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  • Author: Robert Wilkinson, Kimberlyn Leary
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The year 2020 has brought one crisis after another, perhaps exacerbating a common belief that a “heroic leader” can save the day. But does this mythical figure really exist? Leadership, once we study it, isn’t one thing exercised at the top by one person, as our colleague and leadership expert Ron Heifetz has observed; it is an activity exerted by people at all levels, and by noticing certain less obvious aspects of leadership, anyone can improve at it. Leadership is possible at any time there is a collective problem. Each of us may have a role to play in mobilizing others to address community problems, and each of us can improve our skills to be more effective.
  • Topic: Leadership, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Eliana Carranza, Robert Garlick, Kate Orkin, Neil Rankin
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper presents field experimental evidence that limited information about workseekers’ skills distorts both firm and workseeker behavior. Assessing workseekers’ skills, giving workseekers their assessment results, and helping them to credibly share the results with firms increases workseekers’ employment and earnings. It also aligns their beliefs and search strategies more closely with their skills. Giving assessment results only to workseekers has similar effects on beliefs and search, but smaller effects on employment and earnings. Giving assessment results only to firms increases callbacks. These patterns are consistent with two-sided information frictions, a new finding that can inform the design of information-provision mechanisms.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Employment, Business , Job Creation
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Ulrich Schetter
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: In this paper, we develop a heterogeneous agent general equilibrium framework to analyze optimal joint policies of a lockdown and transfer payments in times of a pandemic. In our model, the effectiveness of a lockdown in mitigating the pandemic depends on endogenous compliance. A more stringent lockdown deepens the recession which implies that poorer parts of society find it harder to subsist. This reduces their compliance with the lockdown, and may cause deprivation of the very poor, giving rise to an excruciating trade-off between saving lives from the pandemic and from deprivation. Lump-sum transfers help mitigate this trade-off. We identify and discuss key trade-offs involved and provide comparative statics for optimal policy. We show that, ceteris paribus, the optimal lockdown is stricter for more severe pandemics and in richer countries. We then consider a government borrowing constraint and show that limited fiscal space lowers the optimal lockdown and welfare, and increases the aggregate death burden during the pandemic. We finally discuss distributional consequences and the political economy of fighting a pandemic.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Political Economy, Inequality, Economic Growth, Fiscal Policy, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ina Ganguli, Ricardo Hausmann, Martina Viarengo
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We examine gender gaps in career dynamics in the legal sector using rich panel data from one of the largest global law firms in the world. The law firm studied is representative of multinational law firms and operates in 23 countries. The sample includes countries at different stages of development. We document the cross-country variation in gender gaps and how these gaps have changed over time. We show that while there is gender parity at the entry level in most countries by the end of the period examined, there are persistent raw gender gaps at the top of the organization across all countries. We observe significant heterogeneity among countries in terms of gender gaps in promotions and wages, but the gaps that exist appear to be declining over the period studied. We also observe that women are more likely to report exiting the firm for family and work-life balance reasons, while men report leaving for career advancement. Finally, we show that various measures of national institutions and culture appear to play a role in the differential labor-market outcomes of men and women.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Labor Issues, Women, Employment, Inequality, Human Capital, Legal Sector
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David Deming
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs are a key contributor to economic growth and national competitiveness. Yet STEM workers are perceived to be in short supply. This paper shows that the “STEM shortage” phenomenon is explained by technological change, which introduces new job skills and makes old ones obsolete. We find that the initially high economic return to applied STEM degrees declines by more than 50 percent in the first decade of working life. This coincides with a rapid exit of college graduates from STEM occupations. Using detailed job vacancy data, we show that STEM jobs change especially quickly over time, leading to flatter age-earnings profiles as the skills of older cohorts became obsolete. Our findings highlight the importance of technology-specific skills in explaining life-cycle returns to education, and show that STEM jobs are the leading edge of technology diffusion in the labor market.
