Economics offers a powerful set of tools for understanding and predicting patterns of behaviour in virtually every context. SFU economists are at the forefront of applying cutting-edge techniques to shed light on a wide variety of fascinating and important questions.
Anke Kessler has produced some timely evidence on the effects of the alleged robo-calling phenomenon on voter turnout. Ridings where voters were allegedly targeted by robo-calls — meaning they were possibly discouraged from voting or directed to the wrong polls — experienced an estimated decline in voter turnout of three percentage points on average. This reduction in turnout translates into roughly 2,500 fewer eligible (registered) voters going to the polls.
“My findings in no way can prove whether misconduct or an illegal act has occurred,” emphasizes Kessler, who regularly analyses political organizational design, government structure and elections. “I wish to emphasize that my analysis and the corresponding results are not suited to bring into question the election outcome in any particular riding.”
That being said, Kessler continues: “My analysis of the Elections Canada data suggests that any alleged robo-calling had a statistically significant impact on voter turnout and election results.”
Erik Kimbrough (with co-author Cary Deck) is using controlled laboratory experiments to explore the effect of different queue-pricing policies on firm and shopper welfare. Imagine two competing shops selling identical merchandise, and shoppers who choose between them based upon both price and the time spent waiting for service. One seller has a single payment line-up, while the other provides two queues. When the two-queue firm charges a premium to use an express check-out line, it appears that the one-queue firm responds by focusing on the patient shoppers - thereby driving down prices and profits and making consumers better off.
Paul Klein (in partnership with with Gustavo Ventura of Arizona State University) is currently investigating the effects of corporate tax reform, making allowance for the accumulation of "intangible" investment and free mobility of capital across jurisdictions. In particular, he is looking at how incentives to cut corporate taxes depend on the size of the jurisdiction, in order to shed light on the experience of small economies such as Ireland and the Swiss cantons, which tax corporate income lightly, as well as that of the United States, a large economy that taxes corporate income relatively heavily.
Klein is also working with David Domeij at the Stockholm School of Economics on the economic case for subsidizing preschool childcare. Results suggest that favourable tax treatment (say, deductibility) of childcare expenses is part of an optimal tax scheme - one that minimizes the damaging effects of taxation.
Fernando Aragon is studying the economic effects of large-scale mining on local communities. He uses the case of Yanacocha in the Peruvian highlands, one of the largest gold mines in the world, where he finds that the mine’s local procurement policies have had a positive impact on living conditions. He also examines the effect of gold mining on productivity of Ghanaian farmers. He finds that polluting mines have reduced agricultural productivity. In turn, this has increased poverty of rural communities in Ghana.