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Founded in 1920, the National Bureau of Economic Research is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community. Over the years the NBER's research agenda has encompassed a wide variety of issues that confront our society. Early research focused on the aggregate economy, examining in detail the business cycle and long-term economic growth. Simon Kuznets' pioneering work on national income accounting, Wesley Mitchell's influential study of the business cycle, and Milton Friedman's research on the demand for money and the determinants of consumer spending were among the early studies done at the NBER. Toward a Firmer Basis of Economic Policy: The Founding of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Solomon Fabricant, 1984

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    We provide direct evidence of leverage-induced fire sales contributing to a market crash using account-level trading data for brokerage- and shadow-financed margin accounts during the Chinese stock market crash of 2015. Margin investors heavily sell their holdings when their account-level leverage edges toward their maximum leverage limits, controlling for stock-date and account fixed effects. Stocks that are disproportionately held by accounts close to leverage limits experience high selling pressure and abnormal price declines which subsequently reverse. Unregulated shadow-financed margin accounts, facilitated by FinTech lending platforms, contributed more to the crash despite their smaller asset holdings relative to regulated brokerage accounts.

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    Evidence of regional variation in health care utilization has been well-documented over the past 40 years. Yet uncertainty persists about whether this variation is primarily the result of supply-side or demand-side forces, and the difference matters for both theory and policy. In this article, we provide new evidence as to the cause of geographic variation in health care utilization. We do so by examining changes in health care use by the near-elderly as they transition from being uninsured into Medicare. Results provide support for a causal supply-side explanation of regional variation. Estimates indicate that gaining Medicare coverage in above-median spending regions increases the probability of at least one hospital visit by 36% and the probability of having more than five doctor visits by 25% relative to similar individuals in below-median spending regions.

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    This paper examines whether there are complementarities between investments in ICT, R&D and organizational innovation, and the effects of different investment profiles on total factor productivity growth on Dutch firm-level data. We estimate an integrated model of investment profile adoption and total factor productivity growth. We find that the three investment decisions are complementary, in the sense that investing in one increases the probability of investing in another one because joint investments lead to higher TFP growth than individual investments. ICT earns on average an expected rate of return of 9.7%, followed by 6% to 7% on organizational innovation and a modest 1.4% to 1.8% on R&D in services and manufacturing respectively.

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    Evidence from different sources shows that spouses' retirement decisions are correlated. Retirement policies affecting individuals in couples are therefore also likely to affect behavior of their spouses. It is therefore important to account for joint features in modeling retirement. This paper studies a structural collective model of labor supply and retirement of both partners in a couple with interdependent preferences, imperfect knowledge of preferences of the spouse, and subjective expectations about the future. We propose a novel method to estimate preferences and the intra-household bargaining process, which relies on stated preferences data collected in the Health and Retirement Study. Respondents were asked to choose between hypothetical retirement trajectories describing the retirement ages and replacement rates of both spouses from three perspectives: considering their own preferences only, the preferences of their spouse only, or the most likely decision for the household. With these data, all model parameters are identified and potential sources of joint retirement can be disentangled. We find that males misperceive their wives' preferences, overestimating their disutility of work. Our estimates correct for this bias. They suggest that correlation in unobserved heterogeneity components of the partners' marginal utility of leisure explains a large share of joint retirement decisions. We also find significant positive complementarities in leisure, but this explains a much smaller part of joint retirement.

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    Labor force composition and the allocation of talent remain of vital import to modern economies. For their part, governments and companies around the globe have implemented equal employment opportunity (EEO) regulations to influence labor market flows. Even though such regulations are pervasive, surprisingly little is known about their impacts. We use a natural field experiment conducted across 10 U.S. cities to investigate if EEO statements in job advertisements affect the first step in the employment process, application rates. Making use of data from nearly 2,500 job seekers, we find considerable policy effects, but in an unexpected direction: the presence of an EEO statement dampens rather than encourages racial minorities' willingness to apply for jobs. Importantly, the effects are particularly pronounced for educated job seekers and in cities with white majority populations. Complementary survey evidence suggests the underlying mechanism at work is "tokenism", revealing that EEO statements backfire because racial minorities avoid environments in which they are perceived as regulatory, or symbolic, hires rather than being hired on their own merits. Beyond their practical and theoretical importance, our results highlight how field experiments can significantly improve policymaking. In this case, if one goal of EEO regulations is to enhance the pool of minority applicants, then it is not working.

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    Previous research shows that many people seek financial advice from non-experts, and that peer interactions influence financial decisions. We investigate whether such influences are beneficial, harmful, or simply haphazard. In our laboratory experiment, face-to-face communication with a randomly assigned peer significantly improves the quality of private decisions, measured by subjects' ability to choose as if they properly understand their opportunity sets. Subjects do not merely mimic those who know better, but also make better private decisions in novel tasks. People with low financial competence experience greater improvements when their partners also exhibit low financial competence. Hence, peer-to-peer communication transmits financial decision-making skills most effectively when peers are equally uninformed, rather than when an informed decision maker teaches an uninformed peer. Qualitative analysis of subjects' discussions supports this interpretation. The provision of effective financial education to one member of a pair influences the nature of communication but does not lead to additional improvements in the quality of the untreated partner's decisions, particularly in novel tasks.

