Colloquia - Fall 2016


IPR Colloquia

Leslie McCall
Professor of Sociology and IPR Fellow

“The Opportunity Model of Beliefs About Inequality and Redistribution”

Abstract: The opportunity model posits that Americans care most about economic inequality when they think it is restricting economic opportunities. McCall and her collaborators test this model using survey experiments in one paper, and new survey questions about redistribution in nationally representative surveys in the United States and Sweden in another paper. McCall will present findings from both papers, which are generally supportive of the model.

October 3, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Thomas Ogorzalek
Assistant Professor of Political Science and Urban Studies, and IPR Associate

“Antiracism without Antiracists: City Representation and Racial Realignment, 1933-63”

Abstract: The origins of today’s “red-blue” political alignment are attributed to strategic choices by national party leaders in the 1960s, the pathologies of Southern white supremacists, and the virtues of the civil rights movement and its ideological allies in the decades preceding the landmark legislation of the 1960s. This talk, based on a chapter in a forthcoming book, considers the importance of cities in providing a substrate of cohesive support for civil rights. Even though they typically did not represent any African-Americans, and often faced a strong signal of racial conservatism from their districts, city representatives—especially those from strong party organizations of which African-Americans were a part—were much more likely to support civil rights for African-Americans in speeches and roll calls in the House. Despite deep divisions at home, cities were cohesively liberal in the national legislature, articulating and defending an emerging and distinctively urban vision of intergroup comity that transformed American politics.

October 10, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Wesley G. Skogan
Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow

“Stop and Frisk and Police Legitimacy in Chicago”

Abstract: Skogan will examine the origins and consequences of “stop and frisk,” which has become the crime-prevention strategy of choice in American policing. Some of the collateral consequences of turning to an aggressive stop-and-frisk style of policing include that —from the point of view of the citizens involved—these stops might seem unwarranted. Even in crime “hot spots,” most people, most of the time, are just going about their daily lives, and the police’s ability to accurately select suitably “hot people” from among them is very limited. Another collateral consequence is that stops might be unfairly distributed. A risk is that citizens’ apparent race, age, social class, and gender might provide the principal flags by which officers identify hot people for investigation. Third, the collateral damage of a stop-and-frisk crime prevention strategy might include undermining the legitimacy of the police, and perhaps that of the state. A new survey of Chicago residents speaks to all of these potential consequences of stop and frisk.

October 17, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Lori Beaman
Associate Professor of Economics and IPR Fellow

“Improving the Productivity of Subsistence Farmers: Policy Lessons from Mali”

Abstract: In Mali, as in many parts of Africa, growing crops to sell or for subsistence is the main way women and families generate income. However, despite its importance, agricultural yields are low, and modern agricultural advances, such as better seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, are not used as much as they could be. To understand this issue, Beaman and her co-authors investigated whether three types of interventions—cash grants, microfinance loans designed for farmers, and gifts of fertilizer—are effective at increasing the size of farmers’ harvests. Beaman found cash grants increased investments in cultivation, and many farmers experienced large returns to capital. Meanwhile, farmers with particularly high returns to investment were much more likely to receive loans. According to Beaman, typical microcredit loan contracts are ill suited for agriculture, but a tailored product shows promise for some—but not all—farmers.

October 24, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Jane Holl
Mary Harris Thompson, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Preventative Medicine and IPR Associate

“Redesigning Transplant Organ Labeling and Identification: An Innovative Approach to Improve Patient Safety”

Abstract: Over 28,000 organ transplants are performed in the United States annually and, as of 2013, labels used at procurement were still being completed by hand. Holl and her co-authors conducted a three phase project that included: (1) Risk assessment to identify and rank failures and their underlying causes in the organ labeling and identification process; (2) Development, based on the risk assessment findings, and testing of a tablet application (“app”) to generate and wirelessly print standardized, barcoded labels and Donor ID bands; and (3) Use of high-fidelity, laboratory-based simulations to assess organ procurement workflow with the new “app” and assess potential unintended consequences. Key identified “high criticality” risks include: accuracy of donor information on the label, identification of the laterality of a kidney, and validation of receipt of the right donor organ for the right recipient. The “app” that was designed and developed is estimated to address 65% of the top ten identified high-criticality risks. This study highlights the application of applying systems engineering approaches prior to reformulating policy and procedure, in order to achieve a high reliability, sustainable system that, also seeks to proactively mitigate unintended consequences of change.

October 31, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Seth Stein
William Deering Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and IPR Associate

“Assessing and Mitigating Natural Hazards: How Can We Do Better?”

