Category: Data Source

How the Russian Revolution boosted Marx’s influence

Karl Marx’s high academic stature outside of economics diverges sharply from his peripheral influence within the discipline, particularly after nineteenth-century developments rendered the labor theory of value obsolete. We hypothesize that the 1917 Russian Revolution is responsible for elevating Marx into the academic mainstream. Using the synthetic control method, we construct a counterfactual for Marx’s citation patterns in Google Ngram data. This allows us to predict how often Marx would have been cited if the Russian Revolution had not happened. We find a significant treatment effect, meaning that Marx’s academic stature today owes a substantial debt to political happenstance.

That is from a new JPE paper by Philip W. Magness and Michael Makovi.  Here are ungated versions of the paper.

The value of informal mentoring

We document a largely unrecognized pathway through which schools promote human capital development – by fostering informal mentoring relationships between students and teachers, counselors, and coaches. Using longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents, we explore the nature and consequences of natural mentoring relationships by leveraging within-student variation in the timing of mentorship formation as well as differences in exposure among pairs of twins, best friends, and romantic partners. Results across difference-in-differences and pair fixed-effect specifications show consistent and meaningful positive effects on student attainment, with a conservative estimate of a 9.4 percentage point increase in college attendance. Effects are largest for students of lower socioeconomic status and robust to controls for individual characteristics and bounding exercises for selection on unobservables. Smaller class sizes and a school culture where students have a strong sense of belonging are important school-level predictors of having a K-12 natural mentor.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Matthew A. Kraft, Alexander J. Bolves, and Noelle M. Hurd.

Are We Running Out of Exhaustible Resources?

No, or so says a new paper by Felix Pretis, Cameron Hepburn, Alex Pfeiffer, and Alexander Teytelboym:

Mineral and material commodities are essential inputs to economic production, but there have been periodical concerns about mineral scarcity. However, there has been no systematic recent study that has determined whether mineral commodities have become scarcer over the longer run. Here we provide systematic evidence that worldwide, near-term exhaustion of economically valuable commodities is unlikely. We construct and analyse a new database of 48 economically-relevant commodities from 1957–2015, including estimates of worldwide production, reserves and reserve bases, prices, and production, using publicly-available data and further data requested from the United States Geological Survey. We explore trends in prices, reserves-to-production ratios, and production itself, on a commodity-by-commodity basis, using econometric techniques allowing for structural changes, and further estimate overall trends robust to outlying observations. For almost all commodities, we cannot reject the null hypothesis of no trend in prices and exhaustion, while production has increased. Price signals appear to have guided consumption and provided incentives for innovation and substitution. Concerns about mineral depletion therefore appear to be less important than concerns about externalities, such as pollution and conflict, and ecosystem services (e.g. climate stability) where price signals are often absent.

Julian Simon lives…

Via Jason Crawford.

Do tax increases tame inflation?

Here is a new AER article by James Cloyne, Joseba Martinez, Haroon Mumtax, and Paolo Surico.  After an extensive data analysis, they arrive at this conclusion:

Based on US federal tax changes post–World War II, our answer is “yes” if personal income taxes are increased but “no” if corporate income taxes are increased.

Of course this is consistent with the view — no longer so commonly admitted — that higher corporate tax rates do have negative supply side effects.  There is an ungated version of the paper here.

Selective reporting of placebo tests in top economics journals

Placebo tests, where a null result is used to support the validity of the research design, is common in economics. Such tests provide an incentive to underreport statistically significant tests, a form of reversed p-hacking. Based on a pre-registered analysis plan, we test for such underreporting in all papers meeting our inclusion criteria (n=377) published in 11 top economics journals between 2009-2021. If the null hypothesis is true in all tests, 2.5% of them should be statistically significant at the 5% level with an effect in the same direction as the main test (and 5% in total). The actual fraction of statistically significant placebo tests with an effect in the same direction is 1.29% (95% CI [0.83, 1.63]), and the overall fraction of statistically significant placebo tests is 3.10% (95% CI [2.2, 4.0]). Our results provide strong evidence of selective underreporting of statistically significant placebo tests in top economics journals.

That is from a new paper by Anna Dreber, Magnus Johannesson, and Yifan Yang.

Rising markups, rising prices?

Sad to see this issue is still being debated so much.  If you need an empirical antidote, you can find one from Christopher Conlon, Nathan H. Miller, Tsolmon Otgon, and Yi Yao in the May issue of the AER.  Ungated here.  Here is one bit:

Our exercise does not provide empirical support for a strong correlation between markup and price changes…

Therefore, our interpretation is that the results do not support a hypothesis that the increase in the DLEU markups is driven primarily by reductions in competition, keeping in mind that a “false negative” is possible.

