Showing posts with label economic theory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economic theory. Show all posts

Monday, July 24, 2017

US cities must unlock the value of the land they sit on

US cities must unlock the value of the land they sit on, by Matthew Klein
There is an answer to local governments’ pension obligations and under-investment
Financial Times, July 21, 2017

Boston’s Logan International Airport was built in the wrong place. Instead of occupying undesirable plots on the outskirts of the city, it sits on almost 1,000 hectares of easily accessible waterfront property close to the urban core. The land should be home to condos and office towers, not take-offs and landings.

The question is whether it’s worth paying the high cost to move the airport for benefits that will not be realised for decades. Nobody knows. Today’s politicians will be long gone by then and have no incentive to explore whether the move would make the city better off in the long run.

The financial system provides a way round this problem: wise cities can use the market as a time machine to reap rewards today for good decisions about future investments. This would require cities to adopt the accounting and governance standards sought by activist investors in hoteliers, retailers and chain restaurants. In particular, cities should separate their real estate assets from the services they provide to their residents.

The potential rewards would be enormous. Excluding public parks, local governments own about a fifth of all the land within many US cities’ limits. It is worth at least $25tn, according to Dag Detter and Stefan Fölster in The Public Wealth of Cities. That figure dwarfs the $3.8tn in municipal bond debt and $7.5tn in accumulated pension obligations collectively owed by the US’s states and localities. Capturing this value and boosting yields by even a tiny amount could generate more than enough income to pay benefits to retired workers, invest in maintenance and develop additional infrastructure to accommodate growing populations.

Governments could start by figuring out the real value of what they own. Weirdly, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board thinks doing this for physical assets is too hard and “may negatively affect timeliness of financial reporting”. The result is that municipalities publish balance sheets with implausibly low estimates of their net worth. The Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns Logan airport, claims its landholdings are worth just $226.5m and that its total capital assets net of depreciation are worth about $3.1bn. A rough estimate suggests the value of the land under the airport alone could easily be worth tens of billions if dollars.

The next step would be transferring ownership of these assets to what Detter and Fölster call an “urban wealth fund”. Ideally, all publicly owned assets in a given city would be placed in the fund, regardless of whether they technically belong to the county, the city, the school system, the state or some other entity. The local governments would each have shares in the fund proportionate to the value of the assets they contributed. These shares would be reported as assets on the municipal balance sheets.

Independent managers with experience in real estate and finance would be charged with maximising the value of the portfolio. Cities would receive dividends from their stakes in these commercial properties and have the option to borrow against or sell their shares if desperate for cash.

Public officials would then have to decide whether it makes sense to pay fair market rents to stay in their properties. Moving offices might be inconvenient for government workers but the potential gains for taxpayers and citizens who depend on government services would be far greater. Leasing space in subway stations to shops might detract from the “historic” character of the US’s barbarous public transit systems, but the revenues could fund needed improvements, such as ventilation, without the need for debt or higher passenger fares.

The urban wealth fund wouldn’t have to be run purely for profit. Segments within the portfolio could have separate goals as long as they are simple and quantifiable. Public housing, for example, could be boosted by increasing density on existing plots and funding improvements by developing some of the freed-up land to sell at higher prices, as Andrew Adonis, head of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission, has suggested.

Boston can afford to leave money on the table because the local economy has been booming and the city’s general obligation bonds have the country’s highest credit ratings. Other cities, such as Chicago, are being forced to cut services and raise taxes because of financial stress. Yet they, too, have enormous stocks of untapped wealth. With better governance, professional asset management and a little financial engineering, they could raise the money they need and invest.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Is China building too many airports?

Is China building too many airports? By Fran Wang. Caixin, Jun 23, 2017. Extract.

Over the next three years, local authorities in China are planning to build more than 900 airports for general aviation—the segment of the industry that includes crop dusting and tourism. The figure is nearly double the central government’s goal of “more than 500” over the period.

A news report has warned that’s just too many airports.

