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2010 Working Papers

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954 - Why are survey forecasts superior to model forecasts?

Michael P. Clements

We investigate two characteristics of survey forecasts that are shown to contribute to their superiority over purely model-based forecasts. These are that the consensus forecasts incorporate the effects of perceived changes in the long-run outlook, as well as embodying departures from the path toward the long-run expectation. Both characteristics on average tend to enhance forecast accuracy. At the level of the individual forecasts, there is scant evidence that the second characteristic enhances forecast accuracy, and the average accuracy of the individual forecasts can be improved by applying a mechanical correction.

953 - Real-time Forecasting of Inflation and Output Growth in the Presence of Data Revisions

Michael P. Clements and Ana Beatriz Galvão

We show how to improve the accuracy of real-time forecasts from models that include autoregressive terms by estimating the models on ‘lightly-revised’data instead of using data from the latest-available vintage. Forecast accuracy is improved by reorganizing the data vintages employed in the estimation of the model in such a way that the vintages used in estimation are of a similar maturity to the data in the forecast loss function. The size of the expected reductions in mean squared error depend on the characteristics of the data revision process. Empirically, we find RMSFE gains of 2-4% when forecasting output growth and inflation with AR models, and gains of the order of 8% with ADL models.

952 - P-Stable Equilibrium : Definition and Some Properties

Gabriel Desgranges and Sayantan Ghosal

We define a continuous index of strategic stability, p-stability, which requires equilibrium to be the unique outcome compatible with common knowledge of rationality and common knowledge of p-beliefs (beliefs that put probability at least p on the equilibrium profile). We show that every equilibrium (within a large class) is p-stable for some p < 1 and justify, in smooth settings, the intuition that the slope of the best response map is related to the stability of equilibrium. We show that adding incomplete information on fundamentals could decrease the degree of strategic stability. In two applications to large markets we (i) show that a unique equilibrium globally unstable (under tâtonnement dynamics) has, nevertheless, a measure of strategic stability, (ii) characterize the conditions under which enhanced equilibrium effi ciency results in decreased strategic stability.

951 - Is charity a homogeneous good?

Peter Backus

In this paper I estimate income and price elasticities of donations to six different charitable causes to test the assumption that charity is a homogeneous good. In the US, charitable donations can be deducted from taxable income. This has long been recognized as producing a price, or taxprice, of giving equal to one minus the marginal tax rate faced by the donor. A substantial portion of the economic literature on giving has focused on estimating price and income elasticities of giving as the received wisdom suggests that a price elasticity greater than unity is indicative of the ‘treasury efficiency’ of the tax deductibility of charitable contributions, as the loss to tax revenue is less than the increase in giving. However, a major limitation of nearly all the previous attempts to identify such effects has been the implicit assumption that charity is a homogeneous good, meaning giving to one type of charity is a perfect substitute for any other and that the causespecific responsiveness of giving to changes in price and income is equal across those causes. If this assumption is violated, then estimates may be biased and policies designed to increase charitable contributions may be sub-optimal. Results suggest that the tax-price of giving only affects giving to religious organisations and that the income effect is invariant over charitable causes.

950 - Emotional Prosperity and the Stiglitz Commission

Andrew J Oswald

This paper argues -- in line with the proposals of the recent Stiglitz Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress -- that we should now be measuring a nation‟s emotional prosperity rather than its economic prosperity (that is, we ought to focus on the level of mental well-being not the number of pounds in people‟s bank accounts). The paper reviews recent ideas in this field. It also describes seven recent studies that, worryingly, suggest that emotional prosperity may be declining through time. For labour-market specialists, a key question for future research is how much this downward trend can be traced back to increased pressures in working life. That question currently remains open.

