| CV |
| Published Papers |
| In Progress|
| LSE Economics |
Position: Associate Professor of Economics (with tenure)
Research Interests: Public Economics, Behavioral Economics, Applied Theory
Other Positions, Affiliations and Awards:
Job Opportunity: Pre-doctoral Full-time Research Assistants
Abstract: This paper analyses job seekers' perceptions and their relationship to unemployment outcomes to study heterogeneity and duration-dependence in both perceived and actual job finding. Using longitudinal data from two comprehensive surveys, we document (1) that reported beliefs have strong predictive power of actual job finding, (2) that job seekers are over-optimistic in their beliefs, particularly the long-term unemployed, and (3) that job seekers do not revise their beliefs downward when remaining unemployed. We then develop a reduced-form statistical framework where we exploit the joint observation of beliefs and ex-post realizations, to disentangle heterogeneity and duration-dependence in true job finding rates while allowing for elicitation errors and systematic biases in beliefs. We find a substantial amount of heterogeneity in true job finding rates, accounting for almost all of the observed decline in job finding rates over the spell of unemployment. Moreover, job seekers' beliefs are systematically biased and under-respond to these differences in job finding rates. Finally, we show theoretically and quantify in a calibrated model of job search how biased beliefs contribute to the slow exit out of unemployment. The biases can explain more than 10 percent of the incidence of long-term unemployment.
Abstract: In the absence of unemployment insurance (UI) choices, the standard approach to estimating the value of UI is to infer it from the observed consumption response to job loss in combination with some assumption on preferences. Exploiting the unique data and policy context in Sweden, we propose two alternative approaches, which we implement and compare to the standard consumption-based approach on the exact same sample of workers. Our empirical analysis reveals that the drop in consumption expenditures upon job loss is relatively small (~13 percent), but that the marginal propensity to consume (MPC), estimated using variation in local government transfers, is 30-40 percent higher when unemployed than when employed. This wedge in MPCs, the focus of our first approach, reveals a high relative price of smoothing consumption, which confirms direct evidence on the limited consumption smoothing means available during unemployment. The estimated relative price provides a lower-bound on the value of UI, which turns out to be substantially higher than the consumption-based estimate under standard preference assumptions. Exploiting the UI choices embedded in the Swedish UI system, we also propose a Revealed-Preference approach, which confirms that the average value of UI is large in our setting, but also reveals substantial dispersion in the value of UI, above and beyond the variation in consumption drops.
Abstract: We study the impact of deterrence, tax morale, and simplifying information on tax compliance. We ran five experiments spanning the tax process which varied the communication of the tax administration with all income taxpayers in Belgium. A consistent picture emerges across experiments: (i) simplifying communication increases compliance, (ii) deterrence messages have an additional positive effect, (iii) invoking tax morale is not effective. Even tax morale messages that improve knowledge and appreciation of public services do not raise compliance. In fact, heterogeneity analysis with causal forests shows that tax morale treatments backfire for most taxpayers. In contrast, simplification has large positive effects on compliance, which diminish over time due to follow-up enforcement. A discontinuity in enforcement intensity, combined with the experimental variation, allows us to compare our letter treatments against standard enforcement measures. The simplification treatments are far more cost-effective, allowing for substantial savings on enforcement costs, and also improve compliance in the next tax cycle.
Abstract: This paper studies whether adverse selection can rationalize a universal mandate for unemployment insurance (UI). Building on a unique feature of the unemployment policy in Sweden, where workers can opt for supplemental UI coverage above a minimum mandate, we provide the first direct evidence for adverse selection in UI and derive its implications for UI design. We find that the unemployment risk is more than twice as high for workers who buy supplemental coverage, even when controlling for a rich set of observables. Exploiting variation in risk and prices to control for moral hazard, we show how this correlation is driven by substantial risk-based selection. Despite the severe adverse selection, we find that mandating the supplemental coverage is dominated by a design leaving the choice to workers. In this design, a large subsidy for supplemental coverage is optimal and complementary to the use of a minimum mandate. Our findings raise questions about the desirability of the universal mandate of generous UI in other countries, which has not been tested before.
Abstract: Demand for insurance can be driven by high risk aversion or high risk. We show how to separately identify risk preferences and risk types using only choices from menus of insurance plans. Our revealed preference approach does not rely on rational expectations, nor does it require access to claims data. We show what can be learned non-parametrically from variation in insurance plans, offered separately to random cross-sections or offered as part of the same menu to one cross-section. We prove that our approach allows for full identification in the textbook model with binary risks and extend our results to continuous risks. We illustrate our approach using the Massachusetts Health Insurance Exchange, where choices provide informative bounds on the type distributions, especially for risks, but do not allow us to reject homogeneity in preferences.
Abstract: This paper measures consumption expenditures using registry data on income and asset holdings in Sweden and illustrates how a registry-based measure can alleviate some critical limitations of traditional survey measures in capturing changes in consumption inequality and consumption responses to shocks. In the construction of our measure, we build on previous work exploiting the identity coming from the household budget constraint between consumption expenditures and income net of savings. We try to improve this measure using more registry information to account for the contribution of both financial and real assets to consumption flows. We demonstrate the power of the registry-based measure to study the relationship between income and consumption inequality, especially at the top of the income distribution. We also exploit the longitudinal dimension to study consumption responses to important life-time events and the different means used to smooth consumption.
Abstract: The article revisits the central trade-off between insurance and incentives in the design of UI policies. The generosity of UI benefits does not just differ across countries, but also across workers within countries. After illustrating some important dimensions of heterogeneity in a cross-country analysis, I extend the standard Baily-Chetty formula to identify the key empirical moments and elasticities required to evaluate the differentiated unemployment policy within a country. The article reviews some prior work and aims to provide guidance for future work trying to inform the design of unemployment policies.
© 2018 London School of Economics. All rights reserved. Picture by Jef Boes.