Economic Growth and International Trade

"Economic growth takeoffs and the extensive and intensive margins of trade" with Rishav Bista. (2021) Review of Development Economics, 25 (3): 1373-1396.

Abstract: In this study, we use a gravity model to investigate the relationship between exports and sudden, prolonged increases in economic growth. Our main contribution is we decompose exports into the extensive and intensive margins when considering this relationship. Using the definition of takeoffs in a country's growth process from Aizenman & Spiegel, we identify 142 economic growth takeoffs. We find that the extensive margin is an important mechanism for export growth and, ultimately, economic growth. We also find evidence that exports increase significantly immediately before, and during, a growth episode, with the extensive margin being entirely responsible for the observed increase in exports. Finally, we find that developing countries see a larger percentage point increase in the extensive margin and decrease in the intensive margin during a takeoff. These results suggest that takeoffs may spur a reduction in the fixed costs to exporting, which propel an increase in the extensive margin. Therefore, export diversification appears to be a potential policy option for those seeking to increase the chances of a growth takeoff in their country, and takeoffs seem to present an opportunity for further export diversification.

"Growth takeoffs and trade margins: a quantile regression approach" with Rishav Bista and Erik Figueiredo. (2020) Empirical Economics, Vol. 59, no. 1: 275-294.

Abstract: Recent studies find evidence that economic growth takeoffs are strongly positively correlated with large increases in total aggregate exports. These studies often analyze the average relationship between these economic growth takeoffs and total trade flows. Therefore, these studies are somewhat limited because the average relationship masks the potential heterogeneous impact of takeoffs on different levels of the trade distribution. Moreover, endogeneity issues due to a possible bidirectional relationship between trade openness and economic growth also need to be considered. In this paper, we use two quantile regression models—both models allow for panel data and fixed effects, while one also makes use of instrumental variables to address endogeneity concerns. As such, we investigate whether takeoffs affect countries equally when they trade at the lower end of the distribution (countries that trade less with each other) compared to those at the higher end of the distribution (countries that trade more with each other). Our results suggest that economic growth takeoffs affect countries at the lower end of the export distribution (10th percentile) significantly more compared to higher end of the export distribution (90th percentile). Moreover, these results are driven entirely by the extensive margin. We also find evidence that takeoffs affect countries with a lower level of income much more compared to those with a high level of income, with this result also extending to the extensive margin.

"Heterogeneous Time Zone Effects and Exports" with Rishav Bista and Erik Figueiredo. (2019) Economics Bulletin, Vol. 39, no. 2: 1039-1046.

Abstract: The negative effect of time zone differences on trade flows due to an increase in trade costs across country-pairs has been well established in the literature. Recent studies also find trade cost elasticity to be heterogeneous across country- pairs and across the distribution of trade flows. We use a quantile estimation to examine whether time zone differences have heterogeneous effects along the conditional distribution of exports. This estimation enables us to identify the log- linear gravity model with zero trade flows. We find that the negative between time zone differences and trade is driven mainly by country-pairs that trade the least. Specifically, we find that while time zone differences negatively impact trade in general, these differences affect countries at the low end of the trade distribution (10th percentile) more compared to higher end of the trade distribution (90th percentile). Our results further demonstrate the potentially large fixed costs associated with trade, especially for country-pairs that trade the least.

“Austerity and Exports” with Rishav Bista, Josh Ederington, and Jenny Minier, (May 2016) Review of International Economics, 24: 203-225.

Abstract: Recent papers such as Alesina and Ardagna (2010) have focused attention on the potential for expansionary austerity (i.e., that cutting budget deficits may increase growth in the short run). In this paper we investigate the impact of fiscal consolidation on trade using bilateral trade data. The use of bilateral trade data allows us to demonstrate three novel empirical results. First, while .fiscal consolidation is associated with an increase in own-country exports, it is also correlated to an equal extent with a decrease in foreign-country exports (i.e., imports); indeed, simultaneous austerity has no statistically signifi.cant impact on bilateral trade. Second, the positive e.ffect of austerity on exports disappears when trading partners share a common currency. Third, the increase in exports due to austerity is associated entirely with an increase in the range of goods exported (the extensive margin), at the expense of trade volume among existing trade relationships (the intensive margin).

