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Quarterly Journal of Economics

Isaac Sorkin
This article estimates workers' preferences for firms by studying the structure of employer-to-employer transitions in U.S. administrative data. The article uses a tool from numerical linear algebra to measure the central tendency of worker flows, which is closely related to the ranking of firms revealed by workers' choices. There is evidence for compensating differentials when workers systematically move to lower-paying firms in a way that cannot be accounted for by layoffs or differences in recruiting intensity...
August 1, 2018: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Matthew Wiswall, Basit Zafar
We use a hypothetical choice methodology to estimate preferences for workplace attributes from a sample of high-ability undergraduates attending a highly selective university. We estimate that women on average have a higher willingness to pay (WTP) for jobs with greater work flexibility and job stability, and men have a higher WTP for jobs with higher earnings growth. These job preferences relate to college major choices and to actual job choices reported in a follow-up survey four years after graduation. The gender differences in preferences explain at least a quarter of the early career gender wage gap...
February 2018: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Jon Kleinberg, Himabindu Lakkaraju, Jure Leskovec, Jens Ludwig, Sendhil Mullainathan
Can machine learning improve human decision making? Bail decisions provide a good test case. Millions of times each year, judges make jail-or-release decisions that hinge on a prediction of what a defendant would do if released. The concreteness of the prediction task combined with the volume of data available makes this a promising machine-learning application. Yet comparing the algorithm to judges proves complicated. First, the available data are generated by prior judge decisions. We only observe crime outcomes for released defendants, not for those judges detained...
February 1, 2018: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Sara B Heller, Anuj K Shah, Jonathan Guryan, Jens Ludwig, Sendhil Mullainathan, Harold A Pollack
We present the results of three large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) carried out in Chicago, testing interventions to reduce crime and dropout by changing the decision making of economically disadvantaged youth. We study a program called Becoming a Man (BAM), developed by the nonprofit Youth Guidance, in two RCTs implemented in 2009-2010 and 2013-2015. In the two studies participation in the program reduced total arrests during the intervention period by 28-35%, reduced violent-crime arrests by 45-50%, improved school engagement, and in the first study where we have follow-up data, increased graduation rates by 12-19%...
February 2017: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Amy Finkelstein, Matthew Gentzkow, Heidi Williams
We study the drivers of geographic variation in US health care utilization, using an empirical strategy that exploits migration of Medicare patients to separate the role of demand and supply factors. Our approach allows us to account for demand differences driven by both observable and unobservable patient characteristics. Within our sample of over-65 Medicare beneficiaries, we find that 40-50 percent of geographic variation in utilization is attributable to demand-side factors, including health and preferences, with the remainder due to place-specific supply factors...
November 2016: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Sarah Baird, Joan Hamory Hicks, Michael Kremer, Edward Miguel
This study estimates long-run impacts of a child health investment, exploiting community-wide experimental variation in school-based deworming. The program increased labor supply among men and education among women, with accompanying shifts in labor market specialization. Ten years after deworming treatment, men who were eligible as boys stay enrolled for more years of primary school, work 17% more hours each week, spend more time in nonagricultural self-employment, are more likely to hold manufacturing jobs, and miss one fewer meal per week...
November 2016: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Hoyt Bleakley, Joseph Ferrie
Does the lack of wealth constrain parents' investments in the human capital of their descendants? We conduct a nearly fifty-year followup of an episode in which such constraints would have been plausibly relaxed by a random allocation of substantial wealth to families. We track descendants of participants in Georgia's Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832, in which nearly every adult white male in Georgia took part. Winners received close to the median level of wealth - a large financial windfall orthogonal to participants' underlying characteristics that might have also affected their children's human capital...
August 2016: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Liran Einav, Amy Finkelstein, Paul Schrimpf
We study the demand response to non-linear price schedules using data on insurance contracts and prescription drug purchases in Medicare Part D. We exploit the kink in individuals' budget set created by the famous "donut hole," where insurance becomes discontinuously much less generous on the margin, to provide descriptive evidence of the drug purchase response to a price increase. We then specify and estimate a simple dynamic model of drug use that allows us to quantify the spending response along the entire non-linear budget set...
May 2015: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Leonardo Bursztyn, Robert Jensen
When effort is observable to peers, students may try to avoid social penalties by conforming to prevailing norms. To test this hypothesis, we first consider a natural experiment that introduced a performance leaderboard into computer-based high school courses. The result was a 24 percent performance decline. The decline appears to be driven by a desire to avoid the leaderboard; top performing students prior to the change, those most at risk of appearing on the leaderboard, had a 40 percent performance decline, while poor performing students improved slightly...
2015: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Justine S Hastings, Jesse M Shapiro
We formulate a test of the fungibility of money based on parallel shifts in the prices of different quality grades of a commodity. We embed the test in a discrete-choice model of product quality choice and estimate the model using panel microdata on gasoline purchases. We find that when gasoline prices rise consumers substitute to lower octane gasoline, to an extent that cannot be explained by income effects. Across a wide range of specifications, we consistently reject the null hypothesis that households treat "gas money" as fungible with other income...
