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

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 more randomly selected papers. Or click here for RECENT RESEARCH, or use navbar and search icon at top of page to look for specific research areas and papers.

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. 

Games of Love and Hate

(with Rajiv Vohra), March 2019, forthcoming, Journal of Political Economy.

Dedicated to Tapan Mitra — advisor, colleague and dear friend, whose sense of aesthetics, minimalism and rigor has been an inspiration to us. Tapan Mitra died on February 3, 2019.

Summary. A strategic situation with payoff-based externalities is one in which a player’s payoff is a function of her own action and the payoffs of other players. Every action profile therefore induces an interdependent utility system. A strategic situation is continuous if each such utility system is continuous. If each utility system is bounded, with a unique payoff solution for every action profile, we call the strategic situation coherent, and if the same condition also applies to every subset of players, we call the situation sub-coherent. A coherent, sub-coherent and continuous situation generates a standard normal form, referred to as a game of love and hate. Our central theorem states that every equilibrium of a game of love and hate is Pareto optimal, in sharp contrast to the general prevalence of inefficient equilibria in the presence of externalities. While externalities are restricted to flow only through payoffs there are no other constraints: they could be positive or negative, or of varying sign. We further show that our coherence, sub-coherence and continuity requirements are tight.

On the Dynamics of Inequality

Economic Theory 29, 291–306, 2006.

Summary. The dynamics of inequality are studied in a model of human capital accumulation with credit constraints. This model admits a multiplicity of steady state skill ratios that exhibit varying degrees of inequality across households. The main result studies nonstationary equilibrium paths, and shows that an equilibrium sequence of skill ratios must converge monotonically to the smallest steady state that exceeds the initial ratio for that sequence. This paper, in honor of Mukul Majumdar, publishes notes from 1990, which contain a different proof of the main result.