Impact of Incentives on Tax Collectors and Taxpayers

Tax collectors in developing countries collect far less tax revenue as a share of gross domestic product than tax collectors in higher income countries. In many of these developing countries, tax officials have discretion in assessing, enforcing, and auditing taxes. In addition, they earn relatively low wages with fewer rewards for good performance, allowing for the possibility of collusion with taxpayers. In the case of property taxes, officials may accept payments in exchange for leaving properties off the tax rolls, granting inappropriate exemptions, or assessing properties at a lower rate, all of which lead to lower revenues for the state.

Read More

Impoverished children with access to food stamps become healthier and wealthier adults

Adults who participated in the Food Stamp Program, renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008, as children are healthier and better off financially than poverty-stricken families who did not have access to the program, according to findings in joint work with Douglas Almond and Diane Schanzenbach (this paper and a companion paper Almond, et al. 2011).

Read More

Forced to upgrade? How consumer welfare is affected by technological innovation

When new technologies enter the market, older products are often removed from store shelves. This article asks whether such product elimination is socially efficient. It studies this question in the context of the American Home PC market between 2001 and 2004. Empirically, the paper documents consumer heterogeneity and then studies how the major innovation of the time—Intel’s Pentium M™ processor—contributed to social welfare.

Read More

A choice of auction type allows for corruption to persist in Chinese land sales

Urban land development in China is occurring on a massive scale and corruption is prevalent in the real estate sector through side deals between buyers and city officials. A recent study by Cai, Henderson, and Zhang (2013, RAND Journal of Economics) provides indirect evidence of this corruption through the use of two different types of auctions. The authors argue that the practices of city officials overseeing land sales amount to losses in city revenue in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Read More

Designing tax policy in high-evasion economies

Developing economies are typically characterized by low tax revenue and widespread tax evasion. This research shows that in such environments, it can be better to tax firms based on turnover rather than profits: while turnover taxes are known to distort production decisions, they are more difficult to evade than profit taxes. Analyzing administrative tax records from Pakistan, the study shows that the use of production-inefficient turnover taxes sharply reduces tax evasion and increases tax revenue.

Read More

Did welfare reform lead some American families to work less?

The landmark US welfare reform of 1996 provided strong incentives for poor women to work while receiving assistance – but it also provided incentives for some women to reduce their earnings to qualify for benefits. This research develops a new approach to detecting this ‘welfare opt-in’ effect and uses it to analyze data from a large randomized evaluation of welfare reform in Connecticut: the “Jobs First” program.

Read More

The productivity effects of importing inputs: evidence from Hungary

Improved access to foreign inputs has increased firms’ productivity in a number of countries. Analysing data for Hungary, this research explores the channels through which imported inputs boost productivity and finds that the positive effects are particularly strong for foreign-owned firms.

Read More

Does the medical residency match lower salaries for residents?

What’s the best way to match new doctors to medical residency programs? The medical residency matching problem is solved by a centralized coordination system that pairs market participants according to their preferences. This paper examines the evidence for the claim that the matching system depresses salaries and finds that an alternative explanation – low salaries represent an implicit tuition fee for medical training – is more promising.

Read More

Why is labor mobility in India so low?

Migration from rural areas of India to the city is surprisingly low compared with other large developing countries, leaving higher paying job opportunities unexploited. This research shows that well-functioning rural insurance networks are in part responsible for this misallocation in the labor market, creating incentives that keep adult males in the village. Policies that provide private credit to wealthy households or government safety nets to poor households would encourage greater rural-urban migration but they could also have unintended distributional consequences.

Read More

The dynamics of labor market adjustment to trade liberalization

How long should we expect the labor market transition following a trade liberalization episode to last? To what extent will the potential gains from trade be reduced due to the slow adjustment of the economy to the new trade equilibrium? What are the characteristics of the workers who will lose the most from trade liberalization?

Read More