In many, many cases, people have a preference for working and doing business with those who share the same religious beliefs, come from the same geographic region, or have something else in common. If this preference arises from discrimination against other groups – if there is economically inefficient favoritism – the economy will not reach its full potential. But could there also be efficiency gains from transacting with people who are culturally proximate? If so, is it possible for the gains to be large enough to more than offset the losses from discrimination? Surprisingly, the answer to both questions is yes. However, that does not mean the barriers between groups should be reinforced. Policies that break down informational barriers between groups could produce further gains.
We focus on research that concerns antitrust policy, economic regulation, and market design. Questions of interest include the following:
How should we regulate horizontal and/or vertical mergers? Is there a trade-off between short run market power and longer run investment incentives?
How should we respond to departures from the competitive ideal in markets; with imperfect information, that are highly concentrated, that are natural monopolies, or that generate externalities resulting from knowledge producing activities?
How should centralized markets (like health insurance exchanges, kidney exchanges, and school choice mechanisms) be organized?
What is the optimal design of auctions to procure services for the government, such as highway construction contracts, or to sell government assets, such as spectrum or mineral rights?
How can policy makers detect and deter collusion?
How should patent policy be designed?
Regulated utilities are tasked with investing in the electricity distribution system in a way that delivers a reliable power service. This research explains how the regulatory process in the United States leads to under-investment in such infrastructure and too many power outages. The findings show how the politics of the regulatory environment can sometimes help and sometimes harm the problem of under-investment.
This paper studies the aftermath of the MillerCoors joint venture, which merged the operations of SAB Miller and Molson Coors in the United States. The prices of MillerCoors and its biggest rival, Anheuser-Busch Inbev, increased after the joint venture was consummated. These changes are consistent with post-merger coordination between MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch Inbev.
Immigration policy continues to be a hotly debated issue in many developed countries around the world. A contentious point cited by many policymakers relates to the high crime rates of immigrants relative to the native population. How does work status and legal access to the labor market affect the crime rates of immigrants? This article summarizes recent research from Pinotti (2017) on the Italian immigration system and finds that a lack of legal work opportunities for immigrants contributes to higher rates of immigrant crime.
Since the 1990s, many countries have deregulated their electricity markets. Electricity producers and distributors participate in auctions in forward and spot markets, which determine production allocation and wholesale prices. A key policy question for the United States and the rest of the world is whether financial traders should be allowed to participate in the auctions to arbitrage differences between forward and spot prices. Does arbitrage benefit consumers? Does it lead to more efficient allocation of production resources? This article summarises Ito and Reguant (2016), and address those questions from theoretical and empirical perspectives by examining the Iberian electricity market.
Students who attend charter schools tend to outperform students enrolled in traditional schools on state-mandated measures of student achievement. But critics claim this is because charter schools “teach to the test,” something they have an incentive to do since charter schools can be closed if their students do poorly on the state tests. This research uses a “natural experiment” in Boston schools to examine whether charter school students do better than traditional students on other measures of achievement that are correlated with long-term success. We find that the gains on state tests carry over to these additional measures, an indication that charter schools add value that extends beyond improved scores on state tests.
In evaluating health insurance mergers recently proposed in the U.S., regulators have grappled with the costs and benefits of reduced insurer competition. Our study examines the direct and indirect effects that a reduction in the number of insurers has on premiums, provider reimbursement rates, and consumer welfare. Using detailed health and enrollment data and focusing on a part of the commercial health care market, we examine whether consumers are typically harmed when an insurer is removed from the market. Absent premium setting constraints, we find that premiums typically rise, and consumers are generally harmed as they suffer from having fewer options. However, we also find that the reimbursement rates negotiated by hospitals need not always increase, and in many cases, can actually fall.
This paper shows that taxes affect the international location decisions of the best “superstar” inventors. Higher tax rates lead to a significantly lower share of superstar inventors remaining in their home country and a lower share of foreign superstar inventors who move to the country. This may have significant fiscal and innovation costs for a country that should be taken into account when setting tax policy.
The telecommunications sector is undergoing major changes largely driven by the growing importance of data services and the proliferation of online activities. This shift has led to a variety of concerns among regulators, including concerns that internet service providers may discriminate against certain types of traffic, and that private incentives for innovation may be inadequate. This research explores these issues by estimating consumer demand for residential broadband using high-frequency data from subscribers facing a three-part tariff. The findings indicate that the three-part tariff eliminates low-value traffic; and that while the costs associated with investment in fibre-optic networks are likely to be recoverable in some markets, there is a large gap between social and private incentives to invest.
Pharmaceutical innovation can be enormously valuable, leading to the development of medical treatments that save lives and improve patient quality of life. However, new medications that are powerful and effective are often accompanied by painful and uncomfortable side effects. This article summarizes a recent paper, “Why Medical Innovation is Valuable: Health, Human Capital, and the Labor Market”. The author develops a dynamic framework to assess the value of pharmaceutical innovation. The framework incorporates patient incentives for long-run health along with their preferences for treatments with fewer side effects. A key finding is that evaluating effective medical treatments without considering their side effects can be misleading.