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    FDI plays a central role in managing global production networks, but FDI statistics also reflect other factors, including tax avoidance, that make it difficult to differentiate between FDI for "long-term" investments that serves as a source of growth and FDI that is purely financial and has little real economic impact as it merely passes through an economy. This latter FDI also obscures the ultimate sources and destinations of FDI. This paper addresses these challenges by developing a framework for consolidated FDI statistics based on the nationality of the MNE group that complements residency-based FDI statistics. While residency-based statistics are useful to identify where financial claims and liabilities are held, nationality-based statistics provide information on who makes the decisions, reaps the benefits, and bears the risk. Consolidated FDI statistics remove pass-through capital and are better for understanding 'real' financial integration between economies and for analysing the relationship between the financing of MNEs and their operations. While some countries produce separate FDI statistics for resident Special Purpose Entities (SPEs) to identify pass-through capital, we demonstrate that this only provides a partial view and that about one-quarter of the inward FDI positions in a selection of European countries reflects pass-through capital through non-SPEs.

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    We study the implications of the interaction between rare disasters and financial development for sovereign debt markets. In our model, countries vary in their financial development, by which we mean the extent to which shocks can be hedged in international capital markets. The model predicts that low levels of financial development generate a key feature of sovereign debt in emerging economies known as "debt intolerance": high credit spreads associated with lower debt-to-output ratios than those of developed countries.

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    We study optimal policy experimentation by a committee. We consider a dynamic bargaining game in which committee members choose either a risky reform or a safe alternative each period. When no redistribution is allowed the unique equilibrium outcome is generically inefficient. When redistribution is allowed (even small amounts), there always exists an equilibrium that supports optimal experimentation for any voting rule without veto players. With veto players, however, optimal policy experimentation is possible only with a sufficient amount of redistribution. We conclude that veto rights are more of an obstacle to optimal policy experimentation than constraints on redistribution.

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    We evaluate two low-cost college support programs designed to directly target insufficient study time, a common characteristic among a large fraction of undergraduates. We conduct our experiment across three distinct college-types: (i) a selective urban college campus, (ii) a less-selective suburban college campus, and (iii) an online college, using a combination of unique survey and administrative data. More than 9,000 students were randomly assigned to complete an online planning exercise with information and guidance to create a weekly schedule containing sufficient study time and other obligations. Treated students also received weekly study tips, reminders, and coach consultations via text message throughout the academic year. Despite high levels of fidelity and initial participation, we estimate precise null effects on academic outcomes at each site, implying that the planning treatment was ineffective at improving student credit accumulation, course grades, and retention. We do find suggestive evidence, however, that the planning treatment marginally increased student study time. Taken together, the results suggest that, in addition to helping students stay organized, an effective intervention may need to provide stronger incentives or specific guidance on the tasks to complete while studying.

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    We quantify the importance of non-monetary news in central bank communication. Using evidence from four major central banks and a comprehensive classification of events, we decompose news conveyed by central banks into news about monetary policy, economic growth, and separately, shocks to risk premia. Our approach exploits high-frequency comovement of stocks and interest rates combined with monotonicity restrictions across the yield curve. We find significant differences in news composition depending on the communication channel used by central banks. Non-monetary news prevails in about 40% of policy decision announcements by the Fed and the ECB, and this fraction is even higher for communications that provide context to policy decisions such as press conferences. We show that non-monetary news accounts for a significant part of financial markets' reaction during the financial crisis and in the early recovery, while monetary shocks gain importance since 2013.

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    Where the state is weak, traditional authorities often control the local provision of land, justice, and public goods. These authorities are criticized for ruling in an undemocratic and unaccountable fashion, and are typically quite old and poorly educated relative to younger cohorts who have benefited from recent schooling expansions. We experimentally evaluate two solutions to these problems in rural Sierra Leone: an expensive long-term intervention to make local institutions more inclusive; and a low-cost test to rapidly identify skilled technocrats and delegate project management to them. In a real-world competition for local infrastructure grants, we find that technocratic selection dominates both the status quo of chiefly control and the institutional reform intervention, leading to an average gain of one standard deviation unit in competition outcomes. The results uncover a broader failure of traditional autocratic institutions to fully exploit the human capital present in their communities. We compare these findings to the prior beliefs of experts on likely impacts, and discuss implications for competing views on the sustainability of foreign aid.

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    Using data on 25 major American cities for the period 1900-1940, we explore the effects of municipal-level public health efforts that were viewed as critical in the fight against food- and water-borne diseases. In addition to studying interventions such as treating sewage and setting strict bacteriological standards for milk, which have received little attention in the literature, we provide new evidence on the effects of water filtration and chlorination, extending the work of previous scholars. Contrary to the consensus view, we find that none of the interventions under study contributed substantially to the observed declines in total and infant mortality.

