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AEA Research Highlights

English, Sciences, 1 season, 80 episodes, 1 day, 4 hours, 45 minutes
A podcast featuring interviews with economists whose work appears in journals published by the American Economic Association.
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Ep. 74: The pace of economics publishing

Timely publication of research in peer-reviewed journals is critical for economists seeking tenure and important for audiences looking for high-quality, trustworthy studies. But in recent decades, there has been an increasing concern that the pace of publishing in economics is too slow. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Literature, authors Aboozar Hadavand, Daniel S. Hamermesh, and Wesley W. Wilson analyzed the publication lag in top economics journals and compared it to other fields. They found that economics publishing takes nearly twice as long as comparable fields in the other social sciences. However, Hamermesh says that some innovative journals, such as AER: Insights, are taking steps to shorten the time between submission and publication. He recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the pace of publishing in economics, how to fix it, and some advice for young economists trying to publish their work.
5/7/202416 minutes, 49 seconds
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Ep. 72: A textbook bank run

In the middle of the day on Friday, March 10, 2023, bank regulators swiftly shut down Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), arguably averting a wider panic. Compared to past financial crises, it was not especially economically significant, but it stands out as an important, illustrative example of the economics of banking. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, author Andrew Metrick explains the causes behind SVB’s failure and how the government responded. He says that understanding the collapse of SVB is a stepping stone to making sense of more complicated financial crises such as the Global Financial Crisis. Metrick recently spoke with Tyler Smith about why Silicon Valley Bank failed and what policymakers can do to prevent financial crises.
3/12/202432 minutes, 33 seconds
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Ep. 71: The roots of US innovation clusters

Before Silicon Valley became a byword for innovation, Route 128, outside of Boston, was America's technology highway, connecting the country’s premier technology companies and research facilities. However, this first American high-tech cluster likely would not have developed as it did without one of the biggest shocks to federal R&D funding in US economic history. In a paper in the American Economic Review, authors Daniel P. Gross and Bhaven N. Sampat explain how a World War II research effort jump-started innovation hubs like Route 128 across the United States. Gross and Sampat recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the history of R&D funding in the United States, and the lessons policymakers can take from it.
2/14/202424 minutes, 34 seconds
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Ep. 70: Counselors matter

Numerous studies have highlighted the importance of effective teachers for student achievement. But new research suggests that school counselors may be just as critical as teaching staff for some students. In a paper in the American Economic Review, author Christine Mulhern found that effective high school counselors can significantly improve the chance that students graduate from high school and attend a four-year college. She says that although it is challenging to predict which counselors will have these large positive impacts, the effects are comparable to many popular education interventions. Mulhern recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the role that counselors play in students' choices, which students benefit the most from counseling, and the lessons administrators and parents can take away from her findings.
1/16/202415 minutes, 36 seconds
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Ep. 69: Testing two theories of the origin of government

Some social scientists have postulated that governments are designed for the purpose of helping the powerful take resources from the less powerful. But while there have been many exploitative governments throughout history, states may have actually started to form as a means of facilitating cooperation. In a paper in the American Economic Review, authors Robert C. Allen, Mattia C. Bertazzini, and Leander Heldring found that in ancient Mesopotamia, states were more likely to form when large-scale irrigation projects were needed after losing access to a river. They argue that the pattern observed in the archeological records is best explained by small settlements banding together to cooperate through new institutions. Heldring recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the economic origins of government, the nature of archaeological evidence for ancient state formation, and parallels to modern-day institutions.
10/31/202334 minutes, 16 seconds
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Ep. 68: Ending school segregation for Mexican Americans

Seven years before the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision ended the legal segregation of Black schoolchildren, California ended the legal segregation of Mexican American schoolchildren. That decision, known as Mendez v. Westminster, had a rapid impact across the state and led to significant educational benefits, according to a paper in the Journal Economic Literature.  Authors Francisca M. Antman and Kalena E. Cortes found that in areas more likely to practice segregation, the Mendez decision caused Mexican American children to significantly increase their years of schooling. Antman recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the history of Mexican American school desegregation and the lessons the authors’ work provides for policymakers.
10/2/202322 minutes, 34 seconds
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Ep. 67: Learning the language

The bulk of education research focuses on the benefits of the traditional K–12 and higher education systems, while non-traditional programs are relatively understudied. But economists are starting to shine a light on the large returns to investing in adult education. In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, authors Blake H. Heller and Kirsten Slungaard Mummafound large earnings gains and more civic engagement among immigrants who participated in an adult program teaching English as a second language (ESL). The benefits of these programs also led to a sizable return for taxpayers. Heller suggests that, in spite of the polarized space of immigration politics, ESL programs are likely to find traction on both sides of the political aisle because they combine the appeal of people working hard to improve themselves with a social safety net appeal. He recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the need for more research on adult education and the benefits of English language programs.
9/5/202320 minutes, 58 seconds
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Ep. 66: Transitional housing and recidivism