In May 2016, the State Council, China’s cabinet, announced that the country wanted to construct more than 500 general aviation airports to boost the size of the industry to over 1 trillion yuan (U.S.$146 billion).

General aviation covers flights on helicopters and light aircraft used in sectors such as tourism, agriculture, medical care, and disaster relief.

All provincial-level governments except Shanghai, Tibet, and the northeastern province of Jilin have since published their own plans for these airports, and their goal is far more ambitious than the central government’s. Together, they plan to build 934 general aviation airports, according to the 21st Century Business Herald.

The number put forward by each region ranges from seven to 200. The three places that intend to build the most general aviation airports are Guangxi in southern China, Heilongjiang in the northeast, and Xinjiang in the northwest—all remote and less developed areas, the newspaper said.

Despite the government excesses managing the public treasure*, corruption in civil engineering works†, etc.‡, the citizen is quite comfortable ¶ with these expenditures (while the costs are not recouped visibly from him). It seems that if we see more tower buildings, and are taller, we assume we are progressing, there is material advance, and that most are better for this. My hypothesis is that what feeds the population's approval are patriotism§ (very powerful in Han China) and redistributionism֍.

From Chris Buckley's China’s New Bridges: Rising High, but Buried in Debt, The New York Times, Jun 10, 2017. Available at (impressive imagery).

*    “Infrastructure is a double-edged sword,” said Atif Ansar, a management professor at the University of Oxford who has studied China’s infrastructure spending. “It’s good for the economy, but too much of this is pernicious. ‘Build it and they will come’ is a dictum that doesn’t work, especially in China, where there’s so much built already.”

A study that Mr. Ansar helped write said fewer than a third of the 65 Chinese highway and rail projects he examined were “genuinely economically productive,” while the rest contributed more to debt than to transportation needs.

†  In the past six years, anticorruption inquiries have toppled more than 27 Hunan transportation officials.

‡, §   “The amount of high bridge construction in China is just insane,” said Eric Sakowski, an American bridge enthusiast who runs a website on the world’s highest bridges. “China’s opening, say, 50 high bridges a year, and the whole of the rest of the world combined might be opening 10.”

    Of the world’s 100 highest bridges, 81 are in China, including some unfinished ones, according to Mr. Sakowski’s data. (The Chishi Bridge ranks 162nd.)

    China also has the world’s longest bridge, the 102-mile Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, a high-speed rail viaduct running parallel to the Yangtze River, and is nearing completion of the world’s longest sea bridge, a 14-mile cable-stay bridge skimming across the Pearl River Delta, part of a 22-mile bridge and tunnel crossing that connects Hong Kong and Macau with mainland China.

    The country’s expressway growth has been compared to that of the United States in the 1950s, when the Interstate System of highways got underway, but China is building at a remarkable clip. In 2016 alone, China added 26,100 bridges on roads, including 363 “extra large” ones with an average length of about a mile, government figures show.

֍    “It’s very important to improve transport and other infrastructure so that impoverished regions can escape poverty and prosper,” President Xi Jinping said while visiting the spectacular, recently opened Aizhai Bridge in Hunan in 2013. “We must do more of this and keep supporting it.”

¶    Indeed, the new roads and railways have proved popular.

§  Who Will Fight? The All-Volunteer Army after 9/11. By Susan Payne Carter, Alexander Smith & Carl Wojtaszek. American Economic Review, May 2017, Pages 415-419,

Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar

Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar. By Christopher T. M Clack, Staffan A. Qvist, Jay Apt,, Morgan Bazilian, Adam R. Brandt, Ken Caldeira, Steven J. Davis, Victor Diakov, Mark A. Handschy, Paul D. H. Hines, Paulina Jaramillo, Daniel M. Kammen, Jane C. S. Long, M. Granger Morgan, Adam Reed, Varun Sivaram, James Sweeney, George R. Tynan, David G. Victor, John P. Weyant, and Jay F. Whitacre. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Significance: Previous analyses have found that the most feasible route to a low-carbon energy future is one that adopts a diverse portfolio of technologies. In contrast, Jacobson et al. (2015) consider whether the future primary energy sources for the United States could be narrowed to almost exclusively wind, solar, and hydroelectric power and suggest that this can be done at “low-cost” in a way that supplies all power with a probability of loss of load “that exceeds electric-utility-industry standards for reliability”. We find that their analysis involves errors, inappropriate methods, and implausible assumptions. Their study does not provide credible evidence for rejecting the conclusions of previous analyses that point to the benefits of considering a broad portfolio of energy system options. A policy prescription that overpromises on the benefits of relying on a narrower portfolio of technologies options could be counterproductive, seriously impeding the move to a cost effective decarbonized energy system.

Abstract: A number of analyses, meta-analyses, and assessments, including those performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the International Energy Agency, have concluded that deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies makes a transition to a low-carbon-emission energy system both more feasible and less costly than other pathways. In contrast, Jacobson et al. [Jacobson MZ, Delucchi MA, Cameron MA, Frew BA (2015) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(49):15060–15065] argue that it is feasible to provide “low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of WWS [wind, water and solar power] across all energy sectors in the continental United States between 2050 and 2055”, with only electricity and hydrogen as energy carriers. In this paper, we evaluate that study and find significant shortcomings in the analysis. In particular, we point out that this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions. Policy makers should treat with caution any visions of a rapid, reliable, and low-cost transition to entire energy systems that relies almost exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Information provision and consumer behavior: A natural experiment in billing frequency.

Information provision and consumer behavior: A natural experiment in billing frequency. By Casey Wichman
Journal of Public Economics, August 2017, Pages 13–33

Abstract: In this study, I estimate a causal effect of increased billing frequency on consumer behavior. I exploit a natural experiment in which residential water customers switched exogenously from bimonthly to monthly billing. Customers increase consumption by 3.5–5 percent in response to more frequent information. This result is reconciled in models of price and quantity uncertainty, where increases in billing frequency reduce the distortion in consumer perceptions. Using treatment effects as sufficient statistics, I calculate consumer welfare gains equivalent to 0.5–1 percent of annual water expenditures. Heterogeneous treatment effects suggest increases in outdoor water use.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Customers increase consumption in response to more frequent information (monthly billing)

Information provision and consumer behavior: A natural experiment in billing frequency. By Casey Wichman
Journal of Public Economics, August 2017, Pages 13–33

Abstract: In this study, I estimate a causal effect of increased billing frequency on consumer behavior. I exploit a natural experiment in which residential water customers switched exogenously from bimonthly to monthly billing. Customers increase consumption by 3.5–5 percent in response to more frequent information. This result is reconciled in models of price and quantity uncertainty, where increases in billing frequency reduce the distortion in consumer perceptions. Using treatment effects as sufficient statistics, I calculate consumer welfare gains equivalent to 0.5–1 percent of annual water expenditures. Heterogeneous treatment effects suggest increases in outdoor water use.
Deception and Reception: The Behavior of Information Providers and Users. By Roman Sheremeta & Timothy Shields
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, May 2017, Pages 445–456

•    We find significant proportions of both deceptive and non-deceptive information providers.
•    Users glean information from providers’ reports.
•    Users are overly optimistic of providers’ honesty.
•    Subjects who are deceptive providers and receptive users earn the highest payoffs.

Abstract: We investigate the behavior of information providers (underwriters) and users (investors) in a controlled laboratory experiment where underwriters have incentives to deceive and investors have incentives to avoid deception. Participants play simultaneously as underwriters and investors in one-shot information transmission games. The results of our experiment show a significant proportion of both deceptive and non-deceptive underwriters. Despite the presence of deceptive underwriters, investors are receptive to underwriters’ reports, gleaning information content, albeit overly optimistic. Within our sample, deception by underwriters and reception by investors are the most profitable strategies. Moreover, participants who send deceptive reports to investors, but at the same time are receptive to reports of underwriters, earn the highest payoffs. These results call into question the characterization of duped investors being irrational.

