Category: Data Source

Long soccer Covid

This paper estimates the workplace productivity effects of COVID-19 by studying performance of soccer players after an
infection. We construct a dataset that encompasses all traceable infections in the elite leagues of Germany and Italy. Relying on a staggered difference-in-differences design, we identify negative short- and longer-run performance effects. Relative to their preinfection outcomes, infected players’ performance temporarily drops by more than 6%.Over half a year later, it is still around 5% lower.

Here is the full paper, by Kai Fischer, J. James Reade, and W. Benedikt Schmal, via Florian Ederer.  How about chess?

Medicaid coverage doesn’t seem to help for diabetes and asthma

…we use Oregon’s 2008 Medicaid lottery to assess the management of diabetes and asthma, as well as several markers of physical health. This analysis complements several prior studies by introducing new data elements and by analyzing chronically ill subpopulations. While we had previously found that having insurance increases the diagnosis and use of medication for diabetes, we show here that it does not significantly increase the likelihood of diabetic patients receiving recommended care such as eye exams and regular blood sugar monitoring, nor does it improve the management of patients with asthma. We also find no effect on measures of physical health including pulse, obesity, or blood markers of chronic inflammation. Effects of Medicaid on health care utilization appear similar for those with and without pre-lottery diagnoses of chronic physical health conditions. Thus, while Medicaid is an important determinant of access to care overall, it does not appear that Medicaid alone has detectable effects on the management of several chronic physical health conditions, at least over the first two years in this setting. However, sample limitations highlight the value of additional research.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Heidi Allen and Katherine Baicker.  To be clear, my intuition here is to blame “medicine,” and also the patients, not Medicaid per se.

Average is over

Thirteen-year-olds saw unprecedented declines in both reading and math between 2012 and 2020, according to scores released this morning from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Consistent with several years of previous data, the results point to a clear and widening cleavage between America’s highest- and lowest-performing students and raise urgent questions about how to reverse prolonged academic stagnation.

The scores offer more discouraging evidence from NAEP, often referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card.” Various iterations of the exam, each tracking different subjects and age groups over several years, have now shown flat or falling numbers…

both reading and math results for nine-year-olds have made no headway; scores were flat for every ethnic and gender subgroup of younger children — with the exception of nine-year-old girls, who scored five points worse on math than they had in 2012. Their dip in performance produced a gender gap for the age group that did not exist on the test’s last iteration.

More ominous were the results for 13-year-olds, who experienced statistically significant drops of three and five points in reading and math, respectively. Compared with math performance in 2012, boys overall lost five points, and girls overall lost six points. Black students dropped eight points and Hispanic students four points; both decreases widened their score gap with white students, whose scores were statistically unchanged from 2012.

In keeping with previous NAEP releases, the scores also showed significant drops in performance among low-performing test-takers. Most disturbing: Declines among 13-year-olds scoring at the 10th percentile of reading mean that the group’s literacy performance is not significantly improved compared with 1971, when the test was first administered. In all other age/subject configurations, students placing at all levels of the achievement spectrum have gained ground over the last half-century.

Here is the full story, please note these are pre-Covid test scores, arguably now the problem could be worse.  Via Luke, a concerned human.

The continuing case for nuclear energy

Climate mitigation scenarios envision considerable growth of wind and solar power, but scholars disagree on how this growth compares with historical trends. Here we fit growth models to wind and solar trajectories to identify countries in which growth has already stabilized after the initial acceleration. National growth has followed S-curves to reach maximum annual rates of 0.8% (interquartile range of 0.6–1.1%) of the total electricity supply for onshore wind and 0.6% (0.4–0.9%) for solar. In comparison, one-half of 1.5 °C-compatible scenarios envision global growth of wind power above 1.3% and of solar power above 1.4%, while one-quarter of these scenarios envision global growth of solar above 3.3% per year. Replicating or exceeding the fastest national growth globally may be challenging because, so far, countries that introduced wind and solar power later have not achieved higher maximum growth rates, despite their generally speedier progression through the technology adoption cycle.

That is a new paper from Nature Energy, by Aleh Cherp,, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.  Yes, yes, Moore’s Law for solar cost and all that, but we need to think about the problem more deeply and that still implies a significant role for nuclear energy.  And here is some good news:

Finland has joined France, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic in lobbying the European Union to categorize nuclear power as sustainable. According to the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Finland’s pro-nuclear lobbying marks a U-turn within the Green Party.

Link here.

