Research work

"VAT Notches, Voluntary Registration, and Bunching: Theory and UK Evidence" (with M. Almunia, L. Li, B. Lockwood) Review of Economics and Statistics, 2021, 103:1, 151-164

Abstract Using administrative tax records for UK businesses, we document both bunching in annual turnover below the VAT registration threshold and persistent voluntary registration by almost half of the firms below the threshold. We develop a conceptual framework that can simultaneously explain these two apparently conflicting facts. The framework also predicts that higher intermediate input shares, lower product-market competition and a lower share of business to consumer (B2C) sales lead to voluntary registration. The predictions are exactly the opposite for bunching. We test the theory using linked VAT and corporation tax records from 2004-2014, finding empirical support for these predictions.

"On the Quantity and Quality of Girls: New Evidence on Abortion, Fertility, and Parental Investments" (with S Anukriti and S Bhalotra) Economic Journal, 2022, 132:461, 1-36

Abstract The introduction of prenatal sex-detection technologies in India has led to a phenomenal increase in abortion of female fetuses. We examine fertility and investment responses to these technologies. We find a moderation of son-biased fertility stopping, erosion of gender gaps in parental investments, and convergence in the under-5 mortality rates of boys and girls. For every three aborted girls, one additional girl survives to age five. We also find a shift in the distribution of girls towards low-socioeconomic status families. Our findings have implications not only for counts of missing girls but also for the later life outcomes of girls.

"Discretionary Fiscal Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic" (with M. Devereux, I. Güçeri and M. Simmler) Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Vol. 36, Suppl., 2020, p.S225–S241

Abstract We analyse discretionary fiscal responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. We distinguish policies for three phases of the pandemic: (1) acute overall disruption, (2) initial recovery phase and (3) the longer term. We analyse measures already taken in (1) and consider measures relevant for (2). We distinguish between lump-sum subsidies, such as deferral of tax payments, which may ease financial constraints, and measures which intentionally affect incentives. We also identify factors that are important given the short-term nature of the measures.

Working papers

"Impact of British Colonial Gender Reform on Early Female Marriages and Gender Gap in Education: Evidence from Child Marriage Abolition Act, 1929" (with S. Roy) Revise and resubmit, Journal of Economic History

Abstract The British colonial government raised the minimum age at first marriage of females to 14 years in British India in 1929. The law had two distinct features: it was announced in 1929 but implemented six months later in 1930, and the law applied to only British India, which was directly ruled by the British government but not to Princely States (Indian Native States), which were under their indirect control. Using Princely States in colonial India as a control group, we employ difference-in-differences strategy to estimate the causal impact of the abolition of child marriage on underage female marriage in regions that were affected by the law. Analyzing historical census data from 1911-1931, we find an immediate unintended anticipation effect of the law that increased female child marriages in the affected regions in 1931, followed by a sharp decline of female child marriages in the affected region post-independence in 1961-1981. We further use three independent nationally representative datasets on female education and marriage to show that there was a long term decline in child marriages and increase in educational attainment among women in affected regions.

"Fell by the wayside: Trade integration and policy choices of local governments" (with J. Xing) CBT working paper WP 20/08

Abstract We examine how trade integration affects the incentives and policy choices of local governments, using the construction of China’s national expressway as a natural experiment. We find that governments of peripheral counties connected to expressway “gave up” by adopting less business-friendly policies. Affected local governments changed both the level and the composition of public spending, and became less involved in inter-jurisdictional spending competition. Private firms in connected peripheral counties received fewer subsidies and faced higher effective tax rates, while state-owned firms were less likely to be privatized. These policy changes contribute significantly to the observed output decline in these regions.

"Tax and Occupancy of Business Properties: Theory and Evidence from UK Business Rates" (with B. Lockwood and M. Simmler) CBT working paper WP 20/18

Abstract We study the impact of commercial property taxation on vacancy rates in the UK using regression kink and regression discontinuity designs. We exploit exogenous variations in commercial property tax rates from three different reliefs in the UK business rates system: small business rate relief (SBRR), retail relief and empty property exemption. A simple theoretical framework predicts: (i) relationships between rateable values and taxes, and vacancies; (ii) that SBRR has a sorting effect on the mix of businesses in small properties. Findings consistent with the theory suggest that SBRR increases the likelihood that a property is occupied by a small business, reduces the likelihood that it is occupied by a large business, and reduces the overall likelihood of being vacant. We estimate that the retail relief reduces vacancies by 90%, and SBRR relief by up to 54%.

"Welfare Estimates of Shifting Peak Travel" (with R. Hahn and R. Metcalfe) NBER working paper, w31629

Abstract We develop novel estimates of peak and off-peak price elasticities for urban mass transit demand in San Francisco using a large natural experiment with 3.6 million trip sessions and a natural field experiment that both have exogenous price subsidies. We then estimate the welfare impacts for these price subsidies using a sufficient statistics approach. Our analysis suggests that off-peak subsidies can increase welfare, but the positive effects are reduced when consumers take the decisions of others into account compared to when they do not. We also find a large variation in the welfare impacts of shifting travel to different periods, which is explained by differences in demand and congestion characteristics. Finally, we show that the targeting of subsidies can increase welfare, but need not do so if the regulator does not have accurate information on demand.

Behavioural response to time notches in transaction tax: Evidence from stamp duty in Hong Kong and Singapore CBT working paper WP 18/01

Main page