Frontiers of economic research

Andreas Ferrara, Joung Yeob Ha, Randall Walsh, 18 May 2022

Researchers typically collect newspaper-based data for use as outcome, treatment, or control variables in statistical analysis. This column argues that data generated from historical newspaper articles can also be used as a low-cost alternative for resolving measurement errors. The authors illustrate their framework by replicating two recent studies of how the boll weevil – a beetle that infests cotton crops – affected economic outcomes in the US South from 1892 to 1922. The newspaper-based replications increase the effect sizes and strengthen the results obtained in both papers using US Department of Agriculture maps. 

Max Kapustin, Terrence Neumann, Jens Ludwig, 07 May 2022

In the wake of widely publicised instances of police misconduct, calls to defund the police have gained currency in the US. Still, many Americans fear that crime will increase where police presence is decreased. This column argues that policing problems and crime rates can be reduced simultaneously. Variabilities in violent crime and police misconduct correlate with the tenures of police leaders. This suggests that many police departments perform poorly due to mismanagement and could be reformed in ways that reduce the harm they do without compromising their ability to keep people safe.

Gary Charness, Anna Dreber, Daniel Evans, Adam Gill, Severine Toussaert, 24 April 2022

Peer review is central to the evaluation of research, but surprisingly little is known about its inner workings. This column presents the results of a survey of over 1,400 economists asking about their experiences with the system. The findings suggest that there are opportunities for improvement in the allocation and production of referee reports, as well as in the length of the process. The authors consider an assortment of proposals to address these issues, some of which command broad support from our respondents.

Deniz Dutz, Ingrid Huitfeldt, Santiago Lacouture, Magne Mogstad, Alexander Torgovitsky, Winnie van Dijk, 21 March 2022

Surveys are a crucial source of information for many important policy decisions. Yet, little is known about the extent to which different biases affect conclusions drawn from such data, and what we can do about them. Using survey data linked to administrative data, this column shows that a particular type of bias – nonresponse bias – can be large. The authors develop methods to detect and correct for nonresponse bias, which rely on simple changes to widely used survey designs.

Beatrice Ferrario, Stefanie Stantcheva, 08 March 2022

With growing evidence that Americans hold strongly polarised views on policies, it is increasingly important for researchers and policymakers to develop methods to listen to citizens with different backgrounds and to better understand their views. This column discusses how asking open-ended questions in surveys can shed light on the first-order considerations that come to people's minds by not limiting them to a set of answer options. Applying this method to data from surveys on income and estate taxes conducted in the US in 2019 reveals clear political differences in the saliency of topics.

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