Monday, August 17, 2015

Berkeley soda tax raised price less than 1-for-1

Cawley and Frisvold compare soda prices in Berkeley and San Francisco before and after the new soda tax took effect in Berkeley. They find that Berkeley prices rose by less than half of the new tax, and they discuss a variety of reasons why that may have happened. Particularly interesting was the concomitant response of (same-brand?) diet soda prices, which could have been a response to shifted demand but is worrisome for a policy that tries to make calories more expensive.

Friday, August 14, 2015

UPPs & downers in contact lens prices

In March, the Times reported on the new Unilateral Pricing Policies (UPPs) of contact lens manufacturers, who have set retail price floors vendors that are substantially higher than what 1-800 Contacts, Costco, and many other retailers were charging. Pricing policies have been nutty ever since I can remember, with manufacturers' rebate plans that have all kinds of fine print.

The article quotes Johnson & Johnson as stating that 60% of their products' consumers actually saw lower prices as a result of this new price floor, because the rebate policies were simultaneously retired. But as a dedicated user of those rebates, I was looking at about a 33% increase in the price of my contacts.

To complicate matters, it also appears that my health insurance plan, new as of this year, partially covers the cost of contact lenses. I discovered this after speaking over the phone with an associate at my optometrist's office, or exactly whom the manufacturer was probably hoping I would turn to after the pricing policy was enacted. On net, I suspect my out-of-pocket expenditures on lenses may end up falling by almost 40% because of new insurance coverage and my optometrist's promotional discount.

The Times article quotes a trade publication that in turn reported remarks from the president of Johnson & Johnson in a 2014 letter to optometrists. She described their UPP as "refocus[ing] the conversation between the doctor and the patient on eye health and product performance rather than price," and as "giv[ing] the optometrist the ability to improve his or her capture rate in the office." In my case, the second of those two goals was definitely achieved. But as a long-time wearer of the same brand of contacts, I experienced precisely zero refocusing of the conversation about eye health and product performance.  The idea that a pricing floor is an effective mechanism for improving the quality of eye care seems dubious at best.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Changing female career aspirations

The NY Times reports on changes in female career and family aspirations across cohorts. One angle: millennials have seen their parents' struggles and are trying to plan to avoid or minimize them.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Women's suffrage and the sex ratio

Would you believe that in the Census of 1870, there were more than 10 men for every woman in the state of Wyoming? Per a History Channel page, passage of women's suffrage in Wyoming in 1869 had in some part to do with the massively imbalanced sex ratio.  Here's a plot, data courtesy of IPUMS, of the sex ratios in the 47 states and the District of Columbia in 1870 (horizontal axis) vs. sex ratios in 1880. The red line is the 45-degree line.  By 1880, the sex ratio in Wyoming had fallen from above 10 to just over 2 males per female, lower than that in Montana and Arizona.
Over a decade, part of this could be attributable not only to in-migration of females (and/or out-migration of males!), but to presumably enhanced fertility in the state, which would tend to pull the sex ratio back toward 1.

From the perspective of family economics, enhanced female empowerment would be an outcome to expect when the sex ratio is so heavy imbalanced in favor of females. Suffrage is one dimension, and it would be interesting to compare others.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Deferred compen-sensation

A good friend found this article from NBC HardballTalk on the plethora of deferred compensation a.k.a. generous annuity plans still payable in major league baseball. It's impressive how players and agents set up such plans in the first place. Even more impressive is how they've taken clubs and financial markets to the cleaners with the enormous present value of those plans, given how interest rates have remained at historic lows especially since the Great Recession but even stretching back to the tech bust of 2001.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CA mandates vaccinations

Amid controversy, California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a new law requiring children in public schools to be vaccinated. Recent work on this topic by Malia Jones and Alison Buttenheim had made the case that Californian parents were otherwise likely to continue filing for personal belief exemptions (PBEs) allowing postponement of vaccinations.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

UK demography

The Guardian reports on UK population trends, including an historical look at natural increase and net immigration, and a sideways age pyramid.