My main academic interests relate to topics in public economics, industrial organization, political economics, and applied microeconomics. Current research projects focus on commercial lobbying activities, the development of political institutions, and political competition.
"The Economics of Commercial Lobbying"
Dissertation Committee Members: Christopher J. Ellis (Chair), Shankha Chakraborty, Nicholas Sly, Daniel Tichenor (Political Science).
Abstract This study explains the observed repeated personal interactions between lobbyists and policymakers. The analysis uses a dynamic model of commercial lobbying in which citizens may hire lobbyists to present policy proposals on their behalf to policymakers. Policymakers allocate political access between citizens and lobbyists. Lobbyists may undertake unobservable investigation efforts and promise financial contributions in exchange for political access. This access may then be sold to their citizen-clients. It is shown that repeated personal interactions with lobbyists simplify a policymaker's information problem in the presence of unverifiable information provision as well as allow a solution to their contracting problem in the absence of legally binding contracts. These interactions help policymakers escape a "cheap talk" lobbying game. The welfare implications of these interactions depend on whether the policymakers' information or contracting problem predominates. Further, the policymaker's information problem may actually improve social welfare outcomes in comparison to the full information outcome. Similarly, financial contributions may also improve welfare outcomes by preventing a socially inefficient provision of information.
Abstract This paper analyzes the effective regulation of commercial lobbying activities and focuses on the endogenous choice of regulatory institutions. The analysis uses a model of commercial lobbying in which citizens hire lobbyists to present policy matters on their behalf, and policymakers announce political access rules to induce citizens and lobbyists to engage in information acquisition and make financial contributions. The distribution of private costs and public informational benefits from commercial lobbying can explain why commercial lobbying is widely employed, but may not be socially efficient, and may lack public support. I derive the institutional conditions under which a market outcome can be first-best as well as the conditions under which a first-best institution will or will not be self-stable. One result is that current lobbying regulation may fail to be effective: unable to limit lobbyists' and policymakers' incentives to substitute financial contributions for socially beneficial information acquisition. The analysis highlights the necessity to monitor information transfers as well as financial transfers to construct effective regulatory instruments. Additional results explain why endogenous reforms that regulate lobbying activities may or may not occur.
Abstract In this paper we present a model of the behavior of commercial lobbying firms (such as the so-called K-Street lobbyists of Washington, D.C.). In contrast to classical special interest groups, commercial lobbying firms represent a variety of clients and are not directly affected by policy outcomes. They are hired by citizens, or groups of citizens, to advocate on their behalf to policymakers. In our analysis we address two basic questions; why do commercial lobbying firms exist, and what are the implications of their existence for social welfare? We answer the first part of this question by proposing that commercial lobbying firms possess a verification technology that allows them to improve the quality of information concerning the social desirability of policy proposals. This gives policymakers the incentive to allocate their scarce time to lobbying firms. Essentially it is this access to policymakers that lobbying firms sell to their clients. To address the question of social welfare we construct a simple general equilibrium model that includes commercial lobbying firms, and compare the equilibrium obtained under market provision of lobbying services to the first best optimum. We find that the market level of lobbying services can be socially either too large or too small, and characterize when each will be the case.
Abstract An income growth pattern is pro-poor if it reduces a (chosen) measure of poverty by more than if all incomes were growing equiproportionately. Inequality reduction is not sufficient for pro-poorness. In this paper, we explore the nexus between pro-poorness, growth and inequality in some detail using simulations involving the displaced lognormal, Singh-Maddala and Dagum distributions. For empirically relevant parameter estimates, distributional change preserving the functional form of each of these 3-parameter distributions is often either pro-poor and inequality reducing, or pro-rich and inequality exacerbating, but it is also possible for pro-rich growth to be inequality reducing. There is some capacity for each of these distributions to show trickle effects (weak pro-richness) along with inequality-reducing growth, but virtually no possibility of pro-poorness for growth which increases overall inequality. Implications are considered.
Previous (longer) working paper: ECINEQ Working Paper No. 2011-214.
Work in Progress