Thursday , October 17 2019
Home / Siobhan Miller

Siobhan Miller



Articles by Siobhan Miller

How do American families spend food benefits?

April 2, 2019

Summary

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest of the federal government’s 15 nutrition assistance programs operating in the United States, giving approximately 40 million Americans benefits that can be used to purchase food for at-home consumption. Following decades of life as the Food Stamp Program, the program was renamed SNAP in 2008 in legislation stating that: ‘a supplemental nutrition assistance program is herein authorized which will permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet… by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households who apply for participation.’

A study published recently in the

Read More »

How do American families spend food benefits?

April 2, 2019

Summary

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest of the federal government’s 15 nutrition assistance programs operating in the United States, giving approximately 40 million Americans benefits that can be used to purchase food for at-home consumption. Following decades of life as the Food Stamp Program, the program was renamed SNAP in 2008 in legislation stating that: ‘a supplemental nutrition assistance program is herein authorized which will permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet… by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households who apply for participation.’

A study published recently in the

Read More »

Tax evasion and inequality

March 6, 2019

Summary

How widespread is tax evasion – and what does that imply for the true extent of inequality? New research explores these questions by analyzing a unique dataset of leaked customer lists from offshore financial institutions (‘’Swiss Leaks’ from HSBC Switzerland and the ‘Panama Papers’ of Mossack Fonseca) and tax amnesties conducted in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008-09. These are then matched to population-wide administrative income and wealth records in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The results show that offshore tax evasion is highly concentrated among the rich. The top 0.01% of households in Scandinavia by wealth evade about a quarter of

Read More »

Tax evasion and inequality

March 6, 2019

Summary

How widespread is tax evasion – and what does that imply for the true extent of inequality? New research explores these questions by analyzing a unique dataset of leaked customer lists from offshore financial institutions (‘’Swiss Leaks’ from HSBC Switzerland and the ‘Panama Papers’ of Mossack Fonseca) and tax amnesties conducted in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008-09. These are then matched to population-wide administrative income and wealth records in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The results show that offshore tax evasion is highly concentrated among the rich. The top 0.01% of households in Scandinavia by wealth evade about a quarter of

Read More »

The costs of public sector patronage: lessons from the British Empire

February 7, 2019

Civil servants constitute a key element of state capacity, with the responsibility for raising government revenues, providing public services and implementing reforms. But what happens to their performance when they are appointed to office less on the basis of their talents than on their social connections to powerful patrons? This research examines the costs of patronage through the lens of a historical bureaucracy that spanned the globe: Britain’s Colonial Office. The research combines newly digitized personnel and public finance data from the administration of the British Empire over the period 1854-1966 to show how patronage influenced the promotion and performance of colonial governors.
There is growing concern among policy-makers that patronage – discretionary appointments

Read More »

The costs of public sector patronage: lessons from the British Empire

February 7, 2019

Civil servants constitute a key element of state capacity, with the responsibility for raising government revenues, providing public services and implementing reforms. But what happens to their performance when they are appointed to office less on the basis of their talents than on their social connections to powerful patrons? This research examines the costs of patronage through the lens of a historical bureaucracy that spanned the globe: Britain’s Colonial Office. The research combines newly digitized personnel and public finance data from the administration of the British Empire over the period 1854-1966 to show how patronage influenced the promotion and performance of colonial governors.
There is growing concern

Read More »

Measuring the impact of US state taxation on business activity

January 30, 2019

There is considerable anecdotal evidence of US companies moving from high-tax states to low-tax states, but what do the data reveal about the impact of state taxation on economic activity? Analyzing establishment-level data from the US Census Bureau for the period 1977-2011, this research finds that firms subject to state-level corporate taxation respond to higher corporate tax rates by closing establishments and reducing employment; those subject only to state-level personal income taxation respond similarly to individual income tax rates, though to a lesser extent. Since half of these responses are due to reallocation of business activity to lower-tax states, tax competition across states clearly plays a

Read More »

Measuring the impact of US state taxation on business activity

January 30, 2019

There is considerable anecdotal evidence of US companies moving from high-tax states to low-tax states, but what do the data reveal about the impact of state taxation on economic activity? Analyzing establishment-level data from the US Census Bureau for the period 1977-2011, this research finds that firms subject to state-level corporate taxation respond to higher corporate tax rates by closing establishments and reducing employment; those subject only to state-level personal income taxation respond similarly to individual income tax rates, though to a lesser extent. Since half of these responses are due to reallocation of business activity to lower-tax states, tax competition across states clearly plays a first-order role in corporate decision-making.
What is the impact of state

Read More »

