Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Behavioral economics, public policy and regulation

I'm trying to add material and improve the way I teach behavioral aspects of public economics. I have been teaching that in an undergraduate optional course on Public Economics and in a master's course at my university, and it also interacts with my research, as I try to analyze how behavioral issues impact on regulators. I am now dealing with this for my undergraduate course, and I divide my presentations in three parts:
-An initial part on introducing behavioral economics (for example, ways to classify biases) and the main ideas that affect public economics. On this, I have found very useful the 2015 article by Raj Chetty on "Behavioral Economics and Public Policy", which offers a common structure and useful examples especially on policies to promote savings and policies that help neighborhood choice.
-A second part on the specific topic of how relaxing traditional assumptions about homo economicus helps understand why sometimes humans manage to find solutions to social dilemmas, including the free-rider problem. There is an important experimental literature on this that I would like my students to be aware of. At some point, I would like to run simple experiments in class and I am collecting material on how to do this, but I am not ready to do it yet (I need to talk more with Jordi Brandts about this).
-A final part on behavioral political economy and social choice, collecting my own preliminary research, existing surveys on behavioral political economy and the ideas of Sen, Olstrom and Putterman on how Arrow (who sadly just passed away) was too pessimistic about the ability of groups to make reasonable collective decisions.
Hopefully, better preparing my teaching on this will be a good complement to improving my research on behavioral aspects of regulatory institutions.

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