Frontiers of economic research

Marco Francesconi, Robert A. Pollak, Domenico Tabasso, 23 May 2015

Bequests have important economic and social consequences. Using a large sample drawn from the Health and Retirement Study, this column documents two results. First, about a third of US parents with wills plan to distribute their estates unequally among their children. This is especially common among families with stepchildren and children with whom the parent has little contact. Second, about 40% of parents die without wills.

Josh Angrist, Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 21 May 2015

Economic scholarship has changed dramatically in the past half-century, becoming far more empirical and much less abstract and theoretical. The winds of change have blown most strongly in applied microeconomics, but econometrics has been left far behind. This column argues that econometrics teaching needs an overhaul and that this change has to start with better textbooks.

Allison Demeritt, Karla Hoff, James Walsh, 20 May 2015

Economists typically assume people behave in a rational and self-interested way, making standard models limited in their explanatory power. This column argues that psychological and sociological factors – though usually ignored in economic models – affect decision-making. The findings, drawn from the World Development Report, further suggest that better behavioural understanding could subsequently aid development efforts.

George Ward, 06 May 2015

A solid empirical result is that voters reward governments for recent economic prosperity. This column presents new evidence that the electoral fate of governing parties is also associated with the electorate’s wider ‘subjective well-being’. Policymakers who want to win should focus on more a broad range of factors that matter to the quality of people’s lives.

Ilan Noy, 13 March 2015

It is difficult to evaluate the economic impact of natural disasters in the absence of an established metric for measuring the total damages. This column introduces a systematic index that measures the economic cost of catastrophes as well as the human cost – the latter integrating the World Health Organisation’s measure of disability-adjusted lifeyears. Low income countries face higher costs of disasters for a variety of reasons. Some recent disasters are evaluated as case studies. 

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