Working Papers

Entertainment utility from skill and thrill

(Job Market Paper -- Current Version). 

This paper uses revealed preference methods to estimate demand for non-instrumental information in entertainment. I do this by examining the "thrill" associated with the trajectory of an event, which includes both suspense and surprise, and the "skill" of performers in an event. I apply the theory presented in Ely et al. (2015, JPE) to conduct an empirical analysis that examines the effect of thrill on consumer attention. I extend the Ely et al. (2015, JPE) framework by examining spectator preferences for characteristics of the performers themselves, which I call "skill." I use game-specific, high-temporal frequency television ratings data from the National Basketball Association (NBA) to measure spectator responses to skill and thrill. First, I find that a doubling of skill present in a game leads to an approximately 11% increase in initial viewer turnout, while the expected thrill of a game has no statistically significant impact. Next, I show that thrill during a game increases viewership by 7-30%, while a doubling of skill on the court during a specific portion of a game leads to a 1.9-2.4% increase in viewership, depending on specification. Interestingly, I find a negative interactive effect between suspense and skill, suggesting that heightened suspense leads to differentially higher viewership with lower skill on the court. The findings suggest that skill of information-conveying agents primarily impacts viewership on the extensive margin (across games), while thrill is highly time-dependent and primarily impacts viewership on the intensive margin (within games). These findings have important implications for entertainment media companies, including leagues and television broadcasters, and advertisers.

The economic value of popularity: Evidence from superstars in the National Basketball Association (Current Version). 

Many industries are impacted by "superstars," where a select few individuals add tremendous economic value. This paper estimates fan willingness-to-pay for superstars in the National Basketball Association, and, in particular, distinguishes between demand for player skill versus player popularity. Using microdata from an online secondary ticket marketplace and plausibly exogenous player absence announcements, I find 4-16% ($7-$42) reductions in prices when superstars are announced to miss games. Additionally, LeBron James and Stephen Curry exhibit even larger impacts when isolating away game absences--21% ($75) per ticket for LeBron and 18% ($55) per ticket for Curry. The results suggest popularity is a more significant determinant of willingness-to-pay than skill, and in line with previous literature on superstars, popularity predicts price impacts convexly. This paper provides a novel methodology to estimate superstar value, and has implications for players, leagues, franchises, and ticket companies.

Estimating worldwide benefits from a genetically improved banana: The use of CRISPR-Cas9 to control Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race 4  

(with Felipe de Figueredo Silva, Freddy Magdama, Matthew D. Potts, Ramon Leonardo Espinel Martinez, and David Zilberman).

Working paper available upon request

A big challenge to agricultural research is enhancing plant resistance for new plant diseases. Plant pathogens emerge sporadically and are a major source of crop production losses. In this paper, we develop a methodology to assess the economic benefits and impacts of developing and commercially introducing a genetically improved crop for an emerging plant disease. This framework incorporates both the dynamics of the spread of the disease as well as the diffusion of the solution in deriving the resulting expected net benefit, as well as its impact on farmers, producers who are affected by the disease, and producers who are not affected. We consider the time lag between the emergence of a disease and the availability of the new technology, which may be affected by regulatory and technical uncertainty. We apply our framework to the global market for bananas, which continues to be heavily impacted by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense Tropical race 4 (FocTR4). One possible solution to this problem is to use CRISPR-CAS9 gene modification technologies to develop disease-resistant varieties, yet timing of availability is uncertain due to both technological and regulatory uncertainties. We simulate welfare losses in the global market for bananas under different scenarios of disease and adoption of a solution. Our results indicate that without adoption of a solution, welfare losses range from US$ 40-83 billion, but depending on how quickly a solution is adopted, these losses can be reduced by 71-94%. The expected benefit of adopting a solution is equal to $45.37 billion dollars.

The impact of policy timing on the spread of COVID-19

(with Moshe Elitzur, Zeljko Ivezic, and David Zilberman). MedRxiv Working Paper.

We model COVID-19 data for 89 nations and US states with a recently developed formalism that describes mathematically any pattern of growth with the minimum number of parameters. The results show that the disease has a typical duration of 18 days, with a significant increase in fatality when it lasts longer than about 4 months. Searching for correlations between "flattening of the curve" and preventive public policies, we find strong statistical evidence for the impact of the first implemented policy on decreasing the pandemic growth rate; a delay of one week in implementation nearly triples the size of the infected population, on average. Without any government action, the initial outburst still slows down after 36 days, possibly thanks to changes in public behavior in response to the pandemic toll. Stay-at-home (lockdown) was not the first policy of any sample member and we do not find statistically meaningful evidence for its added impact, similar to a recent study that employed an entirely different approach. However, lockdown was mostly imposed only shortly before the exponential rise was arrested. The possibility remains that lockdown might have shortened significantly the initial exponential rise had it been employed as first, rather than last resort.

Works in Progress

The impact of environmental quality on recreation: Evidence from secondary ticket marketplace microdata for outdoor professional sporting events

(with Hal Gordon). 

The impact of Bay-Area sugar-sweetened beverage taxes on consumption and nutrition

(with Justin White and Sofia B. Villas Boas).

Are consumers willing to pay to avoid price uncertainty? Evidence from the vehicle leasing market

(with Andy Hultgren and Derek Wolfson).