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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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The department was founded in 1964 and has 35 permanent members. We are a relatively young group, all committed to a rigorous analytical approach to both teaching and research. As a consequence, we have a congenial and cooperative atmosphere in which department members take an unusually active interest in their colleagues' research. There are no social or administrative distinctions between junior and senior faculty, except on promotion decisions. Eight faculty members are Fellows of the Econometric Society, three are on the Econometric Society Council, and three are Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Five are NBER Research Associates, and twelve have NSF grants.

University of California, San Diego
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Cover page of Lectures on the Theory of Competitive Equilibrium

Lectures on the Theory of Competitive Equilibrium

(2021)

Summaries by Nobel laureate Kenneth J. Arrow of his 1962 lectures on general equilibrium theory at Northwestern University.   These summaries were widely circulated but unpublished.  Reissued here, edited with updated notation. With permission of the Arrow family.

Cover page of ECONOMICS OF INNOVATION The Effects of Prize Structures on Innovative Performance

ECONOMICS OF INNOVATION The Effects of Prize Structures on Innovative Performance

(2021)

Successful innovation is essential for the survival and growth of organizations, but how best to incentivize innovation is poorly understood. We compare how two common incentive schemes affect innovative performance in a field experiment run in partnership with a large life sciences company. We find that a winner-takes-all compensation scheme generates significantly more novel innovation relative to a compensation scheme that offers the same total compensation but shares it across the ten best innovations. Moreover, the winner-takes-all scheme does not reduce innovative output on average and, among teams of innovators, generates more output than the less risky prize structure.

Conservation Agreements: Relational Contracts with Endogenous Monitoring

(2021)

Abstract This article examines the structure and performance of conservation agreements, which are relational contracts used across the world to protect natural resources. Key elements of these agreements are (1) they are ongoing arrangements between a local community and an outside party, typically a nongovernmental organization (NGO); (2) they feature payments in exchange for conservation services; (3) the prospects for success depend on the NGO engaging in costly monitoring to detect whether the community is foregoing short-term gains to protect the resource; (4) lacking a strong external enforcement system, they rely on self-enforcement; and (5) the parties have the opportunity to renegotiate at any time. A repeated-game model is developed and utilized to organize an evaluation of real conservation agreements, using three case studies as representative examples. (JEL D74, D86, Q20, Q56)

Cover page of The effect of social distancing on the reach of an epidemic in social networks.

The effect of social distancing on the reach of an epidemic in social networks.

(2021)

How does social distancing affect the reach of an epidemic in social networks? We present Monte Carlo simulation results of a susceptible-infected-removed with social distancing model. The key feature of the model is that individuals are limited in the number of acquaintances that they can interact with, thereby constraining disease transmission to an infectious subnetwork of the original social network. While increased social distancing typically reduces the spread of an infectious disease, the magnitude varies greatly depending on the topology of the network, indicating the need for policies that are network dependent. Our results also reveal the importance of coordinating policies at the 'global' level. In particular, the public health benefits from social distancing to a group (e.g. a country) may be completely undone if that group maintains connections with outside groups that are not following suit.

Cover page of The Compositional Effect of Rigorous Teacher Evaluation on Workforce Quality

The Compositional Effect of Rigorous Teacher Evaluation on Workforce Quality

(2021)

We study how the introduction of a rigorous teacher evaluation system in a large urban school district affects the quality composition of teacher turnovers. With the implementation of the new system, we document increased turnover among the least effective teachers and decreased turnover among the most effective teachers, relative to teachers in the middle of the distribution. Our findings demonstrate that the alignment between personnel decisions and teacher effectiveness can be improved through targeted personnel policies. However, the change in the composition of exiters brought on by the policy we study is too small to meaningfully impact student achievement.

Cover page of On the emergence of a power law in the distribution of COVID-19 cases.

On the emergence of a power law in the distribution of COVID-19 cases.

(2020)

The first confirmed case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the US was reported on January 21, 2020. By the end of March, 2020, there were more than 180,000 confirmed cases in the US, distributed across more than 2000 counties. We find that the right tail of this distribution exhibits a power law, with Pareto exponent close to one. We investigate whether a simple model of the growth of COVID-19 cases involving Gibrat's law can explain the emergence of this power law. The model is calibrated to match (i) the growth rates of confirmed cases, and (ii) the varying lengths of time during which COVID-19 had been present within each county. Thus calibrated, the model generates a power law with Pareto exponent nearly exactly equal to the exponent estimated directly from the distribution of confirmed cases across counties at the end of March.

Cover page of Identification and Estimation of Unconditional Policy Effects of an Endogenous Binary Treatment

Identification and Estimation of Unconditional Policy Effects of an Endogenous Binary Treatment

(2020)

This paper studies the identification and estimation of unconditional policy effects when the treatment is binary and endogenous. We first characterize the asymptotic bias of the unconditional regression estimator that ignores the endogeneity and elaborate on the channels that the endogeneity can render the unconditional regressor estimator inconsistent. We show that even if the treatment status is exogenous, the unconditional regression estimator can still be inconsistent when there are common covariates affecting both the treatment status and the outcome variable. We introduce a new class of marginal treatment effects (MTE) based on the influence function of the functional underlying the policy target. We show that an unconditional policy effect can be represented as a weighted average of the newly defined MTEs over the individuals at the margin of indifference. Point identification is achieved using the local instrumental variable approach. Furthermore, the unconditional policy effects are shown to include the marginal policy-relevant treatment effect in the literature as a special case. Methods of estimation and inference for the unconditional policy effects are provided. In the empirical application, we estimate the effect of changing college enrollment status, induced by higher tuition subsidy, on the quantiles of the wage distribution.