Julius Silver Professor, Faculty of Arts and Science, and
Professor of Economics, New York University

Co-Editor, American Economic Review
Research Associate, NBER
Part-Time Professor, University of Warwick
Council Member, Game Theory Society
Research Fellow, CESifo
Board Member, BREAD and ThReD
Researcher in Residence, ESOP

Department of EconomicsNYU, 19 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012, U.S.A.
debraj.ray@nyu.edu, +1 (212)-998-8906.

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Three Randomly Selected Papers
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Collective Action and the Group Size Paradox

(with Joan Esteban), American Political Science Review  95, 663–672, 2001.

SummaryAccording 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. 

Anatomy of a Contract Change

with Rajshri Jayaraman and Francis de Vericourt, American Economic Review 106, 316-358, 2016Online Appendix.

SummaryWe 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. 

Too Good To Be True? Retention Rules for Noisy Agents

(with Francisco Espinosa), November 2019. Supplementary Appendix.

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.”