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  • (2020) Chen, Jie
    Thesis
    This thesis consists of three chapters. It studies, as a broad theme, the effectiveness of several institutional changes on individual decision-making based on experimental evidence. Chapter 1 is self-contained, with results purely based on a laboratory experiment. Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 are based on one field experiment in education. Chapter 2 describes the experimental settings and presents the overall results of the experiment, whereas Chapter 3 extends the analysis and focuses on treatment effects on women and men respectively. Chapter 1 shows how reward or punishment opportunities change contributions in a public goods game with 'privileged' members, where 'privilege' indicates that one's per-unit contribution to the public good produces a higher monetary return than is the case for others in the group. The main finding is that reward opportunities strongly increase group contributions in such groups while punishment opportunities do not. Reward also mitigates contribution decay over successive periods and improves social welfare. Chapter 2 mainly studies how rank incentives (i.e., relative performance information) in a milestone-based online assignment system affect students' academic performance. I find that rank incentives increase the likelihood of a student putting more effort in the online assignment. Rank incentives also have positive effects on low-performing students' exam marks while they have negative effects on high-performing students' exam marks. The positive effects seem driven by increased self-perceived stress, increased effort, and decreased procrastination. The negative effects seem driven by increased self-perceived happiness and re-allocation of effort. Chapter 3 studies how rank incentives and milestone information (i.e., information with reference to achievement milestones corresponding to different amounts of points earned) affect men's and women's academic performance differently. Women with access to the rank incentives experience a 0.19 SDs mark decrease in the first midterm, compared to women without this access. In the absence of relative performance information, men with access to the milestone information experience a 0.26 SDs mark increase in the final exam, compared to men without the access. The negative effects on women seem driven by their increased stress level, whereas men's improved exam performance seem driven by increased effort.

  • (2021) Tian, Wei
    Thesis
    In Chapter 1, we provide conditions for the synthetic control estimator to be asymptotically unbiased when the outcome is nonlinear, and propose a flexible and data-driven method to choose the synthetic control weights. In the empirical application, we illustrate the method by estimating the impact of the 2019 anti-extradition law amendments bill protests on Hong Kong's economy, and find that the year-long protests reduced real GDP per capita in Hong Kong by 11.27% in the first quarter of 2020, which was larger in magnitude than the economic decline during the 1997 Asian financial crisis or the 2008 global financial crisis. In Chapter 2, we generalise the conventional synthetic control method to a multiple-outcome framework, where the time dimension is supplemented with the extra dimension of related outcomes. As a result, the synthetic control method can now be used even if only a small number of pretreatment periods are available or if we worry about structural breaks over a longer time span. We show that the bound on the bias of the multiple-outcome synthetic control estimator is of a smaller stochastic order than that of the single-outcome synthetic control estimator, provided that the unit of interest can be closely approximated by the synthetic control in terms of the observed predictors and the multiple related outcomes before the treatment. In the empirical application, we illustrate our method by estimating the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on various outcomes in Sweden in the first 3 quarters of 2020. Our results suggest that if Sweden had implemented stricter NPIs like the other European countries by March, then (1) there would have been about 70% fewer cumulative COVID-19 infection cases and deaths by July, and 20% fewer weekly deaths from all causes in early May; (2) temporary absence from work would increase by 76% and total hours worked would decrease by 12% among the employed in the second quarter, but the impact would vanish in the third quarter, and there would be no discernable effect on the employment rate throughout; (3) the volume of retail sales would shrink by 5%-13% from March to May, while the other economic outcomes including GDP, import, export, industrial production, and CPI would not be affected. In Chapter 3, we propose a method based on the interactive fixed effects model to estimate treatment effects at the individual level, which allows both the treatment assignment and the potential outcomes to be correlated with the unobserved individual characteristics. This method is suitable for panel datasets where multiple related outcomes are observed for a large number of individuals over a small number of time periods. To illustrate our method, we provide an example of estimating the effect of health insurance coverage on individual usage of hospital emergency departments using the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment data.

