Colloquia - Spring 2017

IPR Colloquia

Sandra Waxman
Louis W. Menk Professor of Psychology, Director of The Project on Child Development, and IPR Fellow

“Moving Beyond the ‘Word Gap’: Thinking Critically About Language and Cognition in Infancy”

Abstract: A developmental phenomenon known as the "word gap" reflects evidence that by the time they reach preschool, children from lower-socioeconomic families have heard up to 30 million fewer words and, correspondingly, have acquired smaller vocabularies than their more advantaged peers. Waxman summarizes recent lab-based evidence, illuminating that the power of language does not stem from the sheer number of words a child knows but how (and how early) infants link these words to cognition, and how (and how efficiently) they harness the few words they do know in the service of learning more. She also discusses cultural variation in how (and how much) adults talk directly to their children, variation that is crucial not only for measuring child language but for designing effective interventions. The view from basic developmental science is clear: Because links between language and cognition, forged in infancy, have profound consequences for subsequent learning, investments in infants and families hold the greatest promise for reducing the pernicious consequences of the word gap.

March 27, 2017 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR

Mary McGrath

Assistant Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow

“The Effect of Collaboration on Distributive Preferences”

Abstract: Why and under what conditions do we sacrifice our own self-interest for the sake of another? What makes us willing to share? Recent evidence from developmental psychology suggests that the roots of an innate human concept of distributive justice might lie in collaborative effort. McGrath tests for an effect of collaboration on distributive preferences in an economic setting. The results from three experiments demonstrate that collaborating produces a particular sense of a fair share: One’s collaborator merits more than an individual working just as hard but working separately. She will also present results suggesting that the collaboration effect operates by creating a sense of indebtedness and influences who is considered part of one’s team. This evidence of how collaboration shapes resource distribution decisions has implications for the formation of distributive preferences more generally, and speaks to questions of group membership, indebtedness, and willingness to sacrifice.

April 3, 2017 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR

Robin Nusslock
Associate Professor of Psychology and IPR Associate

“Your Brain on Reward: The Science of Pursuit”

Abstract: What drives us to get off the couch and to pursue rewards and goals in our environment? This question is the focus of the present talk. First, Nusslock will provide an overview of the neuroscience of motivation and reward-directed behavior. The implications of this work for decision science, and behavioral economics more generally, will be discussed. Next, he will examine the involvement of reward-related brain systems in both mental and physical health, with a particular focus on addiction, depression, and coronary heart disease. Finally, he will discuss the efficacy and ethics of recently developed interventions to enhance reward-related brain systems in order to maximize motivation and well-being.

April 17, 2017 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR

Terri Sabol
Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Associate

"What is `High Quality' Early Childhood Education?"

Abstract: Over the past decade, early childhood education has received remarkable attention from educators, policymakers, the media, and the public. Local, state, and federal policymakers allocate billions of dollars each year to early childhood interventions, and this momentum is accelerating nationwide. Much of the current support derives from the impressive evidence on the benefits of high-quality early childhood education for low-income children. Yet the promise of early childhood education might only be realized when the field has a clear conceptualization of the most active ingredients in preschool settings that contribute to children's development. This presentation explores what makes an early childhood education program "high quality." Sabol will address this question by applying advanced developmental theory to the study and design of early education programs, drawing on her recent research on young children, classrooms, and families.

April 24, 2017 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR

Celeste Watkins-Hayes
Associate Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies and IPR Fellow

“The Safety Net that AIDS Activism Built: Lessons for Intersectional Social, Economic, and Political Transformation”

Abstract: Drawing upon qualitative data from AIDS activists, advocates, policy officials, and service providers, Watkins-Hayes charts the rise of the safety net that emerged in response to the AIDS epidemic. She analyzes how stakeholders focusing on HIV/AIDS among women and people of color mobilized to help build an infrastructure that not only targets HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment but also inspires and supports major transformation in the economic, political, and social lives of marginalized populations. Lessons from the AIDS response highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with building effective health and social service safety nets.

