Events Calendar

April 2014

Friday, 04 Apr 2014

  • Fri, Apr 4, 2014 3:40 pm - 5:00 pm
    368A Heady Hall

    "On Experimentation and Real Options in Financial Regulation," with Matthew Spitzer, Northwestern University School of Law, Fri, Apr 4, 2014 3:40 pm - 5:00 pm, 368A Heady Hall.

    Abstract: In recent years, financial regulators have come under increasing judicial scrutiny for conducting inadequate cost / benefit assessments in advance of significant reforms. One facet of this scrutiny is judicial skepticism towards the proper role for regulatory experimentation (and the real option to abandon) within cost/benefit calculus. That is, regulators have arguably been discouraged from counting as a “benefit” the value of obtaining information through adopting new regulations on a trial basis, with an option to revert to the status quo at the completion of the trial. This paper studies an analytical framework for assessing the role of “field experimentation” versus more standard cost-benefit studies (“analytic learning”) within a regulatory/judicial hierarchy. We demonstrate that there is no principled basis for dismissing regulatory experimentation in cost/benefit analysis, and that such arguments deserve a place within regulators’ standard arsenals. Nevertheless, our analysis also helps explain an institutional reason for the tension between the judiciary and regulators, suggesting that regulators are plausibly too eager to embrace field experimentation, while judges are simultaneously too recalcitrant.

    Matthew Spitzer is the Director of the Searle Center on Law, Regulation and Economic Growth at Northwestern University School of Law and also Howard and Elizabeth Chapman Professor of Law. Prior to joining Northwestern he held professorships at the University of Texas, University of Southern California, and California Institute of Technology. From 2000 to 2006 Spitzer was the Dean of Law at USC. His fields of study have been Telecommunications Regulation, Administrative Law, Experimental Law and Economics, Judicial Politics, and, more recently, Patent Law. He has published more than 40 articles and 3 books in these fields, and continues to work in all of them. In spite of being one of a handful of law professors who can describe reasonably clearly the ideas behind Pulse Code Modulation that enable digitization of music on CDs (and MP3s), Spitzer has over 1,200 vinyl albums and still plays them on a turntable.

Monday, 07 Apr 2014

  • Mon, Apr 7, 2014 4:10 pm - 5:30 pm
    368A Heady Hall

    "Making Collusion Hard: Asymmetric Information as a Counter-Corruption Measure," with Sylvain Chassang, Princeton University, Monday, April 7, 4:10 PM-5:30 PM, 368A Heady Hall.

    Sylvain Chassang is a professor in the Department of Economics and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs. His research focuses on microeconomic theory and game theory. In addition to a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he also has an M.A. in math from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France.

Thursday, 10 Apr 2014

  • Thu, Apr 10, 2014 3:40 pm - 5:00 pm
    0013 Curtiss Hall

    "Life Cycle Assessment: A Tool to Informed Energy Policy, with Paul Adler, USDA- ARS, Thursday, April 10, 3:40 PM-5 PM, 0013 Curtiss Hall.

    Paul Adler is a Research Agronomist with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service. His research focus is on the potential use of marginal croplands for biofuel production conducting research at multiple scales on the ecology and management of grasslands and life cycle assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions of a range of bioenergy crop production systems. He currently serves on the USDA Croplands/Grazing Lands Working Group to develop science-based methods and technical guidelines for quantifying greenhouse gas sources and sinks in the forest and agriculture sectors. He has led the biogeochemical modeling efforts for consideration of winter barley as an advanced fuel pathway under RFS2, providing input for EPA’s Transportation and Climate Division analysis. He has served on the expert panel on Greenhouse Gas Emissions for the Council on Sustainable Biomass Production, Chesapeake Bay Commission Biofuels Advisory Panel, and as a technical advisor for the USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service under the Department of State’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas initiative in Uruguay.

    Abstract: Estimating the carbon intensity of biofuel production pathways is important in order to meet greenhouse gas targets set by government policy. Life cycle assessment methods have been used to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions associated with different crop production systems and feedstock conversion technologies. Examples of using life cycle methods to evaluate mitigation strategies, coproduct use, and abatement costs will be presented.

