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Henry Platt Bristol
Professor of Economics
Hamilton College


Publications with Hamilton Students

Hamilton economics students have opportunities to ask their own questions and conduct original research either as part of a summer research project or their senior honors thesis. I enjoy working closely with these students because every project and experience is unique. A few of these projects have evolved into joint publications in refereed academic journals.

"Inequality and bias in the demand for and supply of news" (with Andrew Wei '20), Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

  • This project is the result of a Levitt Fellowship that Andrew earned the summer before his junior year.  Andrew became interested in the study of inequality and the puzzle of why people who would benefit from redistribution may not support it.  In this paper, we explore the role that the news media plays in influencing public opinion and find evidence of confirmation bias among consumers of news and media capture of the supply of news.  We measure demand for news with Google searches and the supply of news using the Lexis-Uni database.  Andrew is currently a senior at Hamilton and continues to pursue interesting research projects with the skills he learned on this one.

"Forecasting private consumption with Google Trends data" (with Jaemin Woo '17), Journal of Forecasting, March 2019

  • I first met Jaemin the summer before he entered Hamilton.  He was a member of the Boston Posse, and I was his Posse Mentor.  Jaemin become interested in the information content of social media and Google search data the summer before his senior year and did an independent study examining the usefulness of Twitter data.  This project was an extension of that interest and grew out of his senior honors thesis.  In this work, we show that Google Trends data has predictive power for consumption forecasts, over and above more traditional-survey based measures of consumer confidence.  This is an important result for policy makers who can improve policy decisions with the more up-to-date information.

“How does the life satisfaction of the poor, least educated, and least satisfied change as average life satisfaction increases?” (with Anne Phillips ’13), Journal of Happiness Studies, December 2016

  • Annie first came to me with an interest in both inequality and some of the recent empirical work in the happiness literature, which was inspired by her coursework at Hamilton. Together, we devised a strategy to study the distribution of self-reported life satisfaction (happiness) in a way that allowed us to consider how happiness inequality might evolve if the average level of happiness in society increased. The overall conclusion of the article was that greater average happiness would likely lead to greater inequality of happiness.  The conclusion is important because it draws attention to the fact that different demographic groups have systematically different levels and patterns of life satisfaction; policy aimed at increasing average well-being should take these differences into account.

Collective Happiness:  Labour Union Membership and Life Satisfaction” (with Crawford Charman ’13), Applied Economics Letters, September 2014

  • This paper grew out of Ford’s senior honors thesis. He believed that there were both costs and benefits to a large presence of labor unions and wanted to understand their total impact by exploring how union membership affected overall life satisfaction. In this paper, we find that labor union membership is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction in low-income countries, but not in high-income countries. We present some evidence that suggest that union membership affects life satisfaction in low-income countries through better working conditions.

Inequality and Fractionalization” (with Greg Casey '09), World Development, April 2014

  • Greg became interested in this topic when he studied development in Jamaica while on a Fulbright grant. We stayed in touch after graduation and began working on this paper that merged his interests in development with my interests in long-run growth and inequality. In this paper, we find that ethnic fractionalization is a more important determinant of per capita income than income inequality. Greg earned his Ph.D. in Economics at Brown University, with a specialty in the area of long-run growth.  He is currently an Assistant Professor at Williams College.

Good News, Bad News, and Consumer Confidence” (with Greg Casey ’09),  Social Science Quarterly, March 2013

  • This paper was an extension of Greg’s senior honors thesis. In it, Greg and I examined how consumer confidence and the news media respond to changes in economic conditions. We find that consumers respond asymmetrically to economic news, but the type of reaction depends on exactly which feature of the economy changes. Interestingly, we find evidence that consumers perceive bias in media coverage of economic events, but when we look at more objective measures of media coverage, we do not find evidence for media bias. Greg earned a Ph.D. in Economics at Brown University.  He is currently an Assistant Professor at Williams College.

Macroeconomic Conditions and Technical Trading Profitability in Foreign Exchange Markets,” (with Brent Palmer ’11), Applied Economics Letters, August 2012

  • Brent programmed in Excel a trading system that simulated the trades that a technical trader would make in several different foreign currency markets. We showed that foreign currency markets are not always efficient.

Determinants of Socially Responsible Investment,” (with Yejun Qian ’08), Empirical Economics Letters, April 2009

  • Yejun used data from a survey that I conducted with other Hamilton economics faculty to study the characteristics of people who considered social responsibility when making investment decisions. We showed that demographic characteristics as well as non-financial motives influenced this investment decision.

Growth, Attitudes Towards Women, and Women’s Welfare” (with Rongling You ’04), Review of Development Economics, February 2009

  • Rongling used a large international survey that elicited attitudes towards women to show a relationship between income and progressive attitudes. We developed a simple dynamic model to show the relationship between income and attitudes towards women and then provided evidence that as income changed, attitudes towards women become more progressive.

Regional Differences in Wage Inequality Across Industries in China” (with Bing Yu ’03), Applied Economics Letters, February 2008

  • Bing’s knowledge of Chinese was very helpful in completing this research on inequality in China. We showed that there was substantial inequality in wages paid to workers in the same industries in different geographic regions of China. One factor explaining this difference was the amount of FDI a province received.

Monetary Policy Implications of Electronic Currency: An Empirical Analysis” (with Christopher Fogelstrom ’03), Applied Economics Letters, June 2005

  • Chris started this work as a Levitt Fellow and then continued his work as part of his senior honors thesis in economics. Using a large national survey of consumer finances, we found evidence consistent with the idea that electronic currency is not a substitute for demand deposits, allaying concern that use of electronic currency would interfere with the conduct of monetary policy.

Menu Costs, Firm Strategy, and Price Rigidity” (with David Trzepacz ’00), Economics Letters, August 2002

  • Dave used knowledge that he gained in his part-time job at a local grocery store to study pricing strategies at supermarket chains. We found that menu costs have a small effect on the frequency and magnitude of price changes; marketing strategies played a much more important role.
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