The United States spends over a billion dollars a year on housing programs that give recently released prisoners a place to stay and modest support before reintegration into society. Yet there is little causal evidence that these programs work. In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, author Logan M. Lee estimated whether residential housing programs in Iowa kept prisoners from returning to prison. He found that instead of reducing recidivism, prisoners assigned to halfway houses appeared to have higher rates of reincarceration than those who were paroled.  Lee recently spoke with Tyler Smith about how he arrived at his estimates and whether or not residential housing programs should be scaled back in the United States.
8/9/202327 minutes, 21 seconds
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Ep. 65: Economic questions raised by Alzheimer's disease

The costs of Alzheimer’s disease are significant. In 2021, it affected nearly 6 million Americans and accounted for an estimated 8 percent of total US health-care spending—about as much as cancer and heart disease combined. And those numbers are only expected to increase as the population ages. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Literature, authors Amitabh Chandra, Courtney Coile, and Corina Mommaerts explain how economists can help provide insights into the numerous policy issues that Alzheimer’s disease raises. However, Mommaerts says that the disease also challenges core assumptions in the standard economics tool kit. She recently spoke with Tyler Smith about cognitive constraints, incentives for providers, and encouraging more innovative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
7/11/202326 minutes, 7 seconds
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Ep. 64: Reconceptualizing the path to universal health insurance

For decades US policymakers have tried to achieve the universal health insurance coverage that many other developed countries enjoy. But despite incremental reforms, based on tweaking health insurance markets, America's uninsured population has remained stubbornly high. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspective, authors Katherine Baicker, Amitabh Chandra, and Mark Shepard argue that economists should move away from the paradigm that has inspired these past reforms and toward an approach that encourages wholesale change. They say that proposals should start from a basic, mandatory health insurance package, which can then be supplemented in markets for health insurance.  Shepard recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the success of health care systems using this framework in other developed countries and why economists need to rethink their approach to health insurance reform in the United States.
6/12/202324 minutes, 46 seconds
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Ep. 63: Gender bias in bank lending

Around the world, female entrepreneurs borrow less than their male counterparts. Many people suggest that the reason for this gap comes down to the fact that women select into less capital-intensive industries. But in a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, authors J. Michelle Brock and Ralph De Haas show that implicit bias against women leads to more onerous ​​guarantor requirements on loans. The findings come from a lab-in-the-field experiment conducted with over three hundred Turkish loan officers and real-life loan applications. Brock says that the additional collateral requirements placed on female entrepreneurs could be a significant barrier to women running businesses. But there may be steps that banks can take to mitigate the problem.  Brock recently spoke with Tyler Smith about her and De Haas’s experiment in Turkey and what lessons policymakers should take away from the results.
5/16/202320 minutes, 41 seconds
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Ep. 62: The importance of local activism

A wave of political demonstrations in recent years has grabbed headlines and helped to reshape the political landscape. But it’s an open question as to whether these protest movements actually change opinions in the long run. In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, authors Daniel Hungerman and Vivek Moorthy found that activism can have a lasting impact on local communities. In particular, they found that areas with unusually bad weather on the original Earth Day in 1970, which would have presumably lowered the participation rate, saw weaker support for the environment and worse newborn health outcomes 10 to 20 years later. Hungerman says that while climate change is a global phenomenon, their work is a reminder that bringing people together still makes a difference at the local level. He recently spoke with Tyler Smith about how the first Earth Day shaped communities’ views about the environment and what his research contributes to the broader conversation around climate change.
4/17/202318 minutes, 40 seconds
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Ep. 61: Market design and live events

Fans have frequently experienced the frustration of event tickets selling out in a matter of minutes and then being resold for twice as much or more. This combination of underpriced tickets in the primary market and rent-seeking speculation in the secondary market has long puzzled economists.  In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, authors Eric Budish and Aditya Bhave show that auctions are an easy way to fix broken ticket markets by looking at changes Ticketmaster made in 2003. However, the benefits of using auctions in primary markets are unlikely to be felt by consumers. Budish says that other reforms, such as preventing resales, could be a way for artists and sports teams to reward their die-hard followers. Budish recently spoke with Tyler Smith about Ticketmaster’s efforts to curb secondary markets with auctions, and how reforming the primary market for tickets benefits sellers as well as society.
3/20/202324 minutes, 29 seconds
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Ep. 60: Graduate school and mental health

