Associate Professor of Economics
Weatherhead School of Management
11119 Bellflower Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
Office Phone: 216-368-4294
I work in applied microeconomics. My main areas of interest are 1) economic decision making in social contexts and 2) the economics of language and culture. I use a range of empirical methods from lab and field experiments to observational data. I completed my Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University in 2007. I also have an M.A. in anthropology from the University of Chicago.
Status and the Demand for Visible Goods: Experimental Evidence on Conspicuous Consumption
With Roman Sheremata
Abstract Some economists argue that consumption of publicly visible goods is driven by social status. Making a causal inference about this claim is difficult with observational data. We conduct an experiment in which we vary both whether a purchase of a physical product is publicly visible or kept private and whether the income used for purchase is linked to social status or randomly assigned. Making consumption choices visible leads to a large increase in demand when income is linked to status, but not otherwise. We investigate the characteristics that mediate this effect and estimate its impact on welfare.
Negative Emotion, Income, and Welfare
Abstract I use panel data on the frequency of negative emotions as a direct measure of subjective well-being and estimate the causal effect of income. Doubling family income reduces the experience of negative emotion by 0.26 SD. The marginal effect of a dollar change in family income on the experience of negative emotion is about eight times as large for 20th percentile incomes as 80th percentile incomes. I find a satiation point at $200,000 of family income. Effects are similar on the high levels of negative emotion characteristic of mental illness, except there is no satiation.
Mental Accounts and the Mutability of Altruism
Abstract This study uses a framed field experiment to investigate whether the neoclassical model or mental accounting better describes how income from different sources are treated in sharing decisions. Participants play a dictator game after earning income in real-effort task and/or receiving a windfall. I find that dictators treat marginal earned and windfall income as partially infungible, which supports mental accounting. Two-step estimates show that sharers shared 15% of a marginal windfall token and 7% of a marginal earned token. Strikingly, sharers who had income from both sources were sharply less generous with both earned and windfall income than those who had only a single source. This is consistent with other instances of complex decision frames inducing selfish behavior by providing a cover of ambiguity. This aspect of mental accounts has thus far received little attention. A follow-up experiment shows that two accounts must qualitatively different, not just multiple in number, to induce more selfishness.
Are the World's Languages Consolidating? The Dynamics and Distribution of Language Populations
(The Economic Journal, Forthcoming)
Abstract Scholars have long conjectured that the return to knowing a language increases with the number of speakers. Recent work argues that long-run economic and political integration accentuates this advantage, leading to a consolidation in which the largest languages increase their population share at the expense of the rest. I show using a new dataset that, to the contrary, language size and growth are uncorrelated except for those very small languages with <35,000 speakers. I incorporate this finding into a model of language coordination in which agents interact locally over a network. The steady-state distribution of language sizes follows a power law and precisely fits the size distribution of the 1,900 languages with >35,000 speakers. Simulations suggest the extinction of 40% of languages with <35,000 speakers within 100 years.
How Individual Income Tax Policy Affects Entrepreneurship
With Scott Shane
(Fordham Law Review, Forthcoming)
Abstract We review the empirical literature on the effects of individual income tax policy on entrepreneurship. We find no evidence of consensus, even on relatively narrow questions such as whether individual income tax rates deter or encourage entrepreneurial entry. We believe the absence of consensus reflects both the complexity of mechanisms connecting tax policy to entrepreneurial decision making and the infeasibility of employing the most reliable empirical methods, such as experiments, in this domain
Industrialization and Bilingualism in India
(Journal of Human Resources, Winter 2014)
Abstract: Many of the world's poorest people live in countries where hundreds of languages are spoken. Languages bind ethnic groups together and are central to cultural identity. However, language differences create barriers to economic exchange, such as employment, that can create economic incentives to learn a second language. Economic development can thus drive cultural change. I study how the growth of industrial employment increased bilingualism in India between 1931 and 1961. I exploit industrial clustering and sectoral demand growth for identification. The effect on bilingualism was strongest among local linguistic minorities and in linguistically fragmented areas. Language learning, rather than migration or assimilation, was the main mechanism. My results shed new light on human capital investment in developing economies and on the long-run evolution of languages.
Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam’s Global Gathering
With Asim Ijaz Khwaja and Michael Kremer
(Quarterly Journal of Economics, August 2009)
Abstract: We estimate the impact on pilgrims of performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Our method compares successful and unsuccessful applicants in a lottery used by Pakistan to allocate Hajj visas. Pilgrim accounts stress that the Hajj leads to a feeling of unity with fellow Muslims, but outsiders have sometimes feared that this could be accompanied by antipathy toward non-Muslims. We find that participation in the Hajj increases observance of global Islamic practices such as prayer and fasting while decreasing participation in localized practices and beliefs such as the use of amulets and dowry. It increases belief in equality and harmony among ethnic groups and Islamic sects and leads to more favorable attitudes toward women, including greater acceptance of female education and employment. Increased unity within the Islamic world is not accompanied by antipathy toward non-Muslims. Instead, Hajjis show increased belief in peace, and in equality and harmony among adherents of different religions. The evidence suggests that these changes are more a result of exposure to and interaction with Hajjis from around the world, rather than religious instruction or a changed social role of pilgrims upon return.
||The Economist, CNN, Slate, Harvard Kennedy School, HKS Impact, Islam Online, The National, Brookings
||David Clingingsmith, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, and Michael Kremer, "Mecca and Moderation," International Herald Tribune, 20 May 2008.
Deindustrialization in 18th and 19th Century India: Mughal Decline, Climate Shocks and British Industrial Ascent
With Jeffrey Williamson
(Explorations in Economic History, Vol 45, Issue 3)
Abstract: India was a major player in the world export market for textiles in the early 18th century, but by the middle of the 19th century it had lost all of its export market and much of its domestic market, primarily to Britain. The ensuing deindustrialization was greatest c1750-c1860. We ask how much of India's deindustrialization was due to local supply-side forces -- such as political fragmentation and a rising incidence of drought, and how much to world price shocks. An open, three-sector neo-Ricardian model organizes our thinking and new relative price database implements the empirical analysis. We find local
supply side forces were important from as early as 1700. The size of Indian deindustrialization is then assessed by comparison with other parts of the periphery.
Winner of the Explorations Prize for best paper in Explorations in Economic History in 2008
Work in Progress (predraft stage)
Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors with Scott Shane
Colorblindness and Implicit Racial Bias
Debt Delinquency among First-Time Homebuyers with Daniel Hartley and Justin Sydnor
Status and Rent with Roman Sheremata
Self-Serving Bias, Luck, and Redistribution with Justin Sydnor and Mark Votruba