May 1, 2017 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR

Bruce Spencer
Professor of Statistics and IPR Fellow

“Cost-Benefit Analysis for a Quinquennial Census: The 2016 Population Census of South Africa”

Abstract: National statistic offices in an increasing number of countries are facing the question of whether to carry out a quinquennial census, including in Canada, Nigeria, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa. Spencer and his colleagues describe uses, and limitations, of cost-benefit analysis for this decision problem in the case of the 2016 census of South Africa. The government of South Africa needed to decide whether to conduct a 2016 census or to rely on increasingly inaccurate post-censal estimates accounting for births, deaths, and migration since the previous (2011) census. The cost-benefit analysis compared predicted costs of the 2016 census with the benefits from improved allocation of intergovernmental revenue, which was considered by the government to be a critical use of the 2016 census, although not the only important benefit. Without the 2016 census, allocations would be based on population estimates. Accuracy of the post-censal estimates was estimated from the performance of past estimates, and the hypothetical expected reduction in errors in allocation due to the 2016 census was estimated. A loss function was introduced to quantify the improvement in allocation. With this evidence, the government was able to decide not to conduct the 2016 census, but instead to improve data and capacity for producing post-censal estimates.

May 8, 2017 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR

Onnie Rogers
Assistant Professor of Psychology and IPR Fellow

“The ‘Black Box’: Racial and Gender Identity Development Among Black Adolescent Boys”

Abstract: Numerous educational, psychosocial, and health indicators suggest that growing up black and male in America is a perilous social position. Rogers conducted a two-year, mixed-method case study of an all-black, all-boys high school in Chicago that aims to counter such trends. In this research, she explores how black, adolescent boys (13-16 years old) make sense of society's expectations and negotiate the meaning and significance of their own racial and gender identities. She will present data on the association between boys' identities and psychosocial adjustment as well as the strategies black boys use to respond to racial and gender stereotypes. The within-group, case-study approach challenges monolithic descriptions of black boys and privileges the diversity of their experiences.

May 15, 2017 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR

Heather Schoenfeld
Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and of Legal Studies, and IPR Fellow

“Maximizing Charges: Overcriminalization in the Mass Incarceration Era”

Abstract: On May 10, U.S. Attorney General Sessions issued a memo directing federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” which carries the longest prison sentence. In doing so, Sessions provided a rare glimpse into the charging and plea bargaining practices of prosecutors. While numerous studies point to the role of legislative sentencing policy in the growth of mass incarceration in the United States, there is a lack data and research on the most powerful players in the criminal justice system—local prosecutors. In this talk, Schoenfeld will first conceptualize the relationship between legislative sentencing law and prosecutors’ charging practices. Second, she will describe preliminary data from Florida that provides a window into how prosecutors’ charging practices have shifted with the expansion of criminal law during a period of declining serious crime.

May 22, 2017 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR

IPR Q-Center Colloquium Series

Rebecca Maynard
University Trustee Professor of Education and Social Policy, University of Pennsylvania

"Improving Capacity to Make Fair Comparisons of the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Education and Social Policy Options"

Abstract: In recent years, there has been a major push to rely on empirical evidence to guide the development and implementation of education and social policies. Concurrently, federal agencies, state governments, and private philanthropists have shifted much of their evaluation resources to studies that systematically and rigorously estimate the impacts associated with various programs, policies or practices and they have launched clearinghouses to collect, review, rate, and disseminate that evidence judged to worthy of consideration in policy. The talk will examine model cases of evidence use, as well as common (mis)uses of evidence from even well-designed and implemented studies in the policy development process. It also will suggest guidance for sorting, sifting, and synthesizing evidence in ways that generate meaningful comparisons across options and it illustrates the importance of both context and cost in arriving at final judgments.

