Skip to Navigation

Behavioral Economics

Fall 2015 Presidential Authority Awards

November 19, 2015

The Russell Sage Foundation has recently approved the following Presidential Authority awards in three of its program areas—Future of Work, Social Inequality, and Behavioral Economics—as well as three conferences for upcoming issues of the RSF journal.

RSF Journal Conferences:

The Coleman Report at 50: Its Legacy and Enduring Value
Karl Alexander and Stephen Morgan (Johns Hopkins University)

For an upcoming issue of RSF, Karl Alexander and Stephen Morgan organized a symposium featuring fourteen invited articles for the fiftieth anniversary of the quality of the 1966 Educational Opportunity Report, or “Coleman Report,” which assessed the lack of equal educational opportunities for minority children in the U.S. The issue will examine the Report’s methods and its substantive conclusions through the lens of advances over the past half century across several social science disciplines.

Undocumented Immigration
Roberto G. Gonzales (Harvard University) and Steven Raphael (University of California, Berkeley)

For an upcoming issue of RSF, Roberto Gonzales and Steven Raphael organized a symposium featuring nine articles that examine the effects of federal, state, and local policy on immigrants’ experience of living undocumented and explore how undocumented status affects social mobility and civic participation.

Wealth Inequality
Fabian Pfeffer and Robert Schoeni (University of Michigan)

For an upcoming issue of the RSF, Fabian Pfeffer and Robert Schoeni organized a symposium featuring nine articles that examine the determinants of high and rising levels of wealth inequality, its economic and social consequences, and potential policy responses.

Announcing the Launch of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences

November 17, 2015

The Russell Sage Foundation is pleased to announce the publication of its new social science journal, RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. RSF will promote cross-disciplinary collaborations on timely topics of interest to social scientists and other academic researchers, policymakers, and the public at large.

Of the new journal RSF president Sheldon Danziger says, "RSF builds upon the foundation's long history of publishing and disseminating rigorously evaluated social science research. As a peer-reviewed, open-access publication, RSF provides a prestigious outlet for original empirical research by both established and emerging scholars."

The inaugural double issue of RSF, edited by sociologist Matthew Desmond (Harvard University), focuses on families experiencing "severe deprivation," or acute, compounded, and persistent economic hardship. In this issue, a distinguished roster of poverty scholars from multiple disciplines examine how the Great Recession, plus factors such as rising housing costs, welfare reform, mass incarceration, suppressed wages, and pervasive joblessness have contributed to deepening poverty in America. Click here to read the full open-access issue online.

A number of issues of RSF are scheduled for publication, including "The Elementary and Secondary Education Act at Fifty and Beyond," edited by David A. Gamson (Pennsylvania State University), Kathryn A. McDermott (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), and Douglas S. Reed (Georgetown University), which will be released in December.

David Laibson Joins RSF Board of Trustees

November 9, 2015

The Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of economist David Laibson to the Board of Trustees. Laibson is the Robert I. Goldman Professor of Economics and Chairman of the Department of Economics at Harvard University. He leads Harvard Universityʼs Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative and is the co-organizer of RSF’s Summer Institute in Behavioral Economics. His research focuses on behavioral economics, with emphasis on household finance, macroeconomics, aging, and intertemporal choice.

In addition to serving as a trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation, Laibson also serves on the boards of Harvardʼs Pension Investment Committee, the Social Science Genetics Association Consortium, and the Academic Research Council of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He is a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research, where he co-directs the National Institute of Aging Roybal Center for Behavior Change in Health and Savings, and is a Research Associate in the Aging, Asset Pricing, and Economic Fluctuations Working Groups.

New Awards Approved in Russell Sage Foundation’s Core Programs

July 8, 2015

Several new research projects in the Russell Sage Foundation’s core programs were funded at the Foundation’s June meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Awards approved in the Behavioral Economics program:

Mental Accounting and Fungibility of Money: Evidence from a Retail Panel
Jesse Shapiro (Harvard University) and Justine Hastings (Brown University)

Jesse Shapiro and Justine Hastings will complete a project that provide new tests of "mental accounting," or how households represent money in their financial decision-making. They will draw from unique panel data on seven years of customer purchases from a large grocery retailer in order to glean new insights into mental accounting through a real-world scenario.

Behavioral Biases and the Design of Student Loan Repayment Schemes
Lesley J. Turner, Kathleen Abraham, Emel Filiz-Ozbay, and Erkut Ozbay (University of Maryland)

Lesley J. Turner and colleagues will investigate the factors that affect students’ loan repayments, including the relationship between students’ expected earnings and their preference for income-based repayment plans, and whether students’ repayment behavior is affected by whether they voluntarily choose income-based plan or are instead assigned to one.

