We study a regulation in Chile that mandates warning labels on products whose sugar or calorie concentration exceeds certain thresholds. We document an overall decrease in sugar and calorie intake of 7-9%. To reveal mechanisms, we focus on breakfast cereal. On the demand side, consumers substitute from labeled to unlabeled products, a pattern that is mostly driven by products which consumers mistakenly believed to be healthy. On the supply side, we find substantial reformulation of products and bunching at the thresholds. We develop and estimate an equilibrium model of demand for food and firms' pricing and nutritional choices. We find that food labels increase consumer welfare by 3.8% of total expenditure, and that these effects are enhanced by firms' responses. We then use the model to study alternative policy designs. Under optimal policy thresholds, food labels and sugar taxes generate similar gains in consumer welfare but food labels benefit the poor relatively more.
Local air pollution has led authorities in many cities around the world to impose limits on car use by means of driving restrictions or license-plate bans. By placing uniform restrictions on all cars, many of these programs have created incentives for drivers to buy additional, more polluting cars. We study vintage-specific restrictions, which place heavy limits on older, polluting vehicles and no limits on newer, cleaner ones. We use a novel model of the car market and results from Santiago's 1992 program, the earliest program to use vintage-specific restrictions, to show that such restrictions should be designed to work exclusively through the extensive margin (type of car driven), never through the intensive margin (number of miles driven). If so, vintage restrictions can yield important welfare gains by moving the fleet composition toward cleaner cars, comparing well to alternative instruments such as scrappage subsidies and pollution-based registration fees.
Work in progress
Affirmative action in centralized college admission systems