All 2024 Events

Seminar & Brown Bag Series

CIPHER and MASS Conference

Seminar | Genetic Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease: Cognitive Decline, Economic Outcomes, and Planning Activities

Kevin Thom – University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Monday, January 8, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract: Genetic factors play a major role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, we examine the evolution of economic, cognitive, and planning outcomes in later-life for individuals with different levels of observed genetic risk for ADRD. Genetic risk predicts worse cognitive performance for both the full sample and among individuals who are never diagnosed. Individuals at higher risk also experience worse economic outcomes on a variety of dimensions, including work, income, and wealth. We also find that individuals at high genetic risk for AD are less likely to engage in planning activities that could mitigate the consequences of cognitive decline (e.g., assigning durable power of attorney), compared to individuals at lower AD risk. Our findings suggest there is a large population of individuals at genetic risk for ADRD who are not protected from cognitive decline despite genetic risk, insulated from its economic consequences, or prepared to deal with possible burdens of future ADRD. Additional results suggest there is clinically valuable and policy-relevant information in AD genetic measures.

Bio: Kevin Thom is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is an applied microeconomist with interests in labor, health, and household financial decision-making. Kevin‘s recent work explores how molecular genetic data can be used to better understand the heterogeneity that drives health behaviors, human capital accumulation, and household financial outcomes.

Seminar | Contacting Congress: Evidence of Reactive and Organizational Bias from Administrative Records of Contacts to Congress

Matto Mildenberger – University of California, Santa Barbara

Monday, January 22, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract: Citizens directly communicating their views to their elected representatives is a key mechanism for democratic responsiveness to the public. Longstanding research also suggests that biases in who contacts elected officials can undermine accurate representation of the public’s interests. However, who contacts elected officials and what views they express remain unclear. We present an unprecedented window into which constituents contact their representatives, and what policies they focus on based on a collaboration with a constituent relationship management (CRM) vendor to the U.S. House of Representatives. We analyze over 1.6 million administrative records of constituent contacts from over a dozen Congressional offices over four years (2019-2022), matched to an original survey of 14,096 voters with an oversample of those who contacted Congress. Our analysis confirms expected demographic biases in who contacts Congress, but in contrast to recent work finds that both strong liberals and conservatives are similarly likely to contact Congress. We also document a strong relationship between: (a) which issues constituents care about and which issues Congress hears about; and (b) voter issue preferences on issues and the views Congress hears on those issues. Nevertheless, we document that individual issues often markedly deviate from this pattern. Compared to the typical voter in a district, Congress hears more from [opponents of changes to the status quo] and about issues closely following “focusing events” driven by the media, ongoing social, economic, and political developments, and prior government action–what we dub a reaction bias. This leaves supporters of changes to the status quo and citizens who care about orphan issues that lack “focusing events” or strong organizational mobilization underrepresented in communication to Congress.

Bio: Matto Mildenberger is Assistant Professor of Political Science. His research explores the politics of climate change in the United States and around the world. His work has been published in the American Political Science Review, British Journal of Political Science, Nature Climate Change, Political Science Research Methods, Nature Energy and elsewhere. His second book, Carbon Captured: How Labor and Business Control Climate Politics, is available from MIT Press.

At UCSB, he is the director of The 2035 Initiative and co-runs the Energy and Environment Transitions (ENVENT) Lab.

Seminar | What drives poor quality of care for child diarrhea? Experimental evidence from India

Zachary Wagner – RAND

Thursday, February 1, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract: Most healthcare providers in developing countries know that oral rehydration salts (ORS) are a lifesaving treatment for child diarrhea, yet few prescribe it. This know-do gap has puzzled experts for decades and has cost millions of lives. Using several randomized controlled trials in India, we estimated the extent to which ORS under-prescription is driven perceptions that patients do not want ORS, provider’s financial incentives to sell more lucrative medicines, and ORS stock-outs. We found that patients expressing a preference for ORS increased ORS prescribing by 27 percentage points. Eliminating stock-outs increased ORS provision by 7 percentage points. Eliminating financial incentives to sell medicines had no effect on average but increased ORS prescribing at pharmacies by 9 percentage points. Our findings, combined with patient exit surveys suggest that provider perceptions that patients do not want ORS explains 42% of under-prescribing, while stock-outs and financial incentives explain only 6% and 5%, respectively.

