Michael Kremer, Christopher Snyder, Fanele Mashwama, 10 May 2019

Consumers pay more for many pharmaceuticals in the US than in most other countries. This column investigates the welfare implications of such price discrimination using demand curves for HIV pharmaceuticals. A ban on price discrimination exacerbates the potentially large deadweight loss in the market for either a drug or a vaccine. However, this loss is ameliorated by a small government subsidy.

Michael Kremer, Christopher Snyder, Albert Chen, 26 March 2019

The deadweight loss from a monopolist’s not producing at all can be much greater than from charging too high a price. The column argues that the potential for this sort of deadweight loss is greatest when the market demand curve has a particular (Zipf) shape. Calibrations based on the world distribution of income generate this shape, with disturbing consequences for potential deadweight loss in global markets.

Davide Furceri, Swarnali Ahmed Hannan, Jonathan D. Ostry, Andrew Rose, 27 February 2019

It seems an appropriate time to study what, if any, have been the macroeconomic consequences of tariffs in practice. Using a straightforward methodology to estimate flexible impulse response functions, and data that span several decades and 151 countries, this column finds that tariff increases have, on average, engendered adverse macroeconomic and distributional consequences: a fall in output and labour productivity, higher unemployment, higher inequality, and negligible effects on the trade balance (likely owing to real exchange rate appreciation when tariffs rise). The aversion of the economics profession to the deadweight loss caused by protectionism seems warranted.

Laura Birg, Anna Goeddeke, 24 December 2014

Christmas may be not so merry as we hope. Economists have argued that gift giving is an inefficient way to allocate resources, and it is widely suggested that Christmas brings a peak in prices and the number of suicides, or even disrupts the business cycle. This column discusses some conventional wisdom about Christmas and shows that economic research in fact runs counter to some of these common beliefs.

Joel Waldfogel, 23 December 2009

Joel Waldfogel of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his new book, Scroogenomics. They discuss his measurements of the deadweight loss of Christmas gift giving over time and across countries, the motivations that people have for giving, and his ideas for encouraging charitable giving at the holidays. The interview was recorded in London in December 2009.

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