949 - Your call : ebay and demand for the iPhone 4

Michael Waterson and Chris Doyle

The iPhone 4 was introduced into the UK market on 24th June 2010 to significant consumer interest. This clearly exceeded supply through conventional channels, since there was very extensive activity in terms of bidding on eBay auctions for the product.We monitored all eBay transactions on the iPhone 4 for six weeks from introduction, with total transactions amounting to around £1.5m. We analyse determinants of the winning bid in terms of characteristics of the phone, the seller and the buyer. Our most notable and novel finding relative to previous studies is a very significant premium over list price being paid in almost all cases, with positive uplift factors including whether the phone was unlocked and whether it could be sold overseas. Demand fell over time, as evidenced by lower achieved prices, but the fall in price was relatively modest. A significant premium of 32GB over 16GB versions is revealed.

948 - How Should Financial Intermediation Services be Taxed?

Ben Lockwood

This paper considers the optimal taxation of savings intermediation and payment services in a dynamic general equilibrium setting, when the government can also use consumption and income taxes. When payment services are used in strict proportion to final consumption, and the cost of intermediation services is fixed and the same across firms, the optimal taxes are generally indeterminate. But, when firms differ exogenously in the cost of intermediation services, the tax on savings intermediation should be zero. Also, when household time and payment services are substitutes in transactions, the optimal tax rate on payment services is determined by the returns to scale in the conditional demand for payment services, and is generally different to the optimal rate on consumption goods. In particular, with constant returns to scale, payment services should be untaxed. These results can be understood as applications of the Diamond-Mirrlees production effciency theorem. Finally, as an extension, we endogenize intermediation, in the form of monitoring, and show that it may be oversupplied in equilibrium when banks have monopoly power, justifying a Pigouvian tax in this case.

947 - Monetary Policy and Oil Prices

Jan Hošek, Luboš Komárek and Martin Motl

This article discusses the relationship between monetary policy and oil prices and, in a broader sense, commodity prices. Firstly, it focuses on describing the relationship between key macroeconomic variables, gas prices and other commodity prices relative to oil prices. Subsequently, it discusses the existence of “transmission channels” through which monetary policy can be propagated to oil prices (or prices of commodities). It then provides an insight into the CNB’s forecasting process, both by looking retrospectively at the oil price outlook in the past and by analysing a transitory and a permanent shock (a rise in the oil price of USD 30/b). The simulated oil price shock is calculated from the average level of Brent oil prices in the first quarter of 2010, i.e. USD 77.50/b.

945 - The Great Recession in the UK Labour Market : A Translantic Perspective

Michael W.L. Elsby and Jennifer C Smith

The increase in unemployment in the United Kingdom that accompanied the Great Recession has been conspicuous by its moderation. The rise in joblessness is dwarfed by the recent experience of the United States, by past recessionary episodes in the U.K. and by the contraction in GDP in the U.K. Increased rates of job loss have played a dominant role in shaping the rise in British unemployment. Unemployment duration has not increased to the levels seen in previous recessions, in contrast to the U.S. where duration substantially exceeds previous peaks. Looking forward, the U.K. labour market appears to have adjusted fully to the shocks that prompted the recession. Signs of reductions in match efficiency witnessed recently in the U.S. are not mirrored in the U.K. In contrast, while long-term unemployment currently remains well below historical levels, recent estimates of job finding rates suggest that it has the potential to rise much further. Thus, a timely recovery in aggregate demand will play an important role in averting persistently high unemployment in the future.

943 - Bias in the Relative Assessment of Happiness,Political Stance, Height and Weight

Eugenio Proto and Daniel Sgroi

Cognitive biases have been a recognised feature of research into human behaviour since at least Kahneman and Tversky’s ground‐breaking work of the 1970s. We find that such biases extend into the realm of perceptions about relative happiness and we compare and contrast this phenomenon across three other characteristics: height, weight and political stance. Our findings indicate a powerful and consistent bias in the way individuals perceive their place in the population distribution. In particular, those at extremes perceive a population distribution that is incorrectly and heavily biased towards themselves, irrespective of whether the characteristic is objective and easily observed or not.