Bio: Zachary Wagner is an economist at the RAND corporation and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School with training in both applied microeconomics and public health. His research uses economic theory and econometrics to study how people make decisions about health and health care around the globe. Dr. Wagner’s expertise includes take-up of health technology, quality of care in low-income countries, disasters and health, health insurance for the poor, community health workers, HIV/AIDS, child diarrhea, private sector health care, the opioid crisis, and family planning. His research uses a variety of methodologies including randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental evaluations, analysis of large secondary data sets, and cost-effectiveness analysis. He has completed research in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. He is currently leading two NIH R01 funded projects; one that studies how to improve treatment of child diarrhea in India and another that estimates the effect of natural hazards on child health in low- and middle-income countries. His research has been featured in leading journals including Science, Nature, The Lancet, BMJ, PLOS Medicine, Health Affairs, AEJ: Economic Policy, and Journal of Development Economics. Prior to joining RAND, he was a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University. His Ph.D. is in health policy (economics track) from UC Berkeley, and he has a master’s degree in international development from UC San Diego.

Seminar | Evaluating the Effects of an Early Literacy Intervention

Pamela Jakiela – Williams College

Monday, February 12, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract:  We conduct a cluster-randomized evaluation of an early literacy intervention that provided Kenyan parents with illustrated children’s storybooks and modified dialogic reading training. Rural communities were randomly assigned to treatment or control.  Within treatment communities, households were further randomized to receive children’s storybooks in either Luo (the mother tongue of all children in the sample) or English (a national language, and the primary language of instruction in grade 4 of primary school and beyond). We estimate the impacts of treatment on children’s vocabulary and literacy skills. Our design also allows us to document household responses to the intervention including behavioral responses by parents and older siblings and overall impacts on parental time investments in children.

Bio: Pamela Jakiela is an Associate Professor in the Economics Department at Williams College and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for Global Development. She is also affiliated with BREADIPAIZA, and J-PAL.

Seminar | Improving communications about cancer screening to support informed decision making

Yasmina Okan – Pompeu Fabra University

Monday, February 26, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract: Cancer is a global health concern, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. Although cancer screening has contributed to reductions in cancer-related mortality and incidence, it is also associated with potential harms, including overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and other physical and psychological harms. Policy makers are increasingly seeking to provide clear and balanced information to support informed decisions about screening participation. However, quantitative information about screening can be hard to understand, potentially undermining informed uptake. In this talk I will discuss a series of studies examining how information about cancer screening is communicated in patient information materials by UK health authorities, how people interpret such information, and how different presentation formats (e.g., simple graphical displays vs. numerical-only formats) affect people’s understanding of possible screening results, risk perceptions, and intentions to participate in screening. Methodologies included cognitive think-aloud interviews, online surveys, and longitudinal online experiments. I will also discuss ongoing studies in Spain examining strategies to communicate personalized screening recommendations based on individual risk factors such as family history and lifestyle factors, in the context of the rapidly evolving field of personalized medicine.

Bio: Dr. Yasmina Okan is a Ramón y Cajal Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Communication at Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain) and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Decision Research (Leeds University Business School, UK), where she previously held positions as a Lecturer (2013-18) and as an Associate Professor (2018-2022). She holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Granada (Spain), a MSc in Cognitive and Decision Sciences from University College London (UK), and a degree in Psychology from the Autonomous University of Madrid (Spain). Her research focuses on the psychology of judgment and decision making, with an emphasis on health risk perception and communication. She has been a visiting Researcher at different international institutions, including the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Germany), Wake Forest University (US), and the University of Oklahoma (US).

