Working Paper Series

The Working Paper Series is an academic publication series that features current research papers on topics that are of crucial relevance beyond academic research circles. These research papers touch on themes that are of both topical and fundamental importance for private and public sector representatives.

The gains from insurance arise from the transfer of income across states. Yet, by requiring that the premium be paid upfront, standard insurance products also transfer income across time. We show that this intertemporal transfer can help explain low insurance demand, especially among the poor, and in a randomized control trial in Kenya we test a crop insurance product which removes it. The product is interlinked with a contract farming scheme: as with other inputs, the buyer of the crop offers the insurance and deducts the premium from farmer revenues at harvest time. The take-up rate is 72%, compared to 5% for the standard upfront contract, and take-up is highest among poorer farmers. Additional experiments and outcomes indicate that liquidity constraints, present bias, and counterparty risk are all important constraints on the demand for standard insurance. Finally, evidence from a natural experiment in the United States, exploiting a change in the timing of the premium payment for Federal Crop Insurance, shows that the transfer across time also affects insurance adoption in developed countries.

Lorenzo Casaburi, Jack Willis Summary Download

This paper analyzes the developmental origins and the evolution of health, cognitive, and socio-emotional skills during early childhood, from age 0 to 5. We explicitly model the dynamic interactions of health with the child's behavior and cognitive skills, as well as the role of parental investment. A dynamic factor model corrects for the presence of measurement error in the proxy for the latent traits. Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), we find that children's capabilities strongly interact and build on each other: health is an important determinant of early socio-emotional development; in turn socio-emotional skills have a positive impact on the evolution of both health and cognitive functions; on the other side, the effect of cognitive abilities on health is negligible. Furthermore, all facets of human capital display a high degree of persistence. Finally, mother's investments are an important determinant of the child's health, cognitive, and socio-emotional development early in life.

Pietro Biroli Summary Download

We study the impact of international long-distance flights on the global spatial allocation of economic activity. To identify causal effects, we exploit variation due to regulatory and technological constraints which give rise to a discontinuity in connectedness between cities at a distance of 6000 miles. We show that these air links have a positive effect on local economic activity, as captured by satellite-measured night lights. To shed light on how air links shape economic outcomes, we first present evidence of positive externalities in the global network of air links: connections induce further connections. We then find that air links increase business links, showing that the movement of people fosters the movement of capital. In particular, this is driven mostly by capital flowing from high-income to middle-income (but not low-income) countries. Taken together, our results suggest that increasing interconnectedness generates economic activity at the local level by inducing links between businesses, but also gives rise to increased spatial inequality locally, and potentially globally.

Filipe Campante, David Yanagizawa-Drott Summary Download

We study the differential impact of large exchange rate devaluations on the cost of living at different points on the income distribution. Across product categories, the poor have relatively high expenditure shares in tradeable products. Within tradeable product categories, the poor consume lower-priced varieties. Changes in the relative price of tradeables and the relative prices of lower-priced varieties following a devaluation will affect the cost of the consumption basket of the low-income households relative that of the high-income households. We quantify these effects following the 1994 Mexican peso devaluation and show that their distributional consequences can be large. In the two years that follow the devaluation, the cost of the consumption basket of those in the bottom decile of the income distribution rose between 1.46 and 1.6 times more than the cost of the consumption basket for the top income decile.

Javier Cravino, Andrei A. Levchenko Summary Download

We study from both a theoretical and an empirical perspective how a network of military alliances and enmities affects the intensity of a conflict. The model combines elements from network theory and from the politico-economic theory of conflict. We postulate a Tullock contest success function augmented by an externality: each group’s strength is increased by the fighting effort of its allies, and weakened by the fighting effort of its rivals. We obtain a closed form characterization of the Nash equilibrium of the fighting game, and of how the network structure affects individual and total fighting efforts. We then perform an empirical analysis using data on the Second CongoWar, a conflict that involves many groups in a complex network of informal alliances and rivalries. We estimate the fighting externalities, and use these to infer the extent to which the conflict intensity can be reduced through (i) removing individual groups involved in the conflict; (ii) pacification policies aimed at alleviating animosity among groups.

Michael D. König, Dominic Rohner, Mathias Thoenig, Fabrizio Zilibotti Summary Download

Even before the Great Recession, U.S. employment growth was unimpressive. Between 2000 and 2007, the economy gave back the considerable employment gains achieved during the 1990s, with a historic contraction in manufacturing employment being a prime contributor to the slump. We estimate that import competition from China, which surged after 2000, was a major force behind both recent reductions in U.S. manufacturing employment and —through input-output linkages and other general equilibrium channels— weak overall U.S. job growth. Our central estimates suggest job losses from rising Chinese import competition over 1999 through 2011 in the range of 2.0 to 2.4 million.

