Caterina Calsamiglia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

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All about priorities? Less school choice with bad schools

Joint with Antonio Miralles

Abstract: School choice policies intend to give families the opportunity to decide the public school their children attend. Overdemand for a particular school is usually resolved by apparently innocuous, coarse priority rules given for residence in the catchment area of the school and other family socioeconomic characteristics. We study a coarse-priorities assignment problem with vertical differentiation separating good schools from a few bad schools. We show that the two most debated and used mechanisms, the Boston Mechanism (BOS) -provided some school is sufficiently bad- and Deferred Acceptance (DA), result in an assignment that closely replicates the priority structure, independently of families' preferences. Unless fully discriminated with lowest priority, families living in bad school areas barely access good schools and still block choice between good schools. The literature should therefore not take priorities as given, but incorporate them as a fundamental aspect of the design of the mechanism.

[Paper in PDF]


The Illusion of Choice: Evidence from Barcelona

Joint with Maia Guell

Abstract: School choice expansion has been one of the most widely used and discussed policy in education. Children were usually assigned to the closest school from their homes. But in the last decades new rules have been implemented and parents have been asked about their preferences for schools to assign their children accordingly. A set of priorities with respect to distance to the school and socioeconomic circumstances of the family or the child are often defined to resolve overdemands. A recent and important literature on the mechanism design problem of school choice has shown that under the so-called Boston mechanism parents may not have incentives to provide their true preferences, but the theory remains silent as to what parents should do in equilibrium. We exploit an unexpected change in the definition of neighborhood in Barcelona, where the Boston mechanism is used, to show that parents choose from the schools they have highest priority for, the neighborhood schools, excluding any other preferred school. Abdulkadiroglu, Pathak, Roth and Sonmez (2006), using data from Boston, show that a significant fraction of parents do not strategize optimally and seem to be harmed by this. We show that part of this apparently irrational behavior stems from families who have the outside option of going to a private school, which allows them to take higher risks to get the best public schools.

[Paper in PDF]


Testing for Fictive Learning in Decision-Making under Uncertainty

Joint with Oliver Bunn and Donald Brown

Abstract: This paper is an exposition of an experiment on revealed preferences, where we poshte a novel discrete binary choice model. To estimate this model, we use general estimating equations or GEE. This is a methodology originating in biostatistics for estimating regression models with correlated data. In this paper we focus on the motivation for our approach, the logic and intuitn underlying our analysis and a summary of our findings. The missing technical details, including proofs, are in the working paper by Bunn et al (2013).

[Paper in PDF]


The Ants and the Grasshoppers: Gender Gaps in Grades Using Different Evaluation Methods

Joint with Ghazala Azmat and Nagore Iriberri

Abstract: The Ants and the Grasshoppers: Gender Gaps in Grades Using Different Evaluation Methods Abstract: The persistent gender gap in earnings and other labor market outcomes remains largely a puzzle. This gap is often prevalent over different age groups and even amongst the high-skilled. Understanding the determinants of the gender gaps in the formative stages is likely to be essential to address these issues. The observed gender gaps in education often show that girls outperform boys in all stages of school but in aptitude and achievement exams, which determine in great deal their entry to university, the advantage disappears and, eventually, it is reversed in the labor market. In this paper, we study the different evaluation elements of a prestigious private school that attracts students from highly educated families in which we would expect these gaps to be attenuated. The results shed light in explaining gender gaps in high school performance. Using a large panel of students over six years of secondary and high school, we study the gender gaps in four different types of assessments, including national level exams. We find that girls outperform boys overall but the gaps are larger in assessments that are low-stakes and low-pressure, that is, under continuous evaluation. In the national exams, where the impact of grades on university entry and future professional outcomes is maximal, the gap disappears.

[Paper in PDF]


Alfred Marshall's Cardinal Theory of Value: The Strong Law of Demand

Joint with Donald J. Brown

Accepted at the Economic Theory Bulletin

Abstract: We show that all the fundamental properties of competitive equilibrium in MarshallÂ’s cardinal theory of value, as presented in Note XXI of the mathematical appendix to his Principles of Economics (1890), derive from the Strong Law of Demand. That is, existence, uniqueness, optimality, and global stability of equilibrium prices with respect to tatonnement price adjustment follow from the cyclical monotonicity of the market demand function in the Marshallian general equilibrium model.

