Friday, November 7, 2014

Conference in Caltech

Caltech Mini-conference on Experimental Economics
November 7-8, 2014, Baxter Hall, Caltech
Organized by Marina Agranov and Leeat Yariv

Friday, November 7, 2014

9:00AM – 9:30AM
Check-in and Breakfast
9:30AM – 10:10AM
Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma
Presnted by: Guillaume Frechette (New York University)
Co-authors: Matthew Embrey and Sevgi Yuksel
10:10AM – 10:50AM
Dynamic Coalitions and Communication
Presented by: Salvatore Nunnari (Columbia University)
Co-authors: Dave Baron and Renee Bowen
10:50AM – 11:10AM
Coffee Break
11:10AM – 11:50PM
Money is not memory: an experiment
Presented by: G
abrielle Camera (Chapman University)
Co-authors: Maria Bigoni and Marco Casari
11:50AM – 12:30PM
Identity and the Escalation of Conflict
Presented by: Michael McBride (University of California – Irvine)
Co-authors: Michael Caldara, Matthew McCarter, and Roman Sherementa
12:30PM – 1:30PM
1:30PM – 2:10PM
Dynamic Incentives and Markov Perfection: Putting the "Conditional" in
Presented by: Alistair Wilson (University of Pittsburgh)
Co-author: Emanuel Vespa
2:10PM – 2:30PM
Coffee Break
2:30PM – 3:10PM
Testing the Theory of Continuous Time Games
Presented by: Ryan Oprea (University of California – Santa Barbara)
Co-author: Evan Calford
3:10PM – 3:30PM
Coffee Break
3:30PM – 4:10PM
The Distributional Preferences of the Elite
Presented by: Shachar Kariv (University of California – Berkeley)
Co-author: Raymond Fisman, Pamela Jakiela, Daniel Markovits
4:10PM – 4:30PM
Coffee Break
4:30PM – 5:10PM
Measuring Ambiguity Aversion: Experimental Tests of Subjective Expected
Presented by: Charles Sprenger (University of California – San Diego)
Co-author: James Andreoni and Tobias Schmidt
Dinner and Magic

Saturday, November 8, 2014
9:00AM – 9:30AM
9:30AM – 10:10AM
Voting with Endogenous Information Acquisition: Theory and Evidence
Presented by: John Duffy (University of California – Irvine)
Co-author: Sourav Bhattacharya and Sun-Tak Kim
10:10AM – 10:50AM
Endogenous sample selection in common value environments: A
laboratory study
Presented by: Ignacio Esponda (Washington University)
Co-author: Emanuel Vespa
10:50AM – 11:20AM
Coffee Break
11:20AM – 12:10AM
Negative Childhood Experiences and Risk Aversion: Evidence from
Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
Presented by: Marco Castillo (George Mason University)
12:10AM – 12:50PM
Gender Differences in Competitiveness and Career Choices
Presented by: Muriel Niederle (Stanford University)
Co-authors: Thomas Buser and Hessel Oosterbeek
Lunch and Farewells

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Women don't speak up!

Katie Coffman has a new paper forthcoming in the QJE on Evidence on Self-Stereotyping and the Contribution of Ideas

The abstract reads:
"We use a lab experiment to explore the factors that predict an individual's decision to contribute her idea to a group. We find that contribution decisions depend upon the interaction
of gender and the gender stereotype associated with the decision-making domain: conditional
on measured ability, individuals are less willing to contribute ideas in areas that are stereotypically outside of their gender's domain. Importantly, these decisions are largely driven by
self-assessments, rather than fear of discrimination. Individuals are less confident in gender
incongruent areas and are thus less willing to contribute their ideas. Because even very knowledgeable group members under-contribute in gender incongruent categories, group performance suffers and, ex post, groups have difficulty recognizing who their most talented members are. Our results show that even in an environment where other group members show no bias, women in male-typed areas and men in female-typed areas may be less influential. An intervention that provides feedback about a woman's (man's) strength in a male-typed (female-typed) area does not significantly increase the probability that she contributes her ideas to the group. A back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that a lean in style policy that increases contribution by
women would significantly improve group performance in male-typed domains."

Here's the killer figure: The Probability of a Missed Opportunity: that is, someone knew the right answer, but their answer wasn't chosen and intead the group got the answer wrong (because the person knowing the answer didn't speak up enough or the other too much).

For each score (i.e. how many answers they got correct in a test in that category), the chance a man (black) or a woman (light grey) with that score had a missed opportunity.