  • (2020) Hong, Na Ry
    Thesis
    In this thesis, I examine the economic choices of people with disabilities. The thesis consists of four essays, each looking at different aspects of human capital or welfare outcomes for the disabled population in Australia. I use repeated cross sections of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) data for all of the four essays. The first essay explores the choice of relative occupational groups between disabled and non-disabled workers. I employ a multinomial logit model, using five SDAC cross sectional surveys from 1993 to 2012. I find that for men, the average marginal effects are relatively stable in magnitude over time, indicating that being disabled is positively associated with being a labourer and being in sales while negatively associated with being a manager or a technician. The largest effects tend to be for labourers (2 to 6 percentage points) and for managers (-2 to -6 percentage points). For women, the magnitude of the effects tends to be smaller although the signs are broadly like those for males. The only statistically significant effects for females appear for labourers where being disabled is positively associated with estimates in the range 1 to 3 percentage points. The second essay analyses the effect of reading and writing assistance on take-up of the Disability Support Pension (DSP). I employ age at onset of the disability as an instrumental variable to account for potential selection problems present in receiving the assistance. Using SDAC data (2003, 2009, 2015), a recursive bivariate probit estimation is carried out to allow for the supposed correlation representing common unobservables that capture the selection effects. I find that reading and writing assistance substantially increases the probability of receiving the DSP. The goal of the third essay is to see whether the implementation of the Disability Standards for Education in 2005 has resulted in improvement in educational outcomes for disabled students. I use a difference-in-differences (DD) method, using three waves of the data (2003 as pre-policy, 2009 and 2015 as post-policy). While there is no significant effect in school enrolment, a significant negative effect is observed for enrolment and completion of bachelor or above degrees relative to Year 11 or below. Overall, I find no significant effect of the policy on educational outcomes and that any observed increase in enrolment or completion is due to a general increase over time. The fourth essay investigates the wage differential observed between the disabled and non-disabled Australians. I use the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition method to examine the wage gap each separately for men and women. Using the 2012 data, I employ the Heckman selection process to account for any potential selection into the labour market. I find a significant negative effect of mental health on employment and earnings for the disabled population. I also find that the proportion of the wage gap between disabled and non-disabled workers that is not explained by productivity-related characteristics is very large.

  • (2022) Yang, Yu
    Thesis
    Research in computational statistics develops numerically efficient methods to estimate statistical models, with Monte Carlo algorithms a subset of such methods. This thesis develops novel Monte Carlo methods to solve three important problems in Bayesian statistics. For many complex models, it is prohibitively expensive to run simulation methods such as Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) on the model directly when the likelihood function includes an intractable term or is computationally challenging in some other way. The first two topics investigate models having such likelihoods. The third topic proposes a novel model to solve a popular question in causal inference, which requires solving a computationally challenging problem. The first application is to symbolic data analysis, where classical data are summarised and represented as symbolic objects. The likelihood function of such aggregated-level data is often intractable as it usually includes a high dimensional integral with large exponents. Bayesian inference on symbolic data is carried out in the thesis by using a pseudo-marginal method, which replaces the likelihood function with its unbiased estimate. The second application is to doubly intractable models, where the likelihood includes an intractable normalising constant. The pseudo-marginal method is combined with the introduction of an auxiliary variable to obtain simulation consistent inference. The proposed algorithm offers a generic solution to a wider range of problems, where the existing methods are often impractical as the assumptions required for their application do not hold. The last application is to causal inference using Bayesian additive regression trees (BART), a non-parametric Bayesian regression technique. The likelihood function is complex as it is based on a sum of trees whose structures change dynamically with the MCMC iterates. An extension to BART is developed to estimate the heterogeneous treatment effect, aiming to overcome the regularisation-induced confounding issue which is often observed in the direct application of BART in causal inference.

  • (2022) Peters, Julian
    Thesis
    Essay 1. Since the GFC, banking regulators are increasing regulations to lower the risk of banking crises occurring in the future. These have focused on liquidity, asset composition, and capital requirements. This paper focuses on the loan rate effects of raising bank capital requirements. Previous calculations of loan rate effects predominately use the WACC formula, which implicitly assumes perfect competition. Banking is an industry where firms have market power. This paper develops a tractable model of an imperfectly competitive banking market, where the implicit cost of capital is naturally included in the optimization problem of the bank. I find that the magnitude of loan rate changes depends on the market structure and provide estimates for a calibrated Australian market. %This provides some validation of studies that use a blended MM approach. Essay 2. Using a tractable two-loan type banking model I analyse recent changes in capital regulation in Australia and NZ. My modelling shows, IRB banks were significantly advantaged by Basel II in generating ROE, but that subsequent changes in capital settings have slowly moved towards competitive neutrality. In addition, I analyse the minimum average risk weight policy for IRB banks (2016) and find that IRB banks are motivated to hold a higher proportion of risky loans and undoing composition efficiency. Moving back to risk-sensitive risk weights is desirable, but using a scalar multiple or correlation adjustment, reinstates the large advantage IRB banks have in low-risk loans. Lastly, I analyse RBNZ's proposed large increase in capital requirements using a two-country banking model. Due to NZ's dependence on IRB Australian banks, I find the loan rate impact of these changes depends on APRA's approach, with the loan rate effect much smaller than documented by the RBNZ. Essay 3. In Australia, mortgage brokers (MB) are paid by banks an upfront commission and a trail commission, rewarding the length of time a borrower stays with a bank. Both Hayne (2019) and PC (2018) recommend banning the trail commission but differ regarding who should pay the upfront commission, banks or customers. This paper uses a 2-period IO model of a mortgage market to analyse different MB remuneration options. I find if aggregator/MB firms are efficient, borrowers will benefit from banks' paying an upfront commission, with aggregator/MB firms no worse off and bank profits lower. In contrast, customers paying an upfront commission can be better for borrowers but will be worse for both aggregator/MB and banks. If a proportion of borrowers balk at paying MBs the commission, borrower gains are diminished, aggregator/MB firms are worse off, and some bank profits recouped.

