Current Research

Freelancing and the value of Flexible Work

The last decade has seen a rise in non-traditional work arrangements, with freelancing, contract work, gig apps, and remote work becoming more prevalent among workers in a range of industries. This paper provides new information on how these workers search for, select, and complete jobs, by developing a model of freelancer job search and task completion. The model is built around a type of work arrangement unique to freelancers: a job is a fixed quantity of work, and the freelancer chooses an optimal time-horizon and hours-schedule over which to complete the work. This arrangement reflects the flexible nature of freelancing -- freelancers are often able to choose their own work schedule. The model is estimated using using payment-level earnings data for a panel of New Zealand freelancers. An estimated version of the model is used to quantify the trade-offs that freelancers face, including which jobs to accept and which to reject, and how to optimally complete tasks. I show that freelancers value the flexibility of shorter-term jobs versus the stability of longer-term jobs. I also conduct welfare analysis comparing the 'flexible work schedule' freelancing model to a 'fixed hours' baseline, to show that freelancers are made on average 25 percent better off by being able to flexibly choose when to work.

Five Facts about Task-Based Work

Task-based work is becoming more common across a range of industries: freelancing, gig-work, and contracting. In this paper, I present a series of new facts about work, using a detailed and comprehensive administrative dataset of earnings for 'task-based workers' in New Zealand. I establish the following facts: (1) task-based workers often hold multiple simultaneous jobs, and engage in significant on-the-job search; (2) task-based jobs can be characterized as 'primary' and 'secondary' jobs for workers, along the dimensions of wages and job length; (3) task-based workers optimally allocate their time across these types of jobs, often in seemingly counter-intuitive ways; (4) there is an upward-sloping relationship between acceptable wages and acceptable job length; and (5) there is considerable within-worker variability in wages from period to period, which reflects both supply-side and demand-side factors. Together, these facts provide useful guidance for models of labor-market search and job holding, particularly in the gig-work and freelancing sectors.

Talkin' Baseball: Peer Effects on Expert Decision Making (Link)

This paper uses data on Major League Baseball (MLB) umpire crews to estimate the effect of an expert's peer network on decision-making. I quantify decision-making by using the quality of strike / ball calls made by home-plate umpires. I then empirically analyze the extent to which an umpire paired to work with high-quality peers experiences an improvement in decision-quality. MLB umpire data has two advantages that make this analysis possible: 1) umpires are assigned to a crew each season / game in a way that is independent of decision-making quality, and have significant churn within these crews; and 2) decisions can be uniquely attributed to a single umpire, and are able to be quantified in a detailed way. Using these data, I show that a one-standard deviation improvement in the decision-making quality of an umpire's peer network raises their own-call quality by around 0.03-0.1 standard deviations. Experience is a key driver of this effect, with more-experienced umpires having smaller peer effects than less-experienced umpires. I also show that there is some persistence to these peer effects. I consider expert decisions in a Bayesian framework, and show that decision-making spill-over can be characterized in terms of two types of accuracy: bias and precision. I then demonstrate that both types of accuracy transmit through peer networks.

Works in Progress

The Effect of 'Ban-The-Box' on Recidivism (with Morgan Williams Jr., Barnard)

Ban-the-Box (BTB) laws have been a popular policy in the past half-decade to help formerly-incarcerated individuals find work and remain out of prison. Using a large data-set on jail discharges from New York State, we assess the effect of BTB on recidivism. We explore differential effects across race, looking at the benefits for minority detainees compared to those for white detainees.

Breaking The Inter-Generational Cycle of Crime (Link)

There is a well-documented relationship between parental incarceration and poor educational, labor-market, and behavioral outcomes. This paper presents an inter-generational model of labor-market participation with crime. By including rich discriminatory behavior by firms, the model can be used to assess the unintended consequences of criminal justice reforms on labor market outcomes. The model is calibrated using micro-data evidence from New York State’s Ban-the-Box Policy.

Published Articles

Loan-to-value ratio restrictions and house prices: Micro evidence from New Zealand (with H. Skilling, and F. Yao) Journal of Housing Economics, 44: 88-98. 2019.

This paper contributes to the international policy debate on the effect of macroprudential policy on housing-market dynamics. We use detailed New Zealand housing market data to evaluate the effect of loan-to-value ratio (LTV) restrictions on house prices. Our identification relies on the exemption for new builds from the LTV restrictions implemented during 2013–16 by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. The empirical findings suggest that the LTV policy is effective at reducing house price inflation by limiting the credit-fuelled housing demand channel. The magnitude and duration of the policy effect depend crucially on the rate of house price growth at the time when the policy is implemented. When house prices are increasing quickly, the effect of LTV on house prices tends to be muted and short-lived.

Reserve Bank of New Zealand Research

Diving in the deep end of domestic deposits, (with N. Mulligan), Reserve Bank Analytical Note, AN2017/05. Nov 2017. (Link)

Evaluating alternative monthly house price measures for New Zealand, (with A. Dunstan and T. Irrcher) Reserve Bank Analytical Note, AN2017/02. Mar 2017. (Link)

The role of non-participants in labour market dynamics, (with O. Karagedikli) Reserve Bank Analytical Note, AN2017/01. Jan 2017. (Link)

Developing a labour utilisation composite index for New Zealand, (with G. Kamber and O. Karagedikli) Reserve Bank Analytical Note, AN2016/04. Apr 2016. (Link)

Why the drivers of migration matter for the labour market, (with C. McDonald) Reserve Bank Analytical Note, AN2016/02. Apr 2016. (Link)

How wages are set: Evidence from a large survey of firms, (with M. Parker) Reserve Bank Discussion Paper, DP2016/02. Feb 2016. (Link)

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s output gap indicator suite and its real-time properties, Reserve Bank Analytical Note, AN2015/08. Dec 2015. (Link)