Feedback rating to decrease bribery: Evidence from the Kyrgyz Republic

Research by Francesco Amodio ’10 (Economics) and co-authors at The World Bank and Barcelona GSE

Kyrgyz currency

Francesco Amodio ’10 (Economics) co-authored this article for VoxDev with Barcelona GSE Research Professor Giacomo De Giorgi along with World Bank economists Jieun Choi and Aminur Rahman. In the article, the team gives an overview of a field experiment they conducted and theoretical model they developed that describes the interaction between firms and inspectors.

“In collaboration with the World Bank Group and the State Tax Service of the Kyrgyz Republic, we designed an incentive scheme for tax inspectors that rewards them based on the anonymous evaluation submitted by inspected firms. In theory, this should increase the bargaining power of firms in their relationship with tax officials, and decrease the bribe size. However, if firms pay bribes instead of taxes, bribes can increase on the extensive margin, and tax revenues could decrease.”

They found that anonymous rating of inspectors can decrease bribes and increase tax revenues as long as it takes into account market structure considerations.

Read the full article and find links to the research on VoxDev

Francesco Amodio is a graduate of the Barcelona GSE Master’s Program in Economics and the GPEFM PhD Program (UPF and Barcelona GSE). He is currently Assistant Professor of Economics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Follow him on Twitter or visit his website

Aishwarya Deshpande ’18 writes on Behavioral Development Economics

Economics alum Aishwarya Deshpande ’18 has written an article for Behavioral Scientist magazine.

Photo credit: Ruben Bagues/Unsplash

In honor of Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler’s famous book Nudge turning 10, Aishwarya Deshpande (Economics ’18) writes in Behavioral Scientist magazine about the emerging subfield in development economics, namely behavioral development economics. The subfield aims to incorporate insights informed by behavioral science to address issues of persistent inequality, poverty alleviation and welfare.

Aishwarya had the pleasure of reading various academic papers that addressed these issues with innovative approaches in preparation for the essay. She finds that ‘last mile’ between intention and action can be bridged by understanding the limitations of the human mind, which potentially has many policymaking implications.

Excerpt:

Behavioral science has come a long way in the past 50 years. While many of the early, pioneering studies took place in sanitized “lab” environments, with subjects from Western countries, the past decade has seen an explosion of behavioral science research in the messier environment of the developing world. This work has given us greater insight into how and why the world’s poorest populations make the decisions they do. But perhaps more importantly, this work has allowed behavioral scientists to directly improve the well-being of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.

Read the full article on Behavioral Scientist

Aishwarya Deshpande is a student in the Master of Brain and Cognition Program at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF). She holds a Master’s in Economics from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. Follow her on Twitter

Spillover Effects from the Financial Sector: A Network Analysis for the Eurozone

Master project by Jordi Gutiérrez, Domenic Kellner, Philip King, Simon Neumeyer, and Dorota Scibisz

figure

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series showcasing Barcelona GSE master projects by students in the Class of 2018. The project is a required component of every master program.


Authors:

Jordi Gutiérrez, Domenic Kellner, Philip King, Simon Neumeyer, and Dorota Scibisz

Master’s Program:

Economics

Paper Abstract:

We identify contemporaneous and Granger-causal linkages between the 86 biggest companies, representing both the financial and real sectors, of the Eurozone economy that serve as paths of shock transmission. Network analysis lends itself very naturally to the study of systemic risk due to its preoccupation with interconnections and notions of centrality. We employ an estimation methodology introduced by Barigozzi and Brownlees (2018) using market data for daily volatilities from the Eurostoxx index. Our results are in line with the existing literature – the banking sector is found to be highly interconnected and responsible for most Granger-network spillovers. Moreover, only a small subset of firms appear to Granger-cause other residual volatilities, providing support for regulators’ targeting of Systemically Important Financial Institutions.