Bias in cable news

January 8, 2019

How much does consuming news with a strong political slant influence Americans’ votes in presidential elections? And how strongly do people prefer news sources that are slanted towards their own political preferences? This research provides evidence on the persuasive effects of slanted news and viewers’ tastes for like-minded news by analyzing data on the three big US cable news channels: CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. The results indicate that these news sources – and Fox News in particular – have the potential for large effects on the outcomes of elections.
The emergence of ‘fake news’ on social media during the 2016 US presidential election campaign has brought renewed urgency to questions about media bias and its

Read More »

Bias in cable news

January 8, 2019

How much does consuming news with a strong political slant influence Americans’ votes in presidential elections? And how strongly do people prefer news sources that are slanted towards their own political preferences? This research provides evidence on the persuasive effects of slanted news and viewers’ tastes for like-minded news by analyzing data on the three big US cable news channels: CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. The results indicate that these news sources – and Fox News in particular – have the potential for large effects on the outcomes of elections.
The emergence of ‘fake news’ on social media during the 2016 US presidential election campaign has brought renewed urgency to questions about media bias and its potential to influence electoral outcomes. How much does consuming

Read More »

Why is Pollution from U.S. Manufacturing Declining?

December 20, 2018

In the 1960s, there were worries that U.S. economic growth would lead to increasingly dangerous levels of pollution, and that by the year 2000, air pollution would make cities like Los Angeles and New York uninhabitable. Instead, U.S. air quality has improved dramatically since then. Between 1990 and 2008, emissions of the most common air pollutants from U.S. manufacturing fell by about two-thirds, even as real output from U.S. manufacturing grew substantially (see Figure 1). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the reduction in U.S. air pollution since 1990 prevented several hundred thousand premature deaths annually, so it is important to understand its causes. How do U.S. manufacturers produce more now, while polluting less?

Existing research suggests at

Read More »

Why is Pollution from U.S. Manufacturing Declining?

December 20, 2018

In the 1960s, there were worries that U.S. economic growth would lead to increasingly dangerous levels of pollution, and that by the year 2000, air pollution would make cities like Los Angeles and New York uninhabitable. Instead, U.S. air quality has improved dramatically since then. Between 1990 and 2008, emissions of the most common air pollutants from U.S. manufacturing fell by about two-thirds, even as real output from U.S. manufacturing grew substantially (see Figure 1). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the reduction in U.S. air pollution since 1990 prevented several hundred thousand premature deaths annually, so it is important to understand its causes. How do U.S. manufacturers produce

Read More »

Optimal timing of unemployment benefits: evidence from Sweden

December 6, 2018

A public program of unemployment benefits aims to protect people against job loss, but it should ideally be designed so that it doesn’t encourage them to stay out of work too much longer than they otherwise would. This research explores how policy can achieve the ideal balance between maximizing the insurance value of benefits while minimizing the incentive cost. Analyzing data from Sweden on unemployment, consumption, income, and wealth, the findings indicate that, contrary to recent reforms that push towards making the generosity of benefits decline over the unemployment spell, it is more socially desirable to reduce benefits for the short-term unemployed in order to raise them for the long-term unemployed.
The key objective of social insurance programs is to provide insurance

Read More »

US Treasury auctions: measuring the effectiveness of primary markets for government securities

November 29, 2018

How should government bonds be sold? Research typically emphasizes how the auction design affects outcomes depending on the nature of demand and the competitive environment. This study combines models of strategic bidding in Treasury auctions with detailed bidding data to construct empirical measures that reveal the effectiveness of auctions. Applying these methods to data on US Treasury auctions shows that the gains from optimizing the auction mechanism are no more than 5 basis points. The research also quantifies the advantage enjoyed by primary dealers in these markets, who are able to observe the ‘willingness-to-pay’ of their customers who route their bids through them.
When governments need to raise money to finance their operations – either to synchronize tax receipts with

Read More »

The effects of coordinating school assignments through a centralized mechanism

November 5, 2018

Matching theory, which examines what happens when one or more types of searchers interact, has proven to be a powerful tool for increasing the efficiency of markets where mutual consent is required. The process of matching employers with job seekers, pairing suitable romantic partners, and even finding compatible kidney donors and recipients has been enhanced through the application of this theory. Today, school admissions processes are being redesigned using matching theory, but the outcome of this innovation has received less analysis.
A growing number of localities provide families with schooling options for their children beyond their neighborhood school. For example, families may apply to magnet schools, charter schools, or other alternatives. In some districts, families can

Read More »

The impact of protection on trade: lessons from Britain’s 1930s policy shift

October 25, 2018

With protectionist pressures rising and the multilateral trading system seemingly at risk, it is natural to look to the 1930s for evidence of how protection affects the volume and pattern of trade. This column examines the impact of Britain’s decisive break with a longstanding tradition of free trade in 1931, when the country switched dramatically to a policy of protection, discriminating in favor of the British Empire. The shift explains roughly a quarter of Britain’s trade collapse, and around three quarters of the big increase in the British Empire’s share of British imports during the 1930s.
With a protectionist president in the White House, the future of the multilateral, rules-based international trading system seems much less certain than it appeared to be just a few years