  • (2023) Arno, Akashlina
    Thesis
    The thesis consists of three chapters. The first two chapters explore the impact of environmental regulations on economic and environmental factors in emerging markets. The main challenge policymakers face in emerging markets is balancing economic growth while ensuring environmental sustainability. Chapter 1 examines the impact of environmental policies in India, focusing on the effect of the Corporate Responsibility for Environmental Protection (CREP) charter and Supreme Court Action Plans (SCAP). CREP targeted plants in a pre-determined set of industries known as the highly polluting industries (HPI). The SCAP was implemented in specific cities rather than industries. While CREP significantly improved investment in pollution control stock and productivity at the target plants, the effects of SCAP are mixed. Chapter 2 expands on the empirical analysis of chapter 1 by providing a theoretical model to capture the empirical findings from the Indian manufacturing sector. I present a theoretical model that describes how plants of different sizes invest in pollution control equipment when there could be a penalty associated with excess pollutant emissions. The model's findings show that the most productive plants assumed to be the largest, have the highest expenditure on clean capital. Chapter 3 is self-contained and concentrates on effectively tracking the changes in the emerging economies' output gap and growth. I employ a mixed-frequency Bayesian VAR approach to nowcast India's output gap and growth before and after the 2020-2021 recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The model uses monthly indicators, which allows forecasting the effects of any significant macroeconomic shocks before the release of real GDP data for the quarter.

  • (2023) Keller, Elena
    Thesis
    Infertility affects 1 in 6 couples and >180 million people worldwide. It represents an increasingly important public health problem, amplified by the continuing global trend to later childbearing. Fertility treatment including in vitro fertilization (IVF) is not suited to traditional health technology assessment (HTA) methods, because its value is derived by its ability to create life, rather than extend, improve, or save existing lives. Consequently, there is a lack of guidance, and satisfactory HTA methods to determine whether fertility treatment provides good value for money. Moreover, the ever-increasing demand for elective egg freezing (EEF) to preserve female fertility poses additional challenges for economic assessments. This thesis describes 5 studies that move the research agenda forward for guiding the economic evaluation of fertility treatment. Study 1, a systematic review, identified and quantified 5 methodological categories for value-of-statistical-life elicitation. Based on these categories, Study 2 investigated methods for eliciting the value of a statistical baby (VSB) and concluded that discrete choice experiments (DCEs) are the most appropriate method in a fertility treatment context. Study 3 applied DCE outputs to derive a VSB estimate, which was used to assess value for money of publicly funded IVF in a cost-benefit analysis, finding that at least 5 IVF cycles likely provide good value for women <42 years. Study 4 elicited patient preferences for fertility treatment based on a DCE and Study 5 performed an incentive-compatible lab experiment to assess the impact of patient and treatment characteristics on the demand for IVF and EEF. Both experiments indicate that the demand for fertility treatment is price-inelastic and unresponsive to income level, which might explain why women continue fertility treatment once they have commenced despite their financial capacity. This research makes several methodological contributions and provides an evidence base to assess the public investment in fertility treatment. Overall, patients and society were found to value fertility treatment highly. New knowledge generated includes: (1) identifying the number of cost-beneficial IVF cycles by female age; (2) quantifying price and income elasticities for IVF and EEF; (3) bridging the gap between the proliferation of DCEs and policy by applying DCE outputs to HTA; and (4) demonstrating that government funding decisions can be explored in a lab experiment.

