Malcolm John Kass

Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics
University of Texas at Arlington

Ph. D. Candidate in Economics (expected early 2016)
University of Texas at Dallas

Fields of specialization:
Conflict and Conflict Resolution, Behavioral and Experimental Economics,
Public Economics.

Contact info:
mobile:  952-334-5041
About me

Hello, I am a PhD Candidate (expected early 2016) in Economics at the University of Texas at Dallas and a Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Texas at Arlington. I use economic experiments to study how institutions and the mechanisms by which they are selected, can promote cooperation in social dilemma settings. In 2011, my co-authors and I published “Counterterror Strategies in a Lab” in Public Choice. In that paper we examined cooperation in a specialized social dilemma setting that captures the coordination problem between countries engaging in counterterrorism strategies. The main implication of the model we test is that countries will invest in strategies that improve their own well being at the expense of other countries. Overcoming this tendency requires out-of-equilibrium cooperation. The contribution of this paper is that cooperation is significantly reduced when this specialized social dilemma is presented stochastically (more akin to the theory’s rationale) to individuals versus presented in a deterministic setting. Two additional papers extend that research to examine “solutions” that are designed to help alleviate, but not to entirely remove, the friction between individual and group incentives.

My dissertation examines different ways in which policy makers might make it easier for groups to coordinate on better strategies when the policy maker cannot alter the strategic nature of the setting. The first chapter looks at exogenously imposed “solutions”. These “solutions” are small earnings transfers from the individual who defects to the individual who cooperates, but these transfers are not large enough to alter the setting from a social dilemma. We found low to moderate transfers having little or no effect, but higher transfers having a large effect. This result may help explain why some policies fail at their intended purpose. This paper is forthcoming at Social Choice and Welfare. My second dissertation chapter (my job market paper) introduces a collective choice mechanism allowing individuals to choose among the different transfer options. Allowing endogenous selection of economic settings usually leads to greater cooperation, but in my case there was no effect for my simple, non-equilibrium altering transfers. It appears that increases in cooperation from endogenous selection depend on policy type and how the policy was implemented. Lastly, my third dissertation chapter tests an asymmetric contest setting in an attempt to uncover the reasons why individuals will dramatically reduce their well-being for the benefit of a larger in-group.