Category: Data Source

Iceland and Covid


As you may know, Iceland is one of the most fully vaccinated countries in the world:


All via Eric Topol.  No, I am not arguing we should give up or stop looking for policy and most of all biomedical improvements.  All the more reason to do so!  But…this does indicate we will need to find some way of living with such case numbers, without falling apart and pulling the plug on economic activity.

Inequality sentence fragments to ponder

…wealth inequality varies greatly across countries, and there is no clear correlation with countries’ levels of income inequality.

Sweden for instance has reasonable income equality but very high wealth inequality.  Many of the southern European nations are the opposite.

So which is it that matters?  Is it income inequality that matters when you wish to praise Sweden over the United States, but wealth inequality that matters when you wish to argue for a wealth tax?

By the way, the distribution of housing equity is a critical factor for understanding how income variables translate into wealth variables.

That is all from Fabian T. Pfeffer and Nora Waitkus.  Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The Political-Economic Causes of the Soviet Great Famine, 1932–33

This study constructs a large new dataset to investigate whether state policy led to ethnic Ukrainians experiencing higher mortality during the 1932–33 Soviet Great Famine. All else equal, famine (excess) mortality rates were positively associated with ethnic Ukrainian population share across provinces, as well as across districts within provinces. Ukrainian ethnicity, rather than the administrative boundaries of the Ukrainian republic, mattered for famine mortality. These and many additional results provide strong evidence that higher Ukrainian famine mortality was an outcome of policy, and suggestive evidence on the political-economic drivers of repression. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that bias against Ukrainians explains up to 77% of famine deaths in the three republics of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and up to 92% in Ukraine.

That is a new NBER working paper by Andrei Markevich, Natalya Naumenko (my colleague at GMU), and Nancy Qian.  The paper represents a significant advance in terms of basic data, and the core hypothesis of ethnic favoritism is strongly validated.

Lapses in insurance payments

Most individual life insurance policies lapse, with lapsers cross-subsidizing non-lapsers. We show that policies and lapse patterns predicted by standard rational expectations models are the opposite of those observed empirically. We propose two behavioral models consistent with the evidence: (i) consumers forget to pay premiums and (ii) consumers understate future liquidity needs. We conduct two surveys with a large insurer. New buyers believe that their own lapse probabilities are small compared to the insurer’s actual experience. For recent lapsers, forgetfulness accounts for 37.8 percent of lapses while unexpected liquidity accounts for 15.4 percent.

Here is the full AER article by Daniel Gottlieb and Kent Smetters.

Donald Trump and partisan fertility

You people are weird:

Changes in political leadership drive large changes in economic optimism. We exploit the surprise 2016 election of Trump to identify the effects of a shift in political power on one of the most consequential household decisions: whether to have a child. Republican-leaning counties experience a sharp and persistent increase in fertility relative to Democratic counties: a 1.1 to 2.6 percentage point difference in annual births, depending on the intensity of partisanship. Hispanics, a group targeted by Trump, see fertility fall relative to non-Hispanics, especially compared to rural or evangelical whites. Further, following Trump pre-election campaign visits, relative Hispanic fertility declines.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Gordon Dahl, Runjing Lu, and William Mullins.  An optimism effect perhaps?  Or is it just about the sex?

Sports are good for student athletes

The recent Supreme Court decision NCAA vs Alston (June 2021) has heightened interest in the benefits and costs of participation in sports for student athletes. Anecdotes about the exploitation of student athletes were cited in the opinion. This paper uses panel data for two different cohorts that follow students from high school through college and into their post-school pursuits to examine the generality of these anecdotes. On average, student athletes’ benefit—often substantially so—in terms of graduation, post-collegiate employment, and earnings. Benefits in terms of social mobility for disadvantaged and minority students are substantial, contrary to the anecdotes in play in the media and in the courts.

Here is more from James J. Heckman and Colleen P. Loughlin.  Maybe ten year olds are wasting too much time trying to be the next Lebron James rather than doing their homework, but at higher levels this does not seem to be the case.