Abstract: Defending society against natural hazards is a high-stakes game of chance in which we often do poorly. Much of the problem arises because formulating effective policy involves using a complicated combination of geoscience, engineering, risk analysis, economics, behavioral science, and politics to assess a hazard and explore the costs and benefits of different options in situations where the future is very uncertain. Generally, mitigation policies are chosen without such analysis, often with poor results. Ongoing projects at Northwestern include assessing the performance of hazard maps used to plan earthquake-resistant construction; investigating why earthquakes occur in surprising places like the Midwest and how to prepare for them; examining what controls the space-time variability of earthquake occurrence, including a study of how to assess hazard and mitigate it in Nepal; and improving the education of young hazard researchers.

November 7, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


IPR Panel: Policy Implications of the 2016 Presidential Election

David Dranove
Walter McNerney Distinguished Professor of Health Industry Management; Professor and Chair of Strategy; and IPR Associate

Laurel Harbridge Yong
Associate Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow

Andrew Koppelman
John Paul Stevens Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science

Julie Lee Merseth
Assistant Professor of Political Science and IPR Associate

November 14, 2016 • Scott Hall, 601 University Place • IPR 


Daniel Rodriguez
Dean and Harold Washington Professor, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and IPR Fellow

“Local Governance and the New Political Economy”

Bio: Daniel Rodriguez is Dean and Harold Washington Professor at Northwestern Pritzker Law School. A nationally prominent law teacher and scholar, Rodriguez’s principal academic work is in the areas of administrative law, local government law, and constitutional law. He also studies the law-business-technology interface and its impact on the future of legal education, as well as how political economy can be applied to the study of public law. In 2014, Rodriguez served as president of the Association of American Law Schools. He is currently a council member of the American Law Institute and a member of the board of directors of the American Bar Foundation. He received his law degree from Harvard in 1987.

November 21, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Simone Ispa-Landa
Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow

“Family, School and Gender: Comparing Enrolled vs. Waitlisted Black Students for an Urban-to-Suburban Bussing Program”

Abstract: More than 40 years have passed since policymakers introduced busing programs as a way to reduce the racial isolation and segregation of majority-white public schools, but we still lack in-depth knowledge about the everyday experiences of students in these schools, leading to a lack of knowledge about the processes through which these programs could affect students. Ispa-Landa highlights her findings from a comparative study of the everyday family and school experiences of African-American students who were enrolled or waitlisted for Diversify, an urban-to-suburban racial integration program. Her findings suggest that long-term exposure to affluent, majority-white suburban schooling contexts can benefit poor and working-class African-American adolescents, although it heightens the risk that they will come to accept damaging beliefs about the in-group. Further, the goal of creating an inclusive school environment was hampered by white students’ and teachers’ limited ability to recognize and confront troubling race and gender dynamics.

November 28, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Joint Economics/IPR Seminar Series

Hoyt Bleakley
Associate Professor of Economics, University of Michigan

“Longevity, Education and Income: How Large is the Triangle?”

Abstract: While health affects economic development through a variety of pathways, one commonly suggested mechanism is a “horizon” channel in which increased longevity induces additional education. A recent literature devotes much attention to how much education responds to increasing longevity, but this study asks instead what impact this specific channel has on well-being. Bleakley notes that death is like a tax on human-capital investments, which suggests the use of a standard public-economics tool: triangles. He constructs estimates of the triangle gain if education adjusts to lower adult mortality. Even for implausibly large responses of education to survival differences, almost all of today’s low-human-development countries would gain less than 15% of income through this channel if switched to Japan’s survival curve. Calibrating the model with well-identified micro- and cohort-level studies, Bleakley finds that the horizon triangle for the typical low-income country is less than a percent of lifetime income. Similarly, increased survival in the 20th-century United States generates a triangle less than 1% of initial income.

October 6, 2016 • Andersen Hall 3245, Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road • IPR


Martin Rossi
Associate Professor of Economics, University of San Andrés, Argentina

“Subsidized Home-Ownership Programs, Transaction Costs, and Domestic Violence”

Abstract: Rossi and his colleagues exploit the random assignment rule implemented by the government of the municipality of Salto (Argentina) in its program of social housing in order to identify the effect of the program on subsequent domestic violence. Beneficiaries receive a finished house in exchange for a long-term credit at a heavily subsidized rate, and are entitled to legal ownership after full payment. Using administrative records and detailed survey data, they find that subsidized home-ownership programs to low-income households are associated with an increase in reported domestic violence. They explore various potential mechanisms and conclude that the empirical evidence only favors the mechanism of an increase in transaction costs associated with exiting a relationship.