Conclusions:

Following the work of Barigozzi and Brownlees (2018), this paper applies the nets algorithm to study the interconnectedness of the 86 biggest firms in the Eurozone for a sample period spanning from May 2008 to April 2018. We have estimated two sparse networks of return volatilities that allow us to measure systemic risk and detect patterns of its transmission. Compared to the original study of the US economy, we have utilised a more detailed set of industries. What is more, country-specific volatilities were added as an extra factor in order to obtain more precise firm-specific residual volatilities, while still uncovering a large number of connections.

At the contemporaneous level almost all industries exhibit high connectedness, a pattern which became immediately apparent on the initial heatmaps of residual correlations. Even when controlling for sectoral and country volatilities we find clusters of firms reacting strongly with other firms within the same business area. These co-movements are especially remarkable within the banking, industrial, and technological sectors.

However, it is a small subset of companies, mostly financial firms, that displays high interconnectedness at the Granger-causal level. Consequently, we conclude that banks are particularly important risk transmitters in the Eurozone network. The subset of banks is especially susceptible to volatilities stemming from other sectors. This makes intuitive sense as we can think of banks being highly leveraged when compared with other entities (Freixas et al., 2015). Moreover, banks amplify and transmit shocks to all the other sectors, which reflects their unique economic role as financial intermediaries. Altogether, this provides empirical support for the regulatory targeting of certain Systemically Important Financial Institutions.

Download the full paper [pdf]


More about the Economics Program at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics

CNN interview with Miguel Angel Santos (ITFD ’11, ECON ’12) on the crisis in Venezuela

Miguel Angel Santos was interviewed on CNN’s Global Portfolio where he shared his analysis of the economic crisis in Venezuela.

Master’s alum Miguel Angel Santos was interviewed on CNN’s Global Portfolio where he shared his analysis of the economic crisis in Venezuela. From his post on LinkedIn:

“The collapse of Venezuela has a magnitude never before seen: it is the only country in the top ten of falls in GDP in five years in history (ninth, 45%), of falls in imports (third, 75%), and is also projected as one of the most intense hyperinflations in history, comparable only to Germany and Zimbabwe. There is no country on those three lists which has suffered collapses in imports, production, and hyperinflation at this level of intensity. It’s unprecedented.”

 

Miguel Angel is a graduate of both the Barcelona GSE Master’s Program in International Trade, Finance, and Development and the Master’s Program in Economics. He is now Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University.

The causal impact of cesarean sections on neonatal health

This post has been written by Ana Costa Ramón and Ana Rodríguez González.  Both are PhD candidates at the Economics department of Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

In recent decades there has been an increasing concern about the rise of cesarean section births. Among OECD countries in 2013, on average more than 1 out of 4 births involved a c-section (OECD, 2013), being one of the most commonly performed surgeries. Cesarean sections, performed when needed and under standard quality measures, save lives. However, unnecessary c-sections not only impose significant costs for the health system but can also negatively impact infant health.  Previous literature has found cesarean sections to be associated with several adverse health outcomes for the newborn (Grivell & Dodd, 2011) and with worse later infant health(Keag, Norman, & Stock, 2018). However, most of the studies that came to these conclusions compared mothers who gave birth vaginally with those that had a cesarean section, and this may produce biased results: mothers who give birth by c-section are likely to have different characteristics from those who have vaginal births, and this may influence the health outcomes of the child and the mother after delivery.

In a recent paper, published in the Journal of Health Economics (Costa-Ramón, Rodríguez-González, Serra-Burriel, & Campillo-Artero, 2018), we contribute to fill this gap by providing causal evidence of the impact of avoidable cesarean birth on neonatal health. To do so, we exploit variation in the probability of having a c-section that is unrelated to maternal characteristics: variation by time of day.

In particular, using data from four public hospitals in Spain, we first document that the probability of having an unplanned c-section is higher in the early hours of the night (from 11 pm to 4 am) and that this is not driven by different characteristics of mothers giving birth during these times. Figure 1 shows the c-section rate at different times of day in our sample. We can observe that the distribution of unscheduled c-sections by time of birth is not uniform. Births that take place between 11 pm and 4 am are around 6 percentage points more likely to be by cesarean.

