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Department of Economics
Northwestern University
2211 Campus Drive
Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA

Office number: 3225

Telephone: 847-491-8233
Facsimile: 847-491-7001





Economics 335 (Political Economics) Syllabus

Economics 415 (Dynamic Methods for Economics) Syllabus

Economics 414 (Frontiers of Applied Theory) Syllabus upon request.




Can Society Function Without Ethical Agents? An Informational Perspective

·       This paper proposes a model of societal learning, in which information may be scarce and discoverable by individuals with a special expertise or access to the fact to be learned.

·       When these individuals are devoid of intrinsic motive to learn about the truth, the feasibility of societal learning depends on statistical conditions pertaining to the supply of evidence about the fact.

·       Applications to institution enforcement, social cohesion, scientific progress, and historical revisionism are discussed.


Robust Implementation with Costly Information with Harry Pei

·       We consider robust implementation for a concept of robustness that builds on Kajii and Morris (1997) when agents must incur a cost to learn the state.

·       Agents’ preferences are uncertain, as are their beliefs and higher-order beliefs about one another’s preferences.

·       We propose a mechanism that implements any desired social choice function when perturbations concerning agents' payoffs have small ex ante probability.

·       We also show that full implementation is impossible unless agents directly care about the state of the world and how it relates to the social choice function.


Persistent Private Information Revisited with Alex Bloedel and Vijay Krishna, R&R in Econometrica

·       We revisit Williams’ (Econometrica, 2011) principal-agent model of insurance with persistent private information and continuous time.

·       The contract characterized as optimal in that paper belongs to a class of contracts that can be implemented by self-insurance contracts and is generically suboptimal within this class.

·       The claim that immiserisation disappears with persistent private information and the effects attributed to persistent private information and to continuous time by that paper are not supported by our analysis. We elucidate some sources of these discrepancies.




Judicial Mechanism Design with Ron Siegel, Forthcoming, American Economic Journal: Microeconomics

·       When the suspect of a crime is arrested, he enters a judicial process, or “mechanism,” whose outcomes include evidence against him and a sentence

·       We study the optimal design of judicial mechanisms for several notions of welfare distinguished by their treatment of deterrence

·       The optimal mechanism presents several features reminiscent of the US criminal justice system, such as plea bargaining, a trial with a binary verdict corresponding to acquittal and conviction, and a conviction threshold based on the likelihood of guilt of the defendant

·       The commitment assumption needed to perform mechanism design analysis finds an incarnation in several features of the U.S. criminal justice system.


Learning and Corruption on Monitoring Chains, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, May 2021


Crime Aggregation, Deterrence, and Witness Credibility with Harry Pei

·       When a defendant is accused of multiple crimes, one may consider punishing him if the overall probability that he has committed crime is high.

·       We show that this aggregation rule can reduce the informativeness of witnesss reports and increase the proportion of offenders, but can also reduce the number of crimes conditional on crime being committed.

·       When punishment in case of conviction is large relative to the benefit to commit crime, the optimal mechanism—according to a notion that takes into account fairness and deterrence—can be implemented without commitment by one of two adjudication rules: the rule previously described and the rule that is used in most criminal justice systems.




Renegotiation-Proof Contracts with Persistent States

·       This paper defines a concept of renegotiation-proof contracts for dynamic contracts in which the state is either (i) publicly observed or (ii) driven by a diffusion process.

·       The concept uses the algebraic notion of left-action group to compare contracts across distinct states. It subsumes the notion of internal consistency used in repeated games.

·       The concept is applied to a principal-agent insurance model in which the agent has persistent private endowment shocks. Renegotiation-proof contracts have a closed-form and are characterized by a single number, the contract sensitivity to the agent’s reports.


Early-Career Discrimination: Spiraling or Self-Correcting? with Arjada Bardhi and Yingni Guo

·       How does early-career discrimination affect workers’ long-term prospects? Does discrimination get amplified or does it subside over time?

·       We show that the answer critically depends on how workers’ ability is revealed over time: when failures are more revealing of workers’ ability, even a small amount of early discrimination can have a large impact on long-term prospects, while the opposite is true for jobs in which skills are revealed through breakthroughs

·       We stablish this result in a toy model as well as in large labor market model with flexible wages, the modeling of which is another contribution of the paper.


