970s, U.S. monetary policy is found to signal-persistent inflationary shocks, explaining why inflation and inflation expectations were so persistently heightened. The signalling effects of monetary policy also explain why inflation expectations adjusted more sluggishly than inflation after the robust monetary tightening of the 1980s.

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