Chris Roth is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute on Behavior and Inequality. Before, he studied economics at the University of Oxford and the University of Warwick. His fields of specialization are economics & psychology, applied microeconometrics, and political economy. He is especially interested in the role of subjective beliefs in shaping economic and political behavior. Chris' work has examined a variety of topics, such as attitudes towards immigration, beliefs about racial discrimination, experimenter demand effects, the formation of macroeconomic expectations, and the determinants of political engagement. Methodologically, his work relies on online experiments, natural field experiments and laboratory experiments.
Hensel, L., Hermle, J., Rink, A. & Roth, C. Political Activists as Free-Riders: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment.
How do the decisions of citizens to engage in political activism depend on their beliefs about the engagement of others? We examine this question through a natural field experiment with a major European party during a recent high-stake election. In a seemingly unrelated party survey, we randomly assigned canvassers to true information about the canvassing intentions of their peers. Using survey evidence and unobtrusive, behavioral data from the party's canvassing app, we find that treated canvassers reduce their own canvassing signifcantly when learning that their peers engage in more canvassing than previously thought. Treatment effects are particularly large i) along the intensive margin; ii) in the final days of the campaign; iii) and for people less driven by social image concerns. The evidence implies that effort choices of
political activists exhibit strategic substitutability, not complementarity.
We examine how income shocks affect the suicide rate in Indonesia. We use both a randomized conditional cash transfer experiment, and a difference-in-differences approach exploiting the cash transfer's nation-wide roll-out. We find that the cash transfer reduced yearly suicide rates by 0.36 per 100,000 people, corresponding to an 18 percent decrease. Agricultural productivity shocks also causally affect suicide rates. Finally, we establish that cash transfers most strongly reduce suicides in the presence of negative agricultural productivity shocks, suggesting an important role for policy interventions in mitigating the consequences of adverse economic shocks.
We examine whether beliefs about the labor market impact of immigration are an important driver of support for immigration. Using a large, representative sample of the US population, we first elicit our respondents' beliefs about how immigration affects local labor markets. To introduce exogenous variation in beliefs, we provide respondents in the treatment group with research evidence showing no adverse labor market impacts of immigration. Treated respondents update their beliefs about the labor market impact of immigration and become more supportive of immigration, as measured by self-reported policy views and signatures of real online petitions. We also employ an obfuscated follow-up study which hides the connection between the follow-up and the main study from respondents. The treatment effects persist in this setting where experimenter demand is mitigated. Our results demonstrate that beliefs about the labor market impact of immigration are an important causal determinant of people's support for immigration.
Roth, C. & Wohlfahrt, J. How Do Expectations About the Macroeconomy Affect Personal Expectations and Behavior?
Using a representative online panel from the US, we examine how people update their job loss and earnings expectations and alter their economic behavior in response to changes in their macroeconomic outlook. We create exogenous variation in people’s subjective expectations regarding the probability of a recession by providing respondents with different professional forecasters’ assessments of the likelihood of a fall in real GDP. Respondents strongly update their beliefs about the likelihood of a recession in response to the forecasts, and cross-sectional disagreement declines. People extrapolate to their personal economic prospects and adjust their financial and consumer behavior. We find substantial heterogeneity in the degree of extrapolation from macroeconomic to personal expectations, in line with proxies for actual exposure to macroeconomic risk. Our findings lend support to models of sticky information in which agents are inattentive, but understand how the economy works.
We provide representative evidence on people’s beliefs about racial discrimination against blacks and explore whether these beliefs causally affect people’s support for pro-black policies. In two online experiments, we elicit incentivized beliefs about the extent of racial labor market discrimination against blacks. We document large heterogeneity in beliefs and find particularly pronounced differences between Democrats and Republicans. To introduce exogenous variation in beliefs, we provide a random subset of our respondents with research evidence from an audit study that tested for discrimination against blacks in the labor market. We find that treated subjects strongly update their beliefs about the extent of racial discrimination against blacks in response to the information, which affects donations to a pro-black civil rights organization. However, we find muted treatment effects on support for pro-black policies, such as affirmative action and assistance programs for blacks; if anything, we find that the treatment backfires for Republicans. Overall, our results suggest that people’s beliefs about racial discrimination affect their support for pro-black civil rights organizations, but that their views on policies to combat racial discrimination are not responsive to changes in beliefs.
We examine how beliefs about the debt-to-GDP ratio affect people’s attitudes towards government spending and taxation. To create exogenous variation in people’s perceived level of government debt, we provide half of our respondents with information about the debt-to-GDP ratio in the US.We find that most people underestimate the debt-to-GDP ratio and favor a cut in government spending once they learn about the actual amount of debt, but do not alter their attitudes towards taxation. We also find that the information increases people’s donations to an NGO advocating reductions in government spending. We provide evidence that our treatment effects operate through changes in beliefs about fiscal sustainability. Finally, we also measure self-reported policy preferences and beliefs in a four-week follow-up, and we show that the effects persist.
We examine whether individuals' experienced levels of income inequality affect their preferences for redistribution. We use several large nationally representative datasets to show that people who have experienced higher inequality during their lives are less in favor of redistribution, after controlling for income, demographics, unemployment experiences and current macroeconomic conditions. They are also less likely to support left-wing parties and to consider the prevailing distribution of incomes to be unfair. We provide evidence that these findings do not operate through extrapolation from own circumstances, perceived relative income or trust in the political system, but seem to operate through our respondents' fairness views. Our evidence suggests that being accustomed to an unequal distribution of incomes can make people more accepting of inequality and reduce their demand for redistribution.
Grigorieff, A., Roth, C. & Ubfal, D. Does Information Change Attitudes Towards Immigrants? Representative Evidence from Survey Experiments.
We study whether providing information about immigrants affects people’s attitude towards them. First, we use a large representative cross-country experiment to show that, when people are told the share of immigrants in their country, they become less likely to state that there are too many of them. Then, we conduct two online experiments in the U.S., where we provide half of the participants with five statistics about immigration, before evaluating their attitude towards immigrants with self-reported and behavioral measures. This more comprehensive intervention improves people’s attitude towards existing immigrants, although it does not change people’s policy preferences regarding immigration. Republicans become more willing to increase legal immigration after receiving the information treatment. Finally, we also measure the same self-reported policy preferences, attitudes, and beliefs in a four-week follow-up, and we show that the treatment effects persist.
de Quidt, J., Haushofer, J., & Roth, C. (2018). Measuring and Bounding Experimenter Demand American Economic Review (forthcoming).
We propose a technique for assessing robustness to demand effects of findings from experiments and surveys. The core idea is that by deliberately inducing demand in a structured way we can bound its influence. We present a model in which participants respond to their beliefs about the researcher’s objectives. Bounds are obtained by manipulating those beliefs with “demand treatments.” We apply the method to eleven classic tasks, and estimate bounds averaging 0.13 standard deviations, suggesting that typical demand effects are probably modest. We also show how to compute demand-robust treatment effects and how to structurally estimate the model.
Psychology and Economics
Beliefs and Expectations