Csections

Notes: The figure represents the proportion of unplanned c-sections by time of day over the sample of unplanned c-sections and vaginal births. Sample is restricted to single births, unscheduled c-sections and vaginal births (excluding breech vaginal babies).

We argue that, given the medical shift structure in public hospitals and the larger time-cost of surveillance implied by vaginal deliveries, doctors’ incentives to perform c-sections in ambiguous cases may be higher during these times. In fact, we are not the first to document peaks in the unplanned c-section rate during the early night. Previous studies interpret this variation as evidence that convenience and doctors’ demand for leisure influence timing and mode of delivery (Brown, 1996; Fraser et al., 1987; Hueston, McClaflin, & Claire, 1996; Spetz, Smith, & Ennis, 2001).

We take advantage of this exogenous variation and use time of day as an instrument for the probability of having an unplanned c-section. This allows us to compare mothers that give birth in the same hospital and have similar observable characteristics, differing only in the time of delivery. Our results suggest that these non-medically indicated c-sections lead to a significant worsening of Apgar scores of approximately one standard deviation, but we do not find effects on more extreme outcomes such as needing reanimation, being admitted to the ICU or on neonatal death. This is an important finding, given that previous studies in the medical literature documented an association between c-sections and an increased risk of serious respiratory morbidity and subsequent admission to neonatal ICU (Grivell & Dodd, 2011). Their findings are consistent with the results of our OLS estimation, suggesting that former analysis might have been capturing the underlying health status of newborns who need a medically necessary cesarean.

A few words on the publication process and media coverage

Given that it was a health-oriented paper, we decided to target a top field journal in health economics. We were very lucky and all the publication process went very fast and smoothly.  We had to revise the paper once and get additional data in order to be able to address some of the reviewers’ comments.

When it was published, with the help of UPF’s communication unit we sent a press release and our paper got attention from the Spanish media.  We knew that it was a controversial topic (especially from the doctors’ perspective) so we chose our words carefully, but still we got some slightly sensationalist headlines.  We learnt the lesson: you have to choose a catchy punchline yourself, or they will pick their own (and you won’t always like it).

Overall, it has been an intense and fruitful experience!

References:

Brown, H. S. (1996). Physician demand for leisure: Implications for cesarean section rates. Journal of Health Economics, 15(2), 233–242. https://doi.org/10.1016/0167-6296(95)00039-9

Costa-Ramón, A. M., Rodríguez-González, A., Serra-Burriel, M., & Campillo-Artero, C. (2018). It’s about time: Cesarean sections and neonatal health. Journal of Health Economics, 59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhealeco.2018.03.004

Fraser, W., Usher, R. H., McLean, F. H., Bossenberry, C., Thomson, M. E., Kramer, M. S., … Power, H. (1987). Temporal variation in rates of cesarean section for dystocia: Does “convenience” play a role? American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 156(2), 300–304. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0002-9378(87)90272-9

Grivell, R. M., & Dodd, J. M. (2011). Short- and long-term outcomes of cesarean section. Expert Review of Obsetrics and Gynecology, 6(2), 205–216.

Hueston, W. J., McClaflin, R. R., & Claire, E. (1996). {V}ariations in cesarean delivery for fetal distress. The Journal of Family Practice, 43(5), 461–467.

Keag, O. E., Norman, J. E., & Stock, S. J. (2018). Long-term risks and benefits associated with cesarean delivery for mother, baby, and subsequent pregnancies: Systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Medicine, 15(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002494

OECD. (2013). Health at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Spetz, J., Smith, M. W., & Ennis, S. F. (2001). Physician Incentives and the Timing of Cesarean Sections: Evidence from California Physician Incentives and the Timing of Cesarean Sections Evidence From California. Source: Medical Care MEDICAL CARE, 39(6), 536–550. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005650-200106000-00003

 

Economics articles by BGSE alumni at CaixaBank Research

Ricard Murillo, Marta Guasch, and Mar Domènech in front of Caixabank. Photo by Marta Guasch.

