Frontiers of economic research

Morgane Laouénan, Arash Nekoei, Étienne Wasmer, 16 April 2021

Can we create a database of everyone in history using the sources we have today? Tim Phillips talk to the authors of two projects which set out to do just that through combining sources such as Wikipedia and Wikidata with machine learning. What do these databases tell us about who we consider to be important?
The two papers discussed are:

Bhargava, J, Eyméoud, J-P, Gergaud, O, Laouenan, M, Plique, G and Wasmer, E. 2021. 'A Cross-verified Database of Notable People, 3500BC-2018AD'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.

Nekoei, A and Sinn, F. 2021. 'Human Biographical Record (HBR)'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.


Leandro de la Escosura, 02 April 2021

We measure inequality using income as a proxy for welfare. But are we mixing up "doing well" with "being well"? Leandro Prados de la Escosura thinks so, and his research contradicts much of what we think we know about the long-run trends in inequality.

Galina Hale, 19 March 2021

Do looks matter in economics? Good-looking economists get better academic posts. Galina Hale tells Tim Phillips about surprising new research that challenges our assumptions about how departments rate and recruit candidates.

CEPR Discussion Paper, DP15893 Do Looks Matter for an Academic Career in Economics? by Galina B Hale, Tali Regev, Yona Rubinstein, can be read here

Rémi Jedwab, Jason M. Barr, Jan K. Brueckner, 28 February 2021

Housing prices in many countries are growing faster than incomes. Much of this affordability problem can be explained by regulatory barriers to new construction. This column calculates countries’ ‘building-height gaps’ – the difference between the total height of a country’s stock of tall buildings and what the total height would have been if building height regulations were relatively less stringent, based on parameters from a benchmark set of countries. These gaps are larger for richer countries and for residential buildings rather than for commercial buildings, and they correlate strongly with housing prices, sprawl, congestion, and pollution. 

W. Bentley MacLeod, Miguel Urquiola, 22 February 2021

In 1875, the US had none of the world’s leading research universities; today, it accounts for the majority of the top-ranked ones. Many observers cite events surrounding WWII as the source of this reversal, but US universities were well on their way to leadership before WWII. This column argues that an explanation of their dominance must therefore begin earlier, and highlights reforms that began after the Civil War and enhanced the incentives and resources the system directs at research.

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