942 - Power Indices in Large Voting Bodies (updated)

Dennis Leech

There is no consensus on the properties of voting power indices when there are a large number of voters in a weighted voting body. On the one hand, in some real-world cases that have been studied the power indices have been found to be nearly proportional to the weights (eg the EUCM, US Electoral College). This is true for both the Penrose-Banzhaf and the Shapley-Shubik indices. It has been suggested that this is a manifestation of a conjecture by Penrose (known subsequently as the Penrose limit theorem, that has been shown to hold under certain conditions). On the other hand, we have the older literature from cooperative game theory, due to Shapley and his collaborators, showing that, where there are a finite number of voters whose weights remain constant in relative terms, and where the quota remains constant in relative terms, while the total number of voters increases without limit - so called oceanic games - the powers of the voters with finite weight tend to limiting values that are, in general, not proportional to the weights. These results, too, are supported by empirical studies of large voting bodies (eg. the IMF/WB boards, corporate shareholder control). This paper proposes a restatement of the Penrose Limit theorem and shows that, for both the power indices, convergence occurs in general, in the limit as the Laakso-Taagepera index of political fragmentation increases. This new version reconciles the dierent theoretical and empirical results that have been found for large voting bodies.

941 - Word of Mouth Advertising, Credibility and Learning in Networks

Kalyan Chatterjee and Bhaskar Dutta

Social networks representing the pattern of social interactions - who talks to or who observes whom- play a crucial role as a medium for the spread of information, ideas, diseases, products. Someone in the population may be struck with an infection or may adopt a new technology, and it can then either die out quickly or spread throughout the population, depending possibly on the location of the initial appearance, the structure of the network - for instance, how dense it is. The dynamics of adoption -the extent to which individuals are influenced by their neighbours, the impact of "word-of- mouth" communication- also plays a role in determining the speed of diusion. Given the large range of contexts in which social learning is important, it is not surprising that researchers from various disciplines have studied processes of diffusion from a variety of perspectives.

940 - Estimation of Search Frictions in the British Electricity Market

Monica Giulietti, Michael Waterson and Matthijs R. Wildenbeest

This paper studies consumer search and pricing behaviour in the British domestic electricity market following its opening to competition in 1999. We develop a sequential search model in which an incumbent and an entrant group compete for consumers who find it costly to obtain information on prices other than from their current supplier. We use a large data set on prices and input costs to structurally estimate the model. Our estimates indicate that consumer search costs must be relatively high in order to rationalize observed pricing patterns. We confront our estimates with observed switching behaviour and find they match well.

938 - Testing for spatial heterogeneity in functional MRI using the multivariate general linear model (updated)

Robert Leech and Dennis Leech

Much current research in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) employs multivariate machine learning approaches (e.g., support vector machines) to detect distributed spatial patterns from the temporal fluctuations of the neural signal. The aim of many studies is not classification, however, but investigation of multivariate spatial patterns, which pattern classifiers detect only indirectly. Here we propose a direct statistical measure for the existence of distributed spatial patterns (or spatial heterogeneity) applicable to fMRI datasets. We extend the univariate general linear model (GLM), typically used in fMRI analysis, to a multivariate case. We demonstrate that contrasting maximum likelihood estimations of different restrictions on this multivariate model can be used to estimate the extent of spatial heterogeneity in fMRI data. Under asymptotic assumptions inference can be made with reference to the 2 distribution. The test statistic is then assessed using simulated timecourses derived from real fMRI data followed by analyzing data from a real fMRI experiment. These analyses demonstrate the utility of the proposed measure of heterogeneity as well as considerations in its application. Measuring spatial heterogeneity in fMRI has important theoretical implications in its own right and may have potential uses for better characterising neurological conditions such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease

937 - Are Happiness and Productivity Lower among University Students with Newly-Divorced Parents? An Experimental Approach

Eugenio Proto, Daniel Sgroi and Andrew J. Oswald

We live in a high-divorce age. Parents worry about the possibility of negative effects upon their children. This paper tests whether recent parental-divorce has deleterious consequences for grown children. Under controlled conditions, it measures students’ happiness with life, and their productivity in a standardized laboratory task. No negative effects from divorce can be detected. If anything, happiness and productivity are greater, particularly among males, if they have experienced parental divorce. Using longitudinal BHPS data -- to control for fixed effects -- we crosscheck this result on happiness. Again, the evidence suggests that young people’s mental well-being improves after parental divorce.

