Category: Data Source

When should rhetoric be racially salient?

Utilizing a correlational design (N = 498), we found that those who perceived COVID-19 racial disparities to be greater reported reduced fear of COVID-19, which predicted reduced support for COVID-19 safety precautions. In Study 2, we manipulated exposure to information about COVID-19 racial disparities (N = 1,505). Reading about the persistent inequalities that produced COVID-19 racial disparities reduced fear of COVID-19, empathy for those vulnerable to COVID-19, and support for safety precautions. These findings suggest that publicizing racial health disparities has the potential to create a vicious cycle wherein raising awareness reduces support for the very policies that could protect public health and reduce disparities.

Here is more from Skinner-Dorkenoo  Via D.  There may be broader lessons as well.

Has the world passed “peak agricultural land”?

Expanding agriculture has been the biggest driver of the destruction of the world’s wilderness.

This expansion of agricultural land has now come to an end. After millennia, we have passed the peak, and in recent years global agricultural land use has declined…

Here I have brought together the three leading analyses on the change in global land use – these are shown in the visualization. Each uses a different methodology, as explained in the chart. The UN FAO produces the bedrock data for each of these analyses from 1961 onwards; however, the researchers apply their own methodologies on top, and extend this series further back in time.

As you can see, they disagree on how much land is used for agriculture, and the time at which land use peaked. But they do all agree that we have passed the peak.

Here is more from Hannah Ritchie at Our World in Data.  Of course food production continues to rise.

A new take on “defund the police”

There is less to the idea than meets the eye, do not forget the counties:

This paper finds that disbanding police departments leads to fewer police-related deaths, fewer reported crimes, and lower law enforcement expenditures. However, the number of crimes reported by the sheriff for the entire county increases by an amount commensurate to the decrease in the number of crimes reported by cities that disbanded their police department. Furthermore, disbanding police departments is associated with an increase in county sheriffs spending which offsets the city savings. Thus, disbanding police departments does not appear to impact overall crime, shifts responsibility for law enforcement onto other governments, and reduces the available information about cities’ crimes.

That is from a new paper by Richard T. Boylan, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prohibits US firms from paying bribes to foreign public officials. We show that FCPA enforcement has no positive effect on the GDP per capita of the countries of these officials but, rather, increases their countries shadow economy. When public officials take bribes both from legal and illegal markets, corruption enforcement in legal markets induces them to make up for lost rents by taking more bribes from illegal markets. In equilibrium, they enforce less against illegal producers, thereby increasing the size of illegal markets.  We find that one case of FCPA enforcement alone increases the shadow economy by as much as 0.25 percentage points (pp), homicide rates by 0.02 pp, and trade misinvoicing by 0.5 pp.

That is a new paper by Jamie Bologna Pavlik and Desiree Desierto.  I am very pleased to now have Desiree as my colleague at George Mason University.

The magnitude of depolicing

Using a time regression discontinuity design, we estimate a 72.7 percent decrease in lower-level “quality of life” arrests, and a 69 percent decrease in non-index crime arrests in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s death. Our results also show that the decrease in arrests is driven by a 69 percent decrease in police-initiated calls for service. Using the same approach, we find a much smaller decrease of 2.7 percent in arrests and a 1.5 percent decrease in police calls following police-involved shootings. Our results, thus, suggest that the Ferguson Effect exists, and it is much larger following highly publicized events of police violence such as George Floyd’s death.

That is from the new AER, by Maya Mikdash and Reem Zaiour, “Does (All) Police Violence Cause De-policing? Evidence from George Floyd and Police Shootings in Minneapolis.”  The title I find slightly Straussian, I hope not outright naive.

How much are Republicans and Democrats polarized really?

On the topic of income redistribution, if you just ask them how much should happen, on a scale of 1 to 7:

Perhaps the most striking evidence of polarization is that in the 1–7 scale, the modal response among Republicans is 1, and the modal response among Democrats is 7.

If you look at their actual behavior, Republicans for instance are only slightly more likely to contest an increase in their tax property assessments.  Or this:

One question in the online survey…asks about property taxes instead of federal taxes: “Do you consider the amount of property taxes you pay to be too low, about right, or too high?”…the share of Democrats responding that property taxes are too high (36.9 percent) is not much lower than the corresponding share of Republicans (42.9 percent).

Or if you ask people if they should pay lower property taxes, the difference is real but modest:

…the desired tax reduction is 28.46 percent for Republicans versus 23.42 percent for Democrats.

Or if you ask them how property taxes should be distributed across different income classes:

Democrats want to assign 25.92 percent of property taxes to the poorer household, and Republicans want to assign 25.71 percent to the poorer household…

The Democrats do favor somewhat more taxation for the wealthiest class of households.  Yet:

The results indicate that as the difference in home values increases, the modal respondent still desires proportional taxes.

The conclusion:

…Republicans and Democrats may say that they feel differently about income redistribution, but those differences disappear when facing real, high-stakes choices. We posit a different, yet still simple, explanation: partisan differences in preferences for redistribution are exaggerated by some, but not all, survey questions.

That is all from a new (May!) AER piece by Brad Nathan, Ricardo Perez-Truglia, and Alejandro Zentner, titled “Is the Partisan Divide Real? Polarization in Preferences for Redistribution.”  I have long thought that over time, membership in “the right wing” will be predicted more by “hatred of hypocrisy” than by many of the more traditional pro- free market values of times hence.

