with Michael Ewens
Journal of Financial Economics, Forthcoming

with Kelly Shue
Journal of Finance, 2017, 76(6): 2551-2588

with Kelly Shue
(Lead Article) Journal of Financial Economics, 2017, 123(1): 1-21
JFE Jensen Prize (Second) for Best Papers in Corporate Finance and Organizations

with Shai Bernstein and Xavier Giroud
Journal of Finance, 2016, 71(4): 1591-1622

Management Science, 2015, 61(11): 2782-2802

Working Papers

with Shai Bernstein and Timothy McQuade
Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Finance

Abstract: We investigate how the deterioration of household balance sheets affects worker productivity, and whether such effects mitigate or amplify economic downturns. To do so, we compare the output of innovative workers who experienced different declines in housing wealth, but who were employed at the same firm and lived in the same area at the onset of the 2008 crisis. We find that, following a negative wealth shock, innovative workers become less productive, and generate lower economic value for their firms. Consistent with a debt-related channel, the effects are more pronounced among those with little home equity before the crisis and those with fewer outside labor market opportunities.

with Joshua D. Gottlieb and Ting Xu
Revise and Resubmit, Review of Financial Studies

Abstract: Do potential entrepreneurs remain in wage employment because of concerns that they will face worse job opportunities should their entrepreneurial ventures fail? Using a Canadian reform that extended job-protected leave to one year for women giving birth after a cutoff date, we study whether the option to return to a previous job increases entrepreneurship. A regression discontinuity design reveals that longer job-protected leave increases entrepreneurship by 1.9 percentage points. These entrepreneurs start incorporated businesses that hire employees—in industries where experimentation before entry has low costs and high benefits. The effects are concentrated among those with more human and financial capital.

with Kelly Shue

Abstract: Nominal stock prices are arbitrary. Therefore, when evaluating how a piece of news should affect the price of a stock, rational investors should think in percentage rather than dollar terms. However, dollar price changes are ubiquitously reported and discussed. This may both cause and reflect a tendency of investors to think about the impact of news in dollar terms, leading to more extreme return responses to news for lower-priced stocks. We find a number of results consistent with such non-proportional thinking. First, lower-priced stocks have higher total volatility, idiosyncratic volatility, and market betas, after controlling flexibly for size. To identify a causal effect of price, we show that volatility increases sharply following pre-announced stock splits and drops following reverse stock splits. The returns of lower-priced stocks also respond more strongly to firm-specific news events, all else equal. The economic magnitudes are large: a doubling in a stock's nominal price is associated with a 20-30% decline in its volatility, beta, and return response to firm-specific news. These patterns are not exclusive to small, illiquid stocks; they hold even among the largest stocks. Non-proportional thinking can explain a variety of asset pricing anomalies such as long-run and short-run reversals, as well as the negative relation between past returns and volatility (i.e., the leverage effect). Our analysis also shows that the well-documented negative relation between risk (volatility or beta) and size is actually driven by nominal prices rather than fundamentals.

with Ing-Haw Cheng and Felipe Severino

Abstract: We test whether consumers negotiating with debt collectors agree to “bad deals” that are worse than their outside option. We examine new data on civil lawsuits where consumers can either settle with collectors or exercise their outside option to go to court. Random assignment of judges with different styles generates exogenous variation in the likelihood of negotiation. Using linked credit registry data, we find evidence that settlements cause increased financial distress, without benefiting consumers through improved access to credit, collector concessions, or avoidance of uncertainty. Consumers experience more financial distress when making deals with highly experienced collectors. Overall, the evidence suggests that consumers are prone to strike bad deals with debt collectors.