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Article

Parental choice over public schools has become a major policy tool to combat inequality in access to schools. Traditional neighborhood-based assignment is being replaced by school choice programs, broadening families’ access to schools beyond their residential location. Demand and supply in school choice programs are cleared via centralized admissions algorithms. Heterogeneous parental preferences and admissions policies create trade-offs among efficiency and equity. The data from centralized admissions algorithms can be used effectively for credible research design toward better understanding of school effectiveness, which in turn can be used for school portfolio planning and student assignment based on match quality between students and schools.

Article

Jennifer L. Castle and David F. Hendry

Shared features of economic and climate time series imply that tools for empirically modeling nonstationary economic outcomes are also appropriate for studying many aspects of observational climate-change data. Greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, are a major cause of climate change as they cumulate in the atmosphere and reradiate the sun’s energy. As these emissions are currently mainly due to economic activity, economic and climate time series have commonalities, including considerable inertia, stochastic trends, and distributional shifts, and hence the same econometric modeling approaches can be applied to analyze both phenomena. Moreover, both disciplines lack complete knowledge of their respective data-generating processes (DGPs), so model search retaining viable theory but allowing for shifting distributions is important. Reliable modeling of both climate and economic-related time series requires finding an unknown DGP (or close approximation thereto) to represent multivariate evolving processes subject to abrupt shifts. Consequently, to ensure that DGP is nested within a much larger set of candidate determinants, model formulations to search over should comprise all potentially relevant variables, their dynamics, indicators for perturbing outliers, shifts, trend breaks, and nonlinear functions, while retaining well-established theoretical insights. Econometric modeling of climate-change data requires a sufficiently general model selection approach to handle all these aspects. Machine learning with multipath block searches commencing from very general specifications, usually with more candidate explanatory variables than observations, to discover well-specified and undominated models of the nonstationary processes under analysis, offers a rigorous route to analyzing such complex data. To do so requires applying appropriate indicator saturation estimators (ISEs), a class that includes impulse indicators for outliers, step indicators for location shifts, multiplicative indicators for parameter changes, and trend indicators for trend breaks. All ISEs entail more candidate variables than observations, often by a large margin when implementing combinations, yet can detect the impacts of shifts and policy interventions to avoid nonconstant parameters in models, as well as improve forecasts. To characterize nonstationary observational data, one must handle all substantively relevant features jointly: A failure to do so leads to nonconstant and mis-specified models and hence incorrect theory evaluation and policy analyses.

Article

The analysis of convergence behavior with respect to emissions and measures of environmental quality can be categorized into four types of tests: absolute and conditional β-convergence, σ-convergence, club convergence, and stochastic convergence. In the context of emissions, absolute β-convergence occurs when countries with high initial levels of emissions have a lower emission growth rate than countries with low initial levels of emissions. Conditional β-convergence allows for possible differences among countries through the inclusion of exogenous variables to capture country-specific effects. Given that absolute and conditional β-convergence do not account for the dynamics of the growth process, which can potentially lead to dynamic panel data bias, σ-convergence evaluates the dynamics and intradistributional aspects of emissions to determine whether the cross-section variance of emissions decreases over time. The more recent club convergence approach tests the decline in the cross-sectional variation in emissions among countries over time and whether heterogeneous time-varying idiosyncratic components converge over time after controlling for a common growth component in emissions among countries. In essence, the club convergence approach evaluates both conditional σ- and β-convergence within a panel framework. Finally, stochastic convergence examines the time series behavior of a country’s emissions relative to another country or group of countries. Using univariate or panel unit root/stationarity tests, stochastic convergence is present if relative emissions, defined as the log of emissions for a particular country relative to another country or group of countries, is trend-stationary. The majority of the empirical literature analyzes carbon dioxide emissions and varies in terms of both the convergence tests deployed and the results. While the results supportive of emissions convergence for large global country coverage are limited, empirical studies that focus on country groupings defined by income classification, geographic region, or institutional structure (i.e., EU, OECD, etc.) are more likely to provide support for emissions convergence. The vast majority of studies have relied on tests of stochastic convergence with tests of σ-convergence and the distributional dynamics of emissions less so. With respect to tests of stochastic convergence, an alternative testing procedure accounts for structural breaks and cross-correlations simultaneously is presented. Using data for OECD countries, the results based on the inclusion of both structural breaks and cross-correlations through a factor structure provides less support for stochastic convergence when compared to unit root tests with the inclusion of just structural breaks. Future studies should increase focus on other air pollutants to include greenhouse gas emissions and their components, not to mention expanding the range of geographical regions analyzed and more robust analysis of the various types of convergence tests to render a more comprehensive view of convergence behavior. The examination of convergence through the use of eco-efficiency indicators that capture both the environmental and economic effects of production may be more fruitful in contributing to the debate on mitigation strategies and allocation mechanisms.

