Grading on a Curve: When Having Good Peers is not Good

Joint with Annalisa Loviglio

Abstract: Student access to education levels, tracks or majors is usually determined by their previous performance, measured either by internal exams, designed and graded by teachers in school, or external exams, designed and graded by central authorities. We say teachers grade on a curve whenever having better peers harms the evaluation obtained by a given student. We use rich administrative records from public schools in Catalonia to provide evidence that teachers indeed grade on a curve, leading to negative peer e ects. This puts forth a source of distortion that may arise in any system that uses internal grades to compare students across schools and classes. We nd suggestive evidence that school choice is impacted only the year when internal grades matter for future prospects.

[Paper in PDF]

Catchment Areas and Access to Better Schools

Joint with Antonio Miralles

Revise and resubmit at the Journal of the European Economic Association

Abstract: We compare popular school choice mechanisms in terms of children's access to better schools (ABS) than their catchment area school, in districts with school stratification and where priority is given for residence in the catchment area of the school. In a large market model with two good schools and one bad school, we find that both the Boston Mechanism and Deferred Acceptance, the most popular assignment mechanisms, convey a non-negligible possibility that catchment area priority determines the final assignment to a large extent regardless parents’ preferences.  Top-Trading Cycles is an alternative that provides more access to better schools than DA.

[Paper in PDF]

Structural Estimation of a Model of School Choices: the Boston Mechanism vs. Its Alternatives

Joint with Chao Fu and Maia Guell

Resubmitted at the Journal of Political Economy

Abstract: We model household choice of schools under the Boston mechanism (BM) and develop a new method, applicable to a broad class of mechanisms, to fully solve the choice problem even if it is infeasible via the traditional method. We estimate the joint distribution of household preferences and sophistication types using administrative data from Barcelona. Counterfactual policy analyses show that a change from BM to the Deferred Acceptance mechanism would decrease average welfare by 1,020 euros, while a change to the top trading cycles mechanism would increase average welfare by 460 euros. 

[Paper in PDF]

Sorting in Public School Districts under the Boston Mechanims

Joint with Francisco Martinez-Mora and Antonio Miralles

Revise and resubmit at the Economic Journal

Abstract: We show that the widely used Boston Mechanism (BM) fosters ability and socioeconomic segregation across otherwise identical public schools, even when schools do not have priorities over local students. Our model includes an endogenous component of school quality determined by the peer group and an exogenous one. If there is an exogenously worse public school, BM generates sorting of types between a priori equally good public schools: an elitist public school emerges. A richer model with some preference for closer schools and flexible residential choice does not eliminate this e§ect. It rather worsens the peer quality of the nonelitist school. The existence of private schools makes the best public school more elitist, while reducing the peer quality of the worst school. The main alternative assignment mechanism, Deferred Acceptance, is resilient to such sorting effects. 

[Paper in PDF]

Priorities in School Choice: The Case of the Boston Mechanism in Barcelona

Joint with Maia Guell

Resubmited at the Journal of Public Economics

Abstract: The Boston mechanism is a school allocation procedure that is widely used around the world and has been criticized for its incentive problems. In order to resolve overdemands for a given school, most often priority is given to families living in the neighborhood of the school. Using a very rich data set on school applications for the case of the Boston mechanism in Barcelona, we exploit an unexpected change in the denition of neighborhood. This change allows us to identify that a large fraction of families not only does not report preferences truthfully, but ranks first high priority schools, neighborhood schools in this case. Additional data on school enrollment decisions and census data shows that some seemingly unsophisticated parents are high income families that can rank hard-to-get schools because they can aord the outside option of a private school in case they do not get in. This sheds light on important inequalities beyond parents' lack of sophistication found in the literature.

[Paper in PDF]


A Review on “Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a SaneEconomy”, by Phillipe Van Paris and Yannick Vanderborght 

Joint with Sabine Flamand

Journal of Economic Literatureforthcoming

[Paper in PDF]

Gender Differences in Responses to Big Stakes

Joint with Ghazala Azmat and Nagore Iriberri

Journal of the European Economic Association Issue 14-6,  December 2016

Abstract: In the psychology literature, "choking under pressure" refers to a behavioral response to an increase in the stakes. In a natural experiment, we study the gender difference in performance resulting from changes in stakes. We use detailed information on the performance of high-school students and exploit the variation in the stakes of tests, which range from 5% to 27% of the final grade. We find that female students outperform male students relatively more when the stakes are low. The gender gap disappears in tests taken at the end of high school, which count for 50% of the university entry grade.

[Paper in PDF]

VOXeu - CEP [Link & article in PDF]

Maturity and School Outcomes in an Inflexible System: Evidence from Catalonia

Joint with Annalisa Loviglio

Abstract: Having a unique cut-off to determine when children can access school induces a large heterogeneity in maturity to coexist in a classroom. We use very rich data on performance in internal and external evaluations in public schools in Catalonia to show that: 1) Relatively younger children do significantly worse both in internal and external evaluations and experience greater retention, although the effect is decreasing as children become older; 2) Younger children in our data exhibit higher dropout rates and chose the academic track in secondary school less often; 3) Heterogeneity analysis: the effect is homogenous across SES and significant across the whole ability distribution; 4) Younger children are more frequently diagnosed with learning disabilities.