Investors react more favorably to disclosures containing self-inclusive language

Managers' Self-Inclusive Language in Conference Calls: Multi-Method Evidence. By Zhenhua Chen & Serena Loftus
Tulane University Working Paper, March 2017

Abstract: We investigate whether a subtle, but common, element of managers’ language, self-inclusive language (SIL), influences investors’ reactions to earnings conference calls. SIL is language that explicitly includes the speaker, and includes first-person singular and plural pronouns. We predict that investors react positively to managers’ SIL regardless of firm performance because SIL increases investors’ impression that managers can influence firm outcomes. To isolate the ceteris paribus effect of SIL on investors’ reactions, we use an experiment where we vary SIL and firm performance. Results of the experiment suggest that investors react more favorably to disclosures containing SIL than disclosures without SIL regardless of firm performance, consistent with our prediction. In a supplemental experiment, we find evidence suggesting that investors may be unaware of the effect of SIL. We also use the archival method to analyze over 50,000 earnings conference call transcripts, and find that market reactions to SIL are consistent with our experiment results. Taken together, our findings contribute to a growing literature on the influence of managers’ language choices on investors by offering multi-method evidence of the impact of a subtle and easily-overlooked component of managers’ language on investors’ judgments and decisions.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Why do some societies fail to adopt more efficient institutions in response to changing economic conditions?

The Ideological Roots of Institutional Change, by Murat Iyigun & Jared Rubin
University of Colorado Working Paper, April 2017
Abstract:Why do some societies fail to adopt more efficient institutions in response to changing economic conditions? And why do such conditions sometimes generate ideological backlashes and at other times lead to transformative sociopolitical movements? We propose an explanation that highlights the interplay - or lack thereof - between new technologies, ideologies, and institutions. When new technologies emerge, uncertainty results from a lack of understanding how the technology will fit with prevailing ideologies and institutions. This uncertainty discourages investment in institutions and the cultural capital necessary to take advantage of new technologies. Accordingly, increased uncertainty during times of rapid technological change may generate an ideological backlash that puts a higher premium on traditional values. We apply the theory to numerous historical episodes, including Ottoman reform initiatives, the Japanese Tokugawa reforms and Meiji Restoration, and the Tongzhi Restoration in Qing China.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Increase in own state's minimum wage increases frequency with which low-wage workers commute out of the state

Cross-state differences in the minimum wage and out-of-state commuting by low-wage workers. By Terra McKinnish
Regional Science and Urban Economics, Volume 64, May 2017, Pages 137–147

•  The federal minimum wage hike compressed cross-border minimum wage differentials.
•  Low wage workers responded by commuting out of states that increased their minimum wage.
•  Results are consistent with a disemployment effect of minimum wage increases.

Abstract: The 2009 federal minimum wage increase, which compressed cross-state differences in the minimum wage, is used to investigate the claim that low-wage workers are attracted to commute out of state to neighboring states that have higher minimum wages. The analysis focuses on Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) that experience commuting flows with one or more neighboring state. A difference-in-differences-in-differences model compares PUMAs that experienced a sizeable increase or decrease in their cross-border minimum wage differential to those that experience smaller change in the cross-border differential. Out-of-state commuting of low wage workers (less than 10 dollars an hour) is then compared to that of moderate wage workers (10–13 dollars an hour). The results suggest that an increase in own state's minimum wage, relative to neighbor's, increases the frequency with which low-wage workers commute out of the state. The analysis is replicated on the subset of PUMAs that experience commuting flows with more than one neighboring state, so that the estimates are identified entirely within PUMA. As a whole, the results suggest that low-wage workers tend to commute away from minimum wage increases rather than towards them.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Will the high-tech cities of the future be utterly lonely?

