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2018 Working Papers

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1164 - Forced Migration and Human Capital : Evidence from Post WWII Population Transfers

Sascha O. Becker, Irena Grosfeld, Pauline Grosjean, Nico Voigtländer and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya

We exploit a unique historical setting to study the long-run effects of forced migration on investment in education. After World War II, the Polish borders were redrawn, resulting in large-scale migration. Poles were forced to move from the Kresy territories in the East (taken over by the USSR) and were resettled mostly to the newly acquired Western Territories, from which Germans were expelled. We combine historical censuses with newly collected survey data to show that, while there were no pre-WWII differences in education, Poles with a family history of forced migration are significantly more educated today. Descendants of forced migrants have on average one extra year of schooling, driven by a higher propensity to finish secondary or higher education. This result holds when we restrict ancestral locations to a sub sample around the former Kresy border and include fixed effects for the destination of migrants. As Kresy migrants were of the same ethnicity and religion as other Poles, we bypass confounding factors of other cases of forced migration. We show that labor market competition with natives and selection of migrants are also unlikely to drive our results. Survey evidence suggests that forced migration led to a shift in preferences, away from material possessions and towards investment in a mobile asset – human capital. The effects persist over three generations.

1154 - Is Envy Harmful to a Society’s Psychological Health and Wellbeing? A Longitudinal Study of 18,000 Adults

Redzo Mujcic& Andrew J. Oswald

Nearly 100 years ago, the philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell warned of the social dangers of widespread envy. One view of modern society is that it is systematically developing a set of institutions -- such as social media and new forms of advertising -- that make people feel inadequate and envious of others. If so, how might that be influencing the psychological health of our citizens? This paper reports the first large-scale longitudinal research into envy and its possible repercussions. The paper studies 18,000 randomly selected individuals over the years 2005, 2009, and 2013. Using measures of SF-36 mental health and psychological well-being, four main conclusions emerge. First, the young are especially susceptible. Levels of envy fall as people grow older. This longitudinal finding is consistent with a cross-sectional pattern noted recently by Nicole E. Henniger and Christine R. Harris, and with the theory of socioemotional regulation suggested by scholars such as Laura L. Carstensen. Second, using fixed-effects equations and prospective analysis, the analysis reveals that envy today is a powerful predictor of worse SF-36 mental health and well-being in the future. A change from the lowest to the highest level of envy, for example, is associated with a worsening of SF-36 mental health by approximately half a standard deviation (p <0.001). Third, no evidence is found for the idea that envy acts as a useful motivator. Greater envy is associated with slower -- not higher -- growth of psychological well-being in the future. Nor is envy a predictor of later economic success. Fourth, the longitudinal decline of envy leaves unaltered a U-shaped age pattern of well-being from age 20 to age 70. These results are consistent with the idea that society should be concerned about institutions that stimulate large-scale envy.

1150 - Ignoring Good Advice

David Ronayne and Daniel Sgroi

We ran an experiment where 1,503 subjects (advisees) completed tasks, and then had the choice to submit either their own score or the score of other subjects (advisers). The observed data are difficult to reconcile with rational behavior. First, good advice was ignored: about 25% of the time, advisees chose to submit their own score instead of the higher score of an adviser, reducing their payoff. Second, when the adviser was superior in skill, good advice was ignored more often. Third, when the adviser was relatively highly paid, subjects were less likely to make use of them. We offer an explanation of the data focused on two behavioral forces: envy and the sunk cost fallacy. The role of envy was complex: more envious advisees, as measured using a dispositional envy scale, opted to follow advisers more often in the skill-based task revealing a positive, motivational effect of envy. However, higher adviser remuneration reduced this effect, revealing a negative side of envy as a constraint on rational decision-making. Susceptibility to the sunk cost fallacy, measured using a novel scale we developed, had a negative impact on the uptake of good advice. This is consistent with the idea that subjects feel resistant to changing their answers when they put in effort to formulate them. We also present findings from a new survey of 3,096 UK voters who took part in the national referendum on EU membership, consistent with some of our experimental results.