“Manufacturing Exports and Economic Growth: When is a Developing Country Ready to Transition from Primary Exports to Manufacturing Exports?", Journal of Macroeconomics, Vol. 42 (December 2014): 1-13.

Abstract: Why do many developing countries still rely on primary goods as their main source of export income when evidence suggests they could earn higher returns by exporting manufactured goods? I use data for a wide cross-section of countries over the period 1970-2009 and find that although increasing manufacturing exports is important for sustained economic growth, this relationship only holds once a threshold level of development is reached. Specifically, I use an endogenous sample-splitting technique, known as regression tree analysis, to identify possible economic development thresholds in the relationship between the level of manufacturing exports and GDP per capita growth. I find that a country needs to achieve a minimum level of human capital before it is beneficial to transition from a reliance on primary exports to manufacturing exports.

“The Dynamics of Sectoral Electricity Demand for a Panel of US States: New Evidence on the Consumption-Growth Nexus” with James Saunoris, Energy Policy, 61, October 2013, 327-336.

Abstract: In this paper, we use a panel of the 48 contiguous US states over the period 1970–2009 to examine the dynamics of electricity demand in addressing the four hypotheses set forth in the literature: growth, conservation, neutrality, and feedback. In doing so we provide both short-run and long-run elasticity estimates for electricity demand. Recent developments in nonstationary panel estimation techniques allow for heterogeneity in the coefficients while examining the direction of causality among electricity consumption, electricity prices, and income growth. In addition to the full sample, we also disaggregate the sample into three sectors: commercial, industrial, and residential. The short-run results provide evidence in favor of the growth hypothesis for the aggregate sample, as well as for the industrial sector. For the residential and commercial sectors, the conservation hypothesis is supported. Long-run results favor the conservation hypothesis. To ascertain differences in electricity demand relating to electricity intensity we also examine states based on their efficiency in electricity consumption. Overall, the results yield in favor of the growth hypothesis for low intensity states and conservation hypothesis for high intensity states.

Pedagogy & Economics Education Papers

"How often does active learning actually occur? Perception vs. Reality'' with Ben Smith. (2020) AEA Papers and Proceedings, Vol. 110, May: 304-308.

Abstract: Substantial evidence suggests active learning pedagogies are superior to lecturing, but little evidence exists on the prevalence of such methods. Watts and Schaur (2011) find, based on self-reported data, the median instructor lectures 83 percent of the time. We analyze audio recordings of 535 total classes from 30 different instructors to show instructors greatly underestimate how often they use passive learning pedagogies such as lecturing. Survey results show instructors estimate they lecture approximately 78.5 percent of class time; our data reveals the true average is 89 percent. This gap between perception and reality is statistically significant.

"Evaluating Twitter and its Impact on Student Learning in Principles of Economics Courses'' with Abdullah Al-Bahrani and Darshak Patel. (2017) Journal of Economic Education, Vol. 48, no. 4: 243-253.

Abstract: Ever since Becker and Watts (1996) found that economic educators rely heavily on “chalk and talk” as a primary teaching method, economic educators have been seeking new ways to engage students and improve learning outcomes. Recently, the use of social media as a pedagogical tool in economics has received increasing interest. The authors assess students across three different institutions to see if the use of Twitter improves learning outcomes relative to a traditional Learning Management System. Using an experimental design, they find no evidence that the use of Twitter improves students' learning.

"Short vs. long: cognitive load, retention, and changing class structures" with Ben Smith and Erin Pleggenkuhle-Miles. (2017) Education Economics, Vol. 25, no. 5: 501-512.

Abstract: University class structure is changing. To accommodate working students, programmes are increasing their offerings of long night classes – some lasting as long as six hours. While these long classes may be more convenient for students, they have unintended consequences as a result of cognitive load. Using a panel of 124 students (372 observations) and a differencing approach that controls for student characteristics, we show that student exam performance decreases by approximately one-half letter grade on content taught in the second half of a long class (significant at the 5% level).