Quantal Response Equilibrium and the Limitations of Game Theory

February 18, 2015

This feature is part of an ongoing RSF blog series, Work in Progress, which highlights some of the ongoing research of our current class of Visiting Scholars.

During his time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation, Thomas Palfrey (California Institute of Technology) is writing a book on Quantal Response Equilibrium (QRE) and its applications to the social sciences. Developed by Palfrey and Richard McKelvey, QRE is a game theory concept that is now one of the leading approaches to modeling bounded rationality—the idea that individuals’ rationality is limited by the information they have—in games.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Palfrey explained some of the basic applications of game theory to public policy, and the limitations of those approaches.

Q. What is Nash Equilibrium? How has it been applied to public policy, and what are its limitations?

Call for Papers in Behavioral Economics

December 17, 2014

On July 8-9, 2015, the Russell Sage Foundation will sponsor a Conference for Early-Career Behavioral Economists in Chicago. The goals of this conference are to allow early-career researchers to present research and receive feedback and to help develop a community of junior behavioral economists.

Any early-career behavioral economist can apply. This includes graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and assistant professors who received their Ph.D. after Spring 2010. We expect to select about 20 presenters. Please submit an abstract of about 1000 words of the proposed paper and an abbreviated CV (5 pages maximum) by January 31, 2015, to If financial assistance is needed in order for you to participate, please provide details in a cover letter, including whether your university may provide funding to cover some of your expenses.

New Awards Approved in Core RSF Programs

November 19, 2014

Thirteen new research projects in the Russell Sage Foundation’s Behavioral Economics, Social Inequality, Immigration, and the Future of Work programs were recently funded at the Foundation’s November 2014 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The Foundation’s Behavioral Economics program supports research that incorporates the insights of psychology and other social sciences into the study of economic behavior. The following projects were recently funded under the program:

Breaking Bad: Social Influence and the Path to Criminality in Juvenile Jails

August 15, 2014

In a new working paper supported by the Foundation, Megan Stevenson (University of California, Berkeley) investigates the extent to which peer influence in juvenile correctional facilities affects the rate at which youth offenders are reconvicted. Nationwide, between 40-45% of adults released from prison are incarcerated again within three years, with similar numbers for juveniles.

Though several previous studies have examined other societal factors that may lead to the high number of repeat offenders, there has been very little empirical research on whether the social experience of incarceration affects future criminal activity. As Stevenson states in her abstract:

Using detailed administrative data and quasi-random cohort-level variation, I find that exposure to high risk peers while in a juvenile correctional facility has a large impact on future crime. I consider three mechanisms to explain this effect: criminal skill transfer, the formation of criminal networks which persist after release, and the social contagion of crime-oriented attitudes and non-cognitive traits. I find evidence consistent with the social contagion mechanism in residential correctional facilities. Exposure to peers from unstable and/or abusive homes leads to increased aggression, impulsivity and anti-societal attitudes, as well as increased criminal activity.

Choosing Not to Choose

June 24, 2014

A new working paper by noted behavioral economics scholar Cass Sunstein, titled “Choosing Not to Choose,” is available for download from the Russell Sage Foundation. The abstract states:

Choice can be an extraordinary benefit or an immense burden. In some contexts, people choose not to choose, or would do so if they were asked. For example, many people prefer not to make choices about their health or retirement plans; they want to delegate those choices to a private or public institution that they trust (and may well be willing to pay a considerable amount for such delegations). This point suggests that however well-accepted, the line between active choosing and paternalism is often illusory. When private or public institutions override people’s desire not to choose, and insist on active choosing, they may well be behaving paternalistically, through a form of choice-requiring paternalism. Active choosing can be seen as a form of libertarian paternalism, and a frequently attractive one, if people are permitted to opt out of choosing in favor of a default (and in that sense not to choose); it is a form of nonlibertarian paternalism insofar as people are required to choose. For both ordinary people and private or public institutions, the ultimate judgment in favor of active choosing, or in favor of choosing not to choose, depends largely on the costs of decisions and the costs of errors.

Noted Behavioral Economics Scholar Cass R. Sunstein to Join RSF as Summer 2014 Visiting Scholar

June 9, 2014

Cass R. Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor and Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, will join the Russell Sage Foundation as a Visiting Scholar for Summer 2014, starting on Monday, June 9.

Sunstein is a member of the Foundation’s Behavioral Economics Roundtable, an initiative that gathers prominent scholars in the field to support and promote new research in behavioral economics. With RSF trustee Richard H. Thaler, he co-authored the 2009 book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, a New York Times bestseller that examines the way that people make decisions and shows how sensible “choice architecture” can successfully nudge people toward the best ones.

Sunstein served as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2009 to 2012. His other books include, most recently, Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas and Why Nudge?: The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism (2014).

During his time in residence at the Foundation, Sunstein will work on his next book manuscript, titled Choosing Not to Choose.

Syndicate content