The figure below is for Male Typed Categories (Environmental science, Sports, History, Geography)

So, women with a perfect score (5) in a male typed category, have a higher chance to have a missed opportunity than men with a score of 1 out of 5. 

The best women just have a barely lower chance to not miss an opportunity compared to men who got everything wrong. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More fun with google

I've written before about google searches and gender

Here's a link to an article with the same idea:

The starting point is the following search...

here's another nice one 

Google actually wrote to the guy about the "english major who taught herself calculus" correction.

"We saw your tweet — just wanted to reach out and explain a bit here.
If you search for “taught himself calculus” (in quotes), you’ll see it’s a particularly popular phrase on the web, appearing about 282,000 times — because there’s a popular story out there that Einstein taught himself physics as a teenager (and a recent news story that a kid in Indiana did too). “Taught herself calculus” appears only around 4,000 times. So when Google sees two phrases like this and one is much more common, it may suggest it as a possible alternate search. It’s more complex than that, but that’s essentially why you’re seeing this result. (Darn you, Einstein!)"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Getting more out of science

There has been a lot of activity recently on how to ensure we don't get sidetracked by wrong, or non-robust results.

A recent NYtimes post by Brendan Nyhan on this is quite good: To Get More Out of Science, Show the Rejected Research

He writes:
"The intense competition for space in top journals creates strong pressures for novel, statistically significant effects. As a result, studies that do not turn out as planned or find no evidence of effects claimed in previous research often go unpublished, even though their findings can be important and informative."

"This pattern of publication bias and failed replications, which is drawing attention in fields from psychology to medicine, has prompted great alarm within the scientific community. "

"Others advocate requiring the registration of trials before data has been collected. For instance, some social scientists have voluntarily begun to preregister analysis plans for experiments to minimize concerns about selective reporting. Unfortunately, the demand for statistically significant results is still likely to create publication bias. For example, federal law and journal policies now require registration of clinical trials, but publishing of trial results has been found to be selective, to frequently deviate from protocols and to emphasize significant results. "

His solution:
"Instead, my colleagues and I propose a radically different publishing model: Ask journal editors and scientific peers to review study designs and analysis plans and commit to publish the results if the study is conducted and reported in a professional manner (which will be ensured by a second round of peer review)."

Funnily enough, this comes up again and again in experimental economics. And most often when people think about controversies, and when they got annoyed that their paper, which had such a nice design, didn't get a good publication just because the results weren't maybe as exciting as one could hope for...

I actually don't agree. There are many ways in which an interesting design can deliver results that are not interesting. The problem is, it is often easier to detect whether a result was achieved for the wrong reasons (though that may not always be very easy) than why an expected result did not happen. And there could be many boring reasons for an expected result that did not happen. An extreme example is that somehow things were so complicated that everything just turned out to be very noisy. Think of running your perfect design but using only subjects who actually don't understand your language. The results of the best design might not be worth publishing, and correctly so.

Likewise, many designs that we thought were not interesting may actually turn out to be very interesting and important. Not everyone will have the same intuition. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Two new books on gender

Tyler Cowen writes in the NYtimes about Why the Economic Gender Gap Will Eventually Close

"The first book, “Why Gender Matters in Economics” (Princeton University Press, 2014) by Mukesh Eswaran, an economics professor at the University of British Columbia, draws on data from past economic studies conducted under laboratory conditions to show how gender influences financial actions and relationships."

I actually got that book in the mail, I may write about it later. 

"In sum, these research results suggest that women are perceived as easier to take advantage of in a variety of economic settings. That’s the bad news, and it comes from measuring a difference in gender behavior at a specific point in time."

Tyler is more optimistic about the second book The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation and Institutions” (Princeton University Press, 2014) by Christopher F. Karpowitz, professor of political science at Brigham Young University, and Tali Mendelberg, professor of politics at Princeton.

"Drawing upon data from politics, business meetings and behavior in the corporate boardroom, they portray a society where women participate less in many public settings, especially those in which real power is exercised. This links up with the experimental results described in Mr. Eswaran’s book, because an underparticipating group that doesn’t resist discrimination is more likely to suffer.

This sounds gloomy so far. But the authors show that once women achieve a critical mass in a particular area, their participation grows rapidly, at least after basic norms of inclusion have been established."

In german we say "His word in God's ear". I'm ready to be surprised...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Academic Year, New blogging...

Hi all, I'll try to start blogging somewhat regularly again, now that we're in the new academic year.

Let it be a good one to you all!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to help Women negotiate

This could have been a great April 1 post, only, it isn't...