Read More »

Growth and well-being: policy should not be based on GDP alone

September 20, 2018

Economists are often accused of focusing excessively on GDP, with the result that government policies make GDP a priority to the detriment of other contributors to well-being. This research proposes a broader summary statistic that incorporates consumption, leisure, mortality and inequality. While the new statistic is highly correlated with GDP per capita, cross-national deviations are often large: Western Europe looks considerably closer to the United States; emerging Asia has not caught up as much; and many developing countries are further behind. Each component of the statistic plays a significant role in explaining these differences, with mortality being the most important. While still imperfect, the statistic arguably provides better guidance for determining public priorities

Read More »

Regional variation in US healthcare use: evidence from patient migration

September 5, 2018

There is considerable geographical variation in the use of healthcare by beneficiaries of Medicare, the US federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older. This research explores the extent to which regional disparities are driven by the providers, whose use of expensive tests or procedures might vary across different places, or by the patients, who might have different healthcare needs and preferences. Analyzing data on Medicare beneficiaries who have migrated from one part of the country to another, the study finds that patients and providers account for roughly equal shares of the differences in regional spending. The results provide a better understanding of the components of medical costs, adding nuance to the debate about possible inefficiencies in US

Read More »

The economics of density: evidence from the Berlin Wall

August 9, 2018

The Berlin Wall provides a unique natural experiment for identifying the key sources of urban development. This research, for which its authors have recently been awarded the prestigious Frisch Medal, shows how property prices and economic activity in the east side of West Berlin, close to the historic central business district in East Berlin, began to fall when the city was divided; then, during the 1990s, after reunification, the same area began to redevelop. Theory and empirical evidence confirm the positive relationship between urban density and productivity in a virtuous circle of ‘cumulative causation’. The analysis has practical applications for urban planners making decisions on housing and transport infrastructure.
Economic activity is highly unevenly distributed across

Read More »

US Manufacturing Jobs and Trade Liberalization with China

July 10, 2018

Trade relations between the United States and China have grown increasingly tense, spurred by concerns that growing imports from China have led to plant closures and job loss in the United States. We find a link between the sharp decline in U.S. manufacturing employment after 2000 and the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to China, which eliminated uncertainty about China‘s continued access to the U.S. market.
Our research into the reactions of U.S. and Chinese firms to PNTR highlights the sensitivity of firm behavior to policy uncertainty.
The granting of PNTR was followed by a 17 percent decline in U.S. manufacturing employment from 2000-2003, as Chinese goods were guaranteed permanent low tariffs in the United States.
By effectively protecting U.S. industries

Read More »

The career cost of children: career and fertility trade-offs

June 27, 2018

Women are often paid less than men, they are often underrepresented in leading positions, and their careers develop at a slower pace than those of men.  In this paper, we ask to what extent these differences can be explained by childbearing. To evaluate the career cost associated with having children, we consider women’s decisions regarding labor supply, occupation, fertility and savings throughout the life-cycle. We evaluate the life-cycle career cost of children to be equivalent to 35 percent of a woman’s total earnings. We further show that part of this cost arises well before children are born through selection into careers characterized by lower wages but also lower skill depreciation. Our results inform the debate on the gender pay-gap as well as policies that encourage

Read More »

Cultural proximity and loans

May 31, 2018

In many, many cases, people have a preference for working and doing business with those who share the same religious beliefs, come from the same geographic region, or have something else in common. If this preference arises from discrimination against other groups – if there is economically inefficient favoritism – the economy will not reach its full potential. But could there also be efficiency gains from transacting with people who are culturally proximate? If so, is it possible for the gains to be large enough to more than offset the losses from discrimination? Surprisingly, the answer to both questions is yes. However, that does not mean the barriers between groups should be reinforced. Policies that break down informational barriers between groups could produce further

Read More »

Do larger health insurance subsidies benefit patients or producers? Evidence from Medicare Advantage

May 16, 2018

A central question in the US debate over privatized Medicare is whether increased government contributions to private plans generate lower premiums for consumers or higher profits for producers. This research finds that insurance companies pass through 45% of higher payments in lower premiums and an additional 9% in more generous benefits for those who enrol in Medicare Advantage. Since the findings also suggest that the less than full pass-through is a result of insurer market power, efforts to make markets more competitive may be key to increasing the pass-through to consumers.
Medicare is the second largest social insurance program in the United States and the primary source of health insurance for the elderly. Medicare beneficiaries can choose to receive benefits through the

Read More »

