(with Anirban Mitra), in Advances in the Economics of Religion (J-P Carvalho, S. Iyer and J. Rubin, eds.) Volume 158, International Economic Association Series, Palgrave Macmillan (2019).
Summary. We revisit and extend the core issues studied in Mitra and Ray (2014). The main reason behind this retrospection is to check if the robust empirical patterns recorded there persist once we consider a longer time frame extending into the 21st century. We make three observations: (i) There is a clear economic component to violence, roughly along the lines of our earlier paper; (ii) There is a new aspect which is assuming salience now — namely, a strong political component which is manifesting itself through the presence of BJP legislators; (iii) Ahmedabad exemplifies the ascendancy of this political component.
Summary. When future generations enter hedonistically into current welfare, a social planner should overweight the future relative to the individual, even if every individual has the same discount factor.
(with Arthur Robson), American Economic Review 108, 489–520 (2018).
Summary. Certified random order (a) distributes the gain from first authorship evenly over the alphabet, (b) allows either author to signal when contributions are extremely unequal, (c) will invade an environment where alphabetical order is dominant, (d) is robust to deviations, (e) may be ex-ante more efficient than alphabetical order, and (f) is no more complex than the existing alphabetical system modified by occasional reversal of name order.
Summary. We study a model of time preferences in which agents discount both past and future payoffs to obtain their lifetime felicity. Agents derive utility from their current lifetime felicity, as well the anticipated felicity of a distinguished future self. These postulates permit an agent to anticipate future regret in current decisions, and generate a set of novel testable implications in line with empirical evidence.
Summary. This paper develops a theory of socially determined aspirations, and the interaction of those aspirations with growth and inequality. The interaction is bidirectional: economy-wide outcomes determine individual aspirations, which in turn determine investment incentives and social outcomes. Thus aspirations, income, and the distribution of income evolve jointly.
Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 17, 309–323, 2016.
Summary. I describe a positive theory of socially determined aspirations, and some implications of that theory for the study of economic inequality and social conflict. The main contribution of the theory is that it attempts to describe, in the same explanatory arc, how a change in aspirations can be inspirational in some circumstances, or a source of frustration and resentment in others. These different reactions arise from the aspirational gap: the difference between socially generated aspirations and the current socio-economic standard that the individual enjoys. Ever-accelerating economic development can cut both ways in terms of inspiration and frustration.
with Rajshri Jayaraman and Francis de Vericourt, American Economic Review 106, 316-358, 2016. Online Appendix.
Summary. We study a contract change for tea pluckers. Base wages increased while incentive piece rates were lowered or kept unchanged. Yet, in the following month, output increased by 20–80%. This response contradicts the standard model, is only partly explicable by greater supervision, and appears to be “behavioral.” But in subsequent months, the increase is comprehensively reversed. Our findings suggest that behavioral responses may be ephemeral, and should ideally be tracked over an extended period.
(with Doug Bernheim and Sevin Yeltekin), Econometrica83 (5), 1877-1911, 2015. Online Appendix. A link to the 1999 version, which only had numerical results.
Summary. Poverty can perpetuate itself by undermining the capacity for self-control. Our main result demonstrates that low initial assets can limit self-control, trapping people in poverty, while those with high initial assets can accumulate indefinitely.
(with Anirban Mitra), Journal of Political Economy122, 719-765, 2014.
Summary. We model intergroup conflict driven by economic changes within groups. We show that if group incomes are low, increasing group incomes raises violence against that group and lowers violence generated by it. We then apply the model to data on Hindu-Muslim violence in India. Our main result is that an increase in per capita Muslim expenditures generates a large and significant increase in future religious conflict. An increase in Hindu expenditures has a negative or no effect. These findings speak to the origins of Hindu-Muslim violence in post-Independence India. Online Appendix. Sequel.
(with Rajshri Jayaraman and Shing-Yi Wang), Economic and Political Weekly 49 No. 25, June 21, 2014.
Summary. Two potential sources of gender bias in health care are (a) females access treatment later than males and (b) they receive differential care at the medical facility. We explore both of these for eye care at a large Indian medical facility. At presentation, women have worse diagnoses than men for indicators of symptomatic illness, such as myopia and cataract. There is no difference in treatment.
Summary. This paper studies endogenous risk-taking by embedding a concern for status (relative consumption) into an otherwise conventional model of economic growth. We prove that if the intertemporal production function is strictly concave, an equilibrium must converge to a unique steady state in which there is recurrent endogenous risk taking.
(with Dilip Mookherjee and Stefan Napel), Journal of the European Economic Association8, 139–168, 2010.
Summary. This paper examines steady states of an overlapping generations economy with a given distribution of household locations over a one-dimensional interval. The paper studies steady state configurations of skill acquisition, both with and without segregation, and studies the macroeconomic and welfare effects of segregation on aggregate economic outcomes.
(with Rajiv Sethi), Journal of Public Economic Theory 12, 399-406, 2010.