936 - Bundling without Price Discrimination

Andrés Carvajal, Marzena Rostek and Marek Weretka

This paper examines the optimal bundling strategies of a multiproduct monopoly in markets in which a seller cannot monitor and thereby restrict the purchases of buyers to a single bundle, while buyers have resale opportunities. In such markets, the standard mechanism through which bundling increases seller profits, based on price discrimination, is not feasible. The profit-maximizing bundling strategy is characterized, given the restrictions on pricing policies resulting from resale and a lack of monitoring. The welfare implications of optimal bundling are analyzed.

935 - Priming and the Reliability of Subjective Well-being Measures

Daniel Sgroi, Eugenio Proto, Andrew J. Oswald and Alexander Dobson

Economists and behavioural scientists are beginning to make extensive use of measures of subjective well-being, and such data are potentially of value to policy-makers. A particularly famous difficulty is that of “priming”: if the order or nature of survey questions changes people’s likely replies then we have grounds to be concerned about the reliability of wellbeing data and inferences from them. This study tests for priming effects from important life events. It presents evidence from a laboratory experiment which indicates that subjective well-being measures are in general robust to such concerns

934 - On the theory of a firm : The case of by-production of emissions.

Sushama Murty

Five attributes of emission generating technologies are identified and a concept of byproduction is introduced, which implies these five attributes. Murty and Russell [2010] characterization of technologies, which requires distinguishing between intended production of rms and nature's laws of emission generation, is shown to be both necessary and suficient for by-production. While intended production could be postulated to satisfy standard input and output free-disposability, these will necessarily be violated by nature's emission generation mechanism, which satises costly disposability of emission as defined in Murty [2010]. Marginal technical and economic costs of abatement are derived for technologies exhibiting by-production. The former measures the loss in intended outputs when the firm is mandated to reduce emissions, while the latter measures its loss in profits under regulation. The by-production approach reveals a rich set of abatement options available to firms. These include reductions in the use of fuel inputs, inter-fuel substitution, increase in cleaning-up efforts, and technological change. In a simple model of by-production, we show that, when faced with regulation, the firm will use all or some of these strategies. This is in contrast to the standard input-approach to modeling emission generating technologies, where we show that, under a Pigouvian tax, a firm will reduce its emissions, solely, by increasing its cleaning-up eort. The standard input-approach also allows some paths of inputs and outputs, which seem inconsistent with nature's laws of emission generation, to become technologically feasible. Our model of by-production illustrates that, while common abatement paths considered in the literature do involve a technological trade-off between emission reduction and intended production, there also almost always exist abatement paths where it is possible to have both greater emission reductions and greater intended outputs. Further, marginal abatement costs will usually be decreasing in the initial level of emissions of firms. Counterintuitive as these results may sound in the first instance, they are intuitively obvious in the by-production approach as it is rich enough to incorporate both standard economic assumptions, such as diminishing returns, with respect to intended production of firms and the rules of nature that govern emission generation.

