Microeconomic regulation

Jack Favilukis, Pierre Mabille, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, 18 October 2019

Housing affordability is a leading challenge for local policymakers around the world, yet a coherent framework for analysing the various policy options is lacking. This column builds such a framework and uses it to show that policies that make affordable housing more efficient, that expand rent control, and that increase vouchers have a redistributive effect. Upzoning policies creates smaller, but more uniformly distributed benefits.

Timothy J. Layton, Nicole Maestas, Daniel Prinz, Boris Vabson, 17 October 2019

There is much debate, and nowhere more than in the US, about whether public services such as healthcare should be provided by private companies, which may offer greater efficiencies but which are more susceptible to moral hazard and adverse selection of consumers. This column uses evidence from a provision change in Texas to show that contracting healthcare provision out to private companies increased the level of care patients received, but increased overall costs for the government.

Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Michael Storper, 02 October 2019

A dominant view in urban economics suggests that the solution to the housing crisis of major cities is to relax zoning and other planning regulations. This column challenges this position, arguing that there is no clear and uncontroversial evidence that housing regulation is a principal source of differences in home availability or prices across cities and that these issues are more linked to rising inequalities in the geography of employment, wages and skills. Blanket changes in zoning are unlikely to increase affordability for lower-income households in prosperous regions, but would increase gentrification without appreciably decreasing income inequality.

Jakub Červený, Jan van Ours, 28 September 2019

With the recent trends in legalisation and with the transition of illegal drug markets to the internet, much more detailed information about the price and quality of cannabis is now available, making an analysis of the determinants of prices easier. This column analyses data collected over a two-week period in 2015 from a dark web marketplace, which details about 500 cannabis prices from around 140 sellers in 18 countries. It concludes that the internet-based cannabis market is characterised by monopolistic competition, where many sellers offer differentiated products with quality variation causing dispersion of cannabis prices. 

John Beshears, James Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian, William Skimmyhorn, 17 August 2019

Automatic enrolment in defined contribution pension plans might be the most common policy application of behavioural economics. But does automatic enrolment increase pension savings at the expense of increased household debt? This column examines a natural experiment in which the US Army began automatically enrolling its civilian employees in its retirement savings plan. It finds strong evidence against the hypothesis that automatic enrolment increases financial distress and debt excluding auto loans and first mortgages.

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