Category: Data Source

Well-being average is over?

Jon Clifton, the head of Gallup, which has been tracking wellbeing around the world for many years, notes a polarisation in people’s life-evaluations. Compared with 15 years ago (before the financial crisis, smartphones and Covid-19) twice as many people now say they have the best possible life they could imagine (10 out of 10); however, four times as many people now say they are living the worst life they can conceive (0 out of 10). About 7.5 per cent of people are now in psychological heaven, and about the same proportion are in psychological hell.

That is from Tim Harford at the FT.  There will be more in Clifton’s forthcoming book Blind Spot.

How on-line education affects grading

This paper examines the role of student facial attractiveness on academic outcomes under various forms of instruction, using data from engineering students in Sweden. When education is in-person, attractive students receive higher grades in non-quantitative subjects, in which teachers tend to interact more with students compared to quantitative courses. This finding holds both for males and females. When instruction moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic, the grades of attractive female students deteriorated in non-quantitative subjects. However, the beauty premium persisted for males, suggesting that discrimination is a salient factor in explaining the grade beauty premium for females only.

That is from a new Economic Letters piece by Adrian Mehic.  Via tekl.

Sex ratio and infant mortality in India

“India has made tremendous progress since 1990. …

What would you expect about sex ratio at birth in India?

I expected the following:

  • It would have improved across the whole country.
  • It would be worse in the north than in the south.
  • It would be worse in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • The law banning prenatal sex determination, which was passed almost 30 years ago, would have helped with the known problem of selective abortion of female fetuses.

I had also assumed these to be true and touted them as facts to multiple people, including twice in the last two years. Recently, when I tried to confirm this, I learnt the opposite:

  • Sex ratio at birth has gotten worse across the whole country.
  • It is better in the south than in the north, but neither is it better in every southern state nor is it good in absolute terms.
  • It is worse in urban areas than in rural areas.
  • The impact of the law has been mild.”

Here is the link, that is all from .

New results on social capital and interconnectedness

There are two new NBER papers written by large teams, headlined by Raj Chetty.  Here is an excerpt from the first paper:

The fraction of high-SES friends among low-SES individuals—which we term economic connectedness—is among the strongest predictors of upward income mobility identified to date, whereas other social capital measures are not strongly associated with economic mobility. If children with low-SES parents were to grow up in counties with economic connectedness comparable to that of the average child with high-SES parents, their incomes in adulthood would increase by 20% on average.

And this as a general introduction to the project:

….we measure and analyze three types of social capital by ZIP code in the United States: (i) connectedness between different types of people, such as those with low vs. high socioeconomic status (SES); (ii) social cohesion, such as the extent of cliques in friendship networks; and (iii) civic engagement, such as rates of volunteering. These measures vary substantially across areas, but are not highly correlated with each other.

The core data are taken from Facebook and anonymized.  And from the second paper:

We show that about half of the social disconnection across socioeconomic lines—measured as the difference in the share of high-socioeconomic status (SES) friends between low- and high-SES people—is explained by differences in exposure to high- SES people in groups such as schools and religious organizations. The other half is explained by friending bias—the tendency for low-SES people to befriend high-SES people at lower rates even conditional on exposure.

There is then this concrete result:

…friending bias is higher in larger and more diverse groups and lower in religious organizations than in schools and workplaces.

Here is a tweet storm with a relevant map.  These papers are sure to have considerable influence on how we think about social connections.  Yes this is sociology, but has not this team done it better?

Economics of Ideas, Science and Innovation Online PhD Short Course

The Institute for Progress is hosting a six week course on the economics of ideas, science and innovation taught at the PhD level by Pierre Azoulay, Matt Clancy, Ina Ganguli, Benjamin Jones, and Heidi Williams. What an all star-cast! The syllabus is excellent. The course is aimed at first year or more PhD students. More details here.

The Covidization of science?

The COVID-19 pandemic saw a massive mobilization of the scientific workforce. We evaluated the citation impact of COVID-19 publications relative to all scientific work published in 2020 to 2021, finding that 20% of citations received to papers published in 2020 to 2021 were to COVID-19–related papers. Across science, 98 of the 100 most-cited papers published in 2020 to 2021 were related to COVID-19. A large number of scientists received large numbers of citations to their COVID-19 work, often exceeding the citations they had received to all their work during their entire career. We document a strong covidization of research citations across science.

Here is the full article, by John P.A. Ionnidis,, via Michelle Dawson.

Is being bombed bad for your mental health?

