Econometrica Volume 88, Issue 4 (July 2020) has just been published. The full content of the journal is accessible at
State Capacity, Reciprocity, and the Social Contract
This paper explores the role of civic culture in expanding fiscal capacity by developing a model based on reciprocal obligations: citizens pay their taxes and the state provides public goods. Civic culture evolves over time according to the relative payoff of civic‐minded and materialist citizens. A strong civic culture manifests itself as high tax revenues sustained by high levels of voluntary tax compliance and provision of public goods. This captures the idea of government as a reciprocal social contract between the state and its citizens. The paper highlights the role of political institutions and common interests in the emergence of civic culture.
Treating civic preferences as endogenous and government policies and tax capacities as both an influence on and a consequence of their evolution is an important new strand of thinking to which Besley has contributed. I ask: Does his model provide a convincing explanation of the way that civic cultures and the expansion of the state evolved as a matter of historical fact? And I suggest a number of alternative modeling approaches that both would recognize that policy makers take account of the effects of their policy choices on preferences and, consistent with empirical observations, would support equilibria with culturally heterogeneous rather than homogeneous populations.
In this note, I discuss avenues for future research stemming from Besley's [this issue] theoretical approach on the interconnections between civicness, institutions, and state‐fiscal capacity. First, I lay down some ideas on how one could extend the framework to model fragility traps that characterize many low‐income countries and study issues related to nation‐building, conflict, and heterogeneity across space and ethnic lines in the provision of public goods. Second, I discuss the relevance of the approach for the analysis of authoritarian populism that is spreading in developed countries and emerging markets.
On the Empirical Validity of Cumulative Prospect Theory: Experimental Evidence of Rank-Independent Probability Weighting
B. Douglas Bernheim, Charles Sprenger
Cumulative Prospect Theory (CPT), the leading behavioral account of decisionmaking under uncertainty, avoids the dominance violations implicit in Prospect Theory (PT) by assuming that the probability weight applied to a given outcome depends on its ranking. We devise a simple and direct nonparametric method for measuring the change in relative probability weights resulting from a change in payoff ranks. We find no evidence that these weights are even modestly sensitive to ranks. Conventional calibrations of CPT preferences imply that the percentage change in probability weights should be an order of magnitude larger than we observe. It follows either that probability weighting is not rank‐dependent, or that the weighting function is nearly linear. Nonparametric measurement of the change in relative probability weights resulting from changes in probabilities rules out the second possibility. Additional tests nevertheless indicate that the dominance patterns predicted by PT do not arise. We reconcile these findings by positing a form of complexity aversion that generalizes the well‐known certainty effect.
Optimal Transport Networks in Spatial Equilibrium
Pablo D. Fajgelbaum, Edouard Schaal
We study optimal transport networks in spatial equilibrium. We develop a framework consisting of a neoclassical trade model with labor mobility in which locations are arranged on a graph. Goods must be shipped through linked locations, and transport costs depend on congestion and on the infrastructure in each link, giving rise to an optimal transport problem in general equilibrium. The optimal transport network is the solution to a social planner's problem of building infrastructure in each link. We provide conditions such that this problem is globally convex, guaranteeing its numerical tractability. We also study cases with increasing returns to transport technologies in which global convexity fails. We apply the framework to assess optimal investments and inefficiencies in the road networks of European countries.
Estimating the Effect of Treatments Allocated by Randomized Waiting Lists
Clément de Chaisemartin, Luc Behaghel
Oversubscribed treatments are often allocated using randomized waiting lists. Applicants are ranked randomly, and treatment offers are made following that ranking until all seats are filled. To estimate causal effects, researchers often compare applicants getting and not getting an offer. We show that those two groups are not statistically comparable. Therefore, the estimator arising from that comparison is inconsistent when the number of waitlists goes to infinity. We propose a new estimator, and show that it is consistent, provided the waitlists have at least two seats. Finally, we revisit an application, and we show that using our estimator can lead to a statistically significant difference with respect to the results obtained using the commonly used estimator.
Social Media and Protest Participation: Evidence from Russia
Ruben Enikolopov, Alexey Makarin, Maria Petrova
Do new communication technologies, such as social media, alleviate the collective action problem? This paper provides evidence that penetration of VK, the dominant Russian online social network, led to more protest activity during a wave of protests in Russia in 2011. As a source of exogenous variation in network penetration, we use the information on the city of origin of the students who studied with the founder of VK, controlling for the city of origin of the students who studied at the same university several years earlier or later. We find that a 10% increase in VK penetration increased the probability of a protest by 4.6% and the number of protesters by 19%. Additional results suggest that social media induced protest activity by reducing the costs of coordination rather than by spreading information critical of the government. We observe that VK penetration increased pro‐governmental support, with no evidence of increased polarization. We also find that cities with higher fractionalization of network users between VK and Facebook experienced fewer protests, and the effect of VK on protests exhibits threshold behavior.
Tim Bollerslev, Jia Li, Andrew J. Patton, Rogier Quaedvlieg
We propose a decomposition of the realized covariance matrix into components based on the signs of the underlying high‐frequency returns, and we derive the asymptotic properties of the resulting realized semicovariance measures as the sampling interval goes to zero. The first‐order asymptotic results highlight how the same‐sign and mixed‐sign components load differently on economic information related to stochastic correlation and jumps. The second‐order asymptotic results reveal the structure underlying the same‐sign semicovariances, as manifested in the form of co‐drifting and dynamic “leverage” effects. In line with this anatomy, we use data on a large cross‐section of individual stocks to empirically document distinct dynamic dependencies in the different realized semicovariance components. We show that the accuracy of portfolio return variance forecasts may be significantly improved by exploiting the information in realized semicovariances.
