Thursday, April 17, 2014

John Bates Clark Medal 2014 winner

Matthew Gentzkow of Chicago University is this year's winner of the John Bates Clark medal. The JBC, awarded biennially from 1947-2009 and annually thereafter, is awarded to the "American economist under the age of forty who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge". The JBC is often considered an early-career version of an economics Nobel - you can see the list of past winners here, many of whom went on to win a Nobel later.

"Matthew Gentzkow has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the economic forces driving the creation of media products, the changing nature and role of media in the digital environment, and the effect of media on education and civic engagement. He has thus emerged as a leader in a new generation of microeconomists applying economic methods to analyze questions that were historically analyzed by non-economists. His empirical work combines novel data, innovative identification strategies and careful empirical methods to answer questions at the interface of economics, political science, and sociology. This work is complemented by significant theoretical work on information, communication, and persuasion. Gentzkow, both on his own and in collaboration with his frequent co-author, Jesse Shapiro, has played a primary role in establishing a new and extremely promising empirical literature on the economics of the news media."

Click to read the press release discussing his work further.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Consumer credit and consumers in vulnerable circumstances

Recent report from the Financial Conduct Authority - summary below: 
To understand more about the experiences of consumers most at risk of unmanageable debt, we have conducted primary research looking at the attitudes towards, and use of, credit for people on the lowest incomes. 
What did we look at?
Our research identifies three distinct borrower groups – survival borrowers, lifestyle borrowers, and reluctant borrowers – and explores how these groups use credit and the reasons for doing so. Our research also shows how debts can become unmanageable, and the strategies people use to cope with spiralling debts, showing how unmanageable debt triggers both financial detriment and affects health and wellbeing. 
While many of the people we interviewed had low awareness of the help and support available to them, debt advice is effective in helping people get out of unmanageable debt. So helping people get the right advice and solution they need, before debt gets out of control, is vital. As we take over the regulation of this sector, we welcome a broader debate with stakeholders to encourage more people to get access to good quality advice earlier, before they reach crisis point.

Increasing the richness and frequency of social science survey data (ESRC Workshop 23/5/14)

Workshop 2: Increasing the richness and frequency of social science survey data: Stirling, May 23rd 2014.

This is the second Behavioural Science Workshop in a series of six that will take place in 2014/15. These workshops are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The venue is the Court Room on the 4th Floor of the Cottrell Building at Stirling University. There will be drinks and dinner after the days talks to which all attendees are welcome.

This workshop will showcase frontier approaches that aim to enhance the sophistication and the frequency with which social science data is collected.

Speakers will outline innovative methodological tools and their application to key themes such as the measurement of well-being, behaviour, and attitudes. These include employing innovative measures of affect and behaviour, such as the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM), construction of representative longitudinal panel surveys and continuous surveys of cross-sections of the population that are capable of gauging patterns of welfare, behaviour, and opinions at the monthly or even daily level (e.g. American Life Panel (ALP); European Commission Flash Eurobarometer, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index).

Follow our Twitter account @StirlingEconPsy and the hashtag #StirBSC to follow the day's events.


09:00-09:20: Registration

09:20-09:40: Dr. Michael Daly (Stirling Behavioural Science Centre): Introduction and Opening Talk

09:40-10:10: Jos van den Puttelaar (Wageningen)
Measuring choice behaviour in a simulated supermarket; a comparison of survey results, virtual and actual behaviour.
Consumer research in retail settings was usually constricted to either questionnaires about behaviour, an assignment with one specific shelf or in a rare occasion implemented into a real store. The ideal was to be able to do consumer research in larger areas and still be able to track a consumer from step to step. And while doing that, not spending a lot of man-hours or money. For this reason we developed a computer program that we could use to simulate shopping behaviour wherever we wanted, whatever we wanted to simulate, are total control of and with fully automated tracking.

At this moment the developments are threefold. First of all on the technological side, we have a drag and drop system that can build and simulate supermarket shopping without knowledge of programming. Added to this are the implementation of several techniques like, eye tracking, facial expression analysis and automated ambiance creation. Secondly, we have done and are still busy with several validation studies. Third, the aim of the whole project, was to do research into consumer behaviour. By now, several studies have been finished and published. Next to that many students have used the tool in their BSc or MSc thesis research. Altogether the shop simulator shows to be a research tool that extends very well on survey data with actual behavioural data.

10.10-10.40: Anouar El Haji (University of Amsterdam)
Online Experimental Auctions: Measuring Willingness to Pay in the Field
Product value is often measured through non-incentivized measures, such as survey scales or hypothetical willingness to pay. The second-price auction is a well-established auction mechanism to elicit true maximum willingness to pay. However, due to practical reasons these auctions are usually only conducted among students and on a small scale. We overcome both limitations with an online platform that makes it possible to run second price auctions with a large sample of consumers. We argue that the platform offers researchers access to unique data with a high external validity.