933 - Control Rights in Complex Partnerships (updated)

Marco Francesconi and Abhinay Muthoo

This paper develops a theory of the allocation of authority between two players who are in a “complex” partnership, that is, a partnership which produces impure public goods. We show that the optimal allocation depends on technological factors, the parties’ valuations of the goods produced, and the degree of impurity of these goods. When the degree of impurity is large, control rights should be given to the main investor, irrespective of preference considerations. There are some situations in which this allocation is optimal even if the degree of impurity is very low as long as one party’s investment is more important than the other party’s. If the parties’ investments are of similar importance and the degree of impurity is large, shared authority is optimal with a greater share going to the low-valuation party. If the importance of the parties’ investments is similar but the degree of impurity is neither large nor small, the low-valuation party should receive sole authority. We analyze an extension in which side payments are infeasible. We check for robustness of our results in several dimensions, such as allowing for multiple parties or for joint authority, apply our results to interpret a number of complex partnerships, including those involving schools and child custody.

932 - Money, Mentoring and Making Friends : The Impact of a Multidimensional Access Program on Student Performance

Kevin Denny, Orla Doyle, Patricia O’Reilly and Vincent O’Sullivan

There is a well established socioeconomic gradient in educational attainment, despite much effort in recent decades to address this inequality. This study evaluates a university access program that provides financial, academic and social support to low socioeconomic status (SES) students using a natural experiment which exploits the time variation in the expansion of the program across schools. The program has parallels with US affirmative actions programs, although preferential treatment is based on SES rather than ethnicity. Evaluating the effectiveness of programs targeting disadvantaged students in Ireland is particularly salient given the high rate of return to education and the lack of intergenerational mobility in educational attainment. Overall, we identify positive treatment effects on first year exam performance, progression to second year and final year graduation rates, with the impact often stronger for higher ability students. We find similar patterns of results for students that entered through the regular system and the affirmative action’ group i.e. the students that entered with lower high school grades. The program affects the performance of both male and female students, albeit in different ways. This study suggests that access programs can be an effective means of improving academic outcomes for socio-economically disadvantaged students.

931 - On modeling pollution-generating technologies

Sushama Murty and R. Robert Russell

We distinguish between intended production and residual generation and introduce the concept of by-production. We show that by-production provides the fundamental explanation for the positive correlation that is observed between intended production and residual generation. Most of the existing literature attributes the observed positive correlation to abatement options available to firms. We show that abatement options of firms add to the phenomenon of by-production in strengthening the observed positive correlation. The existing literature usually does not explicitly model abatement options of firms, but considers a reduced form of the technology, which satises standard disposability assumptions with respect to all inputs and intended outputs. We show that more than one implicit production relation is needed to capture all the technological trade-os that are implied by by-production. From our model, we are able to derive a reduced form of the technology that is in the spirit of the one that is usually studied in the literature. However, we nd that our reduced form technology violates standard disposability with respect to inputs and intended outputs that cause pollution. We derive implications from the phenomenon of by-production for the econometric and Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) specications of pollution-generating technologies. We derive a DEA specification of technologies that satisfy by-production. Such a specification can be used to study issues relating to measurement of efficiency, marginal abatement costs, productivity, etc., of firms with technologies that generate pollution.

930 - Beer - the ties that bind

Michael Waterson

It started with the Beer Orders (1989). A watershed decision was made by the Law Lords in July 2006. For one man, Bernie Crehan, this was the culmination of a 15 year episode in the pub trade, in which he has made legal history as the first UK case of damages for breach of competition law being awarded by a court. Possibly hundreds of other cases hung on their Lordships’ decision and Nomura, the Japanese bank that took over the chain called Inntrepreneur, had a total potential liability of £100m. And it all concerns Article 81, vertical agreements, and the price of a pint of beer.

929 - International Trade without CES: Estimating Translog Gravity

Dennis Novy

This paper derives a micro-founded gravity equation in general equilibrium based on a translog demand system that allows for endogenous markups and substitution patterns across goods. In contrast to standard CES-based gravity equations, trade is more sensitive to trade costs if the exporting country only provides a small As a result, trade costs have a heterogeneous impact across country pairs, with some trade flows predicted to be zero. I test the translog gravity equation and find strong empirical support in its favor.