Holly Wilson (I think) writes 

"This is a jab at the insanity of sexism. So when you go to a meeting you can say, “alright, if all that separates us is a dick, then here is mine. Now lets get down to business, the playing field is level.” It is absurd that being a woman still garners unequal treatment and pay – so here is an absurd retort to that problem.

Though there’s humor here, there’s also a real statement, “here is what’s been keeping me from a job, or equal pay or fare treatment. Being devalued because of an appendage that I don’t have.” Bringing your dick to the table is all about you. It’s not going to change another persons opinion of you, but it can remind you that you are as good or even better and deserve to be sitting at that table, getting that job, making that same pay.

If you’ve ever needed that extra ounce of courage to compete, negotiate or just have your voice heard, this may be for you.

There are negative voices in our society, our culture, maybe even your own family that can corrupt your inner monologue. If holding a small bronze dick and laughing at those voices, those fears helps you overcome them, then why not?

This is not a symbol; it is just a humorous talisman to remind us sexism is ridiculous.

Lets move the mountain, make changes and laugh wildly!

Kickstarter Story

If all that separates us is a dick, then here is mine… Now lets get down to business.

Last year I was in a situation that brought me to this point here today.

I had worked out an agreement with a gallery to show my art and then after one sold he tried to change the terms. My heart and my feet went heavy; my lips went dry. I reached for my lip balm and zing! I thought I could let this take me over OR I could hold onto my “dick” and negotiate as the equal I am, not how he was treating me, like some kid who didn’t know any better.

And it worked!

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves we are equal and that we should be treated fairly in all we do in our life. Now I carry mine all the time for when I need that reminder and a little shot of courage.

This is about your inner voice

Your strength

Remembering you are more powerful than you know

And quite honestly I laugh every time I reach for my keys and touch my dick instead."

It's a kickstarter project

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How to Negotiate a Raise

After all the brouhaha about the women who apparently lost her offer after asking for better terms, the NYtimes has an article on "Moving Past Gender Barriers to Negotiate a Raise"

They write that:

"Some women may bridle — justifiably — at adjusting their behavior to conform to stereotypes. But the negotiation experts say that they think about these strategies pragmatically.

“These stereotypes will hold us back, so we might as well use them to move forward,” added Joan C. Williams, a co-author of “What Works for Women at Work.”

I like the

"Women also need to legitimize their requests, or find ways to make them seem more appropriate, according to a study that Prof. Riley Bowles and Prof. Babcock published in 2012. That means saying something like, “My supervisor suggested that I to talk to you about raising my compensation.”

I think the most useful may be:


Women tend to negotiate less for themselves than men, when there aren't clear standards on what they should be asking for, studies found. In fact, women worked longer and made fewer errors but paid themselves less than men did for similar tasks, according to another study. But that effect went away when women were given data on what others paid themselves."

I tell all my students that when they negotiate, they should first try to find out what is possible and easy at that particular institution, and what is hard.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Negotiation: Sometimes it hurts to ask

The slate has a nice story about "Negotiating While Female: Sometimes It Does Hurt to Ask"

" woman who says she was offered a tenure-track philosophy position at Nazareth College, a liberal arts school in Rochester, N.Y. She replied, she says, by emailing the selection committee:

As you know, I am very enthusiastic about the possibility of coming to Nazareth. Granting some of the following provisions would make my decision easier[:]
1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years.
2) An official semester of maternity leave.
3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock.
4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years.
5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc.
She ended the email by writing, "I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think."

Their alleged response:

Thank you for your email. The search committee discussed your provisions. They were also reviewed by the Dean and the VPAA. It was determined that on the whole these provisions indicate an interest in teaching at a research university and not at a college, like ours, that is both teaching and student centered. Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you.
Thank you very much for your interest in Nazareth College. We wish you the best in finding a suitable position."

They then go on to say

" “It’s not that women can’t negotiate, but they have to be much more careful about how,” Babcock told me on the phone. “Men can use a wide variety of negotiation approaches and still be effective. But women generally need to pull off a softer style.”

The reasons for this are complex, but they boil down to “what’s normal, what the norms are,” says Babcock. “We’re used to seeing women being less aggressive, more soft. And when people don’t behave the way we expect them to, there are often negative consequences: You’d see similar social penalties if a man in a business context broke down and cried.”

I asked her what W could have done differently in light of the negotiation double standard. “Email is hard,” she replied. “It feels very direct, cold, and assertive, and it’s easy to misinterpret.”