October 13, 2016 • Andersen Hall 3245, Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road • IPR


Christopher Walters
Assistant Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley

“Leveraging Lotteries for School Value-Added: Testing and Estimation”

Abstract: Conventional value-added models (VAMs) compare average test scores across schools after regression-adjusting for students’ demographic characteristics and previous scores. This paper tests for VAM bias using a procedure that asks whether VAM estimates accurately predict the achievement consequences of random assignment to specific schools. Test results from admissions lotteries in Boston suggest conventional VAM estimates are biased, which motivates the development of a hierarchical model describing the joint distribution of school value-added, bias, and lottery compliance. We use this model to assess the substantive importance of bias in conventional VAM estimates and to construct hybrid value-added estimates that optimally combine ordinary least squares and lottery-based instrumental variables estimates of VAM parameters. The hybrid estimation strategy provides a general recipe for combining non-experimental and quasi-experimental estimates. While still biased, hybrid school value-added estimates have lower mean squared error than conventional VAM estimates. Simulations calibrated to the Boston data show that, bias notwithstanding, policy decisions based on conventional VAMs that account for lagged achievement are likely to generate substantial achievement gains. Hybrid estimates that incorporate lotteries yield modest further gains.

November 10, 2016 • Andersen Hall 3245, Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road • IPR


Ahmed Mushfik Mobarak
Professor of Economics, Yale University

"Effects of Emigration on Rural Labor Markets"

Abstract: Rural to urban migration has been an integral part of the process of structural transformation and economic development, but there is little evidence on how out-migration affects the rural economy. Mobarak and his co-authors offer to subsidize transport costs for 5,792 potential seasonal migrants in Bangladesh, randomly varying the proportion of landless agricultural workers across 133 villages induced to move, to generate labor supply shocks of different magnitudes in different villages. They use this variation to document general equilibrium changes in the village labor market. A larger number of simultaneous migration offers in the village increases the likelihood that each individual takes up the offer, which suggests some benefits of coordinated travel. Migration offers lead to large increases in income earned at the destination, and also income earned at the origin. The increase in home income is due to increases in both the agricultural wage rate for rural workers and in available work hours. For every 10 percent increase in emigration, male agricultural wage rate increases by 2.8 percent. There is not much intra-household substitution in labor supply. The primary worker earns more when he returns home from the city during weeks in which many of his village co-residents were induced to move. Although most of the migration income is consumed, there is no general equilibrium effect on food prices, suggesting that food markets are well integrated across villages.

November 17, 2016 • Andersen Hall 3245, Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road • IPR


Benjamin Friedrich
Assistant Professor of Strategy, Northwestern University

Internal Labor Markets and the Competition for Talent

Abstract: This talk discusses how firms use internal promotions and external hiring to recruit managers. Using matched employer-employee data from Denmark, Friedrich documents that more productive firms hire more talented trainees, are more likely to promote managers internally, and match with better managers in terms of education and ability. Based on these facts, he develops an assignment model of the market for managers with two-sided heterogeneity. In the model, internal labor markets arise from asymmetric learning and firm-specific human capital. Production complementarities between firm productivity and manager talent result in better firms investing in promising workers and in developing talent through firm-specific training and internal promotion. He estimates the model using Danish data. Model simulations indicate that removing information frictions increases aggregate productivity by 22.5 percent. This gain is accompanied by higher wage inequality because better signals of talent increase competition for the best managers. This mechanism provides a new market-driven explanation for the increase in upper-tail wage inequality.

December 1, 2016 • Andersen Hall 3245, Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road • IPR


Edward Miguel
Oxfam Professor in Environmental and Resource Economics and Faculty Director of the Center for Effective Global Action, University of California, Berkeley

“Reevaluating Agricultural Productivity Gaps with Longitudinal Microdata"

Abstract: Recent work has pointed to large and persistent gaps in labor productivity between the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors in low-income countries, as well as between workers in rural and urban areas. Yet much of this work is based on national accounts data and typically fails to account for individual selection between sectors. This paper contributes to the literature on sectoral wage gaps using unusual long-run individual panel data from two countries: Indonesia and Kenya. Accounting for individual fixed effects leads to much smaller estimated productivity gains in the non-agricultural sector and urban areas, and implies a re-assessment of the conventional wisdom.