May 17, 2017 • 617 Library Place • IPR

IPR Performance Measurement and Rewards Series

Nicola Persico
John L. and Helen Kellogg Professor of Managerial Economics & Decision Sciences, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

“Minimum Wages Within the Firm: Evidence from Establishment and Personnel Data”

Abstract: Persico and his colleagues match quasi-experimental sources of variations in minimum wages with store characteristics over time for two nationwide American retail chains. He will report preliminary evidence on the effect of minimum wage changes on: earnings, working hours, and training hours; general employment; and store-level workforce composition. Better-quality management appears to have differential effects on store-level adjustment to hikes in minimum wage; local market conditions play a modest role.

May 31, 2017 • 617 Library Place • IPR


Joint Economics/IPR Seminar Series

Amanda Pallais
Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy and Social Studies, Harvard University

“Valuing Alternative Work Arrangements”

Abstract: The researchers use a field experiment to study how workers value alternative work arrangements. During the application process to staff a national call center, they randomly offered applicants choices between traditional Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. office positions and alternatives. These alternatives include flexible schedling, working from home, and positions that give the employer discretion over scheduling. They randomly varied the wage difference between the traditional option and the alternative, allowing them to estimate the entire distribution of willingness to pay (WTP) for these alternatives. The great majority of workers are not willing to pay for flexible scheduling relative to a traditional schedule: either the ability to choose the days and times of work or the number of hours they work. However, the average worker is willing to give up 20 percent of wages to avoid a schedule set by an employer on a week’s notice. This largely represents workers’ aversion to evening and weekend work, not scheduling unpredictability. Traditional Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. schedules are preferred by most jobseekers. Despite the fact that the average worker isn’t willing to pay for scheduling flexibility, a tail of workers with high WTP allows for sizable compensating differentials. Of the worker-friendly options tested, workers are willing to pay the most (8 percent of wages) for the option of working from home. Women, particularly those with young children, have higher WTP for work from home and to avoid employer scheduling discretion. They are slightly more likely to be in jobs with these amenities, but the differences are not large enough to explain any wage gaps.

March 30, 2017 • Kellogg Global Hub, Room 1410, 2211 Campus Drive • IPR

Simone Schaner
Assistant Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College

“On Her Account: Can Strengthening Women’s Financial Control Boost Female Labor Supply?”

Abstract: In collaboration with the state government of Madhya Pradesh in India, Schaner and her colleagues experimentally varied whether women’s wages from India’s public workfare program were deposited into female-owned bank accounts instead of into the male household head’s account (the status quo). This treatment increased women’s work, both in the program and in the private sector, despite no change in market wages. Treatment effects are concentrated among two groups of women: those who had not previously worked for the program and those whose husbands disapprove of women working. These results are at odds with a model of household behavior in which labor force participation decisions only depend on wages and own-preference for leisure. Instead, the researchers argue that they are consistent with a model in which gender norms internalized by men limit women’s labor market engagement.

April 6, 2017 • Kellogg Global Hub, Room 1410, 2211 Campus Drive • IPR

Owen Zidar
Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Chicago

"Who Profits from Patents? Rent-Sharing at Innovative Firms"

Abstract: Zidar and his colleagues study the impact of patent grants on firm profitability and worker compensation using a new firm-level linkage of U.S. patent applications to business and worker tax records. Valuable patents are identified by extrapolating the excess stock return estimates of Kogan et al. (2016) to the full set of accepted and rejected patent applications, and to applications submitted by privately-held firms. Event-study evidence demonstrates that firms whose first patent applications are initially allowed—and are ex-ante valuable—experience large increases in profitability and worker compensation relative to comparable firms whose ex-ante valuable applications were initially rejected. The researchers' baseline estimates suggest that workers capture 34 cents of every dollar of patent-induced surplus. This share is larger for firm stayers, men, and employees who are listed as inventors. Patent grants lead firms to recruit employees with higher prior wages, but the biases associated with these compositional changes are quantitatively small. They estimate rent sharing elasticities in the range of 0.17–0.22 and an average elasticity of labor supply to innovative firms of roughly 2.4.