November 2013: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Tom S Vogl
Using data from South Asia, this article examines how arranged marriage cultivates rivalry among sisters. During marriage search, parents with multiple daughters reduce the reservation quality for an older daughter's groom, rushing her marriage to allow sufficient time to marry off her younger sisters. Relative to younger brothers, younger sisters increase a girl's marriage risk; relative to younger singleton sisters, younger twin sisters have the same effect. These effects intensify in marriage markets with lower sex ratios or greater parental involvement in marriage arrangements...
August 2013: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou
We investigate the role of national institutions on subnational African development in a novel framework that accounts for both local geography and cultural-genetic traits. We exploit the fact that the political boundaries on the eve of African independence partitioned more than 200 ethnic groups across adjacent countries subjecting similar cultures, residing in homogeneous geographic areas, to different formal institutions. Using both a matching type and a spatial regression discontinuity approach we show that differences in countrywide institutional structures across the national border do not explain within-ethnicity differences in economic performance, as captured by satellite images of light density...
2013: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Amy Finkelstein, Sarah Taubman, Bill Wright, Mira Bernstein, Jonathan Gruber, Joseph P Newhouse, Heidi Allen, Katherine Baicker
In 2008, a group of uninsured low-income adults in Oregon was selected by lottery to be given the chance to apply for Medicaid. This lottery provides an opportunity to gauge the effects of expanding access to public health insurance on the health care use, financial strain, and health of low-income adults using a randomized controlled design. In the year after random assignment, the treatment group selected by the lottery was about 25 percentage points more likely to have insurance than the control group that was not selected...
August 2012: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Hoyt Bleakley, Jeffrey Lin
We examine portage sites in the U.S. South, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, including those on the fall line, a geomorphological feature in the southeastern U.S. marking the final rapids on rivers before the ocean. Historically, waterborne transport of goods required portage around the falls at these points, while some falls provided water power during early industrialization. These factors attracted commerce and manufacturing. Although these original advantages have long since been made obsolete, we document the continuing importance of these portage sites over time...
May 2012: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Jeffrey R Kling, Sendhil Mullainathan, Eldar Shafir, Lee C Vermeulen, Marian V Wrobel
Consumers need information to compare alternatives for markets to function efficiently. Recognizing this, public policies often pair competition with easy access to comparative information. The implicit assumption is that comparison friction—the wedge between the availability of comparative information and consumers' use of it—is inconsequential because when information is readily available, consumers will access this information and make effective choices. We examine the extent of comparison friction in the market for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans in the United States...
2012: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Stefano DellaVigna, John A List, Ulrike Malmendier
Every year, 90% of Americans give money to charities. Is such generosity necessarily welfare enhancing for the giver? We present a theoretical framework that distinguishes two types of motivation: individuals like to give, for example, due to altruism or warm glow, and individuals would rather not give but dislike saying no, for example, due to social pressure. We design a door-to-door fund-raiser in which some households are informed about the exact time of solicitation with a flyer on their doorknobs. Thus, they can seek or avoid the fund-raiser...
2012: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Ofer Malamud, Cristian Pop-Eleches
This paper uses a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of home computers on child and adolescent outcomes by exploiting a voucher program in Romania. Our main results indicate that home computers have both positive and negative effects on the development of human capital. Children who won a voucher to purchase a computer had significantly lower school grades but show improved computer skills. There is also some evidence that winning a voucher increased cognitive skills, as measured by Raven's Progressive Matrices...
May 2011: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Raj Chetty, John N Friedman, Tore Olsen, Luigi Pistaferri
We show that the effects of taxes on labor supply are shaped by interactions between adjustment costs for workers and hours constraints set by firms. We develop a model in which firms post job offers characterized by an hours requirement and workers pay search costs to find jobs. We present evidence supporting three predictions of this model by analyzing bunching at kinks using Danish tax records. First, larger kinks generate larger taxable income elasticities. Second, kinks that apply to a larger group of workers generate larger elasticities...
May 1, 2011: Quarterly Journal of Economics
John S Felkner, Robert M Townsend
A nation's economic geography can have an enormous impact on its development. In Thailand, we show that a high concentration of enterprise in an area predicts high subsequent growth in and around that area. We also find spatially contiguous convergence of enterprise with stagnant areas left behind. Exogenous physiographic conditions are correlated with enterprise location and growth. We fit a structural, micro-founded model of occupation transitions with fine-tuned geographic capabilities to village data and replicate these salient facts...
2011: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Douglas Almond, Joseph J Doyle, Amanda E Kowalski, Heidi Williams
In Almond et al. (2010), we describe how marginal returns to medical care can be estimated by comparing patients on either side of diagnostic thresholds. Our application examines at-risk newborns near the very low birth weight threshold at 1500 g. We estimate large discontinuities in medical care and mortality at this threshold, with effects concentrated at “low-quality” hospitals. Although our preferred estimates retain newborns near the threshold, when they are excluded the estimated marginal returns decline, although they remain large...
2011: Quarterly Journal of Economics
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