Michael C. Best

Department of Economics
Columbia University
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
Tel: 415/316-5006

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
NBER Program Affiliations: DEV , PE
NBER Affiliation: Faculty Research Fellow
Institutional Affiliation: Columbia University

NBER Working Papers and Publications

February 2020The Allocation of Authority in Organizations: A Field Experiment with Bureaucrats
with Oriana Bandiera, Adnan Qadir Khan, Andrea Prat: w26733
We design a field experiment to study how the allocation of authority between frontline procurement officers and their monitors affects performance both directly and through the response to incentives. In collaboration with the government of Punjab, Pakistan, we shift authority from monitors to procurement officers and introduce financial incentives to a sample of 600 procurement officers in 26 districts. We find that autonomy alone reduces prices by 9% without reducing quality and that the effect is stronger when the monitor tends to delay approvals for purchases until the end of the fiscal year. In contrast, the effect of performance pay is muted, except when agents face a monitor who does not delay approvals. The results illustrate that organizational design and anti-corruption policies...
August 2018Estimating the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution Using Mortgage Notches
with James Cloyne, Ethan Ilzetzki, Henrik Kleven: w24948
Using a novel source of quasi-experimental variation in interest rates, we develop a new approach to estimating the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution (EIS). In the UK, the mortgage interest rate features discrete jumps – notches – at thresholds for the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. These notches generate large bunching below the critical LTV thresholds and missing mass above them. We develop a dynamic model that links these empirical moments to the underlying structural EIS. The average EIS is small, around 0.1, and quite homogeneous in the population. This finding is robust to structural assumptions and can allow for uncertainty, a wide range of risk preferences, portfolio reallocation, liquidity constraints, present bias, and optimization frictions. Our findings have implications for...

Published: Michael Carlos Best & James S Cloyne & Ethan Ilzetzki & Henrik J Kleven, 2020. "Estimating the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution Using Mortgage Notches," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(2), pages 656-690. citation courtesy of

April 2017Individuals and Organizations as Sources of State Effectiveness
with Jonas Hjort, David Szakonyi: w23350
How important are bureaucrats for the productivity of the state? And to what extent do the tradeoffs between different policies depend on the implementing bureaucrats’ effectiveness? Using data on 16million public procurement purchases in Russia during 2011–2016, we show that over 40 percent of the variation in quality-adjusted prices paid—our measure of performance—is due to the individual bureaucrats and organizations that manage procurement processes. Such differences in effectiveness matter for policy design. To illustrate, we show that a common procurement policy— bid preferences for domestic suppliers—dramatically improves performance, but only when implemented by ineffective bureaucrats.

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