Shari Eli, Trevon Logan, Boriana Miloucheva, 20 August 2019

The mortality gap between blacks and whites in the US has been well documented, but there is still considerable debate over why the gap has remained so large and why it has persisted over the last century. This column explores these questions using unique data on black and white Civil War veterans to measure one of the earliest known incidences of physician bias against African Americans. It shows that physician bias had large effects on income and longevity of blacks relative to whites and considers the ways in which doctor attitudes still contribute to the racial mortality gap today. 

Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang, 16 August 2019

Externalities can have a powerful effect on financial stability. This column studies the amplification effect that can operate despite value at risk regulation, which suffers from the ‘fallacy of composition’. It shows that the magnitudes of booms and busts are amplified by two significant externalities triggered by aggregate shocks: the endogeneity of bank equity due to mark-to-market accounting and of bank liquidity due to 'fire-sales' of securitised assets. In addition to economic models, legal and political factors should also be considered. 

Matthew Jaremski, David Wheelock, 15 August 2019

In response to the Global Crisis a decade ago, banks have tried to make themselves more resilient to shocks transmitted through interbank connections. But the opacity of interbank networks makes it difficult to measure the effectiveness of such policies. This column uses evidence from 20th century America to show how the founding of the Federal Reserve and the Great Depression affected interbank networks and lending practices. The creation of the Fed reduced network concentration and therefore contagion risk, but the system remained vulnerable to local panics.

Karen Clay, Peter Juul Egedesø, Casper Worm Hansen, Peter Jensen, Avery Calkins, 13 August 2019

In the early 20th century, the US and Europe experienced striking reductions in tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, even before effective medical treatments were developed. However, evidence is mixed on whether improved public health interventions had any effect. This column analyses the effects of the first public health demonstration on TB mortality, total mortality, and infant mortality. Although generally considered a success, the findings suggest that the Framingham Demonstration in fact had little effect on TB mortality.

Fredrik Heyman, Pehr-Johan Norbäck, Lars Persson, 12 August 2019

Recent studies document a 30-year decline in various measures of dynamism in the US, manifested in a decline in the share of young firms as well as their share of job creation. This column shows that this has not been the case in Sweden. Young firms have been more prominent in the Swedish business sector than in the US in recent decades, and policies to encourage entrepreneurship are key to this.

Theresa Kuchler, Johannes Stroebel, 09 August 2019

The mixing of people and ideas in cities is at the heart of the ‘agglomeration externalities’ that drive the high productivity of cities. While public transit infrastructure is thought to help different people living in different parts of the same city to interact with one another, the lack of large-scale data has made it difficult to study. This column explores the link between public transit and social connectedness in New York City. It finds the first suggestive evidence that New York City’s public transit system plays an important role in enabling social ties to be formed and maintained across geographic distances.

Brian Beach, Walker Hanlon, 04 August 2019

How economic factors shaped the historical fertility transition is well studied but the role played by cultural factors remains disputed, in part because establishing the direct effect of social norms is difficult. This column examines the relationship between England and Wales’s rapid fertility transition in the late 19th century and media exposure to the 1877 Bradlaugh-Besant trial, which challenged existing censorship laws related to family planning. It finds that fertility declined more rapidly after 1877 in locations with greater exposure to newspaper articles about the trial.

Alma Cohen, Moshe Hazan, Roberto Tallarita, David Weiss, 24 July 2019

With power over corporate resources as well as stature and prestige in the economic system, public-company CEOs to have sizeable influence over policy and political decisions. This column examines the political donations of more than 3,800 US CEOs of S&P 1500 companies to analyse their political preferences over time, across industries and geographical regions, and by gender. It shows that US public company CEOs have a significant preference for Republicans, who may benefit from public companies’ expanded freedom to spend money on politics.

David Jacks, Dennis Novy, 23 July 2019

Against the backdrop of new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and retaliation from targeted countries, notably China, the trade wars of the 1930s have received renewed attention. This column argues that they mainly served to intensify a pre-existing trend towards the formation of trade blocs. The trade wars of the present day may therefore serve a similar purpose as those in the 1930s, that is, the intensification of China- and US-centric trade blocs.