10:40-11:00 COFFEE (provided)

11:00-11.45: Ernesto Schwartz Marin (University of Durham)

Citizen Led Forensics: DNA and data banking as technologies of disruption.

Governmental institutions in Mexico have officially recognised 121,683 violent deaths in the period between 2006- 2013. During the same period around 27,000 disappearances occurred, and approximately 15,000 bodies remain unidentified, as there are no national databases in the country. In Mexico, distrust in governmental authorities is the norm, since the practice of forensic science has been opaque, and has sometimes itself been used to cover the tracks of the perpetrators of grave crimes. In response to this crisis, and thanks to an ESRC transformative research grant (2014-2015), this project aims to create the first citizen led Forensic DNA database as a way of positively intervening in the humanitarian crisis currently lived in Mexico.The project will make DNA swab kits available for 1,500 people (approx 500 Mexican families), accompanied by a clear set of instructions on how to collect DNA from cheek swabbing, as well as from the personal belongings of the missing person. In the same DNA Kit we would ask the participating families to include written accounts of their case, their experience with forensic investigations (if any) and personal narratives of what they have gone through since their relative(s) disappeared The citizen led Forensic database will be designed as a mobile and Participatory Action Research device, articulated through civil society organisations of relatives of the disappeared. The presentation will cover the preliminary design of this database and the challenges and opportunities opened by its creation. The work is based on fieldwork, first hand experience and recurrent analysis of the current situation lived in Mexico.

11.45 -12.30: David Stillwell (University of Cambridge)

Title: myPersonality: Example of successful online social network data collection from 6 million people

Abstract: In June 2007 Facebook released its apps platform, and since then commercial apps like Candy Crush Saga and Farmville have entertained hundreds of millions of users around the world. With a few tweaks, academics can also create interesting experiments, questionnaires and games that attract millions of respondents. The myPersonality application collected psychological questionnaire responses from 6 million users whose sole motivation was to receive feedback on their results. Users also opted-in to sharing their Facebook profile information, including demographics, political/religious views, Facebook Likes, friendship network graph, and status updates. This talk will discuss the data available through Facebook, and give some tips on how to entertain users with academic research studies.

12:30-13:30 LUNCH (provided)

13:30-14:15: Dr Julia Allan (University of Aberdeen)
Capturing the real time determinants of snacking and inactivity in daily life: the SNAPSHOT study
Julia Allan

We live in an environment where snack foods are readily available, and where desk jobs and labour saving devices mean that we are less active than in previous generations.   In this context, eating well and being active requires considerable self-control (i.e. being able to do/not do something effortful now in order to achieve something valuable in future). Most research linking self-control to health behaviour has focused on stable, trait-level differences between people.  However, the ability to exert self-control is known to fluctuate within people over time, as mental resources are depleted and replenished.  This means that people may be particularly likely to succumb to dietary temptation / fail to be active at moments when their regulatory resources are depleted.   In this talk, I give an overview of the Scottish Government funded SNAPSHOT study, that monitors snacking, physical activity, mood, self-control, social context, and location in real time as people go about their everyday lives.  By integrating these different measures, it’s possible to build up a rich and detailed picture of when, where and why people snack and spend time inactive.  The pros and cons of this type of real time data collection will be discussed.

14:15-15:00: Andrew Jones (University of Liverpool)

15:00-15:30: COFFEE (provided)

15:30-16:40: Professor Neil Stewart (Warwick University).

16:40-17:30 Panel Discussion

17:30-22:00: Drinks and dinner (all attendees welcome)

Monday, April 14, 2014

INET's Human After All conference

The Institute for New Economic Thinking annual conference took place in Toronto last week with many well-known speakers from economics and other disciplines. The title of the conference was "Human After All" focused on the theme of innovation and its impact on economics so far. Guest speakers included Larry Summers, Joe Stiglitz, James Heckman, Michael Sandel, Adair Turner and many others. The highlight of the videos I've seen so far is Michael Sandel on "What Money Can't Buy".

Click this page to see INET's uploaded videos from the conference.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Clive Walker Seminar Wednesday 2pm

Clive Walker from Queen's University Belfast will give our Wednesday 2pm seminar on 16th April in Room 2B86.

The Causality of Media Influence: Real Estate News and the Stock Market

This article investigates the nature of news media influence in the stock market using a method that circumvents the causality issues usually prevalent in the study of media and markets. I find that real estate news in the Financial Times exhibits a significant robust relationship with the return premium of stocks of companies involved in the housing market. Since stock market changes do not cause reporting to change the casual effect of media is significant.