Research & Working Papers

Working Papers

Poll respondents often attempt to present a positive image by overstating virtuous behaviors. We examine whether people account for this “socially desirable responding” (SDR) when drawing inferences from poll data. In an experiment, we incentivize “predictors” to guess others' choice behaviors across eight actions with varying social desirability. To aid guessing, predictors observe random subsamples of (i) incentivized choices or (ii) hypothetical claims from polls. Predictors show reasonable skepticism towards hypothetical claims, which exhibit predictable SDR. However, their skepticism is not tailored to the direction or magnitude of SDR. This under-correction occurs even though subjects' explicit responses can predict SDR.

Brownback, Andy and Burke, Nathaniel and Gagnon-Bartsch, Tristan, Inference from Biased Polls (August 24, 2021). Available at SSRN:

Reindeer meat is a niche market due to the limited number of people participating in the market, however, in Alaska reindeer is commonly consumed. Reindeer is not available in stores and there is no formal market analysis to test feasibility or information for the benefit of a USDA facility. We measure willingness to pay for reindeer meat by attributes such as origin and organic certification using an adaptive choice-based conjoint, maximizing observations of participant choices. We use a 3-stage Hierarchical Bayesian regression to analyze utility levels of individual part-worths. The results show Alaskans place a strong premium on “Alaskan Grown” which is strengthened by how long they have lived in Alaska.

Burke, Nathaniel and Little, Joe, Alaskan Identity and Willingness to Pay for Alaskan Reindeer Meat: A Niche Market Study in Interior Alaska (November 16, 2021). Available at SSRN:

Current Projects

Group Identity and Opportunity Cost (Burke & Li) - in progress

People place real value on the identities that they hold and membership in groups of people that hold the same or similar identities. While not easily quantifiable, individuals consciously and subconsciously take actions to signal membership and loyalty to specific identity groups over others. At times, the required signals may come at a personal cost that prevents opportunities for improved individual outcomes such as deciding between staying in a small community that you grew up in and moving away to attend a high-ranked university or for job opportunities. We examine group identity loyalty in an experimental setting using parallel public goods games -with two teams of homogeneous gender identities. We give participants opportunities to switch teams, leaving their identity group, in order to increase their earnings.

Impacts of Non-Binding Goals on Productivity and Reference Points (Burke & Bretschneider) - in progress

Other Publications

Forced desegregation education policies via forced busing have failed to fully evaluate the benefits of identity and why policies that seek to force integration may end up marginalizing some within the previously segregated communities. Many of these programs have overemphasized the value of balanced demographics without considering any individual preferences of those who are members of marginalized communities and stripped of their decision-making power. The practice of forced desegregation without considering input from the marginalized groups also removes human capital from lower-performing neighborhoods earlier by moving potentially higher-performing students to other neighborhoods for schooling, where that student will then base a major portion of their social capital out and pulling high performers out of their communities’ post-graduation. This paper surveys the economic and education literature on identity, behavior, and outcomes, and looks at what aspects of the human capital model are not optimized when families cannot choose to opt out of forced busing programs.

Burke, Nathaniel. "Group Identity and Unintended Consequences of School Desegregation" In Rosolina A. Candela, Rosemarie Fike, and Robert Herzberg. Institutions and Incentives in Public Policy: An Analytical Assessment of Non-Market Decision Making. London: Rowan & Littlefield International, September 2022. Institutions and Incentives in Public Policy