Still, based on what we know, Babcock thinks W did a lot of things right. She expressed enthusiasm and showed that she respected the hiring committee’s constraints. “If a man had sent that message,” Babcock says, “I suspect it might have been dismissed as a rookie mistake. Rescinding the offer rather than just refusing the requests is horrifying.”"

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Making german gender neutral

The guardian has a nice post on how Germany wants to make its language more gender neutral.

They write that

"Predictions vary: one suggestion is that Angela Merkel will eventually no longer be die Bundeskanzlerin but a neutral das Bundeskanzler, as she would be in English. Others believe that the feminine gender, already the most common fallback form used by non-native speakers, will become the default article: a policeman would no longer be der Polizist but die Polizist."

I can't see my fellow Austrians saying die Polizist. But on a positive note: 

Austria changed the words of the National Anthem, so now we not only are the country that is the home of great sons but the home of great sons and daughters...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Test Taking: New SAT

The new SAT will have one feature that stroke me as particularly interesting: as reported by the NYtimes:

"Some changes will make the new SAT more like the ACT, which for the last two years has outpaced the SAT in test takers. Thirteen states administer the ACT to all public high school juniors, and three more are planning to do so. The ACT has no guessing penalty, and its essay is optional. It also includes a science section, and while the SAT is not adding one, the redesigned reading test will include a science passage."

This might be a good thing when I think about Katie Baldiga Coffman's work:

Gender Differences in Willingness to Guess (Forthcoming in Management Science)
We present the results of an experiment that explores whether women are less willing than men to guess on multiple-choice tests. Our test consists of practice questions from SAT II subject tests; we vary whether a penalty is imposed for a wrong answer and the salience of the evaluative nature of the task. We find that when no penalty is assessed for a wrong answer, all test-takers answer every question. But, when there is a penalty for wrong answers, women answer significantly fewer questions than men. We see no differences in knowledge of the material or confidence in the test-takers, and differences in risk preferences explain less than half of the observed gap. Making the evaluative aspect of the test more salient does not impact the gender gap. We show that, conditional on their knowledge of the material, test-takers who skip questions do significantly worse on our test.

Apparently the ACT has a slightly lower gender gap in math than the SAT, I wonder if that is actually the case and whether someone looked at this.

I blogged about Katie's paper before (when she was still Katie Baldiga, here)

Monday, March 24, 2014


I'm giving a talk at the Social, Behavioral, and Experimental Economics (SBEE), Winter 2014 Seminar Series. Come by if you're in Michigan, it's from 3:30-5

I'll talk about Gender Differences in Competitiveness, and especially my most recent work therein

Buser, Thomas, Muriel Niederle and Hessel Oosterbeek, “Gender, Competitiveness and Career Choices,”

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to Fix the Gender Gap?

Uri Gneezy and Katie Baca-Motes write in Time: "Leaning In Won’t Fix the Gender Gap (Yet)"

I especially like their last sentence

"Don’t make the job interview more competitive than the job itself!"

Saturday, March 22, 2014


The NYtimes has an article on "Students See Many Slights as Racial ‘Microaggressions’" by Tanzina Vega.

 "A tone-deaf inquiry into an Asian-American’s ethnic origin. Cringe-inducing praise for how articulate a black student is. An unwanted conversation about a Latino’s ability to speak English without an accent.

This is not exactly the language of traditional racism, but in an avalanche of blogs, student discourse, campus theater and academic papers, they all reflect the murky terrain of the social justice word du jour — microaggressions — used to describe the subtle ways that racial, ethnic, gender and other stereotypes can play out painfully in an increasingly diverse culture."

See also the article in the guardian, on "Oxford University's cultural elitism has been exposed by this student campaign"

" Inspired by a similar effort at Harvard, a viral campaign called I, too, am Oxford surfaced last week highlighting the prejudices students from ethnic minority backgrounds experience at the university. It featured pictures of students holding up placards that read "No, I'm not on a scholarship from Africa" and "My voice is not the voice of all black people"; even one saying "I do not sell cocaine"."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dan Fragiadakis: a new Ph.D

Dan Fragiadakis defends his Ph.D. dissertation.