April 13, 2017 • Kellogg Global Hub, Room 1410, 2211 Campus Drive • IPR

Heidi Williams
Class of 1957 Career Development Associate Professor in Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“The More We Die, The More We Sell? A Simple Test of the Home-Market Effect”

Abstract: The home-market effect, first hypothesized by Linder (1961) and later formalized by Krugman (1980), is the idea that countries with larger demand for some products at home tend to have larger sales of the same products abroad. In this paper, Williams and her colleagues develop a simple test of the home-market effect using detailed drug sales data from the global pharmaceutical industry. The core of their empirical strategy is the observation that a country’s exogenous demographic composition can be used as a predictor of the diseases that its inhabitants are most likely to die from and, in turn, the drugs that they are most likely to demand. They find that the correlation between predicted home demand and sales abroad is positive and greater than the correlation between predicted home demand and purchases from abroad. In short, countries tend to be net sellers of the drugs that they demand the most, as predicted by Linder and Krugman.

April 20, 2017 • Kellogg Global Hub, Room 1410, 2211 Campus Drive IPR

Rohini Pande
Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy, Harvard University

"Information as an Incentive: Experimental Evidence on the Policy and Political Impacts of Anticipated Information Disclosures on Delhi Politicians"

Abstract: Pande is an economist whose research examines the economic costs and benefits of informal and formal institutions in the developing world and the role of public policy in affecting change. Her work has examined how institutions—ranging from electoral to financial—can be designed to empower historically disadvantaged groups; how low-cost improvements in information collection and dissemination can enable flexible regulation and more efficient outcomes in areas as diverse as environmental protection and elections; and how biased social norms, unless challenged by public policy, can worsen individual well-being and reduce economic efficiency. Pande co-directs the Evidence for Policy Design Initiative at Harvard University and is an executive committee member of the Bureau of Research on Economic Development.

April 27, 2017 • Kellogg Global Hub, Room 1410, 2211 Campus Drive IPR

Petra Persson
Assistant Professor of Economics, Stanford University

"The Long-term Consequences of Teacher Discretion in Grading of High-stakes Tests"

Abstract: Persson and her co-author examine the long-term consequences of teacher discretion in grading of high-stakes tests. Bunching in Swedish math test score distributions reveals that teachers inflate students who have “a bad test day,” but do not discriminate based on immigrant status or gender. By developing a new estimator, the researchers show that receiving a higher grade leads to far-reaching educational and earnings benefits. Because grades do not directly raise human capital, these results emphasize that grades can signal to students and teachers within the educational system, and suggest important dynamic complementarities between students’ effort and their perception of their own ability.

May 4, 2017 • Kellogg Global Hub, Room 1410, 2211 Campus Drive IPR

Nancy Qian
Associate Professor of Economics, Yale University

"The Short- and Medium-Run Effects of Computerized VAT Invoices on Tax Revenues in China"

Abstract: Qian will present on the short and medium-run effects of computerizing VAT invoices on tax revenues and firm behavior in China. She uses a balanced panel of manufacturing firms to show that computerization increased VAT revenues. However, the short-run gains are much larger than the longer-run gains. Qian will provide evidence to show that the change over time is consistent with firms adjusting production downwards in response to the tax increase.

May 25, 2017 • Kellogg Global Hub, Room 1410, 2211 Campus Drive IPR

Supreet Kaur
Assistant Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley

"The Morale Effects of Pay Inequality"

Abstract: Relative pay concerns have potentially broad labor market implications. In a month-long experiment with Indian manufacturing workers, Kaur and her colleagues randomize whether coworkers within production units receive the same flat daily wage or differential wages according to their (baseline) productivity ranks. When co-workers’ productivity is difficult to observe, pay inequality reduces output by 0.45 standard deviations and attendance by 18 percentage points. It also lowers coworkers’ ability to cooperate in their own self interest. However, when workers can clearly perceive that their higher-paid peers are more productive than themselves, pay disparity has no discernible effect on output, attendance, or group cohesion.

June 1, 2017 • Kellogg Global Hub, Room 1410, 2211 Campus Drive • IPR