Will the high-tech cities of the future be utterly lonely? By Jessica Brown
The Week, April 24, 2017

In Britain, more than one in eight people say they don't consider anyone a close friend, and the number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades. A large proportion of the lonely are young; almost two-thirds of 16- to 24-year-old Brits said they feel lonely at least some of the time, while almost a third are lonely often or all the time.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Upward Mobility and Discrimination: The Case of Asian Americans

Upward Mobility and Discrimination: The Case of Asian Americans. By Nathaniel Hilger
NBER Working Paper No. 22748
October 2016
NBER Program(s):   LS

Asian Americans are the only non-white US racial group to experience long-term, institutional discrimination and subsequently exhibit high income. I re-examine this puzzle in California, where most Asians settled historically. Asians achieved extraordinary upward mobility relative to blacks and whites for every cohort born in California since 1920. This mobility stemmed primarily from gains in earnings conditional on education, rather than unusual educational mobility. Historical test score and prejudice data suggest low initial earnings for Asians, unlike blacks, reflected prejudice rather than skills. Post-war declines in discrimination interacting with previously uncompensated skills can account for Asians’ extraordinary upward mobility.

Children of low-income parents are much less likely to become inventors than their higher-income counterparts

The Lifecycle of Inventors, by Alex Bell et al.
Harvard Working Paper, June 2016

Abstract: We use administrative records on the population of individuals who applied for or were granted a patent between 1996 and 2014 to characterize the lives of more than 1.2 million inventors in the United States. We show that children of low-income parents are much less likely to become inventors than their higher-income counterparts (as are minorities and women). Decompositions using third grade and older test scores indicate that this income-innovation gap can largely be accounted for by differences in human capital acquisition while children are growing up. We establish the importance of "innovation exposure effects" during childhood by showing that growing up in an area with a high innovation rate in a particular technology class is associated with a much higher probability of becoming an inventor specifically in that technology class. Similarly, exposure to innovation from parents or their colleagues in specific fields is also associated with greater future innovation by children in those same technological fields. Inventors' incomes are very skewed and uncertain at the start of their career. While our analysis does not directly identify the causal mechanisms that drive innovation, our descriptive findings shed light on which types of policy tools are likely to be most effective in sparking innovation. Calibrations suggest that "extensive margin" policies drawing more talented children from low-income families into the R&D sector have great potential to improve aggregate innovation rates.

Review of Vijay Joshi's India’s Long Road: The Search for Prosperity

India’s long road to prosperity, by Martin Wolf
Martin Wolf is impressed by an analysis of what the world’s largest democracy must do in order to thriveFinancial Times, May 24, 2017

India could do far better. That, in a sentence, is the conclusion of Vijay Joshi’s superb book. Joshi is an Indian economist who has spent most of his professional life at Oxford university. In this penetrating account of the past and present of Indian economic development, he casts a bright light on the prospects ahead. If India’s aim is to become a high-income country in the next generation, its economic, social and political performance needs to improve dramatically.

The good news is that there is room for improvement on many fronts. The bad news is that the obstacles to the needed improvement are huge. Worse, many emanate from the failures of the state and the political processes that guide it. Yet, as Joshi also notes, “The two fixed points in the socio-political setting of the Indian state’s development policies are that the country is a democracy, and an extremely diverse society.” The challenge is to improve performance within the constraints of these realities.

The success of Indian development matters, for at least three reasons: India will soon be the most populous country in the world; it is already far and away the largest democracy; and, above all, despite progress in the last three decades, between 270m and 360m Indians still lived in dire poverty (on slightly different definitions) in 2011 (that is, between 22 and 30 per cent of the population). If extreme poverty is to be eliminated from the world, it must be eliminated in India.

While the focus of India’s Long Road is on the economy, its analysis is appropriately comprehensive. It considers the post-independence growth record, the failure to create remunerative employment, the excessive role of publicly owned enterprises, the poor quality of Indian infrastructure and the inadequacy of environmental regulation. The book also analyses the successes and failures of macroeconomic management, the appalling quality of government-provided education and healthcare, the need for a better safety net for the poor, the long-term decay of the state, the prevalence of corruption and the role of India in the world economy.