Rising Markups and the Role of Consumer Preferences

That is a new paper by Hendrik Döpper, Alexander MacKay, Nathan Miller, and Joel Stiebale, with striking results:

We characterize the evolution of markups for consumer products in the United States from 2006 to 2019. We use detailed data on prices and quantities for products in more than 100 distinct product categories to estimate demand systems with flexible consumer preferences. We recover markups under an assumption that firms set prices to maximize profit. Within each product category, we recover separate yearly estimates for consumer preferences and marginal costs. We find that markups increase by about 25 percent on average over the sample period. The change is attributable to decreases in marginal costs that are not passed through to consumers in the form of lower prices. Our estimates indicate that consumers have become less price sensitive over time.

Of course under this hypothesis, the supposed increase in monopoly is not so daunting after all.  It would be an interesting question, however, why elasticity of demand might have fallen.  Better matching to consumers?  More complacency?  Goods and services are these days more addictive?

Elite capture of foreign aid

The evidence is taken from overseas bank accounts, and here is the abstract:

Do elites capture foreign aid? This paper documents that aid disbursements to highly aid-dependent countries coincide with sharp increases in bank deposits in offshore financial centers known for bank secrecy and private wealth management, but not in other financial centers. The estimates are not confounded by contemporaneous shocks such as civil conflicts, natural disasters, and financial crises, and are robust to instrumenting with predetermined aid commitments. The implied leakage rate is around 7.5 percent at the sample mean and tends to increase with the ratio of aid to GDP. The findings are consistent with aid capture in the most aid-dependent countries.

Here is the full piece, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.  That is by Jørgen Juel Andersen, Niels Johannesen, and Bob Rijkers , and here is a less gated link.

Is the revolving door a moderating force on politicians?

Board appointments represent highly lucrative career trajectories for former politicians. We investigate which types of legislators are more likely to gain board service. Leveraging comprehensive data on the board service of former Members of Congress, we show that ideological extremists are less likely to be appointed to a board after serving in Congress. Additionally, we use a difference-in-differences design to show that when the supply of legislators who are willing to take a directorship increases, firms become less likely to appoint extremist legislators to their board. The estimates are striking in magnitude, indicating a strong preference for appointing moderates to boards. Surprisingly, we find no evidence that a strong legislative record, service on powerful committees, or networks increase the probability of board service. The results show that extremist legislators are effectively shut out of one of the most lucrative post-elective career paths, placing a cost on radical behavior.

That is from a new paper by Benjamin C.K. Egerod and Hai Tran.

More details on Instagram being underrated

Contrary to The Wall Street Journal’s characterization, Instagram’s research shows that on 11 of 12 well-being issues, teenage girls who said they struggled with those difficult issues also said that Instagram made them better rather than worse.

That is from…Facebook, but it seems to be true.  Here is some further exposition:

In fact, in 11 of 12 areas on the slide referenced by the Journal — including serious areas like loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues — more teenage girls who said they struggled with that issue also said that Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse. Body image was the only area where teen girls who reported struggling with the issue said Instagram made it worse as compared to the other 11 areas. But here also, the majority of teenage girls who experienced body image issues still reported Instagram either made it better or had no impact.

The mainstream media, not surprisingly, are interpreting all this as a big takedown for Facebook, one of their main competitors I might add.  Here is one relevant image:

I would make two more general points.  First, you could very easily argue that eyeglasses make (many not all) teenage girls feel worse about their body image.  Lots of things will.  Automobiles.  Parties.  Clothes shops.  Such costs are not zero, but they have to be put in perspective.

Second, the lives of teenage girls are messy and complex.  Anything that plays a noticeable role in said lives also will have effects that are messy and complex.  Deal with it.  The same used to be true of the (old-fashioned) telephone as well, not to mention birth control pills and automobiles.

Instagram is a huge “universe,” and I have only a fragmentary knowledge of it.  Yet virtually everything I have seen, read, and heard indicates it is one of the more positive corners of the internet.

All via Nir Eyal.  And do note that I write for Facebook at  Not afraid to tell you, though, that this post is what I really think.  I argued similar points years earlier in my book Big Business: Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero.

p.s. Every now and then tylercowenfairfax does some Instagram Stories…

Depression and shopping behavior

By Katherine Meckel and Bradley Shapiro:

Using a large survey panel that connects household shopping behavior with individual health information, this paper documents correlations between self reported depression and the size and composition of shopping baskets. First, we find that roughly 16% of individuals report suffering from depression and over 30% of households have at least one member who reports suffering from depression. Households with a member suffering from depression exhibit striking differences in shopping behavior: they spend less overall, visit grocery stores less and convenience stores more frequently and spend a smaller share of their baskets on fresh produce and alcohol but a larger share on tobacco. They spend similar shares on unhealthy foods like cakes, candy, and salty snacks. These cross-sectional correlations hold within counties, suggesting that they are not driven by region specific demographics or preferences that are incidentally correlated with depression status. They also hold when considering only single-member households. However, we rule out large differences in shopping behavior within households as they change depression status throughout the sample. Further, using the take-up of antidepressant drugs as an event, we document little change in shopping in response to treatment. With our results, we discuss the takeaways for health policy, decision modeling and targeted marketing.