His three papers in his thesis are:

Improving Welfare in Assignment Problems: an Experimental Investigation  (with Peter Troyan).
Many institutions face the task of allocating objects (such as university dormitories) to individuals (students) without the use of monetary transfers.  A common solution to this problem is the Random Serial Dictatorship (RSD): agents are ordered randomly, and one at a time, each is assigned her favorite good according to her submitted preferences.  While RSD provides each agent with a dominant strategy of ranking objects truthfully, it may produce socially undesirable outcomes whereby it is possible to make some agents substantially better off at only a small cost to others.  In this paper, we study the prospect of raising welfare in assignment problems by incentivizing agents to report goods they value similarly as indifferent.  Specifically, we modify RSD by ordering agents earlier who report more indifference, a method similar to that used by the Stanford Graduate School of Business to assign MBA students to educational trips abroad.  While theory predicts weak welfare gains in equilibrium, this requires agents to calculate nontrivial best response strategies that deviate from simple truth-telling. In practice, it is unknown whether agents will be able to find these equilibria and, if they cannot, what the welfare implications of using such mechanisms will be. Motivated by these observations, we run a lab experiment where we find  that many agents follow natural heuristics that entail reporting indifferences between objects that are similar in value. Average earnings increase significantly compared to RSD, but the way in which indifference is rewarded can alter the variance in earnings.  This suggests that institutions that use RSD can benefit by rewarding indifference, but should choose how to do so carefully.

Identifying Predictable Players: Relating Behavioral Types and Predictable Subjects  (with Muriel Niederle and Daniel Knoepfle).
Behavioral game theory models are useful in organizing data of strategic decision making. However, are subjects classified as behavioral types more predictable than unclassified subjects? Alternatively, how many predictable subjects await new behavioral models to describe them? In our experiments, subjects play two-person guessing games against random opponents and are subsequently asked to replicate or best respond to their past choices. We find that existing behavioral types capture two thirds of strategic subjects, i.e. individuals who can best respond. However, there is additional room for non-strategic rule-of-thumb strategies to describe subjects that can merely replicate their actions.

Market Design under Distributional Constraints: Diversity in School Choice and Other Applications  (with Peter Troyan).
Distributional constraints are important in many market design settings. Prominent examples include the minimum manning requirements at each branch in military cadet matching and diversity in school choice, whereby school districts impose constraints on the demographic distribution of students at each school. Standard assignment mechanisms implemented in practice are unable to accommodate all of these constraints. This leads policymakers to resort to ad-hoc solutions that eliminate blocks of seats ex-ante (before agents submit their preferences) to ensure that all constraints are satisfied ex-post.
We show that these solutions ignore important information contained in the submitted preferences, resulting in avoidable inefficiency. We introduce a new class of dynamic quotas mechanisms that allow the institutional quotas to dynamically adjust to the submitted preferences of the agents. We show how a wide class of mechanisms commonly used in the field can be adapted to our dynamic quotas framework. Focusing in particular on a new dynamic quotas deferred acceptance (DQDA) mechanism, we show that DQDA Pareto dominates current solutions. While it may seem that allowing the quotas to depend on the submitted preferences would compromise the strategyproofness of deferred acceptance, we show that this is not the case: as long as the order in which the quotas are adjusted is determined exogenously to the preferences, DQDA remains strategyproof. Thus, policymakers can be confident that efficiency will be improved without introducing perverse incentives. Simulations with school choice data are used to quantify the potential efficiency gains.

I blogged about him before

He will be joining the Economics department at Texas A&M next year.

Congratulations, Dan, and welcome to the club!

Google searches and gender

The NYtimes has an interesting op ed by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: "Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?"
It starts with

"It’s hardly surprising that parents of young children are often excited at the thought that their child may be gifted. In fact, of all Google searches starting “Is my 2-year-old,” the most common next word is “gifted.” But this question is not asked equally about young boys and young girls. Parents are two and a half times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” Parents show a similar bias when using other phrases related to intelligence that they may shy away from saying aloud, like, “Is my son a genius?”


"In American schools, girls are 11 percent more likely than boys to be in gifted programs. Despite all this, parents looking around the dinner table appear to see more gifted boys than girls.

Parents were more likely to ask about sons rather than daughters on every matter that I tested related to intelligence, including its absence. There are more searches for “is my son behind” or “stupid” than comparable searches for daughters. Searches with negative words like “stupid” and “behind,” however, are less skewed toward sons than searches with positive words.

What concerns do parents disproportionately have for their daughters? Primarily, anything related to appearance. Consider questions about a child’s weight. Parents Google “Is my daughter overweight?” roughly twice as frequently as they Google “Is my son overweight?” Just as with giftedness, this gender bias is not grounded in reality. About 30 percent of girls are overweight, while 33 percent of boys are. Even though scales measure more overweight boys than girls, parents see — or worry about — overweight girls much more often than overweight boys."

The most intriguing picture may be:

He ends with

"How would American girls’ lives be different if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?"