Thursday, August 04, 2005

New papers on everything

Food for google: These are some new NBER papers on political economy, social networks and Mexican entrepreneurs.  Summer or not, economists keep pushing the envelope...

Why Do Politicians Delegate?
by Alberto Alesina, Guido Tabellini - #11531 (ME PE)
Opportunistic politicians maximize the probability of reelection and rents from office holding. Can it be optimal from their point of view to delegate policy choices to independent bureaucracies? The answer is yes: politicians will delegate some policy tasks, though in general not those that would be socially optimal to delegate. In particular, politicians tend not to delegate coalition forming redistributive policies and policies that create large rents or effective campaign contributions. Instead they prefer to delegate risky policies to shift risk (and blame) on bureaucracies.

Inefficiency in Legislative Policy-Making: A Dynamic Analysis
by Marco Battaglini, Stephen Coate - #11495 (PE)
This paper develops an infinite horizon model of public spending and taxation in which policy decisions are determined by legislative bargaining. The policy space incorporates both productive and distributive public spending and distortionary taxation. The productive spending is investing in a public good that benefits all citizens (e.g., national defense or air quality) and the distributive spending is district-specific transfers (e.g., pork barrel spending). Investment in the public good creates a dynamic linkage across policy-making periods. The analysis explores the dynamics of legislative policy choices, focusing on the efficiency of the steady state level of taxation and allocation of tax revenues. The model sheds new light on the efficiency of legislative policy-making and has a number of novel positive implications.

Law, Endowments, and Property Rights
by Ross Levine - #11502 (IFM LE)
While scholars have hypothesized about the sources of variation in property rights for over 2500 years, it is only very recently that researchers have begun to test these theories empirically. This paper reviews both the theory and empirical evidence supporting and refuting the law and endowment views of property rights. The law view holds that historically determined differences in national legal traditions continue to shape cross-country differences in property rights. The endowment view argues that during European colonization, differences in climate, crops, the indigenous population, and the disease environment influenced long-run property rights.

by Edward L. Glaeser - #11511 (PE)
This paper reviews five striking facts about inequality across countries. As Kuznets (1955) famously first documented, inequality first rises and then falls with income. More unequal societies are much less likely to have democracies or governments that respect property rights. Unequal societies have less redistribution, and we have little idea whether this relationship is caused by redistribution reducing inequality or inequality reducing redistribution. Inequality and ethnic heterogeneity are highly correlated, either because of differences in educational heritages across ethnicities or because ethnic heterogeneity reduces redistribution. Finally, there is much more inequality and less redistribution in the U.S. than in most other developed nations.

Behavioral Public Economics: Welfare and Policy Analysis with Non-Standard Decision-Makers
by B. Douglas Bernheim, Antonio Rangel - #11518 (HE PE)
This paper has two goals. First, we discuss several emerging approaches to applied welfare analysis under non-standard
("behavioral") assumptions concerning consumer choice. This provides a foundation for Behavioral Public Economics. Second, we illustrate applications of these approaches by surveying behavioral studies of policy problems involving saving, addiction, and public goods. We argue that the literature on behavioral public economics, though in its infancy, has already fundamentally changed our understanding of public policy in each of these domains.

Aid and Growth: What Does the Cross-Country Evidence Really Show?
by Raghuram G. Rajan, Arvind Subramanian - #11513 (IFM)
We examine the effects of aid on growth--in cross-sectional and panel data--after correcting for the bias that aid typically goes to poorer countries, or to countries after poor performance. Even after this correction, we find little robust evidence of a positive (or negative) relationship between aid inflows into a country and its economic growth. We also find no evidence that aid works better in better policy or geographical environments, or that certain forms of aid work better than others. Our findings, which relate to the past, do not imply that aid cannot be beneficial in the future. But they do suggest that for aid to be effective in the future, the aid apparatus will have to be rethought. Our findings raise the question: what aspects of aid offset what ought to be the indisputable growth enhancing effects of resource transfers? Thus, our findings support efforts under way at national and international levels to understand and improve aid effectiveness.

How Do Friendships Form?
by Bruce Sacerdote, David Marmaros - #11530 (CH)
We examine how people form social networks among their peers. We use a unique dataset that tells us the volume of email between any two people in the sample. The data are from students and recent graduates of Dartmouth College. First year students interact with peers in their immediate proximity and form long term friendships with a subset of these people. This result is consistent with a model in which the expected value of interacting with an unknown person is low (making traveling solely to meet new people unlikely), while the benefits from interacting with the same person repeatedly are high. Geographic proximity and race are greater determinants of social interaction than are common interests, majors, or family background. Two randomly chosen white students interact three times more often than do a black student and a white student. However, placing the black and white student in the same freshman dorm increases their frequency of interaction by a factor of three. A traditional "linear in group means" model of peer ability is only a reasonable approximation to the ability of actual peers chosen when we form the groups around all key factors including distance, race and cohort.

Mexican Entrepreneurship: A Comparison of Self-Employment in Mexico and the United States
by Robert Fairlie, Christopher Woodruff - #11527 (ITI LS)
Nearly a quarter of Mexico's workforce is self employed. But in the U.S. rates of self employment among Mexican Americans are only 6 percent, about half the rate among non-Latino whites. Using data from the Mexican and U.S. population census, we show that neither industrial composition nor differences in the age and education of Mexican born populations residing in Mexico and the U.S. accounts for the differences in the self employment rates in the two countries. Within the U.S., however, the data show self employment rates are much higher in ethnic enclaves. In PUMAS with a high percentage of residents of Latino origin, rates of self employment are comparable to rates among non-Latino whites. The data also indicate that the lack of English language ability and the lack of legal status among Mexican American immigrants helps account for their lower rates of self employment.


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