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2010 Economics Research Working Papers

  • An Examination of the Relation between State Fiscal Health and Amnesty Enactment [pdf]
    Authors: Luitel, H.S. and Tosun, M.S. Abstract: Assuming a normal distribution of hazards, Dubin, Graetz, and Wilde (1992) analyze state tax amnesties in the 1980s and conclude that states run amnesties in response to revenue yield motive. Given the increased frequency with which states enacted amnesties during and after the 2001 recession, we investigate if there is a possible shift from revenue yield motive to fiscal stress motive. We find that the normal distribution of hazards assumption along with the multicollinearity problem led prior research to an erroneous conclusion, and that fiscal stress is indeed the main determinant of initial and repeated tax amnesties enacted by states between 1982 and 2005.
  • Economic Reform and Alternatives for North Korea [pdf]
    Authors: Parker, E. and Cargill, T. Abstract: This chapter assesses the potential for reform in North Korea, and considers the lessons learned from economic reform and transition in China, the Soviet Union, and Central Europe. We focus in particular on the importance of reforms in the financial regime, and argue that in the absence of a major change in North Korea's environment, such as a crisis caused by reduced economic and/or political support from China, or increased access by the North Korean population to events in the rest of the world, the current situation is likely to continue for many years. North Korea will thus continue to alternate between declining, stagnant or mediocre economic growth. It will also continue to be a source of geo-political instability in the world in general and Asia in particular.
  • Embedding a Field Experiment in Contingent Valuation to Measure Context-Dependent Risk Preferences: Does Prospect Theory Explain Individual Responses for Wildfire Risk? [pdf]
    Authors: Rollins, K. and M. Kobayashi Abstract: This paper contributes towards the development of an empirical approach applicable to contingent valuation to accommodate non-expected utility risk preferences. Combining elicitation approaches used in field experiments with contingent valuation, we embed an experimental design that systematically varies probabilities and losses across a survey sample in a willingness to pay elicitation format. We apply the proposed elicitation and estimation approaches to estimate the risk preferences of a representative homeowner who faces probabilistic wildfire risks and an investment option that reduces losses due to wildfire. Based on prospect theory, we estimate parameters of probability weighting, risk preferences and use individual characteristics as covariates for these parameters and as utility shifters. We find that risk preferences are consistent with prospect theory. We find that probability weighting may offer an explanation for respondents’ observed under investment in measures to reduce losses due to wildfire.
  • Latent Thresholds Analysis of Choice Data with Multiple Bids and Response Options [pdf]
    Authors: Kobayashi, M., Moeltner, K. and Rollins, K. Abstract: In many stated preference settings stakeholders will be uncertain as to their exact willingness-to-pay for a proposed environmental amenity. To accommodate this possibility analysts have designed elicitation formats with multiple bids and response options that allow for the expression of uncertainty. We argue that the information content flowing from such elicitation has not yet been fully and efficiently exploited in existing contributions. We introduce a Latent Thresholds Estimator that focuses on the simultaneous identification of the full set of thresholds that delineate an individual's value space in accordance with observed response categories. Our framework provides a more complete picture of the underlying value distribution, the marginal effects of regressors, and the impact of bid designs on estimation efficiency. We show that the common practice of re-coding responses to derive point estimate of willingness-to-pay leaves useful information untapped and can produce misleading results if thresholds are highly correlated.
  • Regulatory Policy Design for Agroecosystem Management on Public Rangelands [pdf]
    Authors: Melkonyan, T. and Taylor, M. Abstract: This paper analyzes regulatory design for agroecosystem management on public rangelands. We present an informational and institutional environment where three of the most prominent regulatory instruments on public rangelands – input regulation, cost-sharing/taxation, and performance regulation – can be defined and compared. The paper examines how the optimal regulation is shaped by the informational and institutional constraints faced by federal land management agencies (FLMAs) such as the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. These constraints include informational asymmetries between ranchers and FLMAs, limitations on FLMAs’ ability to monitor ranch-level ecological conditions, and constraints on FLMAs’ actions due to budget limitations and restrictions on the level of penalties they can assess. The theoretical model extends the previous work of Baker (1992), Prendergast (2002), and Hueth and Melkonyan (2009) by considering optimal regulation by a budget-constrained regulator in an environment of asymmetric information and moral hazard.
  • The Effect of Government Purchases on Economic Growth in Japan [pdf]
    Authors: Guerrero, F. and Parker, E. Abstract: We consider whether there is statistical evidence for a causal relationship between government expenditures and real GDP growth in postwar Japan. After studying the time-series properties of these variables, we find that government consumption and government investment both have a positive and causal effect on growth. This suggests that fiscal policy may not have been as ineffective during the last two decades of Japan’s stagnant growth as some have suggested, but may have helped to prevent an even more severe balance-sheet recession after the collapse of the Japanese bubble economy.
  • To Believe or Not Believe… or Not Decide: A Decision-Theoretic Model of Agnosticism [pdf]
    Authors: Melkonyan, T. and Pingle, M. Abstract: Using basic decision-theory, we construct a theory of agnosticism, where agnosticism is defined as choosing not to choose a religion. The theory indicates agnosticism can be supported as a rational choice if (a) adopting agnosticism provides in-life benefits relative to any religion, (b) the perceived payoff for agnosticism after death is not too much less than any religion, (c) no religion has a high perceived likelihood of truth, (d) probability of death is neither too high nor too low, or (e) it is less costly to switch from agnosticism to a given religion than from one religion to another, while at the same time there is a reasonable likelihood an informative signal may be received in life as to the truth of various religions.
  • Using Gambling to Teach Insurance Principles [pdf]
    Authors: Mark Pingle Abstract: A basic understanding of insurance principles is useful for making personal finance decisions and for considering public policy issues. Yet, insurance concepts tend to be less intuitive, more difficult for students to grasp, than other concepts. This paper shows how fundamental insurance principles can be taught by relating them to the principles underlying gambling, the game of roulette in particular. This approach has been used successfully with college freshmen taking macroeconomics at the University of Nevada, Reno. After hearing a lecture given using this approach, students tend to come alive with questions, can understand why they might not want to buy an extended warrantee the next time it is offered, can understand why investing in the stock market is usually different than gambling, and can even start to see the subtleties in public policy issues involving insurance. JEL Classification:
  • Willingness to Pay Estimation When Protest Beliefs are not Separable [pdf]
    Authors: Kimberly Rollins, M.D.R. Evans, Mimako Kobayashi and Anita Castledine Abstract: Public good attributes that are correlated with protest beliefs but not separable from the good's value, would affect stated preference estimates of the WTP for the public good. Survey data collected to value a program to prevent ecosystem losses on Nevada rangelands, where the majority of land is publicly owned and managed, reveal more than half of the respondents exhibiting some protest belief. Of these, about 60% voted 'yes' to some nonzero bid amount. By treating protest beliefs and opposition to the proposed program as separate concepts, we systematically analyze their determinants and impacts on WTP. In this framework, people with protest beliefs may or may not vote 'no' to all bids and people may, without being protesters, answer 'no' to all dollar amounts. Multinomial logit regression results suggest that factors motivating people to protest and/or oppose the proposed program are so diverse that a single model does not provide a good fit. We estimate nested models and conclude that different underlying processes determine WTP for "protesters" ($34.02) and "non-protesters" ($69.56).

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