Stefano DellaVigna, Professor

Closed (1) Early-Stage Research in Behavioral Economics and Applied Micro

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

This URAP project exposes the students to 2-3 ongoing projects that the professor (Stefano) is working on. The idea of this URAP group is to provide a sampling of research at the frontier in applied behavioral economics and in other areas of applied microeconomics that Stefano works on.

As such, the URAP group complements the work in the economics classes, which provide the basic material. Also, the exposure to multiple projects, as opposed to one, ensures a broader take on research projects. Warning: This intellectual ride includes exploring projects that will end up nowhere -- no way to tell ex ante! (As a colleague says, this is why it is called 're-search': it is a continual search for good questions and equally good answers.)

For example, students in past semesters worked on: (i) the analysis of how scientific journals select which articles to publish, and whether they exhibit a gender bias; (ii) eliciting what researchers (and laypeople) expect for future research findings; (iii) a meta-analysis of nudge interventions in published papers.

The URAP group -- typically 8-10 people -- meets with Stefano and with Woojin, a PhD student and collaborator, once a week for about an hour, most likely via Zoom for this semester. Together we discuss the progress for the week. Afterwards, there is an individual assignment for 6-9 hours that each students completes individually. Examples are brainstorming about how to implement an idea, collecting data online, and proof-reading a paper.

For this semester, a main focus for the group will be on policy diffusion. That is, economists and other social scientists typically take policy change as a given -- say, now voting ID rules or a covid mask rules -- and analyze its impact. For this project, we are interested instead in understanding to a first approximation how and why these policies change, as opposed to their impact. So political polarization will be a major topic, as you may be able to guess.

For your URAP application go to Google Scholar and search for "policy diffusion", pick one of the readings and go through a few pages of it (you do not need to finish it). Then as part of your write up tell me (i) which paper you picked; (ii) what was the most interesting part about policy diffusion; (iii) do you have a thought/anecdote/question in regard.

There are no specific requirements, but exposure to economics classes helps.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Woojin Kim

Qualifications: There are no specific requirements, but exposure to economics classes helps. A successful applicant typically has a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Closed (2) Forecasting Effects of Development Interventions

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

Researchers frequently run experiments to evaluate the causal effects of policies (like cash transfer programs, or other anti-poverty programs). This project looks at how well people can forecast the impacts of these policies. By comparing peoples’ forecasts of policy impacts to actual experimental impacts from large-scale randomized controlled trials, we can learn who has accurate beliefs, and thus whose advice can best inform policy decisions.

Students will work with large datasets containing thousands of forecasts of experimental results (ranging from cash transfer programs, to cognitive behavioral therapy, to coronavirus messaging campaigns), and effect estimates from several large-scale anti-poverty programs primarily in Kenya. A focus of this study is comparing the accuracy of forecasts made by academics (primarily PhD holding economists), and people similar to the intended recipients of the anti-poverty programs.

Students working on this project will receive training and experience in data-analysis at the intersection of statistics, econometrics, applied microeconomics, and development economics. We will meet (over Zoom) either weekly or bi-weekly for 30-60 minutes, depending on stage of the project.

Please note that this project is run by one of Stefano DellaVigna’s PhD students, Nick Otis, who will be the day-to-day manager/supervisor for this project. Stefano will not be involved in the project.

Tasks include:
-Cleaning and analyzing data
-Making figures and tables (LaTeX experience is a plus!)
-Running simulations
-Tidying/improving code

There will also be some secondary less data-intensive tasks, which include:
-Conducting literature reviews
-Searching for datasets
-Running surveys

These secondary tasks may come up throughout the semester and you will be able to decide if you want to participate in them. , Graduate Student

Qualifications: Basic knowledge of R is required, and applied experience working in R is strongly preferred. Course work in Econometrics, Data Science, and Statistics are strongly preferred. Applicants should be interested in international development/poverty alleviation/impact evaluation. Interest in pursuing graduate school is also a plus. Individuals with less programming/data experience are also encouraged, as there will be several less data-intensive tasks.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: Zoom