Seminar | Prison Pay-to-Stay and the Politics of Legal Reform

Brittany Friedman – USC Sociology

Monday, March 4, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract: According to the latest numbers from my research group, the Captive Money Lab, 43 states have prison pay-to-stay laws on the books. Prison pay-to-stay is the practice of charging imprisoned people for the cost of their incarceration in state prisons using per diem and service specific charges. Our research has traced how state Attorney Generals sue imprisoned people for this bill in civil court, which often amounts to six figures, and defendants do not have a right to an attorney. As mass incarceration boomed beginning in the 1980s, states began to pass pay-to-stay laws to try and cover the steep costs. Scholars associate this financialization process with the rise of the shadow carceral state, a legal apparatus that blends criminal, civil, and administrative law, expanding the range of punishment without the guarantee of legal representation.

This talk examines the repeal of prison pay-to-stay in the United States amidst current bi-partisan efforts to address mass incarceration. We process-trace reform efforts in Illinois drawing from novel data retrieved through multiple FOIA requests to state agencies and public records searches. Our analysis reveals how lawmakers who advocated for reforming the shadow carceral state in 2016 and 2019 through repealing prison pay-to-stay repurposed penal logics they had once used punitively in the 1980s and ‘90s to enact the same policy— such as protecting taxpayers, fiscal efficiency, and rehabilitation. We argue the ways in which lawmakers strategically operationalize penal logics exemplifies their cultural durability as a resonant means to a political end.

Bio: Dr. Brittany Friedman is a sociologist and expert on cover-ups, prisons, and the dark side of institutions. She holds a PhD from Northwestern and is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate of the Equity Research Institute at the University of Southern California. Friedman is co-founder of the Captive Money Lab and an Affiliated Scholar of the American Bar Foundation. Her first book will be released fall 2024 and traces how the enduring legacy of white supremacist alliances between incarcerated civilians and law enforcement shines a light on U.S. empire and carceral governance. It is titled CARCERAL APARTHEID: HOW LIES AND WHITE SUPREMACISTS RUN OUR PRISONS. She also frequently engages in public sociology through writi ng and interviews and supporting creative teams working on film and broadcast related to social issues as a technical adviser and executive producer, and as Chief of Technical Advisement & Research at Decoded Story Lab, a documentary film company.

MASS and CIPHER | March 6-8, 2024 | Washington, DC

The sixth annual Current Innovations in Probability-based Household Internet Panel Research (CIPHER) Conference was held jointly with the fifth annual Mobile Apps and Sensors in Surveys (MASS) workshop.

Seminar | When Competition Hurts: Evidence from Connecticut’s Retail Electricity Market

Rachel Anderson – Sloan Foundation

Monday, March 18, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract: Starting in the late 1990s, several U.S. states enacted legislation to restructure their electricity markets. Thirteen introduced competition for retail electric service, allowing households to shop for contracts with competitive firms in the same way they shop for cellular service plans.

In theory, competition could lower prices and increase the variety of products for sale. In practice, consumers only benefit if they can search for good deals and avoid contracts with hidden fees. When households have different search or switching costs, they can end up paying very different prices for the exact same service. And if those differences correlate with consumers’ socioeconomic characteristics, the resulting distribution of prices can be regressive.

My research shows that this is exactly what happened in Connecticut. Using a novel dataset that identifies both the price that customers pay and the zip code in which they live, I find that customers living in the state’s poorest zip codes paid significantly more for competitive retail electric service than customers living in above median income zip codes.

Differences in households’ search and switching costs cannot entirely explain this gap.  Nor can differences in their preferences for contracts that offer a higher renewable energy content or long-term fixed prices.  Rather, my analysis shows that customers in low-income zip codes are more likely to enroll in contracts with retailers that sell the most expensive contracts. This result is consistent with evidence from state investigations concluding that several retailers especially targeted low-income customers with deceptive marketing activities.

Bio: Dr. Rachel Anderson is an applied microeconomist whose research interests span energy economics, labor economics, industrial organization, and applied microeconometrics. Her recent works include measuring the distributional effects of retail electric competition on consumer welfare; evaluating the effectiveness of state and federal subsidies for utility-scale solar PV; developing methods for analyzing matched datasets where observations are linked to multiple possible outcomes; and identifying the social and economic factors associated with Turkish female labor force participation.