China’s hidden shipbuilding subsidies and their impact on its industrial dominance

April 11, 2018

Our news feeds have recently been invaded by discussions of a forgotten issue: protectionism. Strategic trade, industrial policy and even trade wars are once again at the forefront of our minds. Regardless of why these measures are adopted, it is essential to understand their consequences for world trade and welfare. In recent work, I focus on China, where government guidance has allegedly turned its industries into world leaders and where the ‘invisible hand’ of the state is gaining ground by the day.
Industrial policyOver the past two decades, Chinese firms have rapidly come to dominate a number of capital-intensive industries, such as steel, auto parts, solar panels, and shipbuilding. The share of labor intensive products in Chinese exports fell from 37% to 14% between 2000

Read More »

Absolute poverty: when necessity displaces desire

February 20, 2018

How many poor people are there in the world?  Where are they located? Are economic development and globalisation increasing or decreasing their number?  If so, which countries have been most affected? To answer these questions, we need a metric to measure poverty.
There already exists a widely recognized metric for measuring poverty–the World Bank’s famous $-a-day poverty line.  However, this measure does not account for differences in basic needs across countries. For example, the clothing, housing, and heating needs for a poor person living in a cold northern country are very different from what is needed for a poor resident of a warm southern country, and the prices of these goods vary across developed and undeveloped nations. The World Bank’s $-a-day poverty live does not

Read More »

Marital choices and widening economic inequality

January 19, 2018

Do marital choices contribute to widening economic inequality among households?
While growing inequality has many causes − from skill-based technological progress to globalization­ − demographic changes have also played an important role.
During the first half of the twentieth century, college attendance increased overall ­– slightly faster for men than for women. This trend changed for the cohorts born since the 1950s: Women’s graduation rates caught up with men’s and then surpassed them. To take a striking illustration: the fraction of women aged 30 to 40 with post-graduate degrees rose from below 4 percent in 1980 to above 11 percent in 2005, while the male proportion stalled at around 10 percent. This reversed gender gap is puzzling, as the rate of return on higher education

Read More »

Infrastructure investment and regulation: evidence from the US electricity distribution sector

January 3, 2018

Most of us are familiar with longstanding problems of crumbling infrastructure – whether it is failing roads and bridges, or old electricity lines that lead to power outages. And we often hear bureaucrats and newly elected politicians promising to fix these problems with new infrastructure investments.  
But how much do we really trust these promises? And if citizens cannot fully trust them, should private firms, whose investments depend on future public policies, be expected to trust them? More generally, how and by how much does politics matter in the regulation of infrastructure management? 
Our research analyzes the influence of politics on infrastructure investment and management, focusing on the distribution of electric power in the United States. We explore the interaction

Read More »

How the MillerCoors joint venture changed competition in U.S. brewing

December 15, 2017

How do mergers of large firms affect markets? Over the past 25 years, U.S. merger review has focused primarily on the loss of direct competition between merging firms. This theory of unilateral effects—the assumption that the merged firm may increases its prices but that competitors respond only indirectly—underpins most merger challenges initiated by the U.S. antitrust agencies.
So when the merger of SAB Miller and Molson Coors was proposed in November of 2007, the Department of Justice (DOJ), hewing to the theory of unilateral effects, determined that prices were unlikely to increase substantially after the merger.  First, the DOJ verified that the joint venture would result in lower shipping costs, as Coors products could now be brewed at and shipped from Miller plants, and

Read More »

The surprising power of tax stimulus to the housing market

December 8, 2017

Throughout 2008, the UK housing market was in freefall. As Figure 1 shows, between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2009, the number of residential property transactions plummeted by 60%. Over the same period, house prices fell by almost 20%.
Amid this market turmoil, the government stepped in to shore up the housing market. As part of a surprise stimulus policy announced in September 2008, the government temporarily eliminated the property transaction tax — the stamp duty land tax — on properties sold between £125,000 and £175,000, estimating that this would allow 60% of all properties sold to pay no tax.
But is cutting a small transaction tax (in this case 1% of the value of a property) an effective way of stimulating the housing market or the wider economy?

Read More »

Gender gaps among high-skilled professionals: the case of US lawyers

November 17, 2017

Even among high-skilled professionals, there remain big differences between men and women in their earnings and career progression. These gender gaps among career-minded men and women have become the focus of growing public debate about why they arise and persist – see, for example, the long-running dispute between Sheryl Sandberg (2009, 2013) and Anne-Marie Slaughter (2012, 2015).
Given that there are gender gaps in career outcomes even for individuals with similar educational background and training, to what extent are they attributable to differences in measured performance? Does family responsibility play a role in performance? Or are other factors responsible for differences?
To shed light on these questions, our research relates measures of hours worked and performance to

Read More »