In covering all these issues, Joshi combines enthusiastic engagement with the detachment of a scholar who has passed much of his life abroad. No better guide to India’s contemporary economy exists.

Over the past 70 years, India’s growth has shown two marked accelerations. The first followed independence in 1947. The second followed the economic liberalisation that began in the 1980s and accelerated dramatically after the balance of payments crisis of 1991. In the first period, growth averaged 3.5 per cent a year. In the second, it rose to 6 per cent (4 per cent per head). Unfortunately, after a further acceleration in the first decade of the 2000s, growth has slowed once again. The principal explanation for this recent slowdown is a marked weakening of investment by an over-indebted private sector.

                    "Joshi argues that India could provide a basic income to all by diverting resources wasted on subsidies"

So what should be the goal for the decades ahead? Joshi describes it simply as “rapid, inclusive, stable, and sustainable growth . . . within a political framework of liberal democracy”. More precisely, if incomes per head could grow at 7 per cent a year, India would achieve high-income status, at the level of Portugal, within a quarter of a century.

Only three economies have achieved something close to this in the past: Taiwan, South Korea and China. It represents an enormous challenge that cannot be met with the current “partial reform model”. The basic flaw of that model, argues Joshi, “is a failure to put the role of the state, and the relation between the state, the market, and the private sector, on the right footing”. The state, in brief, does what it does not need to do and fails to do what it does need to do.

It is no longer enough for the state merely to get out of the way, important though that still is in crucial areas. Among these is the labour market, whose huge distortions and inefficiencies have turned the demographic dividend into a demographic disaster.

Thus, in the 10 years from 1999 to 2009, India’s workforce increased by 63m. “Of these, 44 million joined the unorganized sector, 22 million became informal workers in the organized sector, and the number of formal workers in the organized sector fell by 3 million.” This is a social catastrophe. It is due not only to labour-market distortions, but to a host of constraints on the creation, operation and, not least, closure of organised and large-scale businesses.

Yet India also needs an effective state able to supply the public goods, public services and competent regulation on which an efficient economy depends. Unfortunately, that is not what now exists. All international surveys give India a very low rank for the efficiency and honesty of the state and the ease of doing business. Joshi argues that while the economy is more dynamic and the quality of policy has indeed improved since the 1980s, the quality of the state has deteriorated in many respects.

Among the many failures is the waste of state resources on inefficient subsidies that, though often given in the name of the poor, actually go to the better off. Indeed, one of the most original and persuasive aspects of the book is the argument that it would in principle be possible to provide a basic income to all Indians sufficient to lift everybody out of extreme poverty merely by diverting resources wasted on grotesquely costly subsidies. Yet, to take just one example, state governments continue to bribe farmers with free power, at the expense of a reliable electricity supply.

Will prime minister Narendra Modi be the new broom that sweeps all these cobwebs away? Alas no. His government’s performance is “mixed at best”. It has some achievements. But it has shown insufficient energy in tackling both the immediate problems of inadequate private investment, excessive debt and feeble banks, and the longer-term problems of dreadful education, lousy healthcare, weak infrastructure, corruption, regulatory incompetence, excessive interference and government waste.

A great opportunity for radically improved performance is being missed. This is not bad just for the Indian economy. There is a real danger that if the economy fails to perform as needed and desired, the governing Bharatiya Janata party will find itself increasingly attracted to its “dark side” of communal and caste division. That way lies not just economic failure, but possibly the destabilisation of Indian democracy, one of the great political achievements of the post-second world war era.

Those who care about the future of this remarkable country and indeed the future of democracy itself must hope that Modi gets this right. If they want to understand what he needs to do and why, they should first read this book.