We’ve just come across some articles written by several Barcelona GSE Alumni who are now Research Assistants and Economists at Caixabank Research in Barcelona. New articles are published each month on a range of topics.

Below is a list of all the alumni we found listed as article contributors, as well as their most recent publications in English (click each author to view his or her full list of articles in English, Catalan, and Spanish).

If you’re an alum and you’re also writing about Economics, let us know where we can find your stuff!

Gerard Arqué (Master’s in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets ’09)

The (r)evolution in the regulatory and supervisory framework resulting from the crisis

Mar Domènech (Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development ’17)

Registered workers affiliated to Social Security: situation and outlook across sectors

Active labour market policies: a results-based evaluation

Equal opportunities: levelling the playing field for everyone

Cristina Farràs (Master’s in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets ’17)

The financial situation of Millennial households in the US and Spain: will they catch up with previous generations?

Measures to improve equality of opportunities

Marta Guasch (Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development ’17)
and Adrià Morron (Master’s in Economics ’12)

Jay Gatsby’s American Dream: between inequality and social mobility

Ricard Murillo (Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development ’17)

Inflation will gradually recover in the euro area

Millenials and politics: mind the gap!

The sensitivity of inflation to the euro’s appreciation

Ariadna Vidal Martínez (Master’s in Finance ’12)

Situation and outlook for consumer financing


Source: Caixabank Research

May the 4th be with you: Economics of Star Wars


By Marco Albori (Economics ’18)


Cartoon by Marco Albori '18

Economics students, as all those students specializing in a particular field, love to share memes about their favorite subject, like jokes about strange convergence theorems, weird topological spaces, or absurd economic policy statements. However, it turns out that at least one day a year our nerdy preferences align, like planets would do, with those of the people outside the world of supply and demand, in name of the movie series that makes all nerd hearts beat: Star Wars! (If you thought it was Star Trek please leave this page!)

May the 4th, which is pronounced as “May the Force” if you studied English with Jar Jar Binks or if you are drunk enough after a night out in a disreputable bar of Tatooine with Han Solo, is the day chosen by Star Wars fans to celebrate the saga. Actually, it seems that this word pun was used for the first time not by a geeky guy brandishing a Made-in-Taiwan lightsaber but by the Conservative Party to wish good luck to the new elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1979, “May the Fourth Be with You, Maggie. Congratulations.” [1] Too much culture already, let’s go back to the point.

Fun apart, we like the plot of Star Wars because it could be used to explain many of the real world past and current issues in political economy and international trade. Consider for instance the beginning of the story: Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi have to negotiate with the Trade Federation, which blockaded the planet Naboo as a protest against the Galactic Republic taxation of commercial routes. Sound realistic, doesn’t it?

The storyline continues with political conspiracies, taking us across the galaxy from highly developed planets where the production process is made mainly by droids to poor constellations where aliens harvest or starve, from growing free trade zones to stagnating stars. This also reminds us the issues our fellows from the Barcelona GSE International Trade, Finance, and Development (ITFD) Program are studying day after day. Investopedia [2] tells you all need to know about the “economics” of Star Wars galaxy, while Mark Thorton wrote a couple of interesting blog posts [3] for the Mises Institute discussing it from a political economy point of view, which, drawing from the Austrian tradition, is a liberal one. Indeed he defines The Phantom Menace as “one of the finest allegories on classical liberal political economy to ever appear on screen.”

Sometimes we just want to quote the saga to paint a little our mathematically intensive works: it is the case of Brodeur et al. (2016) who titled their paper on econometrics and the worry of every researcher (getting as many stars as possible on his regression coefficients) “Star Wars: The Empirics Strike Back.

