Monday, March 24, 2008

An upside to recessions

Drake Bennett at the Boston Globe wrote an overview published yesterday about recent research on the beneficial impacts of recessions for population health.

Although individuals who actually lose their jobs in a recession are probably unambiguously hurt, everyone else probably works less hard. They may also behave healthier, perhaps by smoking and drinking less. Chris Ruhm at UNC Greensboro has spearheaded recent work in this area.

How else might recessions be good? Do folks spend more time with their families?

Rising inequality in health

The NY Times reported this Sunday on trends in health inequalities as revealed by county-level mortality data. The universal pattern that seems to emerge from several different recent papers is that inequalities in life expectancy have risen since 1980.

Nancy Krieger and colleagues say this is new since 1980 and may reflect the redirection of policy under Reagan. Part of the problem concerns interpreting measures of mortality. Proportional differences in mortality rates roughly translate into additive differences in life expectancy, which we tend to perceive as static health inequality. Under this definition, Krieger et al. reveal no change in inequality prior to 1980.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Krugman on banking panics

Paul Krugman is a fabulous macroeconomist and a halfway decent political columnist, and it really shows in his columns in the New York Times. Today he writes about the credit crunch currently underway, and his perspectives are spot-on.

The challenge facing policymakers and markets is to design a regulatory framework that encourages innovation and risk-taking while ensuring transparency. In the case of subprime mortgages, it seems pretty clear that regulators did not do a very good job of the latter. A speech by the Fed's Ed Gramlich in 2004 discusses some of the issues the Fed was grappling with prior to the meltdown.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

China's One Child Policy Sticks --- for now

According to the New York Times, China's One Child Policy will remain in place for another decade or so. The population minister, Zhang Weiqin, was quoted as warning a change in the policy "would cause serious problems and add extra pressure on social and economic development.”

As the largest country population-wise, and as a developing country China obviously has some special circumstances. But a universal challenge facing human societies is a declining worker/retiree ratio, which is the natural result of population aging. Under a one-child policy, that pressure is only increased.

To be sure, rapid growth in per capita incomes works to offset that pressure to some degree. Annual growth in income per person in China has averaged about 7 percent, resulting in a doubling every 10 years or a quadrupling or more each generation.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Forecasts suggest slackening in college demand

A NY Times article reveals forecasts of a reduction in the number of public high school graduates beginning around 2009.

This appears to be solely the result of the underlying population projections, which reveal a reduction in the absolute number of 18 year-olds, for example, after 2008.