Excess Deaths in India

Abhishek Anand, Justin Sandefur, and Arvind Subramanian calculate excess mortality in India since April 2020 based on three different datasets (each with their own challenges.) Each estimate indicates that excess mortality is more likely around 4 million than the official figure of 400,000. These figures accord with what everyone on the ground has been telling me. Nearly all my Indian friends report deaths among their family or friends.

…the most critical take-away is that regardless of source and estimate, actual deaths during the Covid pandemic are likely to have been an order of magnitude greater than the official count. True deaths are likely to be in the several millions not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since partition and independence.



Biden, COVID and Mental Health in America

Using US Census Household Pulse Survey data for the period April 2020 to June 2021 we track the evolution of the mental health of nearly 2.3 million Americans during the COVID pandemic. We find anxiety, depression and worry peaked in November 2020, coinciding with the Presidential election. The taking of prescription drugs for mental health conditions peaked two weeks later in December 2020. Mental health improved subsequently such that by April 2021 it was better than it had been a year previously. The probability of having been diagnosed with COVID did not rise significantly in the first half of 2021 but COVID infection rates were higher among the young than the old. COVID diagnoses were significantly lower in States that had voted for Biden in the Presidential Election. The probability of vaccination rose with age, was considerably higher in Biden states, and rose precipitously over the period among the young and old. Anxiety was higher among people in Biden states, whether they had been diagnosed or not, and whether they were vaccinated or not. The association between anxiety and depression and having had COVID was not significant in Biden or Trump states but being vaccinated was associated with lower anxiety and depression, with the effect being larger in Biden states. Whilst being in paid work was associated with lower anxiety, worry and depression and was associated with higher vaccination rates, it also increased the probability of having had COVID.

That is a new NBER working paper from the highly regarded David G. Blanchflower and Alex Bryson.  Model that!

Second Doses Are Better at 8 Weeks or Longer

In Britain people are now being warned *not* to get their second dose at 3 or 4 weeks because this offers less protection than waiting 8 weeks or longer.

Warnings over the lack of long-term protection offered by jab intervals shorter than eight weeks come as scores of under 40s continue to receive second doses early at walk-in clinics, contrary to Government guidance.

…“There is very good immunological and vaccine effectiveness evidence that the longer you leave that second dose the better for Pfizer and eight weeks seems to be a reasonable compromise.”

Professor Harnden emphasised that “you’re definitely less protected against asymptomatic disease if you have a shorter dose interval”.

I’m so old I can remember when first doses first wasn’t “following the science.”

Why did Portugal decline?

Davis Kedrosky and Nuno Palma blame Brazil:

As late as 1750, Portugal had an output per head considerably higher than those of France or Spain. Yet just a century later, Portugal was Western Europe’s poorest country. In this paper we show that the discovery of massive quantities of gold in Brazil over the eighteenth century played a key role for the long-run development of Portugal’s economy. We focus on the economic resource curse: the loss of competitiveness of the tradables sector manifested in the rise of the price of non-traded goods relative to traded imports. Using original price data from archives for four Portuguese regions between 1650 and 1800, we show that a real exchange rate appreciation of about 30 percent occurred during the eighteenth century, which led to a loss of the competitiveness of national industry from which the country did not recover until considerably later.

Via Ilya Novak.  Oh Thiago!

Chiapas fact of the day

With average daily consumption of 2.2 liters of Coca-Cola, Chiapas leads the world…It’s more than five times higher than the national average…

According to a 2019 study by the Chiapas and Southern Border Multidisciplinary Research Center (Cimsur), residents of the southern state drink an average of 821.25 liters of soda per person per year.

Broken down, the immensity of the quantity seems even more astonishing: every man, woman and child in Chiapas drinks an average of 3,285 — yes, three thousand two hundred and eighty-five – 250-milliliter cups of soda a year, according to the study.

According to the Cimsur study, among the reasons why Coca-Cola and other refrescos are so popular in Chiapas are marketing campaigns in indigenous languages – mainly Mayan – and limited access to clean drinking water.

Here is the full story.