DLEU stands for this well-known piece.  This result would seem to lower the chance that the rising mark-ups came from diminished competition, as opposed to higher costs, better service, or other features of the market, such as changing scale elasticities.

The Politics of Academic Research

We develop a novel measure of political slant in research to examine whether political ideology influences the content and use of academic research. Our measure examines the frequency of citations from think tanks with different political ideologies and allows us to examine both the supply and demand for research. We find that research in Economics and Political Science displays a liberal slant, while Finance and Accounting research exhibits a conservative slant, and these differences cannot be accounted for by variations in research topics. We also find that the ideological slant of researchers is positively correlated with that of their Ph.D. institution and research conducted outside universities appears to cater more to the political party of the current President. Finally, political donations data confirms that the ideological slant we measure based on think tank citations aligns with the political values of researchers. Our findings have important implications for the structure of research funding.

Here is the full article by Matthew C. Ringgenberg, Chong Shu, and Ingrid M. Werner.

Claims about atheists

The group that is most likely to contact a public official? Atheists.

The group that puts up political signs at the highest rates? Atheists.

HALF of atheists report giving to a candidate or campaign in the 2020 presidential election cycle.

And while they don’t lead the pack when it comes to attending a local political meeting, they only trail Hindus by four percentage points.

…atheists take part in plenty of political actions – 1.52 to be exact. The overall average in the entire sample was .91 activities. The average atheist is about 65% more politically engaged than the average American.

And this:

The results here are clear and unambiguous – atheists are more likely to engage in political activities at every level of education compared to Protestants, Catholics or Jews. For instance, an atheist with a high school diploma reports .7 activities, that’s at least .2 higher than any other religious group.

Political engagement is clearly related to education, though. The more educated one is, the more likely they are to be politically active. But at every step of the education scale, atheists lead the way. Sometimes those gaps are incredibly large. A college educated atheist engages in 1.7 activities, it’s only 1.05 activities for a college educated evangelical.

From Ryan Burge, here is the full data analysis.

Graph of the Day

A remarkable graph pointed to by Phil Magness who writes:

China’s GDP per capita hit its lowest point in the past 300 years under Maoism. Twice.

The first time was during the civil war and the second was the Great Leap Forward. Wojtek Kopczuk comments:

Even taking into account that these historical measurements are notoriously problematic and difficult to make comparable, the fact that it is even in the ballpark is shocking.

The Re-Emerging Suicide Crisis in the U.S.

The suicide rate in the United States has risen nearly 40 percent since 2000. This increase is puzzling because suicide rates had been falling for decades at the end of the 20th Century. In this paper, we review important facts about the changing rate of suicide. General trends miss the story of important differences across groups – suicide rates rose substantially among middle aged persons between 2005 and 2015 but have fallen since. Among young people, suicide rates began a rapid rise after 2010 that has not abated. We review empirical evidence to assess potential causes for recent changes in suicide rates. The economic hardship caused by the Great Recession played an important role in rising suicide among prime-aged Americans. We illustrate that the increase in the prevalence of depression among young people during the 2010s was so large it could explain nearly all the increase in suicide mortality among those under 25. Bullying victimization of LGBTQ youth could also account for part of the rise in suicide. The evidence that access to firearms or opioids are major drivers of recent suicide trends is less clear. We end by summarizing evidence on the most promising policies to reduce suicide mortality.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Dave E. Marcotte and Benjamin Hansen.

The Gender Well-being Gap

Overall, are men or women happier?  It is complicated, and it depends on what you mean exactly:

Given recent controversies about the existence of a gender wellbeing gap we revisit the issue estimating gender differences across 55 subjective well-being metrics – 37 positive affect and 18 negative affect – contained in 8 cross-country surveys from 167 countries across the world, two US surveys covering multiple years and a survey for Canada. We find women score more highly than men on all negative affect measures and lower than men on all but three positive affect metrics, confirming a gender wellbeing gap. The gap is apparent across countries and time and is robust to the inclusion of exogenous covariates (age, age squared, time and location fixed effects). It is also robust to conditioning on a wider set of potentially endogenous variables. However, when one examines the three ‘global’ wellbeing metrics – happiness, life satisfaction and Cantril’s Ladder – women are either similar to or ‘happier’ than men. This finding is insensitive to which controls are included and varies little over time. The difference does not seem to arise from measurement or seasonality as the variables are taken from the same surveys and frequently measured in the same way. The concern here though is that this is inconsistent with objective data where men have lower life expectancy and are more likely to die from suicide, drug overdoses and other diseases. This is the true paradox – morbidity doesn’t match mortality by gender. Women say they are less cheerful and calm, more depressed, and lonely, but happier and more satisfied with their lives, than men.

