Frontiers of economic research

Benjamin Enke, 21 September 2017

Daily life requires us to cooperate with a large number of – potentially unrelated – people. This column argues that cultural variation in the ways people cooperate with each other are empirically associated with fundamentally different religious beliefs, moral values, emotions of shame and guilt, social norms, and institutions. This suggests that various psychological, biological, and institutional mechanisms co-evolved to support specific social cooperation systems.

David Blanchflower, Andrew Oswald, 16 September 2017

Most textbooks in social psychology teach students the idea that happiness and psychological wellbeing are essentially independent of age. Based on data on 1.3 million randomly sampled individuals across a large number of countries, this column argues instead that humans have a fundamental tendency to a midlife low which is apparently substantial and not minor. This puzzling phenomenon seems an important and fundamental one, and its existence should not be ignored.

Martin Ravallion, Shaohua Chen, 15 September 2017

Past studies have measured poverty in either relative terms (mostly in the developed countries) or absolute terms (the developing world). This column presents a new unified approach to global poverty that assumes that people care about both their own income and their income relative to others in their country of residence. The study finds that global poverty has declined more in absolute terms than in relative terms. The vast bulk of the relatively poor now live in the developing world. The advanced countries have seen little progress against poverty, unlike the developing world.

Elena Cettolin, Sigrid Suetens, 13 September 2017

Studies have shown that ethnic discrimination occurs in many countries across Europe and the rest of the world, but distinguishing between discrimination based on ‘stereotypes’ and on ‘tastes’ is difficult. This column presents results from an experiment in the Netherlands that isolated taste-based discrimination. The results suggest that native Dutch participants reciprocate trust placed in them by immigrants of non-Western less than they reciprocate the trust of fellow Dutch natives. Since trustworthiness involves no behavioural risk, this implies that discrimination is the consequence of not only stereotyping, but also of tastes.

Ruiqing Cao, Theresa Kuchler, Johannes Stroebel, Arlene Wong, 08 September 2017

Systematic analyses of social connectedness and social networks have traditionally been complicated by a lack of high-quality, large-scale data. This column uses data on friendship links on Facebook to construct a new measure of social connectedness between US counties, and between US counties and foreign countries. Social networks in the US are quite local, and both national and international networks are substantially shaped by historical events and migration patterns. The populations of US counties with more geographically dispersed social networks are generally richer and better educated, and have higher life expectancy and greater social mobility.

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