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Friday Research Blitz Speakers

Nels Christiansen (Trinity)The Effects of Increasing versus Decreasing Private Goods on Legislative Bargaining: Experimental Evidence
Recent interest in reducing budget deficits raises questions regarding the impact of cuts versus increases in private good allocations on legislative bargaining. We investigate this issue using an experimental design where the outcomes are theoretically isomorphic. Payoffs are similar between the two cases, but which type gets their proposals passed changes substantially. Both gains and losses help to “grease” the legislative bargaining “wheels”, reducing the time it takes to reach agreement. But gains are more effective than losses, a difference attributable to a change in agents’ reference point in going from gains to losses.
Gustavo Caballero (Calgary)Beliefs regarding the role of e ffort and luck in determining income when living in segregated societiesThis paper presents a model of boundedly rational social learning regarding the roles of effort and luck in determining higher incomes when individuals live in segregated societies. Individuals use their stories in addition to their observation of others' stories as a sample of trials and errors to inform their inferences regarding the roles of eff ort and luck. However, by living in societies segregated by income and eff ort levels, individuals procure biased samples. Given a human's tendency to attribute randomness to everyday observations (attribution biases), agents assume their samples are representative of the whole population. The model can, therefore, explain diff erences in beliefs within societies while also providing a relationship between the level of segregation and the diversity of beliefs. Speci cally, the findings reveal that disagreements will be greater in more segregated societies. This same result can be expected in many learning environments where agents are segregated based on the same variables which relationship they are trying to infer.
Soenke Ehret (NYU)Voting on Competition: Institutions and Relative Concerns in Decision Making Often, behavioral models assume “relative” social and economic concerns in voters such as preferences for social status and a desire to ”be ahead”; yet, little is known about the institutional conditions under which relative concerns manifest themselves during voting. The paper provides theory and evidence from a lab experiment on subjects voting on the distribution of capabilities in competitive environments, the prime example where relative rather than absolute preferences are supposed to be the dominant motive in voters. I examine whether institutions matter, by considering two institutional setups: (1) players are informed about the voting outcome, i.e. they know all players’ chances in competition precisely; (2) voters play a simultaneous vote-competition game, without immediately knowing the precise chances to win. Under simultaneous vote-competition (2), relative concerns should play no role, whereas under case (1) they should. The paper presents evidence for this hypothesis and further motivates the institutional distinction with relevant examples. It also investigates deviations from the prediction, concerning noisy decision making, consistency with (elicited) beliefs, and learning.
Saad Gulzar (NYU)Personalities and Public Sector Performance: Evidence from a Health Experiment in PakistanThis paper provides evidence that the personality of policy actors matters for policy outcomes. We examine the relationship between personalities, job performance, and responses to experimental policy changes in Punjab combining: (i) Big Five personality and Perry Public Sector Motivation tests of the universe of health inspectors and senior health officials and a large and representative sample of doctors; (ii) measures of job performance from unannounced visits to health facilities; (iii) a randomized evaluation of a novel smart phone monitoring technology; (iv) experimental manipulations of the presentation of data on doctor absence to senior health officials. Three results support the relevance of personalities for policy outcomes. First, person- alities predict doctor attendance and whether doctors collude with inspectors to falsify reports. Second, smartphone monitoring has the largest impact on health inspectors with high Big Five characteristics—a one SD increase in the Big Five index is associated with a 35 percentage point differential increase in inspections in response to treatment. Last, senior health officials with high Big Five characteristics are most likely to respond to a report of an underperforming facility by compelling better subsequent staff attendance. A one standard deviation increase in the Big Five score of a senior health official is associated with an additional 40 percentage point reduction in doctor absence following such a report.
Xiaoli Guo (FSU)Title: Status Quo Bias in Bargaining and War: An Experimental ApproachThe rationalist explanations of war have largely ignore the role of the disputants' risk attitude on their decisions between costly war and peaceful bargaining. This project applies game-theoretical models and lab experiments to explore, frist, how (1) the disputants' risk attitude and (2) asymmetric information of the other side's risk attitude affect the demand in crisis bargaining and the likelihood of war; second, when bargaining is placed in a context of entitlement, whether and how the disputants change their risk attitude, and adjust their behavior and decisions. This project may provide another explanation of the cause of war, and how war and peaceful bargaining as two mechanisms of dispute solution differ from each other, except that war is costly.