The Economic Case for Probability-Based Sentencing with Ron Siegel

·       Criminal trials do not formally allow sentences to reflect the strength of evidence.

·       A growing number of legal scholars have criticized this restriction.

·       This paper proposes an economic model that formalizes and unifies the arguments put forward in the law literature and addresses three of the remaining objections to the use of evidence-based sentencing: i) political legitimacy (the impact on the coercive power of the state), ii) robustness to details of the environment, and iii) incentives to acquire evidence.


Contestable Norms with Mikhail Safronov

·       To be sustainable without external enforcement, social norms, contracts, and other agreements must include provisions not only to deter violations but also to address challenges to move to other norms, contracts, or agreements.

·       We introduce contestable norms, which achieve both objectives, analyze their conceptual foundation, efficiency, stability, design, and evolution, and characterize their payoffs.

·       Contestable norms may be inefficient, no matter how frequent agents’ interactions and proposals, to an extent determined by the amount of conflict inherent in agents’ strategic environment.

·       The analysis sheds new light on the efficient institution hypothesis and the renegotiation paradox.






Beyond Correlation: Measuring Interdependence through Complementarities with Margaret Meyer


Discounting, Values, and Decisions  with John Quah, Journal of Political Economy, October 2013


Aggregating the Single Crossing Property with John Quah, Econometrica, September 2012.

Increasing Interdependence of Multivariate Distributions with Meg Meyer, Journal of Economic Theory, Symposium on Inequality and Risk, July 2012.

Generalized Monotonicity Analysis with Thomas Weber, Economic Theory, June 2010

Comparative Statics, Informativeness, and the Interval Dominance Order with John Quah, Econometrica, November 2009.


       Multidimensional extension




A Theory of Intergenerational Altruism with Simone Galperti, Econometrica, July 2017





On the Smoothness of Value Functions and the Existence of Optimal Strategies in Diffusion Models with Martin Szydlowski, Journal of Economic Theory, Symposium on Dynamic Contracts and Mechanism Design, September 2015




Capital Mobility and Asset Pricing with Darrell Duffie, Econometrica, November 2012.


      Supplement to "Capital Mobility and Asset Pricing"


Performance Sensitive Debt with Gustavo Manso and Alexei Tchistyi, Review of Financial Studies (winner of the Society for Financial Studies’ Young Researcher Award, 2009), May 2010.



Judicial Mechanism Design with Ron Siegel, forthcoming, AEJ Micro


Crime Aggregation, Deterrence, and Witness Credibility with Harry Pei (new version)


The Economic Case for Probability-Based Sentencing with Ron Siegel (new)




Can Society Function Without Ethical Agents? An Informational Perspective (new)


Collective Commitment with Christian Roessler and Sandro Shelegia, Journal of Political Economy, February 2018


The Hidden Cost of Direct Democracy: How Ballot Initiatives Affect Politicians’ Selection and Incentives with Carlo Prato, Journal of Theoretical Politics, July 2017 


Learning While Voting: Determinants of Collective Experimentation Econometrica, May 2010.

     Extension: Voting and Experimentation with Correlated Types

     Working paper version (Oxford, 2007): Voting and Experimentation

     This version includes the “Singaporean Restaurant” example




Contestable Norms with Mikhail Safronov (new version)


Contract Negotiation and the Coase Conjecture, Econometrica, March 2017



Contract Negotiation and Screening with Persistent Information, January 2017 (Updated)


Renegotiation-Proof Contracts with Persistent Private Information (new version)

For the 2011 version with moral hazard, click here.




Can Society Function Without Ethical Agents? An Informational Perspective (new)

(cross-listed with Political Economy)


Social Experimentation with Interdependent and Expanding Technologies with Umberto Garfagnini, Review of Economic Studies, October 2016


Learning While Voting: Determinants of Collective Experimentation Econometrica, May 2010.
(cross-listed with Political Economy)




Substitute Goods, Auctions, and Equilibrium with Paul Milgrom, Journal of Economic Theory, January 2009.



Additive Envelopes of Continuous Functions with Thomas Weber, Operations Research Letters, May 2010.

Monotone Comparative Statics: A Geometric Approach with Thomas Weber, Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications, June 2008.


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