- Production networks and epidemic spreading: How to restart the UK economy?, 2020. Arxiv, INET Working Paper
- Synchronization of endogenous business cycles, 2020. Arxiv, SSRN
Convergence of learning in games
- Best reply structure and equilibrium convergence in generic games, with T. Heinrich and J. D. Farmer, 2019. Science Advances [Open Access]
- A taxonomy of learning dynamics in 2×2 games, with J. B. T. Sanders, T. Galla and J. D. Farmer, 2020. Arxiv, SSRN
- Home is where the ad is: online interest proxies housing demand, with M. Loberto, 2018. EPJ Data Science [Open Access]
- Residential Income Segregation: A Behavioral Model of the Housing Market, with J.P. Nadal and A. Vignes, 2019. JEBO (J of Econ Behav & Organiz), Arxiv, SSRN
- What do online listings tell us about the housing market?, with M. Loberto and A. Luciani, 2020. Arxiv, SSRN
We analyse the economics and epidemiology of different scenarios for a phased restart of the UK economy. Our economic model is designed to address the unique features of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing measures affect both supply and demand, and input-output constraints play a key role in restricting economic output. Standard models for production functions are not adequate to model the short-term effects of lockdown. A survey of industry analysts conducted by IHS Markit allows us to evaluate which inputs for each industry are absolutely necessary for production over a two month period. Our model also includes inventory dynamics and feedback between unemployment and consumption. We demonstrate that economic outcomes are very sensitive to the choice of production function, show how supply constraints cause strong network effects, and find some counter-intuitive effects, such as that reopening only a few industries can actually lower aggregate output. Occupation-specific data and contact surveys allow us to estimate how different industries affect the transmission rate of the disease. We investigate six different re-opening scenarios, presenting our best estimates for the increase in R0 and the increase in GDP. Our results suggest that there is a reasonable compromise that yields a relatively small increase in R0 and delivers a substantial boost in economic output. This corresponds to a situation in which all non-consumer facing industries reopen, schools are open only for workers who need childcare, and everyone who can work from home continues to work from home.
Working paper: Synchronization of endogenous business cycles
Comovement of economic activity across sectors and countries is a defining feature of business cycles. However, standard models that attribute comovement to propagation of exogenous shocks struggle to generate a level of comovement that is as high as in the data. In this paper, we consider models that produce business cycles endogenously, through some form of non-linear dynamics—limit cycles or chaos. These models generate stronger comovement, because they combine shock propagation with synchronization of endogenous dynamics. In particular, we study a demand-driven model in which business cycles emerge from strategic complementarities across sectors in different countries, synchronizing their oscillations through input-output linkages. We first use a combination of analytical methods and extensive numerical simulations to establish a number of theoretical results. We show that the importance that sectors or countries have in setting the common frequency of oscillations depends on their eigenvector centrality in the input-output network, and we develop an eigendecomposition that explores the interplay between non-linear dynamics, shock propagation and network structure. We then calibrate our model to data on 27 sectors and 17 countries, showing that synchronization indeed produces stronger comovement, giving more flexibility to match the data.
Convergence of learning in games
(with Torsten Heinrich and J. Doyne Farmer)
Game theory is widely used to model interacting biological and social systems. In some situations, players may converge to an equilibrium, e.g., a Nash equilibrium, but in other situations their strategic dynamics oscillate endogenously. If the system is not designed to encourage convergence, which of these two behaviors can we expect a priori? To address this question, we follow an approach that is popular in theoretical ecology to study the stability of ecosystems: We generate payoff matrices at random, subject to constraints that may represent properties of real-world games. We show that best reply cycles, basic topological structures in games, predict nonconvergence of six well-known learning algorithms that are used in biology or have support from experiments with human players. Best reply cycles are dominant in complicated and competitive games, indicating that in this case equilibrium is typically an unrealistic assumption, and one must explicitly model the dynamics of learning.
Working paper: A taxonomy of learning dynamics in 2×2 games
(with James B. T. Sanders, Tobias Galla and J. Doyne Farmer)
Do boundedly rational players learn to choose equilibrium strategies as they play a game repeatedly? A large literature in behavioral game theory has proposed and experimentally tested various learning algorithms, but a comparative analysis of their equilibrium convergence properties is lacking. In this paper we analyze Experience-Weighted Attraction (EWA), which generalizes fictitious play, best reply dynamics, reinforcement learning and also replicator dynamics. We provide a comprehensive analytical characterization of the asymptotic behavior of EWA learning in 2×2 games. We recover some well-known results in the limiting cases in which EWA reduces to the learning rules that it generalizes, but also obtain new results for other parameterizations. For example, we show that in coordination games EWA may only converge to the Pareto-efficient equilibrium, never reaching the Pareto-inefficient one; that in Prisoner Dilemma games it may converge to fixed points of mutual cooperation; and that in Matching Pennies games it may fail to converge to any fixed point, following instead limit cycles or chaos.
(with Michele Loberto)
Online activity leaves digital traces of human behavior. In this paper we investigate if online interest can be used as a proxy of housing demand, a key yet so far mostly unobserved feature of housing markets. We analyze data from an Italian website of housing sales advertisements (ads). For each ad, we know the timings at which website users clicked on the ad or used the corresponding contact form. We show that low online interest—a small number of clicks/contacts on the ad relative to other ads in the same neighborhood—predicts longer time on market and higher chance of downward price revisions, and that aggregate online interest is a leading indicator of housing market liquidity and prices. As online interest affects time on market, liquidity and prices in the same way as actual demand, we deduce that it is a good proxy. We then turn to a standard econometric problem: what difference in demand is caused by a difference in price? We use machine learning to identify pairs of duplicate ads, i.e. ads that refer to the same housing unit. Under some caveats, differences in demand between the two ads can only be caused by differences in price. We find that a 1% higher price causes a 0.66% lower number of clicks.
(with Jean-Pierre Nadal and Annick Vignes)
We represent the functioning of the housing market and study the relation between income segregation, income inequality and house prices by introducing a spatial Agent-Based Model (ABM). Differently from traditional models in urban economics, we explicitly specify the behavior of buyers and sellers and the price formation mechanism. Buyers who differ by income select among heterogeneous neighborhoods using a probabilistic model of residential choice; sellers employ an aspiration level heuristic to set their reservation offer price; prices are determined through a continuous double auction. We first provide an approximate analytical solution of the ABM, shedding light on the structure of the model and on the effect of the parameters. We then simulate the ABM and find that: (i) a more unequal income distribution lowers the prices globally, but implies stronger segregation; (ii) a spike of the demand in one part of the city increases the prices all over the city; (iii) subsidies are more efficient than taxes in fostering social mixing.
(main advisor Pietro Terna, co-advisors Jean-Pierre Nadal and Annick Vignes, examiner Michele Caselle)
Working Paper: What do online listings tell us about the housing market?
(with Michele Loberto and Andrea Luciani)
Traditional data sources for the analysis of housing markets show several limitations, that recently started to be overcome using data coming from housing sales advertisements (ads) websites. In this paper, using a large dataset of ads in Italy, we provide the first comprehensive analysis of the problems and potential of these data. The main problem is that multiple ads (“duplicates”) can correspond to the same housing unit. We show that this issue is mainly caused by sellers’ attempt to increase visibility of their listings. Duplicates lead to misrepresentation of the volume and composition of housing supply, but this bias can be corrected by identifying duplicates with machine learning tools. We then focus on the potential of these data. We show that the timeliness, granularity, and online nature of these data allow monitoring of housing demand, supply and liquidity, and that the (asking) prices posted on the website can be more informative than transaction prices.