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    This paper provides new evidence on the role of neighborhood in the financial decisions and outcomes of low-income borrowers. We link participants in the Moving to Opportunity experiment to credit reports and "alternative" credit bureau data that tracks payday loan usage. We find that participants who were randomly selected to receive a voucher experienced better access to credit in adulthood; we also find evidence that, among some subgroups, moving to a lower poverty neighborhood reduced payday loan usage and delinquency behavior. We explore the mechanisms underlying our results by investigating the credit market behavior of peers, the presence of banks and payday loan stores, and approval rates in the neighborhoods in which MTO participants live as adults. Our analysis suggests that the presence of payday loan stores and peer behavior play an important role in the observed improvements in credit market outcomes.

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    In discussing the paradoxical violation of expected utility theory that now bears his name, Maurice Allais noted that individuals tend to "greatly value" payoffs that are certain. Allais' observation would seem to imply that people will undervalue insurance relative to the predictions of expected utility theory because as conventionally constructed, insurance offers an uncertain benefit in exchange for a certain cost that certainty-loving individuals will overvalue. Pursuing this logic, we implemented insurance games with cotton farmers in Burkina Faso. On average, farmer willingness to pay for insurance increases significantly when a premium rebate framing is used to render both costs and benefits of insurance uncertain. We show that the impact of the rebate frame on the willingness to pay for insurance is driven by those farmers who exhibit a well-defined discontinuous preference for certainty, a concept that we adapt from the u-v model of utility and measure with a novel behavioral experiment. Given that the potential impacts of insurance for small scale farmers are high, and yet demand for conventionally framed contracts is often low, the insights from this paper suggest welfare-enhancing ways of designing insurance for low-income farmers.

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    What are the effects of monetary policy on exchange rates? And have unconventional monetary policies changed the way monetary policy is transmitted to international financial markets? According to conventional wisdom, expansionary monetary policy shocks in a country lead to that country's currency depreciation. We revisit the conventional wisdom during both conventional and unconventional monetary policy periods in the US by using a novel identification procedure that defines monetary policy shocks as changes in the whole yield curve due to unanticipated monetary policy moves and allows monetary policy shocks to differ depending on how they affect agents' expectations about the future path of interest rates as well as their perceived effects on the riskiness/uncertainty in the economy. Our empirical results show that: (i) a monetary policy easing leads to a depreciation of the country's spot nominal exchange rate in both conventional and unconventional periods; (ii) however, there is substantial heterogeneity in monetary policy shocks over time and their effects depend on the way they affect agents' expectations; (iii) we find favorable evidence to Dornbusch's (1976) overshooting hypothesis.

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    This paper analyzes the properties of the Taiwan mechanism, used for high school placement nationwide starting in 2014. In the Taiwan mechanism, points are deducted from an applicant's score with larger penalties for lower ranked choices. Deduction makes the mechanism a new hybrid between the well-known Boston and deferred acceptance mechanisms. Our analysis sheds light on why Taiwan's new mechanism has led to massive nationwide demonstrations and why it nonetheless still remains in use.

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    This paper examines demand systems where the demand for a good depends only on its own price, consumer income, and a single aggregator synthesizing information on all other prices. This generalizes directly-separable preferences where the Lagrange multiplier provides such an aggregator. As indicated by Gorman (1972), symmetry of the Slutsky substitution terms implies that such demand can take only one of two simple forms. Conversely, here we show that only weak conditions ensure that such demand systems are integrable, i.e. can be derived from the maximization of a well-behaved utility function. This paper further studies useful properties and applications of these demand systems.

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    We study the effects of peer gender composition, a proxy for female-friendliness of environment, in STEM doctoral programs on persistence and degree completion. Leveraging unique new data and quasi-random variation in gender composition across cohorts within programs, we show that women entering cohorts with no female peers are 11.9pp less likely to graduate within 6 years than their male counterparts. A 1 sd increase in the percentage of female students differentially increases the probability of on-time graduation for women by 4.6pp. These gender peer effects function primarily through changes in the probability of dropping out in the first year of a Ph.D. program and are largest in programs that are typically male-dominated.

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    Using the complete history of regular quarterly and annual filings by U.S. corporations from 1995-2014, we show that when firms make an active change in their reporting practices, this conveys an important signal about future firm operations. Changes to the language and construction of financial reports also have strong implications for firms' future returns: a portfolio that shorts "changers" and buys "non-changers" earns up to 188 basis points in monthly alphas (over 22% per year) in the future. Changes in language referring to the executive (CEO and CFO) team, regarding litigation, or in the risk factor section of the documents are especially informative for future returns. We show that changes to the 10-Ks predict future earnings, profitability, future news announcements, and even future firm-level bankruptcies. Unlike typical underreaction patterns in asset prices, we find no announcement effect associated with these changes--with returns only accruing when the information is later revealed through news, events, or earnings--suggesting that investors are inattentive to these simple changes across the universe of public firms.

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