COLIN D. SULLIVAN
Experimental Economics, Labor Economics, Market Design
I am an Assistant Professor of Economics at Purdue University. I use experiments to study labor markets, organ markets, and other matching markets, with a focus on eliciting preferences through incentive design. I received my PhD in Applied Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Economic Review, 2019, Vol. 109 (11): 3713–44. Online Appendix
We introduce a new experimental paradigm to evaluate employer preferences, called Incentivized Resume Rating (IRR). Employers evaluate resumes they know to be hypothetical in order to be matched with real job seekers, preserving incentives while avoiding the deception necessary in audit studies. We deploy IRR with employers recruiting college seniors from a prestigious school, randomizing human capital characteristics and demographics of hypothetical candidates. We measure both employer preferences for candidates and employer beliefs about the likelihood candidates will accept job offers, avoiding a typical confound in audit studies. We discuss the costs, benefits, and future applications of this new methodology.
Revise & Resubmit, Review of Economic Studies
Optimal allocation of scarce, life-saving medical treatment depends on society's preferences over survival distributions, governed by notions of equality and efficiency. In a novel experiment, I elicit preferences over survival distributions in incentivized, life-or-death decisions. Subjects allocate an organ transplant among real cats with kidney failure. In each choice, subjects allocate a single organ based on the expected survival of each patient. The survival rates imply a price ratio, allowing me to infer the shape of indifference curves over survival bundles. I find that the vast majority (80%) of subjects respond to increases in total expected survival time, while a small minority display Leontief preferences, providing the transplant to the shortest-lived patient at all price ratios. Hypothetical decisions may not be reliable in this context: a large share (46%) of subjects allocate a hypothetical transplant differently than a real transplant, though estimates of aggregate preferences are the same across incentivized and unincentivized conditions. Finally, I show that aversion to wealth inequality is a good predictor of aversion to survival inequality.
LEARNING TO MANIPULATE: EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE ON OUT-OF-EQUILIBRIUM TRUTH-TELLING (WITH CLAYTON R. FEATHERSTONE AND ERIC MAYEFSKY)
In two-sided settings, market designers tend to advocate for deferred acceptance (DA) over priority mechanisms, even though theory tells us that both types of mechanisms can yield unstable matches in incomplete information equilibrium. However, if match participants on the proposed-to side deviate from equilibrium by truth-telling, then DA yields stable outcomes. In a novel experimental setting, we find out-of-equilibrium truth-telling under DA but not under a priority mechanism, which could help to explain the success of DA in preventing unraveling in the field. We then attempt to explain the difference in behavior across mechanisms by estimating an experience-weighted learning model adapted to this complex strategic environment. We find that initial beliefs drive the difference in agents’ ability to find strategic equilibria, rather than alternative explanations such as differences in the learning process.
We combine a simple model, two field experiments in Bangladesh and structural evidence to define and test for paternalistic discrimination, the preferential treatment of menover women to protect women from tasks perceived as unpleasant or harmful. We observe hiring and application decisions for a night-shift job that provides safe worker transport home at the end of the shift, an amenity that employers believe substantially reduces job costs for women. Keeping worker selection and productivity constant, we experimentally vary (i) whether employers know about the transport and (ii) worker payments. Not informing employers about the transport decreases demand for female labor by 22%—even when employers learn that workers receive a surprise cash payment large enough to purchase safe transport themselves. This suggests that employers discriminate paternalistically: They restrict women’s employment choices to protect them from jobs that employers perceive as dangerous. Not informing applicants about the transport decreases female labor supply by15%. We combine the results from both experiments in an equilibrium model and show that eliminating paternalistic discrimination reduces the simulated gender employment gap by 22% and increases female wages by 26%.
A PERIODIC MODEL OF HABIT FORMATION (WITH ZHONGHENG QIAO)
Work in Progress
PHD IN APPLIED ECONOMICS
The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
Dissertation: Essays in Matching Markets
Committee Chair: Judd B. Kessler
Committee: Clayton R. Featherstone, Corinne Low
AM IN STATISTICS
AB IN ECONOMICS; POLITICAL SCIENCE
The University of Chicago