  • (2021) Lee, Barton
    Thesis
    This thesis consists of three essays in political economics. In the first essay “Feigning Politicians,’’ I explore a model of politics where politicians have limited ability to influence policy. In this environment, I show that politicians face limited accountability and have an incentive to feign support for policies that voters demand: proposing policies that voters demand but then exerting little effort toward enacting such policies. A key implication of this feigning behavior is that, in some instances, less effective politicians will be reelected with a higher probability than more effective politicians. I provide empirical support for this key implication in U.S. House elections. In the second essay “Gridlock, Leverage, and Policy Bundling,” I explore a dynamic model of legislative bargaining where alternatives to the status-quo arrive stochastically during the bargaining process and the proposer can bundle multiple alternatives into a single proposal. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom that policy bundling reduces legislative gridlock, I show that policy bundling can increase gridlock via a leverage incentive; I call gridlock of this form leverage-based gridlock. Leverage-based gridlock is more likely to occur during periods of economic or political stability and, when it occurs, causes traditional measures of legislator ideology to overstate the true level of polarization between legislators. In the final essay “Political Capital,” we explore a two-period model of organizational decision making where the leader of the organization has a stock of political capital that she can choose to spend to influence decisions. The leader’s stock of political capital evolves dynamically and may increase or decrease depending on the leader’s decision to spend her capital and if her decision to spend was correct ex-post. This presents the leader with an intertemporal choice problem: spending political capital today will improve today’s decision (in expectation) but may result in less political capital—and hence less influence over organization decisions—in the future. We characterize the optimal use of political capital by the leader, the evolution of political capital over time, and identify different leadership styles that can emerge. We also explore the implications of our results for organizational design.

  • (2021) Zeng, Shipei
    Thesis
    The productivity slowdown across industrialised countries since 2004 is a persistent puzzle. This thesis proposes new productivity decompositions, using both industry and firm-level administrative data sets, with a focus on innovative techniques to advance understanding of the drivers of firm, industry, and country productivity performance. Particular attention is paid to micro-theoretic foundations of the proposed techniques, and to the rigorous application of appropriate econometric and data science techniques. At the industry level, drivers of productivity change are identified from a micro-theoretic framework implemented using an index number approach. Drawing on a non-parametric model, Chapter 2 decomposes productivity growth into explanatory factors for 12 selected industries and 16 market sector industries in Australia. Technical progress is found to support increasing productivity, though its contribution is partly offset by production inefficiency. Production inefficiency is interpreted as lagged output, inactive operation or possible measurement errors on a case-by-case basis. The overall performance of productivity growth and its explanatory factors is affected by the market shares based on a weighted average industry aggregation. In addition to the industry-level productivity decomposition in Chapter 2, a firm-level productivity decomposition is developed in Chapter 3 for a market that consists of incumbents, entrants and exiters. This new method enables decompositions of productivity into components to be merged with firm dynamics. The framework is applied to Australian firm-level data and reveals the dominant contribution of incumbent firms to industry productivity and industry efficiency. A difference-in-differences approach is proposed that validates the firm dynamics from the counterfactual perspective. Price imputation is essential when detailed price information is unavailable to support productivity decompositions. Chapter 4 introduces tree-based machine learning models for estimating missing prices in cases where there is product entry and exit, or product “churn”. Model performance metrics from (electronic-point-of-sale) scanner data confirm the prediction accuracy of tree-based models. An economic explanation is proposed to link the decision tree structure and consumer preferences. Tree-based models are recommended for price imputation due to their prediction accuracy and compatibility with consumer utility types.

  • (2021) Banh, Thi Hang
    Thesis
    In this thesis, I examine the impacts of foreign competition and tariff liberalization on skill premium and product quality in developing countries. The first essay studies the effect of the growth in China's exports on the value, quantity, and quality of exports from Asian developing countries in the US market by applying the instrumental variable method on product-level trade data. I find that Chinese competition has a non-negative effect on the value and quantity of exports from Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka but a negative effect on exports from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, India, Pakistan, and Thailand. All countries upgrade product quality when facing tougher competition from China, but a rise in China's exports leads to more quality upgrading for products close to the world frontier for Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka and short-ladder products for Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, India, Pakistan, and Thailand. The second essay investigates the effect of the rise of China's exports on the skill premium of Mexican firms by applying the instrumental variable method to the plant-level production data from Mexico and product-level trade data. We find that Mexican firms reduce their skill premium when facing a rise in Chinese exports, and the effect is more pronounced among non-exporters. We develop a model linking competition and wage inequality between skilled and unskilled workers by introducing a labor market with skilled and unskilled workers and endogenous wages of skilled workers to the model of heterogeneous plants and quality differentiation. Our model predicts that tougher competition leads plants to downgrade quality, which induces a decline in the skill premium. We document a downgrading effect of the rise of China on product quality, and the effect is less strong for exported products. These findings support the predictions of our model. The third essay analyses the effect of tariff reductions under the North American Free Trade Agreement on the product quality and skill premium of Mexican firms using plant-level production data from Mexico and bilateral tariff data between the US and Mexico. We find that output tariff reduction leads to the quality downgrading of domestic products, while there is no statistical association between tariff cuts and skill premium paid by Mexican exporters and non-exporters. It appears that there is no connection between tariff declines and skill premium through changes in product quality.