Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Economists' Survey Says moment on Piketty

Not news, but here's a roundup of some of the thinking in North American economics departments about Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

A broad collection of perspectives is available via the IGM Economic Experts Panel, although I think the way IGM phrased the question may have doomed it. Rather than asking about longer historical periods, Europe, or the future, it asked about the U.S. since the 1970s, and economists broadly agree to disagree with the relevance of Piketty's most parsimonious point about r > g, at least for that period.

Related to that are essays by Acemoglu and Johnson, who perhaps expectedly would rather talk about institutions than "laws" of capitalism, and slides by Justin Wolfers that draw from several other sources, including the ingeniously titled "Nit-Piketty" by Debraj Ray.  Also available is the April book review in the New Republic by Robert Solow, a springtime review by Larry Summers, and a recent review in J Econ History by Alex Field.

I think two of the main points about the relevance of Piketty's work to understanding modern inequality are that (1) a lot of U.S. inequality seems to be driven by labor income and/or technology, and not plausibly by excess growth of wealth over income as suggested by the r > g argument; and (2) how big r is relative to g may ultimately be an empirical question, but the empirical estimates vary depending on the time period and the definition of capital, and the theoretical reasons are also important (i.e., Eric Maskin's point that r and g are both determined by other stuff). I'm sure I've missed other important points!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Healthy Immigrants and NYC life expectancy

Preston and Elo attributed a big share of NYC improvements to immigrants in a Popul Devel Rev piece published earlier this year. They wrote a little about health care, but more prominent in the tale were public health campaigns against HIV, homicides, and smoking. What, no calories or soda?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bringing it home

The Times reports speculation on changing city climates over the next 40 years, a deft way of literally bringing the effects of climate change home for Americans. Could cities like Detroit benefit from being less hard hit?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reforestation and climate change

An assistant prof at Yale makes the case for caution, citing several counterintuitive patterns in the data.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

IOM weighs in on end-of-life

A new IOM report calls for change, per the Times. It's easy to see how fee-for-service reimbursement structures might produce too much hospital care and not necessarily enough sustenance of quality of remaining life.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Actuarial estimates of NFL brain injuries

The Times reported some startling statistics from the NFL concussion settlement.  Described as conservative by the NFL team, numbers like these are still pretty scary:

"The N.F.L.’s actuaries assumed that 28 percent of all players would be found to have one of the compensable diseases and that the league would pay out $900 million to them. Their calculations showed that players younger than 50 had an 0.8 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia, compared with less than 0.1 percent for the general population. For players ages 50 to 54, the rate was 1.4 percent, compared with less than 0.1 percent for the general population. The gap between the players and the general population grows wider with increasing age."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Krugman on Scotland

He advises against Scottish independence in its current proposed form, seeing little wisdom in a currency union without a fiscal union based on the Euro Zone's recent experience.