Monday, 14 Apr 2014

  • Mon, Apr 14, 2014 4:10 pm - 5:30 pm
    368A Heady Hall

    "Optimal Income Taxation: Mirrlees Meets Ramsey," with Jonathan Heathcote, FRB Minneapolis.

    Abstract: We revisit a classic question in public finance: what structure of labor earnings taxation can maximize the social benefits of redistribution and public insurance while minimizing the social harm associated with distorting the allocation of labor input? The current tax and transfer system in the United States redistributes through a combination of tax rates that increase with income, coupled with transfers that decline with income. However, many authors have argued that a more efficient way to redistribute would be to move to a flat tax system, in which marginal tax rates are constant across the income distribution, and redistribution is achieved via non-means-tested transfers. In our preferred model specification, we find that moving to the optimal tax policy in the affine class is welfare reducing, while moving to the optimal fully non-linear Mirrlees policy generates only tiny welfare gains. These findings suggest that proposals for dramatic tax reform should be viewed with caution.

    Jonathan Heathcote has been a senior economist in the Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis since 2008. Between 2006 and 2008, he was an economist in the International Finance Division of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. From 2002 to 2008, he was on the faculty of the Department of Economics at Georgetown University, where he was promoted from assistant to associate professor in 2006. Jonathan has also served as an assistant professor at the Stockholm School of Economics and Duke University, and as a visiting assistant professor at the Stern School of Business, New York University. He has been a visiting lecturer at University College London, and a visiting scholar at both the Minneapolis and Atlanta Federal Reserve Banks.

    Heathcote received a B.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics from Keble College, Oxford University, in 1993, and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998. His work has appeared in several prestigious publications, including the Review of Economic Studies, the Journal of Monetary Economics, the International Economic Review, and the Journal of Economic Theory. He is currently an editor of the Berkeley Electronic Journal of Macroeconomics, and an associate editor of the Review of Economic Dynamics and the Journal of Monetary Economics. Heathcote's research currently focuses on understanding the evolution of cross-sectional inequality in wages, labor supply, income, consumption, and welfare.

Thursday, 24 Apr 2014

  • Thu, Apr 24, 2014 3:40 pm - 5:00 pm
    368A Heady Hall

    "Estimating the Impacts of Brownfield Remediation on Housing Property Values," with Christopher Timmins, Duke University, Thursday, April 24, 3:40 PM-5 PM, 368A Heady Hall.

    Christopher Timmins is a professor in the Department of Economics at Duke University, with a secondary appointment in Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. He holds a BSFS degree from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University. Professor Timmins specializes in natural resource and environmental economics, but also has interests in industrial organization, development, public and regional economics. His recent research has focused on measuring the costs associated with exposure to poor air quality, the benefits associated with remediating brownfields and toxic waste under the Superfund program, and the external costs and benefits from shale gas development. Professor Timmins is a research associate in the Environmental and Energy Economics group at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and has served as a reviewer for numerous environmental, urban, and applied microeconomics journals. He currently serves on the editorial board of the American Economic Review and is a co-editor of the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. His research has appeared in a wide variety of outlets, including Econometrica, the AER, IER, JEL, and the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

    Abstract: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program provides grants to assess and clean up brownfields - properties the ‘expansion, re-development, or re-use of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.’ The highly localized nature of brownfields lends itself well to measuring the value of site remediation with property value hedonics. The application of that technique is, however, complicated by the presence of correlated unobservable determinants of housing prices (both time-invariant and those that vary over time). This report uses a variety of quasi-experimental techniques to overcome this problem. The analysis finds evidence of large increases in property values accompanying cleanup, ranging from 4.9% to 24.8%; a double-difference matching estimator that does not rely on the intertemporal stability of the hedonic price function finds even larger effects, implying that evidence of property value increases is consistent with a willingness to pay interpretation.

