James W. Roberts
 Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Duke University and Research Associate of NBER



Ph.D., Economics, Northwestern University
BA, Economics, Davidson College

Fields of Specialization:

Industrial Organization, Applied Microeconomics

Contact Information:

228B Social Sciences
Box 90097, Durham, NC 27708-0097
919-660-1822 (office)
919-684-8974 (fax)


IO-ish Events Events around the Triangle (S2016)

Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum Vitae (Updated Winter 2015)

Published and Forthcoming Papers

Bailouts and the Preservation of Competition: The Case of the Federal Timber Contract Payment Modification Act (with Andrew Sweeting)
AEJ Microeconomics, forthcoming.
Note: The material in this paper has appeared in a number of different working papers with the titles "Bailouts and the Preservation of Competition", "Competition versus Auction Design," and "Entry and Selection in Auctions."

Regulating Bidder Participation in Auctions (with Vivek Bhattacharya and Andrew Sweeting)
RAND Journal of Economics, 45(4), 2014.
Copyright 2014: RAND
Note: This replaces an earlier version of the paper titled "Regulating Entry Through Indicative Bidding."

Gender Disparity in Urology: Preferences, Competition, and Quality of Care (with Ryan McDevitt)
RAND Journal of Economics, 45(1), 2014.
Copyright 2014: RAND

Unobserved Heterogeneity and Reserve Prices in Auctions
RAND Journal of Economics, 44(4), 2013.
Copyright 2014: RAND

When Should Sellers Use Auctions? (with Andrew Sweeting)
American Economic Review, 103(5), 2013.
Copyright 2013: American Economic Association

Robust Firm Pricing with Panel Data (with Ben Handel and Kanishka Misra)
Journal of Econometrics, 174(2), 2013.
Copyright 2013: Elsevier B.V.

Can Warranties Substitute for Reputations?
AEJ Microeconomics, 3(3), 2011.
Copyright 2011: American Economic Association

Network Structure of Production (with Enghin Atalay, Ali Hortacsu and Chad Syverson)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(13), 2011.
Supporting material here.
Copyright 2011: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Entry into Auctions: An Experimental Analysis (with Seda Ertac and Ali Hortacsu)
International Journal of Industrial Organization, 29(2), 2011.
Copyright 2010: Elsevier B.V.

Working Papers

An Empirical Model of Dynamic Limit Pricing: The Airline Industry (with Chris Gedge and Andrew Sweeting)
NBER Working Paper 20293.

Speculators and Middlemen: The Strategy and Performance of Investors in the Housing Market (with Patrick Bayer, Christopher Geissler and Kyle Mangum)
Replaces: Speculators and Middlemen: The Role of Intermediaries in the Housing Market
NBER Working Paper 16784.

Research in Progress

Airline Mergers and the Potential Entry Defense (with Andrew Sweeting)
Draft Available Here

Focusing on airlines, we estimate an empirical model that allows for selection along cost or quality dimensions and we find it to be quantitatively important. We show how a selective entry model helps us to explain the stylized fact in the data that airline mergers have tended to lead to higher prices on the most affected routes with only very limited being induced. We also use our estimated model to perform counterfactual experiments on mergers.

Competition and Dynamic Revenue Management in a Perishable Goods Market (with Andrew Sweeting)

Most revenue management models assume that the seller is a monopolist. In this project we investigate the optimal strategy of a large seller who knows that his pricing and listing decisions can move the future distribution of market prices, using a dynamic model in continuous time.

Information, Speculation and Bubbles: Theory and Evidence from the Housing Market (with Elliot Anenberg, Pat Bayer and Tim Schwuchow)

We specify a model of housing markets in which homebuyers cannot directly observe market demand but infer it using observed prices and their own private valuations. Demand shocks are incorporated into market prices gradually when demand is not directly observable, providing an explanation for the short-run momentum and long-run mean reversion observed in the data. To characterize the effects of speculation, we compare prices in markets without speculation and markets in which better-informed speculators trade against less-informed buyers. We show that asset bubbles can form when buyers are unaware of speculative activity and relatively uniformed about market demand. Under these condi- tions, ordinary buyers mistake speculator-driven price growth for positive demand shocks, resulting in a self-fulfilling cycle of speculative purchasing and increasingly biased buyer beliefs. Conversely, spec- ulation increases price efficiency if buyers account for speculation when forming beliefs or information asymmetries between buyers and speculators are small.

Speculative Fever: Contagion in the Housing Bubble (with Pat Bayer and Kyle Mangum)

This paper examines the spread of speculative investing by homeowners in the recent housing bubble. Using detailed housing transaction records, we estimate the impact of speculative activity by one's neighbors and in one's neighborhood on subsequent real estate investment behavior and performance. Our research design, which isolates the impact of immediate neighbors relative to those on nearby blocks, controls for a host of potential issues that might create spurious correlation in neighbors' investment activities. We find evidence of strong spillovers within neighborhoods: homeowners were much more likely to engage in speculative activity both after a neighbor had successfully flipped a home and when a home had been successfully flipped in their neighborhood. Social contagion brought amateur real estate investors into the market at an increasing rate during the boom, with their share reaching a record high just as the market reached its peak, bringing substantial equity losses, defaults and foreclosures in the subsequent crash.