There should be much more research on the intersection between economics and mental health.

Jobs for Sale: Corruption and Misallocation in Hiring

Corrupt government hiring is common in developing countries. This paper uses original data to document the operation and consequences of corrupt hiring in a health bureaucracy. Hires pay bribes averaging 17 months of salary, but contrary to conventional wisdom, their observable quality is comparable to counterfactual merit-based hires. Exploiting variation across jobs, I show that the consequences of corrupt allocations depend on the correlation between wealth and quality among applicants: service delivery outcomes are good for jobs where this was positive and poor when negative. In this setting, the correlation was typically positive, leading to relatively good performance of hires.

That is from a new AER paper by Jeffrey Weaver.

You people are crazy

So, I decided to attempt a measurement to quantify this phenomenon. On Wednesday, September 22nd, in the 1:00 pm hour, I observed 400 Stanford cyclists on Lasuen Mall, a popular campus street for bicycles. I simply noted whether each cyclist wore a mask, a helmet, neither, or both. Here are the final tallies:

Total cyclists: 400 – (100%)

No mask, no helmet: 195 – (49%)

Mask, no helmet: 134 – (34%)

Helmet, no mask: 42 – (10%)

Mask and helmet: 29 – (7%)

That works out to a masking rate of 41% and helmet-wearing rate of 17%. So, Stanford students are about twice as likely to wear a mask on a bicycle as a helmet. To be certain, there’s a margin of error here — I can only count so many cyclists at a time, and I’m sure I missed some. But the point stands that at one of America’s leading research universities, students wear masks on bicycles at a higher rate than they wear helmets.

Here is the full article by Maxwell Meyer.

Covid facts, about men

The largest declines in life expectancy were observed among males in the US, who experienced a decline of 2.2 years relative to 2019 levels, followed by Lithuanian males, with a decline of 1.7 years.

“For western European countries such as Spain, England and Wales, Italy, Belgium, among others, the last time such large magnitudes of declines in life expectancy at birth were observed in a single year was during world war two,” said José Manuel Aburto, the study’s co-lead author.

Here is more from the FT.  The United States arguably has the “highest variable males” in the entire world.  And this result is part of the downside of that, noting that the upside is considerable as well.

Herding, Warfare, and a Culture of Honor

That is the title of a new and important paper by Yiming Cao, Benjamin Enke, Armin Falk, Paula Giuliano, and Nathan Nunn, here is the abstract:

According to the widely known ‘culture of honor’ hypothesis from social psychology, traditional herding practices are believed to have generated a value system that is conducive to revenge-taking and violence. We test this idea at a global scale using a combination of ethnographic records, historical folklore information, global data on contemporary conflict events, and large-scale surveys. The data show systematic links between traditional herding practices and a culture of honor. First, the culture of pre-industrial societies that relied on animal herding emphasizes violence, punishment, and revenge-taking. Second, contemporary ethnolinguistic groups that historically subsisted more strongly on herding have more frequent and severe conflict today. Third, the contemporary descendants of herders report being more willing to take revenge and punish unfair behavior in the globally representative Global Preferences Survey. In all, the evidence supports the idea that this form of economic subsistence generated a functional psychology that has persisted until today and plays a role in shaping conflict across the globe.

The appendices, figures, and the like are much longer than the paper itself.

Intergenerational mobility with race and measurement error

A large body of evidence finds that relative mobility in the US has declined over the past 150 years. However, long-run mobility estimates are usually based on white samples and therefore do not account for the limited opportunities available for non-white families. Moreover, historical data measure the father’s status with error, which biases estimates toward greater mobility. Using linked census data from 1850-1940, I show that accounting for race and measurement error can double estimates of intergenerational persistence. Updated estimates imply that there is greater equality of opportunity today than in the past, mostly because opportunity was never that equal.

That is a new NBER working paper by Zachary Ward, big if true!  Via the excellent Samir Varma.

U.S.A. fact of the day solve for the equilibrium

Utah’s population grew faster than that of any other state between 2010 and 2020. Salt Lake City has the lowest jobless rate among all big cities, at 2.8%, compared with a national rate of 5.2%. That the state has rebounded so well from the downturn caused by the covid-19 pandemic is thanks to the Wasatch Front, an urban corridor that includes Salt Lake and Provo, home to Brigham Young University. The four counties that make up the Wasatch Front account for at least 80% of Utah’s economic activity, reckons Juliette Tennert, an economist at the University of Utah.

Here is more from The Economist, they also note that Utah ranks at or near the very bottom for metrics of gender equality.