"Have Economic Educators Embraced Social Media as a Teaching Tool?" with Abdullah Al-Bahrani and Darshak Patel. (2017) Journal of Economic Education, Vol. 48, no. 1: 45-50.

Abstract: In this article, the authors discuss the results of a study of the perceptions of a national sample of economics faculty members from various institutions regarding the use of social media as a teaching tool in and out of the economics classroom. In the past few years, social media has become globally popular, and its use is ubiquitous among students. As such, some instructors have incorporated social media into their courses to engage students. Others are reluctant to embrace social media, citing privacy concerns, social media being more of a distraction than a useful tool, and the challenge of keeping up with social media developments, among others. The authors characterize economics faculty's perceptions of the use of social media platforms for economic instruction.

"The Great Digital Divide: Using Popular Media to Teach Economics" with Abdullah Al-Bahrani, Kim Holder, and Darshak Patel. (2016) Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research, Vol. 17, no. 2: 105-111.

Abstract: Economics instructors have increasingly embraced the use of popular culture as a teaching resource to enhance
their lectures. The use of television shows, music and media clips presumably makes economic theories, concepts, and terms more relevant to today’s students. For example, shows like The Simpsons, The Office, The Big Bang Theory, Seinfeld and many others have been suggested as great teaching tools for Economics due to students’ familiarity with the content. We evaluate this claim by surveying students at three institutions over two years to identify which television shows and musicians are most popular with students. Our results indicate that the popular media frequently used by instructors are not always correspondingly popular with current students.

“Engaging Students Using Social Media: The Students’ Perspective” with Abdullah Al-Bahrani and Darshak Patel, (May 2015 ) International Review of Economics Education, Vol. 19 : 36-50.

Abstract: Social media access and usage has grown rapidly in the past several years. In academia, social media is a new pedagogical tool that may be used to engage students both inside and outside the economics classroom, and impact their overall success. In this study we examine the students’ view of incorporating social media in the classroom. The survey was administered at three academic institutions. The results are based on a survey administered to students in Principles of Microeconomics and Macroeconomics courses. Students have the strongest presence, in descending order, on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. However, based on their utilization preferences, these mediums are ranked as follows: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The results indicate that students are concerned with privacy but are more willing to connect with faculty if the connection is “one-way” and participate if social media is a voluntary part of class. Therefore Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, or Facebook “like” pages or groups are potentially better mediums for faculty to use in economic classrooms. The survey indicates that students use their social media accounts more frequently than email or Learning Management Systems and, therefore, social media may also be a more effective tool for spontaneous communication for many students.

“A Primer for New Teachers of Economics” with Gail Hoyt and Jennifer Imazeki, Southern Economic Journal, January 2014, Vol. 80 (3): 839-854.

Abstract: In many economics programs, both graduate students and new assistant professors are thrown into the classroom without guidance, with the potential for negative ramifications that can last throughout their careers as teaching economists. This paper is a primer in which we offer unique insights into useful methods and practices for new teachers in the economics profession. We discuss organizational and logistical issues that new teachers must consider, then offer our advice on specific pedagogical tools and techniques. Following the growing literature on the benefits of student-centered and interactive instruction, we focus on ways instructors can move away from the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ approach. We organize and present these alternative pedagogies in terms of their level of complexity and time required. We tailor our discussion to the unique experience of the teaching economist. We conclude with suggestions and resources for the continued growth and development of new teachers in economics.

Work Co-Authored with Students

"The Impact of National Anthem Protests on National Football League Television Ratings" with Judah Brown. (2020) Journal of Sports Economics, Vol. 21, no. 8: 829-847.

Abstract: The National Football League’s (NFL) television ratings decreased by approximately 8% during the 2016 season, then a further 10% the following season. These declines coincided with league-wide national anthem protests initiated by Colin Kaepernick at the beginning of the 2016 season. Existing research identifies many determinants of demand for sporting events, but athletes’ protests are seldom considered. We use detailed data on players’ protests and television ratings to construct a new, game-level panel for the four NFL seasons between 2014 and 2017. Our results show protests are statistically significantly associated with lower TV ratings, but the economic magnitude is relatively muted.