Frontiers of economic research

Matthew Weinzierl, 24 September 2016

Tax policy to correct inequality assumes that nobody is entitled to advantages due to luck alone. But the public largely rejects complete equalisation of 'brute luck' inequality. This column argues that there is near universal public support for an alternative, benefit-based theory of taxation. Treating optimal tax policy as an empirical matter may help us to close the gap between theory and reality.

James Bessen, 22 September 2016

A popular notion is that computer automation leads to major job losses. However, this ignores the dynamic economic responses that involve both changing demand and inter-occupation substitution. Using US data, this column explores the effect of automation on employment growth for detailed occupational categories. Computer-using occupations have had greater job growth to date, while those using few computers suffer greater computer-related losses. The real challenge posed by automation is developing a workforce with the skills to use new technologies.

Roman Sittl, Arne Jonas Warnke, 18 September 2016

In sports economics, competitive balance refers to how well opponents are matched in terms of their ability to win. A lack of competitive balance implies that match outcomes will be more predictable and less interesting for fans. This column uses two decades of Bundesliga data to investigate whether competitive balance is decreasing in German football. Good players are increasingly playing for better teams, denoting a reduction in competitive balance. Although this reduction doesn’t seem to have affected fans’ interest, the results emphasise how revenue and regulations can affect competitive dynamics.

Giacomo De Giorgi, Anders Frederiksen, Luigi Pistaferri, 17 September 2016

Household consumption can be influenced by the consumption behaviour of peers. This column examines why this is the case, and considers some policy implications. The tendency for individuals to under-save (or over-borrow) in an attempt to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ appears to be driven by the average consumption of their peers, rather than by the consumption of conspicuous items. If tax policy fails to consider these peer effects, it risks wrongly estimating the effects of tax reforms that target certain groups.

Kimberley Scharf, Sarah Smith, 16 September 2016

The rise of peer to peer (P2P) fundraising – soliciting donations on behalf of a charity for undertaking an activity  – has paralleled the growth of online social networks, but the incentives driving online donation behaviour are still poorly understood. This column examines giving behaviour for a large sample of P2P fundraising projects that individuals promoted to their Facebook friends. A negative relationship is found between the number of friends and donation size. The findings suggest a ‘relational altruism’ motive, where donors give because they care about the person who is raising the money.

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