India’s Long Road: The Search for Prosperity, by Vijay Joshi, Oxford University Press, RRP£22.99, 360 pages
Martin Wolf is the FT’s chief economics commentator

Determinants of financial outcomes and choices: the role of noncognitive abilities

Understanding the determinants of financial outcomes and choices: the role of noncognitive abilities, Gianpaolo Parise and Kim Peijnenburg
BIS Working Papers No 640. May 2017

We explore how financial distress and choices are affected by noncognitive abilities. Our measures stem from research in psychology and economics. In a representative panel of households, we find that people in the bottom decile of noncognitive abilities are five times more likely to experience financial distress compared to those in the top decile. Relatedly, individuals with lower noncognitive abilities make financial choices that increase their likelihood of distress: They are less likely to plan for retirement and save, and more likely to buy impulsively and to have unsecured debt. Causality is shown using childhood trauma as an instrument.

Ethnic and linguistic fractionalization contributes to poverty levels

Ethnic Diversity and Poverty. By Sefa Awawory Churchill, Russell Smyth
World Development, Volume 95, July 2017, Pages 285–302


.  We examine the relationship between ethnic diversity and poverty.
.  We measure poverty using a wide range of indicators from the World Bank and UNDP. Ethnic diversity is measured by both fractionalization and polarization.
.  Ethnic diversity increases poverty.

Summary: We examine the relationship between ethnic diversity and poverty for a cross-sectional sample of developing countries. We measure diversity using indices of ethnic and linguistic fractionalization, and measure poverty using the multidimensional poverty index (MPI), multidimensional poverty headcount (MPH), intensity of deprivation, poverty gap, and poverty headcount ratio. We find that ethnic and linguistic fractionalization contributes to poverty levels. Specifically, after controlling for endogeneity, we find that a standard deviation increase in ethnic fractionalization is associated with a 0.32-, 0.44- and 0.53-standard deviation increase in the MPI, MPH and the intensity of deprivation, respectively. Moreover, a standard deviation increase in ethnic fractionalization is associated with between a 0.34- and 0.63-standard deviation increase in the population living below $1.90 and $3.10, the poverty gap at $1.90 and $3.10 a day and the headcount ratio at $1.90 and $3.10 a day. Similar results are also observed for linguistic fractionalization with standardized coefficients between 0.53 and 0.93. We find that our results are robust to alternative ways to measure poverty and ethnic diversity including ethnic polarization as well as alternative approaches to address endogeneity.

Key words: ethnic diversity; poverty; fractionalization; polarization

The Effect of Income on Subjective Well-Being: Evidence from the 2008 Economic Stimulus Tax Rebates

The Effect of Income on Subjective Well-Being: Evidence from the 2008 Economic Stimulus Tax Rebates. By Marta Lachowska. In Journal of Human Resources, Oct 2015

Abstract: This paper uses tax rebate payments from the 2008 economic stimulus to estimate the effect of a one-time change in income on three measures of subjective well-being: life satisfaction, health satisfaction, and affect. The income effect is identified by exploiting the plausibly exogenous variation in the payment schedule of the rebates. Using both ordinary least squares and two-stage least squares estimators, I find that the rebates had a large and positive impact on affect, which is explained by a reduction in feelings of stress and worry. For life satisfaction and health satisfaction, there is weaker evidence of a positive impact. Overall, the results show that a temporary increase in liquidity may enhance emotional well-being and that this effect is relatively stronger for low-income respondents.

Keywords: Subjective well-being, affect, income effect, quasi-experiment, instrumental variable

JEL Classification: I31, H31, E62

On the Size of the Gender Difference in Competitiveness

On the Size of the Gender Difference in Competitiveness. By Silvia Saccardo, Aniela Pietrasz, Uri Gneezy. In Management Science,

Abstract: We design a new procedure for measuring competitiveness and use it to estimate the magnitude of the gender gap in competitiveness. Before working on a task, participants choose what percentage of their payoffs will be based on a piece-rate compensation scheme; the rest of their payoff is allocated to a competitive compensation scheme. This novel procedure allows us to distinguish between 101 levels of competitiveness, as opposed to the binary measure used in the literature. Whereas the binary measure allows researchers to conclude that about twice as many men as women choose to compete (typically two-thirds versus one-third), the new procedure sheds light on the intensive margin. We find that the intensity of the preference is more extreme than the binary measure could detect. For example, we find that only one-fifth of the most competitive 25% of our participants are women, and the most competitive 10% of our participants are all men. The new procedure also allows us to study the correlation between competitiveness and parameters such as overconfidence, attitudes toward risk, and ambiguity.