Rachel joined the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as the Program Associate for Economics after completing her PhD in Economics at Princeton University in September 2022. At Sloan, Rachel has helped to select and award more than $20 million for policy-relevant research projects on industrial strategy, regional economic development, transportation, the economics of caregiving, and the economic analysis of science and technology – applied economics work directed at helping people understand the world and live better lives. Rachel also speaks Turkish and Spanish, and enjoys cycling, swimming, painting, social dancing, and travel.

Seminar | Parental Investments Reduced Covid-19 Learning Loss: Evidence from a Longitudinal Field Experiment

Anya Samek – UCSD

Monday, March 25, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract: We leverage a randomized evaluation of an early childhood program to study the impact of childhood investments on Covid-19 learning loss. When children in our study were 3-5 years old, they were randomized to a preschool, a parenting program, or a control group for 1-2 years. Ten years later, the children were exposed to school shut-downs during the Covid-19 pandemic. Test scores in the preschool and control group dropped by 0.31 SD, whereas test scores in the parenting program dropped by only 0.12 SD, a statistically significant difference. This suggests that parents compensated for the negative shock by increasing childhood investments.

Bio: Dr. Samek is an Associate Professor of Economics and Strategy at UCSD’s Rady School of Management, a Faculty Research Fellow at the NBER,  and an affiliate of the FAIR Centre at the Norwegian School of Economics. She completed her Ph.D. in Economics at Purdue University and postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago. In 2020, she was the recipient of the Vernon L. Smith Ascending Scholar Prize.

Dr Samek uses experiments to address questions about how economic theory can predict behavior in the areas of education, philanthropy, and health and was a co-founder of the Science of Philanthropy Initiative – a $5m project that brings together academics and charities to conduct experiments that change our understanding of how we do philanthropy. Over the past 10 years, she has managed CHECC, a large-scale education study that follows 2,000 families who were randomly assigned to receive various early childhood programs. Read more about her work here.

Seminar | Born to Rule: The Making and Remaking of The British Elite

Sam Friedman – LSE

Monday, April 1, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract: Think of the British elite and familiar caricatures spring to mind. But are today’s power brokers a conservative chumocracy, born to privilege and anointed at Eton and Oxford? Or is a new progressive elite emerging with different values and political instincts?

In this talk, based on my upcoming book with Aaron Reeves (out with Harvard University Press in September 2024) I comb through a trove of data in search of an answer, looking at the profiles, interests, and careers of over 125,000 members of the British elite from the late 1890s to today. At the heart of this data-rich study is the historical database of Who’s Who, but we also mined genealogical records, combed through probate data, and interviewed over 200 leading figures from a wide range of backgrounds and professions to uncover who runs Britain, how they think, and what they want.

What we found is that there is less movement at the top than we think. Yes, there has been some progress on including women and Black and Asian Brits, but those born into the top 1% are just as likely to get into the elite today as they were 125 years ago. What has changed is how elites present themselves. Today’s elite pedal hard to convince us they are perfectly ordinary.

Why should we care? Because the elites we have affect the politics we get. While scholars have long proposed that the family you are born into, and the schools and universities you attend, leave a mark on the exercise of power, the empirical evidence has been thin—until now.

Bio: Sam Friedman is Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and co-editor of the British Journal of Sociology. He is co-author of The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged, Social Class in the 21stCentury, and author of Comedy and Distinction: The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour.

Brown Bag |

Simone Schaner – USC

Monday, April 8, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Bio: Simone Schaner is an Associate Professor (Research) of Economics at the University of Southern California. She studies how the social and economic environment shapes individual and household choices, elucidating how beliefs and power affect the decision-making process.  Her work explores economic mechanisms that contribute to inefficiency and misallocation in low-income settings, with a focus on labor, financial, and healthcare markets. 

Dr. Schaner is the Scientific Director for Gender at Inclusion Economics. She is also an affiliate of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, the Center for Effective Global Action, and a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She has a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an A.B. in economics from Princeton University.

