NBER Working Papers by Sharon Oster

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Working Papers

June 2012Competition Among University Endowments
with William N. Goetzmann: w18173
The asset allocation of university endowments has recently shifted dramatically towards alternative investments. In this paper we examine the role played by strategic competition in motivating this shift. Using a metric capturing competition for undergraduate applications, we test whether endowment performance relative to a school’s nearest competitor is associated with the likelihood of changing investment policy, and conditionally, whether the nature of that change is consistent with the goal of “catching up” to its closest rival. Conditional on indicating a policy change, we find that endowments appear to use marketable alternatives – i.e. hedge funds – to catch up to competitors. More generally, we find evidence that endowments with below median holdings of alternative investments ...
November 2003Behavioral Decision-Making: An Application to the Setting of Magazine Subscription Prices
with Fiona Scott Morton: w10120
Using data from American magazines, we explore the relationship between subscription discounts and magazine characteristics. We focus in particular on those magazine features that might lead time-inconsistent consumers to wish to engage in commitment behavior. We find that for magazines whose payoff is in the future and/or that are meritorious for other reasons, subscription discounts are lower all else equal. This finding suggests that publishers may be able to set subscription prices in order to extract rents from consumers' willingness to tie their own hands in terms of their future reading.
October 1998Tools or Toys? The Impact of High Technology on Scholarly Productivity
with Daniel S. Hamermesh: w6761
Toys. The impact of computers on productivity has been examined directly on macro data and indirectly (on wages) using microeconomic data. This study examines the direct impact on the productivity of scholarship by considering how high technology might alter patterns of coauthoring of articles in economics and their influence. Using all coauthored articles in three major economics journals from 1970-79 and 1992-96, we find: 1) Sharp growth in the percentage of distant coauthorships (those between authors who were not in the same metropolitan areas in the four years prior to publication), as the theory predicts. Contrary to the theory: 2) Lower productivity (in terms of subsequent citations) of distant than close-coauthored papers; and 3) No decline in their relative disadvantage betw...

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