Summary. Elite educational institutions have turned to criteria that meet diversity goals without being formally contingent on applicant identity. Under weak and generic conditions, such color-blind affirmative action policies must be nonmonotone in student test scores.
Summary. We compare the long-run (steady state) effects of replacing unconditional transfers to the poor by transfers conditional on education of children. Conditional transfers (funded by taxes on earnings of the skilled) are shown to generate higher long run output per capita and higher (utilitarian and Rawlsian) welfare.
(with Kfir Eliaz and Ronny Razin), Journal of Economic Theory 132, 236–273, 2007.
Summary. A model of group decision-making is studied, in which one of two alternatives must be chosen. Our model is distinguished by three features: private information regarding valuations, differing intensities in preferences, and the option to declare neutrality to avoid disagreement. There is always an equilibrium in which the majority is more aggressive in pushing its alternative, thus enforcing their will via both numbers and voice. However, under general conditions an aggressive minority equilibrium inevitably makes an appearance, provided that the group is large enough. Such equilibria invariably display a “tyranny of the minority”: the increased aggression of the minority always outweighs their smaller number, leading to the minority outcome being implemented with larger probability than the majority alternative.
(with Kfir Eliaz and Ronny Razin), American Economic Review 96, 1321-1332, 2006.
Summary. The phenomenon of choice shifts in group decision-making has received much attention in the social psychology literature. Faced with a choice between a “safe” and “risky” decision, group members appear to move to one extreme or the other, relative to the choices each member might have made on her own. Both risky and cautious shifts have been identified in different situations. This paper demonstrates that from an individual decision-making perspective, choice shifts may be viewed as a systematic violation of expected utility theory. We propose a model in which a well-known failure of expected utility — captured by the Allais paradox — is equivalent to a particular configuration of choice shifts. Thus, our results imply a connection between two well-known behavioral regularities, one in individual decision theory and another in the social psychology of groups.
(with Jon Bendor and Dilip Mookherjee), Quarterly Journal of Political Science1, 171–200, 2006.
Summary. We model political parties as adaptive decision makers who compete in a sequence of elections. The key assumptions are that winners satisfice (the winning party in period t keeps its platform in t + 1) while losers search. Under fairly mild assumptions about losers’ search rules, we show that the sequence of winning platforms is absorbed into the top cycle of the (finite) set of feasible platforms with probability one.
in Abhijit Banerjee, Roland Benabou and Dilip Mookherjee, What Have We Learned About Poverty?, Oxford University Press, 2006.
Summary. Introduces the idea of aspirations as a socially determined reference point. The paper argues that reachable aspirations serve to inspire, while still higher aspirations could lead to frustration.
(with Joan Esteban), American Political Science Review95, 663–672, 2001.
Summary. According to the Olson paradox, larger groups may be less successful than smaller groups in furthering their interests. We address the issue in a model with three distinctive features: explicit intergroup interaction, collective prizes with a varying mix of public and private characteristics, and nonlinear lobbying costs. The interplay of these features leads to new results. When the cost of lobbying has the elasticity of a quadratic function, or higher, larger groups are more effective no matter how private the prize. With smaller elasticities, a threshold degree of publicness is enough to overturn the Olson argument, and this threshold tends to zero as the elasticity approaches the value for a quadratic function.
(with Jon Bendor and Dilip Mookherjee), International Game Theory Review 3, 159–174, 2001.
Summary. In models of aspiration-based reinforcement learning, agents adapt by comparing payoffs achieved from actions chosen in the past with an aspiration level. Though such models are well-established in behavioural psychology, only recently have they begun to receive attention in game theory and its applications to economics and politics. This paper provides an informal overview of a range of such theories applied to repeated interaction games.
(with Rajeeva Karandikar, Dilip Mookherjee, and Fernando Vega-Redondo), Journal of Economic Theory80, 292-331, 1998.
Summary. A 2×2 game is played repeatedly by two satisficing players. The game considered includes the Prisoner’s Dilemma, as well as games of coordination and common interest. Each player has an aspiration at each date, and takes an action. The action is switched at the subsequent period only if the achieved payoff falls below aspirations; the switching probability depends on the shortfall. Aspirations are periodically updated according to payoff experience, but are occasionally subject to trembles. For sufficiently slow updating of aspirations and small tremble probability, it is shown that both players must ultimately cooperate most of the time.
(with Joan Esteban), Econometrica62, 819–851, 1994.
Summary. This paper is concerned with the conceptualization and measurement of polarization. Suppose that a population is grouped into significantly-sized “clusters’,” such that each cluster is “similar” in terms of the attributes of its members, but different clusters have “dissimilar” attributes. In that case we would say that the society is “polarized.” We study these intuitive criteria carefully, and provide a theory of measurement.
Summary. The paper develops a concept of equilibrium behaviour in a model of nonpaternalistic intergenerational altruism. When each generation’s utility depends on that of at least two successors, equilibria may be inefficient.