Data and the online appendix are available at

Keywords: gender; competitiveness; behavioral economics

Do Globalization and Free Markets Drive Obesity among Children and Youth? An Empirical Analysis, 1990–2013

Do Globalization and Free Markets Drive Obesity among Children and Youth? An Empirical Analysis, 1990–2013

ABSTRACT: Scholars of public health identify globalization as a major cause of obesity. Free markets are blamed for spreading high calorie, nutrient-poor diets, and sedentary lifestyles across the globe. Global trade and investment agreements apparently curtail government action in the interest of public health. Globalization is also blamed for raising income inequality and social insecurities, which contribute to “obesogenic” environments. Contrary to recent empirical studies, this study demonstrates that globalization and several component parts, such as trade openness, FDI flows, and an index of economic freedom, reduce weight gain and obesity among children and youth, the most likely age cohort to be affected by the past three decades of globalization and attendant lifestyle changes. The results suggest strongly that local-level factors possibly matter much more than do global-level factors for explaining why some people remain thin and others put on weight. The proposition that globalization is homogenizing cultures across the globe in terms of diets and lifestyles is possibly exaggerated. The results support the proposition that globalized countries prioritize health because of the importance of labor productivity and human capital due to heightened market competition, ceteris paribus, even if rising incomes might drive high consumption.

KEYWORDS: Globalization, obesity, trade and FDI, economic freedom

Small association between socioeconomic status and adult fast-food consumption in US

The association between socioeconomic status and adult fast-food consumption in the U.S. By Jay L. Zagorsky , Patricia K. Smith. Economics & Human Biology

•   Fast-food consumption among adults varies little across SES, measured as income and wealth.
•   Descriptive analyses indicate a weak, inverted U-shaped association between fast-food and SES.
•   Checking nutrition labels frequently and drinking less soda predict less adult fast-food intake.
•    More work hours predict greater fast-food intake.

Abstract: Health follows a socioeconomic status (SES) gradient in developed countries, with disease prevalence falling as SES rises. This pattern is partially attributed to differences in nutritional intake, with the poor eating the least healthy diets. This paper examines whether there is an SES gradient in one specific aspect of nutrition: fast-food consumption. Fast food is generally high in calories and low in nutrients. We use data from the 2008, 2010, and 2012 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) to test whether adult fast-food consumption in the United States falls as monetary resources rise (n = 8136). This research uses more recent data than previous fast-food studies and includes a comprehensive measure of wealth in addition to income to measure SES.

Protestant Ethic and Entrepreneurship: Religious Minorities in the Holy Roman Empire

The Protestant Ethic and Entrepreneurship:  Evidence from Religious Minorities in the Former Holy Roman Empire.  By Luca Nunziata, Lorenzo Rocco. European Journal of Political Economy

Abstract: We investigate the effect of Protestantism versus Catholicism on the decision to become an entrepreneur in former Holy Roman Empire regions. Our research design exploits religious minorities' strong attachment to religious ethic and the predetermined historical determination of religious minorities' geographical distribution in the 1500 s as a result of the “cuius regio eius religio” (whose realm, his religion) rule. We find that today Protestantism increases the probability to be an entrepreneur by around 5 percentage points with respect to Catholicism, a result that survives to a battery of robustness checks. We explicit the assumptions underlying the identification strategy and provide an extensive testing of their validity by making use of several European datasets.

JEL classification:     J24; Z12; J21; Z13

Keywords:    Entrepreneurship; Religion; Culture; Protestantism; Catholicism