That is from a new NBER working paper by David G. Blanchflower and Alex Bryson.  Those results are broadly consistent with my intuitions and anecdotal observations, noting that men and women probably mean different things when they say they are/are not satisfied with their lives.

Generative AI and firm values

What are the effects of recent advances in Generative AI on the value of firms? Our study offers a quantitative answer to this question for U.S. publicly traded companies based on the exposures of their workforce to Generative AI. Our novel firm-level measure of workforce exposure to Generative AI is validated by data from earnings calls, and has intuitive relationships with firm and industry-level characteristics. Using Artificial Minus Human portfolios that are long firms with higher exposures and short firms with lower exposures, we show that higher-exposure firms earned excess returns that are 0.4% higher on a daily basis than returns of firms with lower exposures following the release of ChatGPT. Although this release was generally received by investors as good news for more exposed firms, there is wide variation across and within industries, consistent with the substantive disruptive potential of Generative AI technologies.

A significant effect, here is the new NBER working paper from Andrea L. Eisfeldt, Gregor Schubert, and Miao Ben Zhang.

The rising tide of housing quality

This study analyzes patterns of housing consumption and expenditures among social safety net recipients since 1985. For safety net recipients, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and cash welfare (AFDC/TANF), monthly housing expenditures have risen from $692 to $1,341. However, these increased expenditures partially reflect housing quantity improvements, including more square footage, more rooms, and larger lot sizes. The data also show a marked improvement in housing quality, such as fewer sagging roofs, broken appliances, rodents, and peeling paint. The housing quality for social safety net recipients improved across 35 indicators. These quality improvements equate to a 35 to 44 percent increase in housing consumption and suggest that a typical safety net recipient in 2021 experiences housing consumption equivalent to the average national household in 1985. Though relative housing consumption has remained similar for safety net recipients, this “rising tide” of housing quality may have additional benefits for the health and well being of families and children living in better housing.

That is from a new paper by Erik Hembre, J. Michael Collins, and Samuel Wylde.  Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

How to talk on Zoom

In a study last year, people who were face-to-face responded to yes/no questions in 297 milliseconds, on average, while those on Zoom chats took 976 milliseconds. Conversational turns — handing the mic back and forth between speakers, as it were — exhibited similar delays. The researchers hypothesized that something about the scant 30- to 70-millisecond delay in Zoom audio disrupts whatever neural mechanisms we meatbags use to get in sync with one another, that magic that creates true dialogue.

And the data:

The result is the largest-ever database of one-on-one Zoom conversations. It’s called CANDOR, short for Conversation: A Naturalistic Dataset of Online Recordings. Reece and his colleagues examined more than 1,600 conversations — some 850 hours and 7 million words total. The researchers paired volunteers, people who had never met each other, and asked them to hop on Zoom for half an hour about any old thing — with Record turned on. Which means that unlike most conversational databases, CANDOR didn’t just encode their words, which were transcribed automatically, by digital algorithms. It also automatically captured things like the tone, volume, and intensity of conversational exchanges, recording everything from facial expressions to head nods to the number of “ums” and “yeahs.”

And some results:

But loudness, it turns out, isn’t as good a metric as intensity — maybe because intensity is more subtle, a combination of the frequencies and sibilance of speech and the emotion conveyed by everything from tone to body language. To help the computer to assess something so ineffable — like, what is this thing you humans call love? — the CANDOR team fed it the Ryerson Audio-Visual Database of Emotional Speech and Song. That enabled the candorbots to draw on more than 7,000 recordings of 24 actors saying and singing things with different emotional shading, from happy or sad to fearful or disgusted. The machine found that women rated as better Zoom conversationalists tended to be more intense. The differences among men, strangely, were statistically insignificant. (The reverse was true for happiness. Male speakers who appeared to be happier were rated as better conversationalists, while the stats for women didn’t budge.)

Then there’s nodding. Better-rated conversationalists nodded “yes” 4% more often and shook their heads “no” 3% more often. They were not “merely cheerful listeners who nod supportively,” the researchers note, but were instead making “judicious use of nonverbal negations.” Translation: An honest and well-timed no will score you more points than an insincere yes. Good conversationalists are those who appear more engaged in what their partners are saying.

Here is the full Adam Rogers article, and most notably the participants did not dislike talking on Zoom per se.  Via the excellent Samir Varma.