Job Market Paper
Do workers discriminate against their out-group employers? Evidence from the gig economy (with J. Bhattacharya and R. Banerjee)
We study possible worker-to-employer discrimination manifested via social preferences in an online labor market. Specifically, we ask, do workers exhibit positive social preferences for an out-race employer relative to an otherwise-identical, own-race one? We run a well-powered, model-based experiment wherein we recruit 6,000 workers from Amazon’s M-Turk platform for a real-effort task and randomly (and unobtrusively) reveal to them the racial identity of their non-fictitious employer. Strikingly, we find strong evidence of race-based altruism – white workers, even when they do not benefit personally, work relatively “harder” to generate more income for black employers. Self-declared white Republicans and Independents exhibit significantly more altruism relative to Democrats. Notably, the altruism does not seem to be driven by race-specific beliefs about the income status of the employers. Our results suggest the possibility that pro-social behavior of whites toward blacks, atypical in traditional labor markets, may emerge in the gig economy where associative (dis)taste is naturally muted due to limited social contact.
Research in Progress
Distributive effects of nudges
Recently behavioral economics has transformed the way we think about policy problems of our age. Governments all over the world are using nudges, one of the tools from behavioral economics, to direct people’s behavior towards socially desirable outcomes. However, the literature has also shown that the distributive effects of nudges are not uniform meaning that there are people who gain from a particular nudge, while others are made worse off. In this research, we are looking at the impact of one such nudge, i.e., traffic death-count messages displayed on some of the major highways in the United States. While this kind of information nudge is designed to make drivers think of the dangers of unsafe driving and hence potentially leading to a lower number of crashes and fatalities, it also causes welfare-reducing emotional/moral discomfort to the drivers. Though the evidence on the impact of these death-count messages is missing, we intend to first estimate the effect of these messages on crashes and fatalities and then weigh that against the estimated moral cost of such information. The preliminary results show that such a nudge is effective at reducing overall number of crashes, and hence nudges at large scale may be an effective tool at the government’s disposal to change behavior.
Economic Consequences of Affective Polarization (with T. Ditonto, D. Andersen, J. Bhattacharya)
In this study, we explore the economic consequences of increased polarization in American society. We investigate questions such as; Is there evidence that economic agents discriminate against others based on the political identity of those they interact with? If so, does the discrimination reflect group bias in that each player favors players of his group (in-group bias), or is there systematic discrimination against a rival political group (out-group bias)? Is this discrimination based on animus (a taste for discrimination)? Or, is it the outcome of stereotyping (statistical discrimination)? Finally, whether the economic agents deem political identity as important as other social identities such as gender, age, race in economic interactions. We run a series of incentivized lab games with a representative sample of individuals from all over the United States to investigate the above questions.