Research


Working Papers:

- "The Welfare Effects of Social Recognition: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment with the YMCA" (JOB MARKET PAPER) ( Under legal clearance for name use in academic publication, not publicly available yet. Please email me for a copy of the paper)

Abstract: A growing body of empirical work shows that social recognition, i.e. the public revelation of individual behavior, can significantly influence individuals' choices. This paper investigates whether social recognition is a socially efficient way to influence individuals' choices. Social recognition is a positional good: not everyone can be at the top, and reductions in privacy can generate both winners and losers. The relative magnitude of such gains and losses determines the overall welfare effect of social recognition nudges. Theoretically, we show that whether social recognition is more efficient than financial incentives depends on whether the shape of the social recognition utility function makes reductions in privacy a positive-sum, negative-sum, or zero-sum game. To quantify the theoretical findings, we report results from a novel field experiment on promoting attendance to the YMCA. We quantify the impact that social recognition has on attendance, as well as elicit people's willingness to pay for social recognition in different future states of the world. We find that social recognition increases YMCA attendance by 23% over a one-month period. We then estimate people's willingness to pay to be recognized at varying levels of attendance, and find that social recognition is a moderately positive-sum game. Unlike previous attempts at evaluating “nudges”, we are able to generate our welfare estimates using non-parametric methods that do not rely on the assumption that individuals hold rational expectations about their future behavior. Our theoretical and empirical framework provides a general template for robustly evaluating the welfare effects of non-financial policy levers.

- "An Economic Approach to Alleviate the Crisis of Confidence in Science: With an Application to the Public Goods Game" (with John List) (PDF - NBER version)

IdeaNovel and surprising experimental results sometimes fail to move scholars’ priors when they should, and sometimes they move priors too much. We develop a novel mechanism to promote replications and generate mutually beneficial gains from trade between economists: the authors of a novel (and surprising) study publish their results online as a working paper but commit to never send it to a peer-reviewed journal. They instead offer co-authorship on a second, yet to be written paper to colleagues willing to independently replicate the study. The second paper references the seminal working paper, includes all replications, and it is sent to a peer-reviewed journal. We test our mechanism on our own novel experiment in which we find that individuals cooperate more when there is (Knightian) uncertainty about the quality of a public good.

- "Delegating Altruism: Toward an Understanding of Agency in Charitable Giving(with Dan Houser) (PDF) (R&R at Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization

Idea: Choosing a deserving recipient requires time and effort. One possibility is to delegate this decision to a better-informed agent. Better allocation decisions come at the cost of losing control over decisions, which in turns may reduce the charitable impulse. We study how the presence of intermediaries affects the charitable giving markets.

- "Audience Effect on two Types of Pro Social Behavior: an fMRI Investigation" (with Jean Claude Dreher, Elise Metereau and Marie Claire Villeval) - Paper available on request  (R&R at Nature: Communications)

Idea: When observed by others, people tend to be more pro-social.  Which combinations of costs for the individual and social benefits make this effect more likely? Does social image work in the same way for decisions that involve “doing good” and decisions that involve “not doing bad”? 

- "Good News, Bad News, and Social Image: The Market for Charitable Giving" (with Jeffrey Horn)  - PDF  (NEW VERSION!) (R&R at Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization)

Idea: Do existing donors adjust their donations when they perceive that the quality of their charities has changed, or when they realize that positive news about their charities can be used to receive social recognition? Good news may induce donors to give more, since they may perceive that it is cheaper to generate charitable output. On the other hand positive news may crowd-out giving because donors may provide a higher or equal level of charitable output with lower nominal donations.

"Hidden Costs of Control under Aligned Monetary Interests" (with Jason Aimone) - PDF  (under review)

Idea: Principals concerned by subordinates’ opportunism often impose output-related restrictions. This form of control backfires sometimes.We study whether these hidden costs of control arise also when principal’s authority favors – rather than reduce – subordinates’ payoffs, and how different hierarchical rules reduce or exacerbate these costs. 

- "Altruistic Punishment in Elections"(With Jason Aimone and Thomas Stratmann) - PDF (Forthcoming at European Journal of Political Economy)

Idea: For many individuals, the outcome of an election rarely affects directly their material well-being. Yet, observed elections’ turnouts are often high. We study whether individuals who are indifferent to electoral outcomes “go out” and vote against a candidate who hasn’t maintained his promises.

- "The Effect of Giving Games on Attitudes towards Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence" (With Jon Behar and Dan Houser) (draft coming soon) 

Idea: We study how choosing to donate on behalf of someone else affects peoples’ attitudes toward giving.


Selected work in progress:

- "Knightian uncertainty and cooperation" (with Philip Grossman, Daniel Houser, John List and Marie Claire Villeval) - AEA RCT registry number: AEARCTR-0002142

- "Non-cognitive skills and labor outcomes: a field experiment" (with John List and Daniel Tannenbaum)

-"Spillover effects and voter turnout" (with Fatemeh Momeni) 

-"Social recognition and voting" (with Cesar Martinelli, Fatemeh Momeni and Thomas Stratmann)

- "Time and giving" (with John List) 

- "Work compliance and volunteering: a field experiment" (with John List and Micheal Price)

- "The economics of gratitude: theory and experiments" (with David Jimenez-Gomez and Thomas Stratmann)