[Paper in PDF]

Alfred Marshall's Cardinal Theory of Value: The Strong Law of Demand

Joint with Donald J. Brown

Economic Theory Bulletin Volume 2, 65-76, January 2014 

Abstract: We show that all the fundamental properties of competitive equilibrium in Marshall’s cardinal theory of value, as presented in Note XXI of the mathematical appendix to his Principles of Economics (1890), derive from the Strong Law of Demand. That is, existence, uniqueness, optimality, and global stability of equilibrium prices with respect to tatonnement price adjustment follow from the cyclical monotonicity of the market demand function in the Marshallian general equilibrium model.

[Paper in PDF]

Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper #1399Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.

The Incentive Effects of Affirmative Action in a Real-Effort Tournament

Joint with Joerg Franke Pedro Rey-Biel 

Journal of Public Economics Volume 98, 15-31, February 2013 

Abstract: Affirmative action policies bias tournament rules in order to provide equal opportunities to a group of competitors who have a disadvantage they cannot be held responsible for. Its implementation affects the underlying incentive structure which might induce lower performance by participants, and additionally result in a selected pool of tournament winners that is less efficient. In this paper,we study the empirical validity of such concerns in a case where the disadvantage affects capacities to compete. We conducted real-effort tournaments between pairs of children from two similar schools who systematically differed in how much training they received ex-ante on the task at hand. Contrary to the expressed concerns, our results show that the implementation of affirmative action did not result in a significant performance loss for either advantaged or disadvantaged subjects; instead it rather enhanced the performance for a large group of participants. Moreover, affirmative action resulted in a more equitable tournament winner pool where half of the selected tournament winners came from the originally disadvantaged group. Hence, the negative selection effects due to the biased tournament rules were (at least partially) offset by performance enhancing incentive effects.

[Paper in PDF]

A Comment On: School Choice: An Experimental Study

Joint with Guillaume Haeringer and Flip Klijn 

Journal of Economic Theory Volume 146, Number 1, January 2011 

Abstract: We show that one of the main results in Chen and Sonmez (J. Econ. Th., 2006, 2008) does no longer hold when the number of recombinations is sufficiently increased to obtain reliable conclusions. No school choice mechanism is significantly superior in terms of efficiency. 

[Paper in PDF]

Constrained School Choice: An Experimental Study

Joint with Guillaume Haeringer and Flip Klijn 

American Economic Review Volume 100, Number 4, September 2010

Abstract: The literature on school choice assumes that families can submit a preference list over all the schools they want to be assigned to. However, in many real-life instances families are only allowed to submit a list containing a limited number of schools. Subjects' incentives are drastically affected, as more individuals manipulate their preferences. Including a safety school in the constrained list explains most manipulations. Competitiveness across schools play an important role. Constraining choices increases segregation and affects the stability and efficiency of the final allocation. Remarkably, the constraint reduces significantly the proportion of subjects playing a dominated strategy. 

[Paper in PDF]

Decentralizing Equality of Opportunity

International Economic Review Volume 50, Number 1, February 2009

Abstract: In a global justice problem, equality of opportunity is satisfied if individual well-being is independent of exogenous irrelevant characteristics. Policymakers, however, address questions involving local justice problems. We interpret a collection of local justice problems as the decentralized global justice problem. We show that controlling for effort locally, which is not required by the global justice objective, is sufficient for decentralizing equality of opportunity. Moreover, under some conditions, equalizing rewards to effort is not only sufficient but necessary. This implies in particular that most affirmative action policies may not contribute to providing equality of opportunity since they do not control for effort. 

[Paper in PDF]

The Nonparametric Approach to Applied Welfare Analysis

Joint with Donald J. Brown

Economic Theory Volume 31, Number 1, April 2007 

Abstract: Changes in total surplus are traditional measures of economic welfare. We propose necessary and sufficient conditions for rationalizing individual and aggregate consumer demand data with individual quasilinear and homothetic utility functions. Under these conditions, consumer surplus is a valid measure of consumer welfare. For nonmarketed goods, we propose necessary and sufficient conditions on input market data for efficient production, i.e. production at minimum cost. Under these conditions we derive a cost function for the nonmarketed good, where producer surplus is the area above the marginal cost curve. 

[Paper in PDF]

Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper #1507Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.

Rationalizing and Curve-Fitting Demand Data with Quasilinear Utilities

Joint with Donald J. Brown

Abstract: In the empirical and theoretical literature a consumer's utility function is often assumed to be quasilinear. In this paper we provide necessary and sufficient conditions for testing if the consumer acts as if she is maximizing a quasilinear utility function over her budget set. If the consumer's choices are inconsistent with maximizing a quasilinear utility function over her budget set, then we compute the "best" quasilinear rationalization of her choices. 

[Paper in PDF]

Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper #1399RCowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.

Caterina Calsamiglia, IPEG, revised December 2017