December 8, 2016 • Andersen Hall 3245, Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road • IPR


IPR Q-Center Colloquium Series

James Kim
Associate Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Strategic Replication: A Method for Scaling Evidence-Based Literacy Interventions”

Abstract: Progress in improving the science and practice of reading depends on scholars’ efforts to replicate the effects of literacy interventions and practices on student outcomes at scale. The current culture of science, however, rewards innovation over replication, leading to a large number of novel but potentially fragile findings. In this talk, Kim will describe a method for improving science and evidence-based literacy practices called strategic replication. Strategic replication involves a series of experiments that are designed and sequenced to replicate past findings, to build on the findings from previous experiments, and to generate new knowledge. This begins with a researcher’s effort to directly replicate the experimental manipulations of a prior study to examine whether novel findings are reproducible. It continues with replications that are designed to enhance generalizability of research across different contexts. Kim will use examples from a 10-year program of experimental research to describe the key stages of strategic replication.

October 12, 2016 • 617 Library Place • IPR


Uri Simonsohn
Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions; and Associate Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“Two-Lines: The First Valid Test of U-Shaped Relationships”

Abstract: Many psychological theories predict u-shaped relationships: x is good in low quantities but bad in high quantities, or vice-versa. These predictions are almost exclusively tested by estimating quadratic regressions. In this talk, Simonsohn will begin by demonstrating that the quadratic regression approach is essentially never valid for testing for u-shape relationships. He proposes instead estimating two separate regression lines, one for “low” and one for “high” values of x. A u-shape is present if the two slopes have opposite signs and are individually significant. Setting the breakpoint to maximize statistical power to detect a u-shape is critical but challenging because the true relationship between x and y is unknown but consequential for such purposes. A procedure to set the breakpoint is proposed and shown to be superior to all alternatives considered, including maximizing fit.

October 19, 2016 • 617 Library Place • IPR


Human Development and Social Policy Brown Bag Series

Orla Doyle
Senior Researcher, Geary Institute; Lecturer in Economics; University College Dublin

“Intervening Early to Promote School Readiness: A Randomized Control Trial of the Preparing for Life Program”

Abstract: Early intervention programs aimed at disadvantaged children provide a potential mechanism for reducing disparities in children’s development; however European evidence on their effectiveness is limited. This study investigates the impact of Preparing for Life (PFL), a five year home visiting intervention, on several dimensions of children’s human capital. PFL is a manualized program which aims to improve the school readiness skills of disadvantaged children in Ireland. The intervention commences during pregnancy and works with families until the children start school. Treatment include bi-weekly home visits from a mentor to support parenting and child development using Tip Sheets, baby massage, and the Triple P Positive Parenting Program at age 2. Using a randomized controlled trial design, this study examined the impact of the program between birth and age 4/5 by comparing the outcomes of the treatment (n=115) and control (n=118) groups using permutation testing methods to address small sample size, inverse probability weighting to address differential attrition, and a stepdown procedure to account for multiple hypothesis testing. The program had a positive impact on children’s school readiness skills as measured by maternal reports, teacher reports, direct assessments, and hospital records. For example, by age 4 children in the treatment group had significantly higher scores on general conceptual ability (D=.72), spatial ability (D=.62), pictorial reasoning (D=.51), verbal ability (D=.65), and effortful control (D=.45). They also had better social competence with peers (D=.31) and less hyperactivity and inattentive behaviors (D=.50). They also had fewer visits to the Emergency Department (D=.30) and had better gross and fine motor skills (D=0.34).The findings indicate that home visiting interventions commencing prenatally may be an effective method of improving the early human capital of disadvantaged children. The sizes of the effects are notable and exceed current meta-analytic estimations in the field

September 27, 2016 • Annenberg Hall, 2120 Campus Drive • IPR

Co-sponsored by IPR and Innovations in Developmental Science (DevSci) Network


Ron Haskins
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies; Co-director, Center on Children and Families, Brookings Institution

“Will Evidence-Based Policy Improve the Nation’s Social Programs?”

Bio: Ron Haskins is a senior fellow and holds the Cabot Family Chair in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he co-directs the Center on Children and Families. He is also a senior consultant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and is president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. Haskins is the co-author of Show Me the Evidence: Obama’s Fight for Rigor and Evidence in Social Policy and the author of Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law. In 2002, he was the senior advisor to the president for welfare policy. Beginning in 1986, he spent 14 years on the staff of the House Ways and Means Committee. In 2016, Haskins and his colleague Isabel Sawhill were awarded the Moynihan Prize for being champions of the public good and advocates for public policy based on social science research. In 1997, Haskins was selected by the National Journal as one of the 100 most influential people in the federal governments. He lives with his wife in Rockville, Maryland, and has four grown children and two grandchildren.

October 11, 2016 • Annenberg Hall, 2120 Campus Drive • IPR

Co-sponsored by IPR