We find that cohorts younger than age five at the onset of WWII or those born during the war are in significantly worse mental health later in life when they are between ages late 50s and 70s. Specifically, an increase of one-standard deviation in the bombing intensity experienced during WWII is associated with about a 10 percent decline in an individual’s long–term standardized mental health score. This effect is equivalent to a 16.8 percent increase in the likelihood of being diagnosed with clinical depression. Our analysis also reveals that this impact is most pronounced among the youngest children including those who might have been in-utero at some point during the war.

Here is more from Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel, Erdal Tekin, and Belgi Turan.

English Forests are Growing

England has doubled the amount of forestland in the past 150 years, and now has as much land dedicated to forests as the year 1350.

As I have reported before, the earth is greening–especially in China and India, in part because of rising CO2 levels and in part because of increasing urbanization and agricultural productivity.

That’s the gist, you can find a more detailed world investigation at OurWorldInData.

Hat tip: the excellent Jeremy Horpedahl.

Are some VC investments predictably bad?

Do institutional investors invest efficiently? To study this question I combine a novel dataset of over 16,000 startups (representing over $9 billion in investments) with machine learning methods to evaluate the decisions of early-stage investors. By comparing investor choices to an algorithm’s predictions, I show that approximately half of the investments were predictably bad—based on information known at the time of investment, the predicted return of the investment was less than readily available outside options. The cost of these poor investments is 1000 basis points, totalling over $900 million in my data. I provide suggestive evidence that over-reliance on the founders’ background is one mechanism underlying these choices. Together the results suggest that high stakes and firm sophistication are not sufficient for efficient use of information in capital allocation decisions.

That is from a new paper by Diag Davenport, via Atta Tarki.

Geographic mobility is one secret of successful immigration

According to Boustan and Abramitzky, the secret weapon deployed by immigrant parents wasn’t education. It wasn’t a demanding parenting style like the one described in Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” either.

It was geographic mobility.

Immigrant kids tended to outperform their peers from similar economic backgrounds because, unencumbered by deep hometown roots, their parents were willing to move to where the jobs were. If you compare immigrants to similar native kids born in the same place, they succeed at similar rates. It’s just that immigrant kids are much more likely to have grown up in one of those high-opportunity places.

“Immigrants are living in locations that provide upward mobility for everyone,” Boustan said.

Here is the full article, which also argues that recent immigrants have been climbing the economic ladder no slower than in the days of Ellis Island.  By Andrew Van Dam, based on the work of Leah Boustan and Ran Abramitzky.

Is remote work lowering pecuniary wages?

Maybe so, according to the latest results from Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, Brent H. Meyer and Emil Mihaylov:

The recent shift to remote work raised the amenity value of employment. As compensation adjusts to share the amenity-value gains with employers, wage-growth pressures moderate. We find empirical support for this mechanism in the wage-setting behavior of U.S. employers, and we develop novel survey data to quantify its force. Our data imply a cumulative wage-growth moderation of 2.0 percentage points over two years. This moderation offsets more than half the real-wage catchup effect that Blanchard (2022) highlights in his analysis of near-term inflation pressures. The amenity-values gains associated with the recent rise of remote work also lower labor’s share of national income by 1.1 percentage points. In addition, the “unexpected compression” of wages since early 2020 (Autor and Dube, 2022) is partly explained by the same amenity-value effect, which operates differentially across the earnings distribution.

Here is the NBER working paper.

Some negative results on cash transfers

We randomized over 5,000 US individuals in poverty to one of three conditions during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic: receiving a one-time $500 unconditional cash transfer (UCT; half a month’s worth of total household income for the median participant; N=1,374), a $2,000 UCT (two months’ income; N=699), or nothing (N=3,170). We measured the effects of the UCTs on participants’ financial well-being, psychological well-being, cognitive capacity, and physical health through surveys administered one week, six weeks, and 15 weeks after cash receipt. For 43% of our sample, we also observe bank account balances and financial transactions. While the cash transfers increased expenditures for a few weeks, we find no evidence that they had positive impacts on our pre-specified survey outcomes at any time point. We further find no significant differences between the $500 and $2,000 groups. These findings stand in stark contrast to the (incentivized) predictions of both experts and a nationally representative sample of laypeople, who—depending on the treatment group, outcome, and time period—estimated treatment effect sizes of +0.16 to +0.65 SDs. We test several explanations for these unexpected results, including via two survey experiments embedded in our trial. The data are most consistent with the notion that receiving some but not enough money made participants’ needs—and the gap between their resources and needs—more salient, which in turn generated feelings of distress.

That is from a new paper by Ania Jarosewicz, Jon Jachimowicz, Oliver Hauser, and Julian Jamison, via a bunch of disappointed people on Twitter.  And here is the summarizing tweetstorm.