[Paper in PDF]

Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper #1399, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.


"The Incentive Effects of Affirmative Action in a Real-Effort Tournament"

Joint with Joerg Franke Pedro Rey-Biel

Journal of Public Economics Volume 98, 15-31, 2013

Abstract: Affirmative action policies bias tournament rules in order to provide equal opportunities to a group of competitors who have a disadvantage they cannot be held responsible for. Its implementation affects the underlying incentive structure which might induce lower performance by participants, and additionally result in a selected pool of tournament winners that is less efficient. In this paper,we study the empirical validity of such concerns in a case where the disadvantage affects capacities to compete. We conducted real-effort tournaments between pairs of children from two similar schools who systematically differed in how much training they received ex-ante on the task at hand. Contrary to the expressed concerns, our results show that the implementation of affirmative action did not result in a significant performance loss for either advantaged or disadvantaged subjects; instead it rather enhanced the performance for a large group of participants. Moreover, affirmative action resulted in a more equitable tournament winner pool where half of the selected tournament winners came from the originally disadvantaged group. Hence, the negative selection effects due to the biased tournament rules were (at least partially) offset by performance enhancing incentive effects.

[Paper in PDF]


"A Comment On: School Choice: An Experimental Study"

Joint with Guillaume Haeringer and Flip Klijn

Journal of Economic Theory Volume 146, Number 1, January 2011

Abstract: We show that one of the main results in Chen and Sonmez (J. Econ. Th., 2006, 2008) does no longer hold when the number of recombinations is sufficiently increased to obtain reliable conclusions. No school choice mechanism is significantly superior in terms of efficiency.

[Paper in PDF]


Constrained School Choice: An Experimental Study

Joint with Guillaume Haeringer and Flip Klijn

American Economic Review Volume 100, Number 4, September 2010

Abstract: The literature on school choice assumes that families can submit a preference list over all the schools they want to be assigned to. However, in many real-life instances families are only allowed to submit a list containing a limited number of schools. Subjects' incentives are drastically affected, as more individuals manipulate their preferences. Including a safety school in the constrained list explains most manipulations. Competitiveness across schools play an important role. Constraining choices increases segregation and affects the stability and efficiency of the final allocation. Remarkably, the constraint reduces significantly the proportion of subjects playing a dominated strategy.

[Paper in PDF]


Decentralizing Equality of Opportunity

International Economic Review Volume 50, Number 1, February 2009

Abstract: In a global justice problem, equality of opportunity is satisfied if individual well-being is independent of exogenous irrelevant characteristics. Policymakers, however, address questions involving local justice problems. We interpret a collection of local justice problems as the decentralized global justice problem. We show that controlling for effort locally, which is not required by the global justice objective, is sufficient for decentralizing equality of opportunity. Moreover, under some conditions, equalizing rewards to effort is not only sufficient but necessary. This implies in particular that most affirmative action policies may not contribute to providing equality of opportunity since they do not control for effort.

[Paper in PDF]


The Nonparametric Approach to Applied Welfare Analysis

Joint with Donald J. Brown

Economic Theory Volume 31, Number 1, April 2007

Abstract: Changes in total surplus are traditional measures of economic welfare. We propose necessary and sufficient conditions for rationalizing individual and aggregate consumer demand data with individual quasilinear and homothetic utility functions. Under these conditions, consumer surplus is a valid measure of consumer welfare. For nonmarketed goods, we propose necessary and sufficient conditions on input market data for efficient production, i.e. production at minimum cost. Under these conditions we derive a cost function for the nonmarketed good, where producer surplus is the area above the marginal cost curve.

[Paper in PDF]

Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper #1507, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.


Rationalizing and Curve-Fitting Demand Data with Quasilinear Utilities

Joint with Donald J. Brown

Abstract: In the empirical and theoretical literature a consumer's utility function is often assumed to be quasilinear. In this paper we provide necessary and sufficient conditions for testing if the consumer acts as if she is maximizing a quasilinear utility function over her budget set. If the consumer's choices are inconsistent with maximizing a quasilinear utility function over her budget set, then we compute the "best" quasilinear rationalization of her choices.

[Paper in PDF]

Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper #1399R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.



Caterina Calsamiglia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, April, 2013
Send me mail: caterina.calsamiglia@uab.cat