Daron Acemoglu, David Autor, David Dorn, Gordon H. Hanson, Brendan Price Summary Download

A pervasive, yet little acknowledged feature of international migration to developed countries is that newly arriving immigrants are increasingly highly skilled. This paper analyses the factors affecting the change in the skill composition of immigrants in Switzerland between 1980 and 2010 using a framework suggested by Grogger & Hanson (2011). Our findings suggest that improved schooling in origin countries of immigrants and a shift in the relative demand for highly educated workers in destinations stand out as the two most important drivers. Yet, while improved schooling would predict only a modest increase in the share of highly educated immigrants and a large increase of middle educated immigrants, we show that demand shifts associated with computerisation are crucial to understand why the share of highly educated immigrants increased sharply while the share of middle educated workers merely stabilised. Additionally, our framework allows evaluating the effect of changes in immigration policy. We find that the recent abolition of quotas for workers from European countries through a bilateral agreement with the EU in 2002 had a small but negative effect on the educational quality of immigrants.

Andreas Beerli, Ronald Indergand Summary Download

We estimate productivities at the sector level for 72 countries and 5 decades, and examine how they evolve over time in both developed and developing countries. In both country groups, comparative advantage has become weaker: productivity grew systematically faster in sectors that were initially at greater comparative disadvantage. These changes have had a signicant impact on trade volumes and patterns, and a non-negligible welfare impact. In the counterfactual scenario in which each country’s comparative advantage remained the same as in the 1960s, and technology in all sectors grew at the same country-specic average rate, trade volumes would be higher, cross-country export patterns more dissimilar, and intra-industry trade lower than in the data. In this counterfactual scenario, welfare is also 1.6% higher for the median country compared to the baseline. The welfare impact varies greatly across countries, ranging from −1.1% to +4.3% among OECD countries, and from −4.6% to +41.9% among non-OECD countries.

Andrei A. Levchenko, Jing Zhang Summary Download

This paper studies the effects of the apprenticeship system on innovation and labor market polarization. A stylized model with two key features is developed: (1) apprentices are more productive due to industry-specific training, but (2) from the firm’s perspective, when training apprentices, technological innovation is costly since training becomes obsolete. Thus, apprentices correlate with slower adoption of skill-replacing technologies, but also less employment polarization. We test this hypothesis on German regions given local variation in apprenticeship systems until 1976. The results shows no employment polarization related to apprentices, but similar displacement of non-apprentices as in the US.

Michelle Rendall, Franziska J. Weiss Summary Download

We study the impact of the integration of women in US policing between the late 1970s and early 1990s on violent crime reporting and domestic violence escalation. Along these two key dimensions, we find that female officers improved police quality. Using crime victimization data, we find that as female representation increases among officers in an area, violent crimes against women in that area, and especially domestic violence, are reported to the police at significantly higher rates. There are no such effects for violent crimes against men or from increases in the female share among civilian police employees. Furthermore, we find evidence that female officers help prevent the esca¬lation of domestic violence. Increases in female officer representation are followed by significant declines in intimate partner homicide rates and in rates of repeated domestic abuse. These effects are all consistent between fixed effects models with controls for economic and policy variables and models that focus exclusively on increases in female police employment driven by externally imposed affirmative action plans resulting from employment discrimination cases.

Amalia R. Miller, Carmit Segal Summary Download

We develop a theory of intergenerational transmission of preferences that rationalizes the choice between alternative parenting styles (as set out in Baumrind 1967). Parents maximize an objective function that combines Beckerian altruism and paternalism towards children. They can affect their children’s choices via two channels: either by influencing children’s preferences or by imposing direct restrictions on their choice sets. Different parenting styles (authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive) emerge as equilibrium outcomes, and are affected both by parental preferences and by the socioeconomic environment. Parenting style, in turn, feeds back into the children’s wel¬fare and economic success. The theory is consistent with the decline of authoritarian parenting observed in industrialized countries, and with the greater prevalence of more permissive parenting in countries characterized by low inequality.

Matthias Doepke, Fabrizio Zilibotti Download

Social capital is often associated with desirable political and economic outcomes. This paper connects a growing literature on the "dark side" of social capital with institutional change. We examine the downfall of democracy in interwar Germany. Using new data on Nazi Party entry in a cross-section of cities, we show that dense networks of civic associations such as bowling clubs, choirs, and animal breeders went hand-in-hand with a more rapid rise of the Nazi Party. Towns with one standard deviation higher asso¬ciation density saw at least one-third faster entry. All types of associations – veteran associations and non-military clubs, "bridging" and "bonding" associations – positively predict NS Party entry. Party membership, in turn, predicts electoral success. These results suggest that social capital aided the rise of the Nazi movement that ultimately destroyed Germany’s first democracy. We also show that the effects of social capital were more important in the starting phase of the Nazi movement, and in towns less sympathetic to its message.