Article

For nearly 25 years, advances in panel data and quantile regression were developed almost completely in parallel, with no intersection until the work by Koenker in the mid-2000s. The early theoretical work in statistics and economics raised more questions than answers, but it encouraged the development of several promising new approaches and research that offered a better understanding of the challenges and possibilities at the intersection of the literatures. Panel data quantile regression allows the estimation of effects that are heterogeneous throughout the conditional distribution of the response variable while controlling for individual and time-specific confounders. This type of heterogeneous effect is not well summarized by the average effect. For instance, the relationship between the number of students in a class and average educational achievement has been extensively investigated, but research also shows that class size affects low-achieving and high-achieving students differently. Advances in panel data include several methods and algorithms that have created opportunities for more informative and robust empirical analysis in models with subject heterogeneity and factor structure.

Article

Subhasish M. Chowdhury

Conflicts are a ubiquitous part of our life. One of the main reasons behind the initiation and escalation of conflict is the identity, or the sense of self, of the engaged parties. It is hence not surprising that there is a consistent area of academic literature that focuses on identity, conflict, and their interaction. This area models conflicts as contests and focuses on the theoretical, experimental, and empirical literature from economics, political science, and psychology. The theoretical literature investigates the behavioral aspects—such as preference and beliefs—to explain the reasons for and the effects of identity on human behavior. The theoretical literature also analyzes issues such as identity-dependent externality, endogenous choice of joining a group, and so on. The applied literature consists of laboratory and field experiments as well as empirical studies from the field. The experimental studies find that the salience of an identity can increase conflict in a field setting. Laboratory experiments show that whereas real identity indeed increases conflict, a mere classification does not do so. It is also observed that priming a majority–minority identity affects the conflict behavior of the majority, but not of the minority. Further investigations explain these results in terms of parochial altruism. The empirical literature in this area focuses on the various measures of identity, identity distribution, and other economic variables on conflict behavior. Religious polarization can explain conflict behavior better than linguistic differences. Moreover, polarization is a more significant determinants of conflict when the winners of the conflict enjoy a public good reward; but fractionalization is a better determinant when the winners enjoy a private good reward. As a whole, this area of literature is still emerging, and the theoretical literature can be extended to various avenues such as sabotage, affirmative action, intra-group conflict, and endogenous group formation. For empirical and experimental research, exploring new conflict resolution mechanisms, endogeneity between identity and conflict, and evaluating biological mechanisms for identity-related conflict will be of interest.