Chad Bown, 22 July 2019

Charles Courtemanche, Art Carden, Xilin Zhou, Murugi Ndirangu, 18 July 2019

Food security is a concern even in industrialised countries, with 14.5% of US households lacking food security during at least some of the year 2012. This column examines the impact of Walmart Supercenters’ entry into the local market and finds that it improves food security, especially among low-income households and households with children. It suggests that the unintended consequences of policies aimed at thwarting Walmart’s market entry may reduce food security for the most vulnerable segments of society.

Xuepeng Liu, Huimin Shi, 11 July 2019

The US-China trade war has continued for almost a year, but its effectiveness in preventing some Chinese origin products reaching the US may not be as great as it seems. This column shows how trade re-routing has been used in the past to circumvent antidumping duties in the context of trade tariffs. Firms may be able to avoid tariffs by sending their products to a third country, where the goods are reissued certificates of origin and then sent to the final destination country without being subject to the same tariffs.

Fariha Kamal, 07 July 2019

‘Factoryless’ goods producing entities outsource physical transformation activities while retaining ownership of the intellectual property and control of sales to customers. Using 2012 data from the US Census Bureau, this column provides a new conceptual definition of factoryless activity. It also compares factoryless goods producer firms to service providers outside the manufacturing sector, and hybrid manufacturers to traditional manufacturers within the manufacturing sector. The analysis reveals several meaningful correlations between factoryless status at the firm level and conceptual variables such as employment mix, innovation, and importing activities.

William H. Dow, Anna Godøy, Chris Lowenstein, Michael Reich, 07 July 2019

Policymakers and researchers have sought to understand the causes of and effective policy responses to recent increases in mortality due to alcohol, drugs, and suicide in the US. This column examines the role of the minimum wage and the earned income tax credit – the two most important policy levers for raising incomes for low-wage workers – as tools to combat these trends. It finds that both policies significantly reduce non-drug suicides among adults without a college degree, and that the effect is stronger among women. The findings point to the role of economic policies as important determinants of health. 

Ufuk Akcigit, Sina T. Ates, 04 July 2019

The US economy has witnessed a number of striking trends that indicate rising market concentration and a slowdown in business dynamism in recent decades. This column uses a micro-founded model of endogenous firm dynamics to show that a decline in the intensity of knowledge diffusion from frontier firms to laggard ones plays a key role in the observed shifts. It presents new evidence on higher concentration of patenting in the hands of firms with the largest stock that corroborates declining knowledge diffusion in the economy. 

Raquel Fernández, Sahar Parsa, 20 June 2019

Over the last few decades, there has been a large change in public opinion towards same-sex relationships.It has been argued that to drive such a change in public attitudes, a ‘shock’ of some kind is needed. This column examines the change in attitudes in the US towards same-sex relationships in relation to the AIDS epidemic. It shows that the change is indeed greater in those states most exposed to the AIDS epidemic, although only women reacted significantly to the AIDS rate in the 1990s.

David Abrams, Roberto Galbiati, Emeric Henry, Arnaud Philippe, 05 June 2019

The rule of law in advanced democracies is based on the assumption that the law and its application are the same for all citizens. But research has shown that judges respond to ideology or political biases in their sentencing decisions. This column examines how location can also influence criminal court sentences using data from the US state of North Carolina’s superior court system. It shows that, even after controlling for characteristics of judges, sentencing varies by location and responds to local norms.

Philipp Ager, Leah Boustan, Katherine Eriksson, 01 June 2019

One striking feature of many underdeveloped societies is that economic power is concentrated in the hands of very small powerful elites. This column explores why some elites show remarkable persistence, even after major economic disruptions, using the American Civil War’s effect on the Southern states. Analysis of census data shows that when the abolition of slavery threatened their economic status, Southern elites invested in their social networks, which helped them to recoup their losses fairly quickly.

Michael Keane, 26 May 2019

Launched in 2006, Medicare Part D allows beneficiaries to enrol in subsidised drug coverage plans sold by private insurers, but navigating the different plans can be complex and lead to sub-optimal choices. This column uses Medicare administrative data for 2006-2010 to understand the quality of consumer decision-making in the Part D marketplace. It finds that the vast majority of elderly place too much weight on premiums relative to out-of-pocket costs, care a great deal about the particular combination of plan features, and are highly likely to choose the same plan every year regardless of changes in prices and alternatives.

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