Poor New Jersey the benefits of self-service gasoline

Most of the world’s population lives in countries that ban the self-service sale of gasoline. Causal effects of this regulation can hardly be assessed in these countries due to a lack of policy changes, but a recent quasi-experiment in the state of Oregon allows us to analyze the impact of the ban. From 1992 to 2017, the state of Oregon was one of two US states that banned self-service at gasoline stations. Oregon adjusted regulations at the start of 2018 to allow self-service at gasoline stations in counties with populations below 40,000 individuals. I examine the repeal of this self-service ban and its effects on gasoline prices. I apply a difference-in-differences design using high frequency data of gasoline prices and find that repealing the self-service ban reduced gasoline prices by 4.4 cents per gallon in affected Oregon counties. This effect represents approximately $90 in expected annual savings for a household with three licensed drivers. The results are statistically significant in all specifications and are essential to the policy debate on whether to keep self-service bans in U.S. states and countries with the same regulation.

That is from Vitor Melo at Clemson University, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Air Pollution and Student Performance in the U.S.

We combine satellite-based pollution data and test scores from over 10,000 U.S. school districts to estimate the relationship between air pollution and test scores. To deal with potential endogeneity we instrument for air quality using (i) year-to-year coal production variation and (ii) a shift-share instrument that interacts fuel shares used for nearby power production with national growth rates. We find that each one-unit increase in particulate pollution reduces test scores by 0.02 standard deviations. Our findings indicate that declines in particulate pollution exposure raised test scores and reduced the black-white test score gap by 0.06 and 0.01 standard deviations, respectively.

That is from Michael Gilraine and Angela Zheng.  Maybe you, like me, do not find any one of these studies to be a real clincher.  But please do reread Alex on the sum total of the evidence…and here.

Job security is not getting worse

There is a widespread belief that work is less secure than in the past, that an increasing share of workers are part of the “pprecariat”. It is hard to find much evidence for this in objective measures of job security, but perhaps subjective measures show different trends. This paper shows that in the US, UK, and Germany workers feel as secure as they ever have in the last thirty years. This is partly because job insecurity is very cyclical and (pre-COVID) unemployment rates very low, but there is also no clear underlying trend towards increased subjective measures of job insecurity. This conclusion seems robust to controlling for the changing mix of the labor force, and is true for specific sub-sets of workers.

That is from Alan Manning and Graham Mazeine, forthcoming in the Review of Economics and Statistics.  Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The stuff of horror movies?

Though the trend is a positive one:

We study the intergenerational persistence of inequality by estimating grandmother-mother associations in the loss of a child, using pooled data from 119 Demographic and Health Surveys in 44 developing countries. Compared with compatriots of the same age, women with at least one sibling who died in childhood face 39% higher odds of having experienced at least one own-child death, or 7 percentage points at age 49. Place fixed effects reduce estimated mortality persistence by 47%; socioeconomic covariates explain far less. Within countries over time, persistence falls with aggregate child mortality, so that mortality decline disproportionately benefits high-mortality lineages.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Frances R. Lu and Tom Vogl.

Baby bust in India?

Via Noah Smith.

Sentences to ponder model this

Consistent with beauty-blind admissions, alumni’s beauty is uncorrelated with the rank of the school they attended in China. In the US, White men who attended high-ranked schools are better looking, especially attendees of private schools. A one percentage point increase in beauty rank corresponds to a half-point increase in the school rank.

Here is more, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Remote work and home prices

What explains record U.S. house price growth since late 2019? We show that the shift to remote work explains over one half of the 23.8 percent national house price increase over this period. Using variation in remote work exposure across U.S. metropolitan areas we estimate that an additional percentage point of remote work causes a 0.93 percent increase in house prices after controlling for negative spillovers from migration. This cross-sectional estimate combined with the aggregate shift to remote work implies that remote work raised aggregate U.S. house prices by 15.1 percent.

Here is more from John A. Mondragon and Johannes Wieland.

Who is rich in America?

We now know who is rich in America. And it’s not who you might have guessed.

A groundbreaking 2019 study by four economists, “Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century,” analyzed de-identified data of the complete universe of American taxpayers to determine who dominated the top 0.1 percent of earners.

The study didn’t tell us about the small number of well-known tech and shopping billionaires but instead about the more than 140,000 Americans who earn more than $1.58 million per year. The researchers found that the typical rich American is, in their words, the owner of a “regional business,” such as an “auto dealer” or a “beverage distributor.”

That is from Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (NYT), who covers some other interesting wealth/happiness topics as well.

When were U.S. home prices at their worst?

That of course is only one metric, and it focuses on flows rather than homes as an asset.  It nonetheless puts a number of matters in perspective.  Here it is in words:

1981 was the most unaffordable year for those who need a mortgage, with annual payments consuming a whopping 52% of their income. For comparison, in 2022 mortgage payments require 27% and the absolute lowest point is back in 1963 when only 18% was required. In 2006 (at the peak of the housing bubble), families would need 30% of their income. Thus we can confidently say that 2022 is so far not the worst year in history for those who can’t afford to buy a house without a loan.

Canada and New Zealand seem to be the truly scary places.  Here is the full essay by Nikita Sokolsky.