Article

Limited dependent variables considers regression models where the dependent variable takes limited values like zero and one for binary choice mowedels, or a multinomial model where there is a few choices like modes of transportation, for example, bus, train, or a car. Binary choice examples in economics include a woman’s decision to participate in the labor force, or a worker’s decision to join a union. Other examples include whether a consumer defaults on a loan or a credit card, or whether they purchase a house or a car. This qualitative variable is recoded as one if the female participates in the labor force (or the consumer defaults on a loan) and zero if she does not participate (or the consumer does not default on the loan). Least squares using a binary choice model is inferior to logit or probit regressions. When the dependent variable is a fraction or proportion, inverse logit regressions are appropriate as well as fractional logit quasi-maximum likelihood. An example of the inverse logit regression is the effect of beer tax on reducing motor vehicle fatality rates from drunken driving. The fractional logit quasi-maximum likelihood is illustrated using an equation explaining the proportion of participants in a pension plan using firm data. The probit regression is illustrated with a fertility empirical example, showing that parental preferences for a mixed sibling-sex composition in developed countries has a significant and positive effect on the probability of having an additional child. Multinomial choice models where the number of choices is more than 2, like, bond ratings in Finance, may have a natural ordering. Another example is the response to an opinion survey which could vary from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Alternatively, this choice may not have a natural ordering like the choice of occupation or modes of transportation. The Censored regression model is motivated with estimating the expenditures on cars or estimating the amount of mortgage lending. In this case, the observations are censored because we observe the expenditures on a car (or the mortgage amount) only if the car is bought or the mortgage approved. In studying poverty, we exclude the rich from our sample. In this case, the sample is not random. Applying least squares to the truncated sample leads to biased and inconsistent results. This differs from censoring. In the latter case, no data is excluded. In fact, we observe the characteristics of all mortgage applicants even those that do not actually get their mortgage approved. Selection bias occurs when the sample is not randomly drawn. This is illustrated with a labor participating equation (the selection equation) and an earnings equation, where earnings are observed only if the worker participates in the labor force, otherwise it is zero. Extensions to panel data limited dependent variable models are also discussed and empirical examples given.

Article

Florian Exler and Michèle Tertilt

Consumer debt is an important means for consumption smoothing. In the United States, 70% of households own a credit card, and 40% borrow on it. When borrowers cannot (or do not want to) repay their debts, they can declare bankruptcy, which provides additional insurance in tough times. Since the 2000s, up to 1.5% of households declared bankruptcy per year. Clearly, the option to default affects borrowing interest rates in equilibrium. Consequently, when assessing (welfare) consequences of different bankruptcy regimes or providing policy recommendations, structural models with equilibrium default and endogenous interest rates are needed. At the same time, many questions are quantitative in nature: the benefits of a certain bankruptcy regime critically depend on the nature and amount of risk that households bear. Hence, models for normative or positive analysis should quantitatively match some important data moments. Four important empirical patterns are identified: First, since 1950, consumer debt has risen constantly, and it amounted to 25% of disposable income by 2016. Defaults have risen since the 1980s. Interestingly, interest rates remained roughly constant over the same time period. Second, borrowing and default clearly depend on age: both measures exhibit a distinct hump, peaking around 50 years of age. Third, ownership of credit cards and borrowing clearly depend on income: high-income households are more likely to own a credit card and to use it for borrowing. However, this pattern was stronger in the 1980s than in the 2010s. Finally, interest rates became more dispersed over time: the number of observed interest rates more than quadrupled between 1983 and 2016. These data have clear implications for theory: First, considering the importance of age, life cycle models seem most appropriate when modeling consumer debt and default. Second, bankruptcy must be costly to support any debt in equilibrium. While many types of costs are theoretically possible, only partial repayment requirements are able to quantitatively match the data on filings, debt levels, and interest rates simultaneously. Third, to account for the long-run trends in debts, defaults, and interest rates, several quantitative theory models identify a credit expansion along the intensive and extensive margin as the most likely source. This expansion is a consequence of technological advancements. Many of the quantitative macroeconomic models in this literature assess welfare effects of proposed reforms or of granting bankruptcy at all. These welfare consequences critically hinge on the types of risk that households face—because households incur unforeseen expenditures, not-too-stringent bankruptcy laws are typically found to be welfare superior to banning bankruptcy (or making it extremely costly) but also to extremely lax bankruptcy rules. There are very promising opportunities for future research related to consumer debt and default. Newly available data in the United States and internationally, more powerful computational resources allowing for more complex modeling of household balance sheets, and new loan products are just some of many promising avenues.

