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Title: Essays on beliefs and economic behaviour
Author: Roth, Christopher
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 8582
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Chapter 1, "Labor Market Concerns and Support for Immigration" (jointly written with Ingar Haaland), examines whether labour market concerns causally affect people's support for immigration. Using a large, representative sample of the US population, we first elicit beliefs about the labour market impact of immigration. To generate exogenous variation in beliefs, we then provide respondents in the treatment group with research evidence showing no adverse labour market impacts of immigration. We find that treated respondents update their beliefs about the labour market impact of immigration and become more supportive of immigration, as measured by self-reported policy views and signatures on real online petitions. We also employ an obfuscated follow-up study which hides the connection between the follow-up and the main study. The treatment effects persist in this setting where experimenter demand is mitigated. Our results demonstrate that beliefs about the labour market impact of immigration are an important causal driver of people's support for immigration. Chapter 2, "Measuring and Bounding Experimenter Demand Effects" (cowritten with Jonathan de Quidt and Johannes Haushofer), is a methodological paper on experimenter demand effects which proposes the use of "demand treatments" to measure and bound experimenter demand effects. We use a simple Bayesian model to motivate our empirical approach of sending explicit signals of the experimenter's wishes, and conduct a series of large-scale experiments to test our method. We also apply our method to the bounding of treatment effects and structurally estimate a simple model in order to quantify the monetary value of pleasing the experimenter. Our results indicate a limited quantitative importance of demand effects, giving cause for optimism for the validity of experimental results. In Chapter 3, "Public Debt and the Demand for Government Spending and Taxation" (jointly written with JohannesWohlfart), we explore how perceptions of government debt shape people's demand for government spending and taxation, which touches upon the important policy issue of public debt accumulation. To create exogenous variation in people's perceived level of government debt, we provide half of our respondents with information about the debt-to-GDP ratio in the US. We find that most people underestimate the debt-to-GDP ratio and favour a cut in government spending once they learn about the actual amount of debt, but do not alter their attitudes towards taxation. These effects persist in a four-week follow-up and operate through changes in beliefs about fiscal sustainability. Chapter 4, "Conspicuous Consumption and Peer Effects: Evidence From a Randomised Field Experiment", examines whether peers' consumption choices affect our consumer behaviour. Combining novel Indonesian data on the visibility of consumption goods with a randomised cash transfer program, I find that the expenditure share of visible goods rises for households whose peers' income and visible consumption increase. The results are inconsistent with a signalling model, but consistent with a model of relative concerns over visible goods. Finally, I shed light on the social mechanisms underlying peer effects in consumption.
Supervisor: Quinn, Simon Sponsor: University of Oxford ; Royal Economic Society ; George Webb Medley Fund ; German National Merit Foundation ; German Academic Exchange Service
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available