Seminar | Standing in Prisoners’ Shoes: An Experiment on How Prison Experience Shapes Public Attitudes Towards Criminal Justice Policy

Michel Maréchal – University of Zurich

Monday, April 15, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Abstract: Over the last decades, many parts of the world have witnessed a notable shift towards more punitive criminal justice policies. While public opinion is considered a key force in shaping criminal justice policies, most individuals possess very limited knowledge of the everyday realities of life behind bars. This study explores the impact of prison experience on public attitudes towards punitive justice policies. We take advantage of a unique randomized controlled trial offering regular citizens the opportunity to undergo up to two days of incarceration in a newly built prison, replicating the real-life journey of inmates. Our results reveal that subjects who received an opportunity to gain firsthand prison experience showed a significant change in punitive attitudes, becoming less supportive of harsh criminal justice policies and donating more money to organizations advocating for moderate justice policies. While participants generally overestimated prisoner wellbeing, this misperception was not significantly altered by the experiment. Our results underscore the crucial role of personal experience in shaping support for criminal justice reform.

Bio: Michel Maréchal is a Visiting Professor of Economics at the Rady School of Management, UC San Diego, and Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics from the University of Zurich. His research is interdisciplinary and lies at the intersections of economics, social psychology, criminology, political science, and biology. He uses field and lab experimental methods, often in collaboration with firms, non-profit, and governmental organizations.

Seminar |

Sandra Black – Columbia

Monday, April 22, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Bio: Sandra E. Black is Professor of Economics and International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She received her B.A. from UC Berkeley and her Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.  Since that time, she worked as an Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and an Assistant, Associate, and ultimately Professor in the Department of Economics at UCLA, and held the Audre and Bernard Centennial Chair in Economics and Public Affairs in the Department of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin before arriving at Columbia University. She has served as an Editor of the Journal of Labor Economics as well as a Co-Editor and Editor of the Journal of Human Resources.  Dr. Black is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She served as a Member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers from August 2015-January 2017.  Her research focuses on the role of early life experiences on the long-run outcomes of children, as well as issues of gender and discrimination.

Seminar |

Victoria Barone – University of Notre Dame

Monday, April 29, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Bio: Victoria Barone received an undergraduate degree in Economics from the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentina, and completed master’s studies at Torcuato Di Tella University. She earned her Ph.D. in Economics from UCLA in 2023. Victoria is an applied economist with research interests at the intersection of public, health, and labor economics. Her research studies the optimal design of paid sick leave systems and the origin and unfolding of the opioid epidemic. At Notre Dame, she teaches Intermediate Microeconomics.

Seminar |

Gabriella Conti – UCL

Monday, May 6, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Bio: Gabriella’s areas of interest are health economics, the economics of human development, and biology and economics. Her research draws on both the biomedical and the social sciences with the aim of understanding the developmental origins of health inequalities, the role of child development as input in the production of lifecycle health and the behavioural and biological pathways through which early life shocks, investments and policies affect well-being throughout the lifecourse.

Gabriella has published in top journals in different disciplines, such as Science, PNAS, Pediatrics, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Econometrics and Lancet. Her work has been mentioned in the New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and discussed in the British Parliament.

Gabriella has been awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Economics, which “recognises the achievement of outstanding researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising”; and the Nick Hales Award from the DOHaD society, for a “young and emerging investigator who has made an outstanding scientific contribution to the DOHaD field”. She is also the PI of a 5-year ERC Consolidator Award from the European Research Council and ranks among the top 3% Female Economists for the last 10 years publications.

Seminar |

Frauke Kreuter – University of Maryland

Monday, May 13, 2024

VPD 203 and Zoom

Bio: Professor Frauke Kreuter is Co-Director of the Social Data Science Center and faculty member in the Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland, USA; and Professor of Statistics and Data Science at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich. She is an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association and the 2020 recipient of the Warren Mitofsky Innovators Award of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. In addition to her academic work Dr. Kreuter is the Founder of the International Program for Survey and Data Science, developed in response to the increasing demand from researchers and practitioners for the appropriate methods and right tools to face a changing data environment; Co-Founder of the Coleridge Initiative, whose goal is to accelerate data-driven research and policy around human beings and their interactions for program management, policy development, and scholarly purposes by enabling efficient, effective, and secure access to sensitive data about society and the economy.; and Co-Founder of the German language podcast Dig Deep.