Shanker Satyanath, Nico Voigtländer, Hans-Joachim Voth Download

This paper studies the stability of socially responsible behavior in markets. We develop a laboratory product market in which low-cost production creates a negative externality for third parties, but where alternative production with higher costs entirely mitigates the externality. Our data reveal a robust and persistent preference for avoiding negative social impact in the market, reflected both in the composition of product types and in a price premium for socially responsible products. Socially responsible behavior in the market is generally robust to varying market characteristics, such as increased seller competition and limited consumer information. Fair behavior in the market is slightly lower than that measured in comparable individual decisions.

Björn Bartling, Roberto A. Weber Download

The process of economic reforms launched in 1978, and gradually extended until current days, has catapulted China into a stellar growth trajectory that has proven highly resilient. In this paper, we estimate the effect on economic development of China’s industrial policy, in particular, the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ), a salient economic reform. We use data from a panel of 276 Chinese cities and prefectures from 1988 to 2010. Our difference-in-difference estimator exploits the variation in the establishment of SEZ across time and space. We find that the establishment of a state-level SEZ is associated with an increase in the level of GDP of about 20%, but not with a permanently steeper growth path. This finding is confirmed with alternative specifications and in a sub-sample of inland provinces, where the selection of cities to host the zones was based on administrative criteria. Decomposing the effect of SEZ on GDP into different channels shows that this worked mainly through the accumulation of physical capital, although there is some evidence of increasing productivity and human capital investments. Using light intensity as an alternative measure for economic activity confirms the positive effects of SEZ.

Simon Alder, Lin Shao, Fabrizio Zilibotti Download

A key ingredient of many popular asset pricing models is that investors exhibit countercyclical risk aversion, which helps explain major economic puzzles such as the strong and systematic variation in risk premiums over time and the high volatility of asset prices. There is, however, surprisingly little evidence for this assumption because it is difficult to control for the host of factors that change simultaneously during financial booms and busts. We circumvent these control problems by priming financial professionals with either a boom or a bust scenario and by subsequently measuring their risk aversion in two experimental investment tasks with real monetary stakes. Subjects who were primed with a financial bust were substantially more risk averse than those who were primed with a boom. Subjects were also more fearful in the bust than in the boom condition, and their fear is negatively related to investments in the risky asset, suggesting that fear may play an important role in countercyclical risk aversion. The mechanism described in this paper is relevant for theory and has important implications, as it provides the basis for a self-reinforcing process that amplifies market dynamics.

Alain Cohn, Jan Engelmann, Ernst Fehr, Michel Maréchal Download

We analyze the effects of the unprecedented rise in trade between Germany and "the East" – China and Eastern Europe – in the period 1988–2008 on German local labor markets. Using detailed administrative data, we exploit the cross-regional variation in initial industry structures and use trade flows of other high-income countries as instruments for regional import and export exposure. We find that the rise of "the East" in the world economy caused substantial job losses in German regions specialized in import-competing industries, both in manufacturing and beyond. Regions specialized in export-oriented industries, however, experienced even stronger employment gains and lower unemployment. In the aggregate, we estimate that this trade integration has caused some 493,000 additional jobs in the economy and contributed to retaining the manufacturing sector in Germany. We also conduct our analysis at the individual worker level, and find that trade had a stabilizing overall effect on employment relationships.

Wolfgang Dauth, Sebastian Findeisen, Jens Suedekum Download

Authority and power permeate political, social, and economic life, but empirical knowledge about the motivational origins and consequences of authority is limited. We study the motivation and incentive effects of authority experimentally in an authority-delegation game. Individuals often retain authority even when its delegation is in their material interest – suggesting that authority has non-pecuniary consequences for utility. Authority also leads to over-provision of effort by the controlling parties, while a large percentage of subordinates under-provide effort despite pecuniary incentives to the contrary. Authority thus has important motivational consequences that exacerbate the inefficiencies arising from suboptimal delegation choices.

Ernst Fehr, Holger Herz, Tom Wilkening Download

Intergenerational inequality and old-age poverty are salient issues in contemporary China. China's aging population threatens the fiscal sustainability of its pension system, a key vehicle for intergenerational redistribution. We analyze the positive and normative effects of alternative pension reforms, using a dynamic general equilibrium model that incorporates population dynamics and productivity growth. Although a reform is necessary, delaying its implementation implies large welfare gains for the (poorer) current generations, imposing only small costs on (richer) future generations. In contrast, a fully funded reform harms current generations, with small gains to future generations. High wage growth is key for these results.

Zheng Song, Kjetil Storesletten, Yikai Wang, Fabrizio Zilibotti Download