Summary. This paper studies costly conflict over private and public goods. Oil is an example of the former, political and civil rights an example of the latter. Our theory predicts that groups in conflict are likely to be small when the prize is private, and large when the prize is public. We examine these implications empirically by constructing a global dataset at the ethnic group level and studying conflict along ethnic lines. Our theoretical predictions find significant confirmation in this setting, and the analysis sheds new light on group size and collective action in the context of violent conflict.
(with Minu Philip and S. Subramanian), revised September 2020.
Summary. India’s case fatality rate (CFR) under covid-19 is strikingly low, trending from 3% or more, to a current level of under 1.8%. The world average rate is far higher. Several observers have noted that this difference is at least partly due to India’s younger age distribution. In this paper, we use age-specific fatality rates from comparison countries, coupled with India’s distribution of covid-19 cases to “predict” what India’s CFR would be with those age-specific rates. In most cases, those predictions are lower than India’s actual performance, suggesting that India’s CFR is, if anything, too high rather than too low.
Summary. The world has continued to change rapidly since the last version of this article was written on May 20, 2020. Yet, as this article goes to press, we are aware of two realities; first, that we cannot perennially chase a moving target, but second, that nothing about the fundamental trends that we have identified appear to have changed. India is firmly in the throes of a vicious pandemic that we can only hope will abate with the development of an effective vaccine. Our plea for the widespread provision of adequate health and medical facilities, adequate protection for the elderly, and transfers to those severely affected by the lockdown are absolutely unchanged in the face of the latest data. In contrast, the brutal enforcement of a lockdown with none of these accompanying measures can only worsen outcomes for the poorest and most vulnerable among the population.
Summary. We present a theory of long run inequality and automation driven by capital accumulation rather than technical progress. At the heart of the theory is a singularity condition that guarantees automation in the production of automated technologies. If that condition is satisfied, the functional share of capital approaches 100% in the long run.
Summary. An agent who privately knows his type (good or bad) seeks to be retained by a principal. A principal seeks to retain good agents. Agents signal their type with some ambient noise, but can alter this noise, perhaps at some cost. Our main finding, that we examine in several extensions, is that in equilibrium,the principal treats extreme signals in either direction with suspicion, and retains the agent if and only if the signal falls in some intermediate bounded set. In short, she follows the maxim: “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
A sender is about to come into possession of an object of heterogeneous quality. Prior to knowing that quality, she commits to a categorization. That is, she partitions the set of qualities intosubsets — some possibly singletons — and verifiably commits to reveal the element in which the quality belongs. The categoriesmust be monotone. Our main results fully describe the profit-maximizing categorizationfor any pair of priors over object quality held by sender and receiver. We apply these results to the design of educational grades.
We propose that India build up a sovereign fund, to be invested in portfolios of equity, bonds and other financial assets, and managed professionally as any fund would be managed, subject to certain constraints that we describe in this paper. The proposal to access Indian corporate value consists of two parts: I. A one-time directive that will require every publicly traded Indian company to issue new shares to the government, equal to some fraction (say 10–20%) of their outstanding shares in the mar- ket. II. An ongoing obligation to transfer some given fraction (again 10–20%) of every new share issue — whether in the form of an initial public offering or an expansion of the existing share base — to the India Fund.
(with Garance Genicot), December 2019. Forthcoming, Annual Review of Economics.
This paper reviews the literature on aspirations in economics, with a particular focus on socially determined aspirations. The core theory builds on two fundamental principles: (a) aspirations can serve to inspire, but still higher aspirations can lead to frustration and resentment; and (b) aspirations are largely determined by an individual’s social environment. We discuss the implications of this framework for the study of interpersonal inequality, social conflict, fertility choices, risk taking and goal-setting.
(with Youcheng Lou, Sahar Parsa, Duan Li and Shouyang Wang), May 2019, forthcoming, Journal of Economic Theory.
Summary. We study a financial market with asymmetric, multidimensional trader signals that have general correlation structure. Each of a continuum of traders belongs to one of finitely many “information groups.” There is a multidimensional aggregate signal for each group. Each trader observes an idiosyncratic signal about the fundamental, built from this group signal. Correlations across group signals are arbitrary. Several existing models serve as special cases, and new applications become possible. We establish existence and regularity of linear equilibrium, and demonstrate that the equilibrium price aggregates information perfectly as noise trade vanishes. Combines and extends results in Parsa and Ray (2017) and Lou, Li and Wang (2017), both mimeo. Online Appendix.
Summary. The stable set of von Neumann and Morgenstern can be extended to cover farsighted coalitional deviations, as proposed by Harsanyi (1974), and more recently reformulated by Ray and Vohra (2015). However, while coalitional deviations improve on existing outcomes, coalitions might do even better by moving elsewhere. Or other coalitions might intervene to impose their favored moves. We show that every farsighted stable set satisfying some reasonable, and easily verifiable, properties is unaffected by the imposition of this stringent maximality requirement.
Summary. We provide systematic estimates of the excess female mortality faced by older unmarried women in developing regions. We place these estimates in the context of the missing women phenomenon. There are approximately 1.5 million missing women between the ages of 30 and 60 years old each year. We find that 35% of these missing women of adult age can be attributed to not being married. These estimates vary by region. India has the largest proportion of missing adult women who are without a husband, followed by the countries in East Africa. By contrast, China has almost no missing unmarried women. We show that 70% of missing unmarried women are of reproductive age and that it is the relatively high mortality rates of these young unmarried women (compared to their married counterparts) that drive this phenomenon.
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.
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. The Dow relies on price-weighting, which is decidedly an odd methodology. We propose a bridging process that generates convergence to a value-weighted index without compromising the historical continuity of the Dow.
Summary. This paper studies costly conflict in a world of complete information, in which society can commit to divisible transfers among all potentially warring groups. The difficulty in preventing conflict arises from the possibility that there may be several conflictual divisions of society, each based on a different marker, such as class, geography, religion, or ethnicity. It is shown that this diversity of societal markers is particularly conducive to social instability when potential conflict is over private, divisible resources. In contrast, when conflict is over public goods, such diversity promotes social stability.