    William G. Murray (1903-1991) was an agricultural economist, founder of Living History Farms, and an Iowa gubernatorial candidate. Murray received a BA from Coe College in 1924, and MA from Harvard University in 1925, and a PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1932. He came to Iowa State University in 1927, with teaching and research interests in farm land valuation and finance. Murray served as head of the Department of Economics and Sociology at ISU from 1943 to 1955. In 1935-1936, he was chief economist with the Farm Credit Administration, and in 1948 he served as president of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association. He played a prominent role in the creation and early history of Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa, and in 1967, he helped organize the LHF Foundation. He served as research director of LHF from 1967-1974, and as its president from 1974-1981. Murray was also involved in Iowa politics, and was Iowa's Republican gubernatorial candidate in 1958 and 1966.

Friday, 25 Apr 2014

  • Fri, Apr 25, 2014 12:00 pm - 1:20 pm
    368A Heady Hall

    "Predicting freshmen credit hours earned with statistical learning methods," with Skip Crooker, University of Central MissouriFriday, April 25, 12 PM-1:20 PM, 368A Heady Hall

    Crooker serves as professor of economics and director of institutional research at the University of Central Missouri. He became the director of institutional research in January, 2013, after serving as associate dean of the Harmon College of Business and Professional Study at the university. While in the Harmon College, Crooker has served as the director of the Master in Business Administration program and taught the quantitative and managerial economics course since arriving at UCM in 2002. He also previously chaired the Department of Economics and Finance..

    Crooker earned his PhD in economics with a minor in statistics from Iowa State University in 1998. His major fields were econometrics and environmental & natural resource economics. He received his BS in economics with a minor in finance from the University of Central Missouri in 1993. Today, his research includes applications of econometrics and statistical learning techniques to higher education.

    Abstract: Beginning in academic year 2012, the Missouri Department of Higher Education instituted a performance based funding mechanism for all public 4-year institutions in the State of Missouri. The stated goal of the model is to distribute 100% of all new money earmarked for higher education according to each institution's respective performance. With 5 performance metrics, 20% of an institution's new appropriations is conditional upon success on a particular metric. Among the 5 metrics identied as performance metrics is the proportion of the institutions first-time full-time (freshmen) cohort successively earning 24 credit hours in the academic year. To achieve success in this metric, the institution must not experience a decrease in the 3-year average proportion of students earning 24 credit hours. As this particular metric is not necessarily an attribute of the freshmen cohort that has been historically forecasted, we have a lack of understanding of important characteristics of the freshmen experience that influence success in this metric. Meanwhile, in academic year 2014, the value of achieving this single metric of success eclipsed $400,000 in annual funding. For these reasons, we are interested in quickly learning the signals that may explain success or failure in this metric. Our objective in this paper is to explore statistical learning approaches to explaining factors impacting an individual student's ability to earn 24 credit hours in his or her rst year of study. The predominant approaches considered are decision-tree, bagging, random forests and boosting methods. We compare the statistical learning algorithms against more conventional econometric estimators in a cross-validation study design

Monday, 28 Apr 2014

  • Mon, Apr 28, 2014 4:10 pm - 5:30 pm
    368A Heady Hall

    "Contracting Externalities and Unrepudiable Menus in the U.S. Corporate Bankruptcy Code," Ivo Welch, UCLA, Monday, April 28, 4:10 PM-5:30 PM, 368A Heady Hall.

    Abstract: Our paper offers the first justification for the U.S. bankruptcy code, in which firms are not allowed to commit themselves ex-ante in their lending agreements either to (Chapter 7) liquidation or to (Chapter 11) reorganization in case of distress. If fire-sale liquidation imposes negative externalities on their peers, then firms are collectively better off if they are all forced into a no-opt-out choice (a mandatory “menu”), although they would individually want to commit themselves to liquidation. The ex-post menu choice is important: prohibiting liquidation outright would be worse. Our paper’s innovation is thus to show not when a later choice should be prohibited, but when a later choice should be mandatory. Equivalent analyses could justify when other ex-post choices should remain inalienable (not contractible).

    Contracting Externalities and Unrepudiable Menus in the U.S. Corporate Bankruptcy Code

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