  • Topic: International Organization, International Political Economy, Science and Technology, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: John Gerard Ruggie
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: On August 19, 2019, the U.S. Business Roundtable (BR), comprising the CEOs of more than 200 of America’s largest corporations, issued a new mission statement on “the purpose of a corporation” (BR, 2019a). The press release noted that each periodic update on principles of corporate governance since 1997 had endorsed the principle of maximizing shareholder value. In contrast, the new statement commits signatory CEOs “to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders” (BR, 2019b). “[Milton] Friedman must be turning in his grave,” a Fortune magazine article declared (Murray, 2019)
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Richard Zeckhauser
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper argues that historical analysis, necessarily written with hindsight, often underestimates the uncertainties of the past. We call this tendency explanation bias. This bias leads individuals – including professional historians – to imply greater certainty in causal analyses than the evidence justifies. Their analyses will treat what is plausible to be probable. We offer a few intuitions about why explanation bias exists, its relation to other well-established psychological biases, what it leads to, and how it might be combatted. Appreciating the depth of uncertainty and ignorance in our world is critical for accurately understanding, interpreting, and drawing from the past to illuminate the present and the near future
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We study the drivers of financial distress using a large-scale field experiment that offered randomly selected borrowers a combination of (i) immediate payment reductions to target short- run liquidity constraints and (ii) delayed interest write-downs to target long-run debt constraints. We identify the separate e?ects of the payment reductions and interest write-downs using both the experiment and cross-sectional variation in treatment intensity. We find that the interest write-downs significantly improved both financial and labor market outcomes, despite not taking effect for three to five years. In sharp contrast, there were no positive e?ects of the more immediate payment reductions. These results run counter to the widespread view that financial distress is largely the result of short-run constraints.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We estimate the causal effects of parental incarceration on children’s short- and long-run outcomes using administrative data from Sweden. Our empirical strategy exploits exogenous variation in parental incarceration from the random assignment of criminal defendants to judges with different incarceration tendencies. We find that the incarceration of a parent in childhood leads to a significant increase in teen crime and significant decreases in educational attainment and adult employment. The effects are concentrated among children from the most disadvantaged families, where criminal convictions increase by 10 percentage points, high school graduation decreases by 25 percentage points, and employment at age 25 decreases by 29 percentage points. In contrast, there are no detectable effects among children from more advantaged families. These results suggest that the incarceration of parents with young children may significantly increase the intergenerational persistence of poverty and criminal behavior, even in affluent countries with extensive social safety nets.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Affairs, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper tests for bias in consumer lending using administrative data from a high-cost lender in the United Kingdom. We motivate our analysis using a new principal-agent model of bias, which predicts that profits should be higher for the most illiquid loan applicants at the margin if loan examiners are biased. We identify the profitability of marginal applicants using the quasi-random assignment of loan examiners. Consistent with our model, we find significant bias against immigrant and older applicants when using the firm’s preferred measure of long-run profits, but not when using the short-run measure used to evaluate examiner performance. Keywords: Discrimination, Consumer Credit
  • Topic: Debt, International Political Economy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Todd Rogers
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Many states mandate districts or schools notify parents when students have missed multiple unexcused days of school. We report a randomized experiment (N = 131,312) evaluating the impact of sending parents truancy notifications modified to target behavioral barriers that can hinder effective parental engagement. Modified truancy notifications that used simplified language, emphasized parental efficacy, and highlighted the negative incremental effects of missing school reduced absences by 0.07 days compared to the standard, legalistic, and punitively-worded notification—an estimated 40% improvement. This work illustrates how behavioral insights and randomized experiments can be used to improve administrative communications in education.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Timothy Besley, Anders Jensen, Torsten Persson
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper studies individual and social motives in tax evasion. We build a simple dynamic model that incorporates these motives and their interaction. The social motives underpin the role of norms and is the source of the dynamics that we study. Our empirical analysis exploits the adoption in 1990 of a poll tax to fund local government in the UK, which led to widespread evasion. The evidence is consistent with the model’s main predictions on the dynamics of evasion.
  • Topic: Political Economy, Economy, Financial Crimes, Tax Systems
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Mark H. Moore
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This is one of a series of working papers from “RISE"—the large-scale education systems research programme supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Topic: Development, Education, Governance, Developing World
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Dani Rodrik
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: In a world economy that is highly integrated, most policies produce effects across the border. This is often believed to be an argument for greater global governance, but the logic requires scrutiny. There remains strong revealed demand for policy and institutional diversity among nations, rooted in differences in historical, cultural, or development trajectories. The canonical case for global governance is based on two set of circumstances. The first occurs when there is global public good (GPG) and the second under “beggar-thy-neighbor” (BTN) policies. However, the world economy is not a global commons, and virtually no economic policy has the nature of a global public good (or bad). And while there are some important BTN policies, much of our current discussions deal with policies that are not true BTNs. The policy failures that exist arise not from weaknesses of global governance, but from distortions of domestic governance. As a general rule, these domestic failures cannot be fixed through international agreements or multilateral cooperation. The paper closes by discussing an alternative model of global governance called “democracy-enhancing global governance.”
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Governance, Global Political Economy, Trade Wars
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, Global Markets
  • Author: Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Martin Montane, Luca Sartorio
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The past 5 years have witnessed a flurry of RCT evaluations that shed new light on the impact and cost effectiveness of Active Labor Market Policies (ALMPs) aiming to improve workers´ access to new jobs and better wages. We report the first systematic review of 102 RCT interventions comprising a total of 652 estimated impacts. We find that (i) a third of these estimates are positive and statistically significant (PPS) at conventional levels; (ii) programs are more likely to yield positive results when GDP growth is higher and unemployment lower; (iii) programs aimed at building human capital, such as vocational training, independent worker assistance and wage subsidies, show significant positive impact, and (iv) program length, monetary incentives, individualized follow up and activity targeting are all key features in determining the effectiveness of the interventions.