Some other times we definitely go wild with creativity, as Zachary Feinstein, a financial engineer who estimated the cost of building the two Death Stars and the loss caused by their destruction due to the Rebels. His paper “It’s a Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill” [4] not only does an accurate accounting of the aforementioned costs in terms of Gross Galactic Product, but also analyses the systemic risk implication of such a disruption on the galactic banking and financial system. According to the author: “this would have been worse than the Great Depression. It would have been beyond anything that we’ve ever seen on Earth.” [5]

At this point it seems legit to ask ourselves: among the famous people named Lucas, are economists more like Robert or George?

No matter whether you are a galactic empiricist or a interstellar growth theorist, as an economist you have a lot of reasons to love Star Wars and watch the whole saga again or do it for the first time if you haven’t done it yet (shame!). And, let’s confess it, we would all like Yoda’s wisdom helping us during our homework nights at the library, of course keeping him away from Latex (imagine the mess caused by convoluted his talking way). Or even better, Chewbacca as a partner in crime when we have to go to an exam revision at the professor’s office.

Lego Chewbacca and economics paper
Photo by Marco Albori ’18

May the 4th be with you!


[1] Wikipedia

[2] Investopedia

[3] Mises Institute

[4] Feinstein

[5] CBC

Friedman’s Presidential Address in the Evolution of Macroeconomic Thought


 By Marco Albori (Economics ’18)

Summary of Gregory Mankiw and Ricardo Reis:                                                                      “Friedman’s Presidential Address in the Evolution of Macroeconomic Thought”

Fifty years ago Milton Friedman delivered his presidential address [1] to the American Economic Association. His speech is the third most-cited presidential address, preceded only by those of Kuznets [2] and Schultz [3], with more than 7500 citations. Why has it been so influential? Friedman stressed his opinion, built over years of study of monetary theory and history, distinguishing what monetary policy could and could not do. In less than 17 pages, with a simple writing not common to most of economic papers, without any equation or complicated model, he challenged the mainstream thought, opening a new era in macroeconomic research.

In occasion of this anniversary, Gregor Mankiw and Ricardo Reis explore the state of the art at that time, the main points of the address and the consequences it had not only on the field but most importantly on policy in a recent paper, “Friedman’s Presidential Address in the Evolution of Macroeconomic Though”, published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Looking back at the beginning of the 60s, the mainstream thought in macroeconomics was the Keynesian one, based on Hicks and Hansen’s simplification of the general theory: the IS-LM model as a building block, accompanied by the belief that the Phillips curve was an actual instrument in the toolkit of policymakers and finally that the long-run behaviour of the economy was the results of the sum of Keynesian short runs. The Keynesian approach to the short and medium run, corrected with the advance made by theorists, is still the starting point of any introductory course on macro, while most of students are initiated to long-run theory through the Solow growth model.

On the contrary of Keynes, Friedman was  convinced that the long-run is the realm of classical economics and thus monetary policy, being neutral, cannot do anything to change real variable like the natural rate of unemployment which is pinned down by the characteristics of the market structure. Moreover, according to his view, the trade-off between inflation and unemployment is always necessarily temporary, as expectations evolve through time, frustrating central bank’s attempts. Milton Friedman’s definition of long-run was indeed the time horizon over which people become informed and align their expectations to the reality. The ground for the rational expectations revolution (and later the development of the RBC model) had been put in place, even though Friedman thought expectations were slow to adapt, sluggish rather than rational.

Following Friedman’s reasoning, central banks cannot take advantage of the Phillips curve infinitely to control real variables in the long run, as it will eventually disappear as expectations adjusts (it should be stressed that he did not consider feedbacks between inflation and unemployment in a fashion like the modern Taylor rule). Notwithstanding this view, and the fact that monetary policy is not timely but takes time to exert its effects, he was not a complete advocate of passive policy, as he believed that monetary policy and credit policy could be used to offset disturbances caused by other sources like fiscal policy (yes, he considered fiscal policy a disturbance, didn’t you know?). He finally proposed to use the rate of growth of some monetary aggregate as the baseline instrument of monetary policy, ruling out the exchange rate and the interest rate instead.

But decades have passed, and nowadays monetary policy could not be more different than that simple rule, with balance sheet policy, fine tuning operations and unconventional “weapons” used by central banks all around the world to cope with the crisis and impaired transmission mechanisms. Monetary policy today is mostly based on the interest rate instead, given its central role in asset pricing and as a driver of investment and saving decisions, and the paper explains the role of monetary policy today, digging into the current ideas which Friedman would have agreed with as well as those he would have opposed. Just to cite one, Galí and Gertler [4] point out the “significant role of expectations” in the transmission mechanism of monetary policy (which Friedman would be totally fine with), as opposed to “the importance for the central bank of tracking the flexible price equilibrium values of the natural levels of output and the real interest rate” which fosters the monetary policy activism criticized by the Nobel prize laureate.

The final section of the paper illustrates the “road ahead” and current research themes (and associated real world problems) which relate to Friedman’s theories. First, the natural rate hypothesis clashes against the stagnation affecting our economies, with the latter opening both to the competing views of hysteresis and shortage of aggregate demand. Second, the Philipps curve is still alive as a synonym of nominal rigidities and investigation of price and wage setting flourishes as that on expectations, recently driven by progresses in surveys and experimental/behavioural economics.

On the policy side, the effects of massive central banks interventions on the potential of fiscal authorities and their constraint and vice versa ask for a compelling understanding, as well as the role of liquidity in financial markets, the potential of macroprudential policy and finally the effectiveness of macroeconomic policy at the zero lower bound. As a matter of fact Friedman did not discuss the last two, which are today central issues in macroeconomic policy: the view that monetary policy could be ineffective and different instruments are needed as the interest rate approaches zero was Keynesian, and he did not reserved a role in macroprudential regulation to central banks. On the contrary, today it is recognized that monetary authorities should pay attention to credit variables as they are related to potential risks for financial stability and crises and ultimately to the potential functioning of the transmission mechanisms of monetary policy, in good and bad times.

Concluding, Mankiw and Reis article on the Journal is accompanied by two other related essays  “Should we reject the natural rate hypothesis?” by Blanchard and “Short-Run and Long-Run effects of Milton Friedman’s Presidential Address” by Hall and Sargent, which further contribute to the discussion surrounding Milton Friedman’s inheritance.

 


[1] https://www.andrew.cmu.edu/course/88-301/phillips/friedman.pdf

[2] “Economic Growth and Income Inequality”, The American Economic Review, 1955

[3] “Investment in Human Capital”, The American Economic Review, 1961

[4] “Macroeconomic Modelling for Monetary Policy Evaluation.”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2007

On the determinants of bitcoin returns: a LASSO approach


 By Orestis Vravosinos (Economics ’18)

 

Orestis shares his recent work on bitcoin, joint with professors Theodore Panagiotidis (Univeristy of Macedonia) and Thanasis Stengos (University of Guelph).

The paper is in press and currently available online at Finance Research Letters. It first appeared as a working paper of the Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis (RCEA).

Extended abstract: Bitcoin has recently received increased attention by both investors and researchers. The consumer base, transaction frequency in the digital currencies market and the number of businesses and organizations accepting payments in bitcoin have been rapidly expanding.

In this paper, within a Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO) framework, we examine the significance of factors such as stock market indices, exchange rates, gold and oil, central bank rates, internet trends and policy uncertainty as drivers of bitcoin returns for alternate time (sub)periods within 2010-2017. The advantage of LASSO is that it performs coefficient shrinkage (even setting some coefficients to zero) and in this way automates model selection. Search intensity and gold returns emerge as the most important factors for bitcoin returns.

 

References

Panagiotidis, T., Stengos, T. and Vravosinos, O. (2018). On the determinants of bitcoin returns: a LASSO approach. Finance Research Letters, doi: 10.1016/j.frl.2018.03.016