Hye-Sung Kim (Rochester)The Effects of Candidate Attributes in Africa: A Fully-Randomized Conjoint Analysis for Facebook Users in UgandaI use a fully randomized conjoint experiment to identify the causal effects of candidate ethnicity, policy positions, parties, clientelistic promises, electability, and their relationships with local leaders on voters' preferences. The experiment is based on data collected by recruiting Facebook users in Uganda. The finding suggests that Ugandan Facebook users prefer candidates who show fairly high electability indicated by the expected vote share through a public opinion poll and those who are supported by most of their local leaders. Contrary to the common understanding, parties and ethnicity generally do not have much impact on voters’ preferences, although a certain party and ethnicity could be a disadvantage to a candidate. This suggests that the effects of parties and ethnicities found in observational studies can be attributable to the electability of candidates conveyed by candidates’ parties or ethnicity. In addition, Ugandan respondents show preferences against candidates making clientelistic promises by promoting tribal aspirations. Policy positions are not found to have influence on their preferences.​
Lucy Martin (Yale)Taxation, Loss Aversion, and Accountability: Theory and Experimental Evidence for Taxation’s Effect on Citizen Behavior
While corruption is a key challenge for state development, we still know little about what factors affect citizens’ toleration of non-accountable behavior by government officials. This paper argues that taxation is a significant predictor of citizens’ demands, introducing and formalizing a micro-level theory of how taxation affects citizens’ preferences over accountability. By taking away earned income, taxation pushes loss-averse citizens below their reference point, increasing the utility citizens lose from corruption and making them more likely to enact costly sanctions against non-accountable officials. Novel laboratory experiments, conducted in Uganda, find that taxation increases citizens’ willingness to punish leaders by 12% overall, and by 30% among the group who has the most experience paying taxes in Uganda. Additional experiments confirm that this effect is driven by the loss aversion mechanism, and a conjoint survey experiment demonstrates support for taxation’s effect on citizen behavior among politically-active Ugandans.
Kai Ou (NYU)The Origin of Other-regarding VotingI investigate the relationship between economic status and voting behavior in a two-stage, real-effort experiment. In the first stage, participants can strive for a relative economic status---an initial endowment and/or a role of a game. I vary the institution of earning economic status in terms of both whether the subjects can earn to be a member of a voter group, and by whether subjects can earn a varied payment in the real-effort task. In the second stage, I consider a voluntary voting game in which one of the choices is the socially optimal choice, and two types of players engage in the voting game. The experiments were conducted using nonstudent villagers in China in a ``lab in the field'' experiment as well as with students at a university in the United States in a standard laboratory, providing both internal and external validity to the results. I find that subjects' choices are significantly influenced by the institution which determines economic status, such that when subjects need to strive for their voter identities (types), they are more likely to abstain. The less effort expends in the real-effort task, the more likely individuals will abstain in the voting games. In addition, those who strived for the highest incomes are significantly less likely to engage in other-regarding voting than those who earned relatively less income.
Ju Yeon Park (NYU)When to Stack the Deck in Public Hearings: Strategic Decisions over Hearings and Witness Selection
In principle, committees hold hearings in order to gather and provide information to their principals, but some hearings are characterized as political showcases. However, previous theoretical research suggests that committees only hold costly hearings in order to gain information. By presenting a game-theoretic model of public hearings and witness selection and a lab experiment, this paper investigates a committee’s decisions to call experts depending on the preference differences within the committee, the power of the chair, and the neutrality of a principal. I find that sometimes committees hold hearings that help the principal make an informed decision, but in other times they grandstand in pursuit of political gains.
Austin Wang (Duke)Intertemporal Choice and DemocracyTheory of democratization and social capital assumes that longer time horizon of the public promotes the quality of democracy. This assumption is widely accepted without empirical falsification. Researchers in Economics measure the individual discounting rate through a series of choice between immediate and delay reward. Discounting rate is found correlated with personal behaviors like drug use and smoking. This measurement, however, fails to account for the presence of others in decision making process, which undermines its applicability on explaining social and political behavior. A representative survey data of Taiwanese adult (n=837) shows that the individual discounting rate has no correlation to self-reported voting, attachment to party, political discussion, news consumption, political interests, and democratic belief. The effect remains insignificance controlling social-demographic background. Implication on measuring intertemporal choice and democratic theory is also discussed.