  • Topic: Vocational Training, Labor Policies, Wage Subsidies, Randomized Controlled Trials
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Woolcock
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Many development agencies and governments now seek to engage directly with local communities, whether as a means to the realization of more familiar goals (infrastructure, healthcare, education) or as an end in itself (promoting greater inclusion, participation, well-being). These same agencies and governments, however, are also under increasing pressure to formally demonstrate that their actions ‘work’ and achieve their goals within relatively short timeframes – expectations which are, for the most part, necessary and desirable. But adequately assessing ‘community-driven’ approaches to development requires the deployment of theory and methods that accommodate their distinctive characteristics: building bridges is a qualitatively different task to building the rule of law and empowering minorities. Moreover, the ‘lessons’ inferred from average treatment effects derived from even the most rigorous assessments of community-driven interventions are likely to translate poorly to different contexts and scales of operation. Some guidance for anticipating and managing these conundrums are provided.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Infrastructure, International Development
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Eduardo Gómez
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Recent studies that have emphasized the costs of accumulating reserves for self-insurance purposes have overlooked two potentially important side-effects. First, the impact of the resulting lower spreads on the service costs of the stock of sovereign debt, which could substantially reduce the marginal cost of holding reserves. Second, when reserve accumulation reflects countercyclical LAW central bank interventions, the actual cost of reserves should be measured as the sum of valuation effects due to exchange rate changes and the local-to-foreign currency exchange rate differential (the inverse of a carry trade profit and loss total return flow), which yields a cost that is typically smaller than the one arising from traditional estimates based on the sovereign credit risk spreads. We document those effects empirically to illustrate that the cost of holding reserves may have been considerably smaller than usually assumed in both the academic literature and the policy debate.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Exchange Rate Policy, International Reserves, Capital Flows
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Nathan Converse, Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Tomas Williams
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Since the early 2000s exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have grown to become an important in- vestment vehicle worldwide. In this paper, we study how their growth affects the sensitivity of international capital flows to the global financial cycle. We combine comprehensive fund- level data on investor flows with a novel identification strategy that controls for unobservable time-varying economic conditions at the investment destination. For dedicated emerging mar- ket funds, we find that the sensitivity of investor flows to global financial conditions for equity (bond) ETFs is 2.5 (2.25) times higher than for equity (bond) mutual funds. In turn, we show that in countries where ETFs hold a larger share of financial assets, total cross-border equity flows and prices are significantly more sensitive to global financial conditions. We conclude that the growing role of ETFs as a channel for international capital flows amplifies the global financial cycle in emerging markets.
  • Topic: Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance, Global Political Economy, Capital Flows, Mutual Funds
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, Global Markets
  • Author: Eduardo Fernández-Arias, Ricardo Hausmann, Ugo Panizza
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The conventional paradigm about development banks is that these institutions exist to target well-identified market failures. However, market failures are not directly observable and can only be ascertained with a suitable learning process. Hence, the question is how do the policymakers know what activities should be promoted, how do they learn about the obstacles to the creation of new activities? Rather than assuming that the government has arrived at the right list of market failures and uses development banks to close some well-identified market gaps, we suggest that development banks can be in charge of identifying these market failures through their loan-screening and lending activities to guide their operations and provide critical inputs for the design of productive development policies. In fact, they can also identify government failures that stand in the way of development and call for needed public inputs. This intelligence role of development banks is similar to the role that modern theories of financial intermediation assign to banks as institutions with a comparative advantage in producing and processing information. However, while private banks focus on information on private returns, development banks would potentially produce and organize information about social returns.
  • Topic: Development, Industrial Policy, Markets, Banks
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, Global Markets
  • Author: Michael Woolcock
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Evaluations of development projects are conducted to assess their net effectiveness and, by extension, to guide decisions regarding the merits of scaling-up successful projects and/or replicating them elsewhere. The key characteristics of ‘complex’ interventions – numerous face- to-face interactions, high discretion, imposed obligations, pervasive unknowns – rarely fit neatly into standard evaluation protocols, requiring the deployment of a wider array of research methods, tools and theory. The careful use of such ‘mixed methods’ approaches is especially important for discerning the conditions under which ‘successful’ projects of all kinds might be expanded or adopted elsewhere. These claims, and the practical implications to which they give rise, draw on an array of recent evaluations in different sectors in development.
  • Topic: International Development, Humanitarian Intervention, Public Policy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus