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2020 Economics Seminars

2020 Seminar Speakers

Friday, November 13, 2020 (Hosted by: Zou)

Andrew Plantinga

University of California, Santa Barbara

  • Stranded: The Effects of Inaccessible Public Land on Local Economies in the American West
  • Abstract: This paper analyzes the effect of public land on local economies in the western United States. In large part, the current distribution of western public lands is the result of federal land disposal policies of the 19th century. This historical context is important for two reasons. First, it implies that public lands are unlikely to be an exogenous determinant of current local economic indicators. In contrast to most of the earlier literature, we address the endogeneity of public land measures using instruments derived from historical data on federal land grants. Second, the land disposal policies created a mosaic of land ownership that can limit access to public lands. We use GIS data on land ownership and road networks to quantify the amount of “stranded” inaccessible public-access land in over 400 counties across the western United States. Similar to previous studies, we find that accessible public land has a statistically significant but economically small negative impact on county farmland values in 2017. However, the effect of stranded, inaccessible public land is much larger and significant: a 10 percent (0.07 percentage point) increase in stranded land in a county leads to an approximate 2% county-wide reduction in land value. Our results show that access is crucial to understanding the mechanisms by which public land affects local economies.

Friday, October 23, 2020 (Hosted by: Kuhn)

Hunt Alcott

Microsoft; Harvard University

  • Digital Addiction
  • Abstract: Digital technologies such as smartphones and social media occupy a large and growing share of leisure time. While these technologies provide obvious benefits, it is often argued that they can be addictive and harmful. We lay out a model of digital addiction and estimate its parameters using a randomized experiment involving about 2000 smartphone users. We find that smartphone social media use is habit forming, and while people correctly predict habit formation, they consume as if they are inattentive to it. Functionality that allows people to set time limits on social media apps reduces use by about 15 percent, suggesting that people have self-control problems. People slightly but consistently underestimate future use, suggesting slight naivete about temptation. Our structural model predicts that in our sample, non-rational habit formation/projection bias, temptation, and naivete increases social media use by 12-25 minutes per day and reduces long-run consumer surplus by $50-$100 per person each year.

Friday, October 2, 2020 (Hosted by: Wu)

Avner Seror

Aix Marseille University (France)

  • Religious Leaders and Rule of Law
  • Abstract: In this paper, we provide systematic evidence of how historical religious institutions affect Rule of Law. In a difference-in-differences framework, we show that districts in Pakistan where the historical presence of religious institutions is higher, Rule of Law is worse. This deterioration is economically significant, persistent, and explained by the rise of religious leaders elected to office. We explain our findings with a model where religious leaders leverage their high legitimacy to run for office and influence Courts. Our estimate of the economy-wide losses attributed to land expropriation by religious leaders through Courts is about 0.06 percent of GDP every year.