On the Geography of Global Value Chains
Pol Antràs, Alonso de Gortari
This paper develops a multi‐stage general‐equilibrium model of global value chains (GVCs) and studies the specialization of countries within GVCs in a world with barriers to international trade. With costly trade, the optimal location of production of a given stage in a GVC is not only a function of the marginal cost at which that stage can be produced in a given country, but is also shaped by the proximity of that location to the precedent and the subsequent desired locations of production. We show that, other things equal, it is optimal to locate relatively downstream stages of production in relatively central locations. We also develop and estimate a tractable, quantifiable version of our model that illustrates how changes in trade costs affect the extent to which various countries participate in domestic, regional, or global value chains, and traces the real income consequences of these changes.
Yuichiro Kamada, Michihiro Kandori
This paper proposes a class of games called revision games. In a revision game, players start with initially prepared actions, followed by a sequence of random revision opportunities until a predetermined deadline. In the course of revisions, players monitor each other's behavior. It is shown that players can cooperate and that their behavior under the optimal equilibrium is described by a simple differential equation. We present the necessary and sufficient conditions for cooperation to be sustained in revision games. We also present applications to the preopening activities in the stock exchange and to an electoral campaign.
Cheap Talk with Transparent Motives
Elliot Lipnowski, Doron Ravid
We study a model of cheap talk with one substantive assumption: The sender's preferences are state independent. Our main observation is that such a sender gains credibility by degrading self‐serving information. Using this observation, we examine the sender's benefits from communication, assess the value of commitment, and explicitly solve for sender‐optimal equilibria in three examples. A key result is a geometric characterization of the value of cheap talk, described by the quasiconcave envelope of the sender's value function.
Algorithms for Stochastic Games with Perfect Monitoring
Dilip Abreu, Benjamin Brooks, Yuliy Sannikov
We study the pure‐strategy subgame‐perfect Nash equilibria of stochastic games with perfect monitoring, geometric discounting, and public randomization. We develop novel algorithms for computing equilibrium payoffs, in which we combine policy iteration when incentive constraints are slack with value iteration when incentive constraints bind. We also provide software implementations of our algorithms. Preliminary simulations indicate that they are significantly more efficient than existing methods. The theoretical results that underlie the algorithms also imply bounds on the computational complexity of equilibrium payoffs when there are two players. When there are more than two players, we show by example that the number of extreme equilibrium payoffs may be countably infinite.
Reputation and the Flow of Information in Repeated Games
Equilibrium payoff bounds from reputation effects are derived for repeated games with imperfect public monitoring in which a long‐run player interacts frequently with a population of short‐run players and the monitoring technology scales with the length of the period of interaction. The bounds depend on the monitoring technology through the flow of information, a measure of signal informativeness per unit of time based on relative entropy. Examples are shown where, under complete information, the set of equilibrium payoffs of the long‐run player converges, as the period length tends to zero, to the set of static equilibrium payoffs, whereas when the game is perturbed by a small ex ante probability on commitment types, reputation effects remain powerful in the high‐frequency limit.
Statistical Inference in Games
Yuval Salant, Josh Cherry
We consider statistical inference in games. Each player obtains a small random sample of other players' actions, uses statistical inference to estimate their actions, and chooses an optimal action based on the estimate. In a sampling equilibrium with statistical inference (SESI), the sample is drawn from the distribution of players' actions based on this process. We characterize the set of SESIs in large two‐action games, and compare their predictions to those of Nash equilibrium, and for different sample sizes and statistical inference procedures. We then study applications to competitive markets, markets with network effects, monopoly pricing, and search and matching markets.
Diverging Tests of Equal Predictive Ability
Michael W. McCracken
We investigate claims made in Giacomini and White (2006) and Diebold (2015) regarding the asymptotic normality of a test of equal predictive ability. A counterexample is provided in which, instead, the test statistic diverges with probability 1 under the null.
Rational Bubbles in UK Housing Markets: Comment on “No-Bubble Condition: Model-Free Tests in Housing Markets”
David Domeij, Tore Ellingsen
Giglio, Maggiori, and Stroebel (2016) show that there is no significant price difference between freeholds and ultra‐long leaseholds in the UK housing market. They claim that this finding precludes the presence of large rational bubbles, as these can only attach to the price of freeholds. But the conclusion presumes that leaseholders cannot acquire bubbles through enfranchisement at favorable prices. We find that the presumption is violated. Enfranchisement rights are comprehensive and cheap to exercise. We also dispute the counter‐argument that cheap enfranchisement proves that market participants, if they have rational expectations, must have explicitly concluded that freehold prices are bubbleless.
Reply to “Rational Bubbles in UK Housing Markets”
Stefano Giglio, Matteo Maggiori, Johannes Stroebel
In Giglio, Maggiori, and Stroebel (2016), we propose and implement a new test for classic rational bubbles. Such bubbles derive their value from each agent's rational expectation of being able to resell the bubble claims to the next agent. Backward induction ensures that classic rational bubbles can only exist on infinite‐maturity assets. Our empirical exercise shows that infinite‐maturity claims and 999‐year claims for otherwise identical housing assets trade at the same price, and thus rules out the presence of classic rational bubbles. Domeij and Ellingsen (DE) informally propose an alternative equilibrium of a bubble that they claim is consistent with our empirical findings. DE's bubble relies on information frictions such that market participants are unaware of the bubble. Our paper clearly excluded this type of bubble from the scope of our test, and DE's note thus has no implications for the validity of our test. Instead, DE's bubble simply represents one of many possible examples of bubbles on which our test was explicitly silent.