Julius Silver Professor, Faculty of Arts and Science, and
Professor of Economics, New York University
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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Ethnicity and Conflict: An Empirical Study

(with Joan Esteban and Laura. Mayoral), American Economic Review 102, 1310-1342, 2012. Online Appendix.

Summary. We examine empirically the impact of ethnic divisions on conflict, by using a specification based on Esteban and Ray (2011). That theory links conflict intensity to three indices of ethnic distribution: polarization, fractionalization, and the Gini-Greenberg index. The empirical analysis verifies that these distributional measures are significant correlates of conflict. These effects persist as we introduce country-specific measures of group cohesion and of the importance of public goods, and combine them with the distributional measures exactly as described by the theory.

Reinforcement Learning in Repeated Interaction Games

(with Jon Bendor and Dilip Mookherjee), Advances in Theoretical Economics 1, Issue 1, Article 3. Additional notes on extending the model to the probabilistic choice framework of Luce.

Summary. We study long run implications of reinforcement learning when two players repeatedly interact with one another over multiple rounds to play a finite action game. Within each round, the players play the game many successive times with a fixed set of aspirations used to evaluate payoff experiences as successes or failures. The probability weight on successful actions is increased, while failures result in players trying alternative actions in subsequent rounds. The learning rule is supplemented by small amounts of inertia and random perturbations to the states of players. Aspirations are adjusted across successive rounds on the basis of the discrepancy between the average payoff and aspirations in the most recently concluded round. We define and characterize pure steady states of this model, and establish convergence to these under appropriate conditions.

Persistent Inequality

(with Dilip Mookherjee), Review of Economic Studies 70, 369-393, 2003.

SummaryWhen human capital accumulation generates pecuniary externalities across professions, and capital markets are imperfect, persistent inequality in utility and consumption is inevitable in any steady state.