928 - Out of Equilibrium Dynamics with Decentralized Exchange Cautious Trading and Convergence to Efficiency

Sayantan Ghosal and James Porter

Is the result that equilibrium trading outcomes are ecient in markets without frictions robust to a scenario where agents' beliefs and plans aren't already aligned at their equilibrium values? In this paper, starting from a situation where agents' beliefs and plans aren't already aligned at their equilibrium values, we study whether out of equilibrium trading converges to efficient allocations. We show that out-of-equilibrium trading does converge with probability 1 to an efficient allocation even when traders have limited information and trade cautiously. In economies where preferences can be represented by Cobb-Douglass utility functions, we show, numerically, that the rate of convergence will be exponential. We show that experimentation leads to convergence in some examples where multilateral exchange is essential to achieve gains from trade. We prove that experimentation does converge with probability 1 to an efficient allocation and the speed of convergence remains exponential with Cobb-Douglass utility functions.

927 - Opting for Opting In? An Evaluation of the European Commission’s Proposals for Reforming VAT on Financial Services

Rita de la Feria and Ben Lockwood

This paper provides a legal and economic analysis of the European Commission’s recent proposals for reforming the application of VAT to financial services, with particular focus on their “third pillar”, under which firms would be allowed to opt-into taxation on exempt insurance and financial services. From a legal perspective, we show that the proposals’ “first and second pillar” would give rise to considerable interpretative and qualification problems, resulting in as much complexity and legal uncertainty as the current regime. Equally, an option to tax could potentially follow significantly different legal designs, which would give rise to discrepancies in the application of the option amongst Member States. On the economic side, we show that quite generally, when firms cannot coordinate their behaviour, they have an individual incentive to opt-in on business-to-business (B2B) transactions, but not on business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions. We also show that opting in eliminates the cost disadvantage that EU financial services firms face in competing with foreign firms for B2B sales. But, these results do not hold if firms can coordinate their behaviour. An estimate of the upper bound on the amount of tax revenue that might be lost from allowing opting-in is provided for a number of EU countries.

925 - Do reductions of standard hours affect employment transitions? : Evidence from Chile

Rafael Sánchez

This study exploits the reduction of weekly working hours from 48 to 45 occured in Chile in January 2005. We use this pure and exogenous policy change to identify the employment effects of such a policy. Our main contribution is that we overcome the problems of previous studies such as: selection between hours and employment, lack of identification strategy due to the joint implementation of policies and lack of crucial variables (like hourly wages and usual hours). Our results suggest no significant effects of a reduction of standard hours on employment transitions and a significant effect on hourly wages (i.e. wage compensation). These results are robust to several specifications.

924 - The Interaction between Antitrust and Intellectual Property : the Interoperability Issue in the Microsoft Europe Case

Alessandro Diego Scopelliti

The present work analyzes the interaction between antitrust policy and intellectual property protection, with particular reference to the cases of refusal to supply, when it concerns ideas or inventions protected by an IP right. For this purpose, the paper preliminarily discusses the governing principles of antitrust policy on abuse of dominance and refusal to deal, as they have been implemented in the decisions of the EU Competition Authority, and it presents the specific issues related to the implementation of antitrust policy in the innovative industries.Then, the paper examines in particular the Microsoft Europe Case, as decided by the European commission in 2004, focusing on the issue of the interoperability between the operating systems for personal computers and the operating systems for work group servers. The theoretical model, developed as an extension of the framework proposed by Choi and Stefanadis (2001) to the case of refusal to deal, suggests an explanation of the case, alternative to the one adopted by the Commission, if not necessarily in the final outcome of the decision, at least in the analytical arguments and in the dynamics of the market structure. In particular, we show that the refusal to supply the compatibility between the two complementary products was determined not only by the intention to leverage its dominant position to the adjacent market of server operating systems, but especially by the concern for keeping the monopoly on its core market, that is the one of PC operating system, given the future evolution of the software market, due to the diffusion of cloud computing.