Article

Stock-flow matching is a simple and elegant framework of dynamic trade in differentiated goods. Flows of entering traders match and exchange with the stocks of previously unsuccessful traders on the other side of the market. A buyer or seller who enters a market for a single, indivisible good such as a job or a home does not experience impediments to trade. All traders are fully informed about the available trading options; however, each of the available options in the stock on the other side of the market may or may not be suitable. If fortunate, this entering trader immediately finds a viable option in the stock of available opportunities and trade occurs straightaway. If unfortunate, none of the available opportunities suit the entrant. This buyer or seller now joins the stocks of unfulfilled traders who must wait for a new, suitable partner to enter. Three striking empirical regularities emerge from this microstructure. First, as the stock of buyers does not match with the stock of sellers, but with the flow of new sellers, the flow of new entrants becomes an important explanatory variable for aggregate trading rates. Second, the traders’ exit rates from the market are initially high, but if they fail to match quickly the exit rates become substantially slower. Third, these exit rates depend on different variables at different phases of an agent’s stay in the market. The probability that a new buyer will trade successfully depends only on the stock of sellers in the market. In contrast, the exit rate of an old buyer depends positively on the flow of new sellers, negatively on the stock of old buyers, and is independent of the stock of sellers. These three empirical relationships not only differ from those found in the familiar search literature but also conform to empirical evidence observed from unemployment outflows. Moreover, adopting the stock-flow approach enriches our understanding of output dynamics, employment flows, and aggregate economic performance. These trading mechanics generate endogenous price dispersion and price dynamics—prices depend on whether the buyer or the seller is the recent entrant, and on how many viable traders were waiting for the entrant, which varies over time. The stock-flow structure has provided insights about housing, temporary employment, and taxicab markets.

Article

Dimitris Korobilis and Davide Pettenuzzo

Bayesian inference in economics is primarily perceived as a methodology for cases where the data are short, that is, not informative enough in order to be able to obtain reliable econometric estimates of quantities of interest. In these cases, prior beliefs, such as the experience of the decision-maker or results from economic theory, can be explicitly incorporated to the econometric estimation problem and enhance the desired solution. In contrast, in fields such as computing science and signal processing, Bayesian inference and computation have long been used for tackling challenges associated with ultra high-dimensional data. Such fields have developed several novel Bayesian algorithms that have gradually been established in mainstream statistics, and they now have a prominent position in machine learning applications in numerous disciplines. While traditional Bayesian algorithms are powerful enough to allow for estimation of very complex problems (for instance, nonlinear dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models), they are not able to cope computationally with the demands of rapidly increasing economic data sets. Bayesian machine learning algorithms are able to provide rigorous and computationally feasible solutions to various high-dimensional econometric problems, thus supporting modern decision-making in a timely manner.

Article

Anthropometrics is a research program that explores the extent to which economic processes affect human biological processes using height and weight as markers. This agenda differs from health economics in the sense that instead of studying diseases or longevity, macro manifestations of well-being, it focuses on cellular-level processes that determine the extent to which the organism thrives in its socio-economic and epidemiological environment. Thus, anthropometric indicators are used as a proxy measure for the biological standard of living as complements to conventional measures based on monetary units. Using physical stature as a marker, we enabled the profession to learn about the well-being of children and youth for whom market-generated monetary data are not abundant even in contemporary societies. It is now clear that economic transformations such as the onset of the Industrial Revolution and modern economic growth were accompanied by negative externalities that were hitherto unknown. Moreover, there is plenty of evidence to indicate that the Welfare States of Western and Northern Europe take better care of the biological needs of their citizens than the market-oriented health-care system of the United States. Obesity has reached pandemic proportions in the United States affecting 40% of the population. It is fostered by a sedentary and harried lifestyle, by the diminution in self-control, the spread of labor-saving technologies, and the rise of instant gratification characteristic of post-industrial society. The spread of television and a fast-food culture in the 1950s were watershed developments in this regard that accelerated the process. Obesity poses a serious health risk including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer and its cost reaches $150 billion per annum in the United States or about $1,400 per capita. We conclude that the economy influences not only mortality and health but reaches bone-deep into the cellular level of the human organism. In other words, the economy is inextricably intertwined with human biological processes.