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2024/04: Discovering tax decentralization: Does it impact marginal willingness to pay taxes?

Decentralized fiscal decision-making should serve to enhance welfare by promoting allocative efficiency gains and fostering greater political accountability. Within such an institutional framework, individuals are assumed to be willing to pay, at least, no less taxes than those they pay in a centralized system. We test this hypothesis by means of a survey experiment, leveraging the process of decentralization that has unfolded in Spain over the last 25 years. Our results suggest that individuals have very limited awareness of the tier of government to which they pay their taxes, frequently assuming the system to be centralized. This holds true even in regions where tax decentralization is maximum, as is the case of Spain’s foral communities. On ‘discovering decentralization’ (i.e., being informed that a tax is more decentralized than initially perceived), an individual’s marginal willingness to pay taxes undergoes only a minimal change, with the exception of that of personal income tax. These findings raise questions about the purported benefits of tax decentralization.

2024/03: Muddying the waters: How grade distributions change when university exams go online

We analyse how grade distributions change when higher education evaluations transition online and disentangle the mechanisms that help to explain the change observed in students’ results. We leverage administrative panel data, survey data and data on course plans from a large undergraduate degree at the University of Barcelona. We show that grade averages increase and their dispersion reduce. Changes are driven by students from the lower end of the performance distribution and by a reduction in the occurrence of fail grades; however, we do not find evidence for artificial `grade adjusting’ to explain the phenomenon. We are also able to dismiss shifts in the composition of test takers, improvements in teaching quality or in learning experiences and increases in student engagement. While changes in the assessment formats employed do not appear to mediate the causal relationship between online evaluation and higher grades, we identify more dispersed evaluation opportunities and increased cheating as explanatory factors.

2024/02: Can teachers influence student perceptions and preferences? Experimental evidence from a taxation course

We explore the impact of university teacher-student interactions on student perceptions of, and preferences with regard to, taxation. Grounded in an experimental framework in which tax practitioners (who are usually hired as adjunct university lecturers) delivered an introductory lecture on an undergraduate tax course, we find that the lectures can impact perceptions, but also preferences if the lecture is of sufficient interest or relevance to engage student attention. Additionally, we find that lectures delivered by practitioners working in the public sector tend to increase student perceptions of tax justice, but that this impact is independent of both the gender of the lecturer and that of the student. However, we deduce the existence of gender bias in evaluating the perceived interest level of lectures. All else being equal, male students typically provide lower ratings for female lecturers, whereas female students tend to give higher ratings for male lecturers.

2024/01: Issue brief: Making jobs out of the energy transition: Evidence from the French energy efficiency obligations scheme

Vast amounts are being invested in the energy transition worldwide, with optimistic expectations of economic growth and green job creation. Yet, we crucially lack ex-post validations of the multiplier effects widely used to quantify new green jobs. Focusing on the French Energy Efficiency Obligations scheme, this paper provides the first ex-post estimate of the employment effect of a large energy-retrofit investment program. We exploit a discontinuity in the provision of subsidies and use a novel synthetic control method on disaggregated data to estimate regional-level employment effects. We estimate that the scheme created 1.4 jobs per million euros invested.

2023/13: Gender differences in high-stakes performance and college admission policies

The Gale-Shapley algorithm is one of the most popular college allocation mechanism around the world. A crucial policy question in its setting is designing admission priorities for students, understanding how they disadvantage certain demographic groups, and whether these di_erences are related to di_erences in college performance potential (i.e., whether these di_erences are fair). Studying a policy change in Spain, we find a negative e_ect of increasing the weight of standardized high-stakes exams on female college admission scores, driven by students expected to be at the top. The effect on admission scores does not affect enrolment, but the percentage of female students in the most selective degrees declines, along with their career prospects. Using data on college performance of pre-reform cohorts, we find that female students most likely to lose from the reform tend to do better in college than male students expected to benefit from the reform. The results show that rewarding high-stakes performance in selection processes may come along with gender differences unrelated to the determinants of subsequent performance.

2023/12: Resilience-thinking training for college students: Evidence from a randomized trial

We conducted a randomized evaluation of a universal primary prevention intervention whose main goal was to increase the resilience of students from a large broad-access Hispanic Serving Institution and commuter urban college. In a 90-minute workshop, students were: introduced to the resilient-thinking approach, which offers conceptual tools to cope with unexpected negative shocks; worked individually and in groups to identify challenges in their community; and brainstormed strategies to address them. We find that the intervention increased by 5 percent of a standard deviation the short-run resilience of the average student. Importantly, the intention-to-treat effects were larger for students with lower levels of baseline resilience. The intervention was most effective among students with weaker individual protective factors at baseline (the most vulnerable students, those with lower resilience, and with higher mental health problems), and for those with stronger community protective factors, suggesting that individual and community factors mediate differently within this intervention. The intervention effects on students’ resilience persisted over time. These effects were mostly driven by an improvement in students’ collaboration (i.e., maintenance and formation of support networks and personal relationships), and vision (i.e., sense of purpose and belief in an ability to define, clarify, and achieve goals). We find no effects on educational performance the semester of the intervention or the following one, nor on depression and anxiety the following semester.