Working Papers (see also at SSRN):
“Big Data and Democracy” (with Freek van Gils and Wieland Müller); TILEC Discussion Paper No. 2020-003, CentER Discussion Paper No. 2020-011.
- Recent technological developments have raised concerns about threats to democracy because of their potential to distort election outcomes: (a) data-driven voter research enabling political microtargeting, and (b) growing news consumption via social media and news aggregators that obfuscate the origin of news items, leading to voters’ unawareness about a news sender’s identity. We provide a theoretical framework in which we can analyze the effects that microtargeting by political interest groups and unawareness have on election outcomes in comparison to “conventional” news reporting. We show which voter groups suffer from which technological development, (a) or (b). While both microtargeting and unawareness have negative effects on voter welfare, we show that only unawareness can flip an election. Our model framework allows the theory-based discussion of policy proposals, such as to ban microtargeting or to require news platforms to signal the political orientation of a news item’s originator.
“Competing with Big Data” (with Christoph Schottmüller); TILEC Discussion Paper No. 2017-006, CentER Discussion Paper No. 2017-007.
- This paper studies competition in data-driven markets, that is, markets where the cost of quality production is decreasing in the amount of machine-generated data about user preferences or characteristics, which is an inseparable byproduct of using services offered in such markets. This gives rise to data-driven indirect network effects. We construct a dynamic model of R&D competition, where duopolists repeatedly determine their innovation investments, and show that such markets tip under very mild conditions, moving towards monopoly. In a tipped market, innovation incentives both for the dominant firm and for competitors are small. We also show under which conditions a dominant firm in one market can leverage its position to a connected market, thereby initiating a domino effect. We show that market tipping can be avoided if competitors share their user information.
“Consumers’ Privacy Choices in the Era of Big Data” (with Sebastian Dengler); TILEC Discussion Paper No. 2018-014, CentER Discussion Paper No. 2018-012.
- Recent progress in information technologies provides sellers with detailed knowledge about consumers’ preferences, approaching perfect price discrimination in the limit. We construct a model where consumers with less strategic sophistication than the seller’s pricing algorithm face a trade-off when buying. They choose between a direct, transaction cost-free sales channel and a privacy-protecting, but costly, anonymous channel. We show that the anonymous channel is used even in the absence of an explicit taste for privacy if consumers are not too strategically sophisticated. This provides a micro-foundation for consumers’ privacy choices. Some consumers benefit but others suffer from their anonymization.
An earlier version was formerly distributed under the title “Semi-Public Competitions”; CentER Discussion Paper, No. 2009-33; TILEC Discussion Paper, No. 2008-023.
- The process of innovation is driven by two main factors: new inventions and institutions supporting the transformation of inventions into marketable innovations. This paper studies such an institution, called an innovation contest, and shows that it can mitigate a dilemma on the market for ideas. The sponsor of an innovation contest publicizes the ranking of winners, which motivates entrepreneurs to participate in the contest. But information about losers remains private with the sponsor. This allows him to place better informed bids on valuable losers’ projects. Efficiency increases because both entrepreneurs and investors have better incentives to enter the market.
Work in Progress:
- “Clash of Classification Institutions” (with Gillian Hadfield and Vatsalya Srivastava)
- Classification institutions assign a normative label, acceptable or wrongful, to human behavior: laws, social norms, religious rules, cultural traditions, etc. Thereby they shape the expectations about other people’s behavior, reduce uncertainty, and create trust in other’s actions. We construct a dynamic model where two classification institutions with different enforcement mechanisms, social norms and legal order, clash. We show how laws crowd out norms, and when and how norms decay gradually, where more and more players first stop enforcing and then stop complying with the norm as time proceeds. We also show that the existence of legal order can undermine norms, even if legal order cannot enforce its own laws very effectively. In such a case, players may rationally ignore the classification of both norms and laws and engage in novel behavior, implying the breakdown of both governance mechanisms. Finally, we apply the model to issues of immigration, developing countries and colonization, former Soviet republics, failed states, and how to organize a multicultural society.
- “Membership, Governance, and Lobbying in Standard-Setting Organizations” (with Clemens Fiedler and Maria Larraín Aylwin)
- Standard-setting organizations (SSOs) are collectively self-governed industry associations, formed by innovators and implementers. They are the main organizational form to agree on and manage technical standards, and form the foundation for many technological and economic sectors. Constructing a model, we study the incentives of heterogeneous innovators and implementers to join an SSO, which is endogenously formed. We also study the effect of SSO governance on membership incentives and on members’ lobbying efforts to get their technologies included in the standard. We show that, depending on parameter realizations, one of four equilibrium types arises uniquely. The results can reconcile existing evidence, especially that many SSO member firms are small. We show that raising the influence of implementers within the standard suffers from a trade-off. It raises the market coverage of technology and lowers royalty rates but erodes the innovators’ incentives to contribute to the standard. Thus, the inclusion of downstream implementers is an important decision for the success and benefit of a standard.
- “Believing in Making a Difference” (with Xu YiLong)
- Nonprofit firms active in the production of public goods – mission-driven organizations – face higher labor turnover than firms producing private goods for a profit. Simultaneously, they pay lower wages and often use low-powered incentive schemes, which has been explained by binding financial constraints and the threat to attract wrong worker types if wages are increased. We construct a model that reproduces these stylized facts, explains the high labor turnover of mission-driven organizations, and suggests a way out of this nonprofit’s dilemma, based on insights from the economic psychology literature. Workers who seek employment in the nonprofit sector learn the true philanthropic impact of their work on the job only, which can lead to disappointment. Some of the disappointed workers leave the firm but others costly manipulate their own recollection of the facts and keep believing in making a difference. We construct testable empirical hypotheses and offer managerial and policy implications.
- “Classification Through Thick and Thin: Permissive Norms and Strict Laws” (with Gillian Hadfield and Vatsalya Srivastava)
- “The Proper Scope of Government in Hospital” (with Lapo Filistrucchi and Phuc Phung)
- “Power and Legitimacy” (with Gani Aldashev)