Graduate school should be about learning how to push the frontiers of knowledge. Many students, however, also learn that getting a PhD can push them into emotional and psychological trouble. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Literature, authors Valentin Bolotnyy, Matthew Basilico, and Paul Barreira surveyed eight top-ranked economics PhD programs across the country and found high levels of significant depression and anxiety symptoms among students. Their survey indicates that some norms in the field, such as working alone and downplaying emotional distress, may be exacerbating the profession’s mental health issues. Bolotnyy recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the prevalence of mental distress among economics PhD students and what universities can do to remedy the situation, such as encouraging a more collaborative research environment.
2/21/202317 minutes, 28 seconds
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Ep. 59: Mental health therapy in the developing world

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of counseling designed to change unhelpful patterns of thinking. A strong, evidence-based track record has led to its widespread use in high-income countries. But it may also be an important tool for helping people in some of the poorest countries in the world.  In a paper in the American Economic Review: Insights, authors Nathan Barker, Gharad Bryan, Dean Karlan, Angela Ofori-Atta, and Christopher Udry found that group-based CBT in rural Ghana significantly improved mental and perceived physical health, as well as cognitive and socioemotional skills—even for individuals who did not report mental distress. The findings may be paired with more traditional economic assistance to get the most out of anti-poverty programs, says Nathan Barker. Barker recently spoke with Tyler Smith about his experiment in Ghana and why CBT can be beneficial for everyone, not just people suffering poor mental health.
1/23/202318 minutes, 52 seconds
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Ep. 53: Grade inflation and graduation

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the share of students leaving college with a degree steadily declined. But according to a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, the trend since then has taken a turn for the better. Authors Jeffrey T. Denning, Eric R. Eide, Kevin J. Mumford, Richard W. Patterson, and Merrill Warnick documented a large increase in graduation rates over the last three decades. By digging into the records of nine large public universities, a public liberal arts college, and a nationally representative survey, the researchers concluded that grade inflation is the most likely driver, ruling out explanations such as better student preparation. Denning says that more research is needed to determine whether this grade inflation is beneficial on the whole. But it should be something that school administrators consider when making decisions about grading standards. Denning recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the impact of grade inflation on college completion rates and the upsides it has as a policy tool.
7/25/202214 minutes, 47 seconds
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Ep. 52: Just what the doctor ordered?

In the 1990s, drug manufacturers began marketing their products directly to consumers. Since then, prescription drug advertising has become a multibillion dollar industry, and some have worried that it might be getting between patients and what their doctors think is in their best interest. But in a paper in the American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, author Bradley T. Shapiro found that advertising antidepressants on television led to significant improvements in indicators of depression. He says that the gains from decreasing workplace absenteeism far outweigh the costs associated with higher antidepressant sales. Shapiro recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the challenges of estimating the impact of advertising on consumers and how direct-to-consumer advertising of antidepressants can improve mental health.
6/27/202212 minutes, 55 seconds
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Ep. 51: The returns to an economics degree

Publicly available statistics on career earnings show that an economics degree pays far more on the job market than degrees in other social sciences. But it’s not clear that those higher salaries reveal the true returns to studying the dismal science.  In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, authors Zachary Bleemer and Aashish Mehta identify the causal effects of choosing one major over another by analyzing the outcomes of a policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, that prevented students with low grades in introductory economics courses from declaring an economics major. They found that studying economics boosted annual early-career wages by $22,000 compared to students' second-choice majors—a return roughly as large as enrolling in college in the first place. Bleemer says that returns to a major can vary significantly from student to student and college to college. But the results highlight the importance of carefully evaluating information about career earnings when choosing a field of study. He recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the earnings premium of an economics degree and the downsides of major restriction policies at universities.
5/31/202217 minutes, 53 seconds
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Ep. 50: Comparing 911 responses

Black Lives Matter protests have put a spotlight on police abuses since 2014, but it has been challenging for  researchers to assess the impact of race from the available data.  In a paper in the American Economic Review, authors Mark Hoekstra and CarlyWill Sloan found that White officers use force more frequently than Black officers, especially in Black neighborhoods.  Sloan says that their work is a step toward showing that some police departments may have systemic race problems rather than just a few high-profile, one-off incidents. She recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the challenges of studying officer–civilian interactions and the lessons her work might have for US police departments.
5/2/202218 minutes, 31 seconds
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Ep. 49: The great reset?

The COVID-19 pandemic has already significantly widened wealth and income disparities around the world.  Poorer populations suffered higher rates of infection, and workers in low paying jobs were the most impacted by widespread shutdowns. But not all pandemics have had the same effect. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Literature, author Guido Alfani looks at the history of pandemics stretching back to the medieval Black Death to examine how factors like mortality rates and the response by wealthy elites affected gaps between the rich and poor. Alfani says that the lessons from previous pandemics like cholera in the 19th century offer hope for how public policy responses can actually have a meaningful impact on reducing inequality over the long run. Alfani spoke with Chris Fleisher about how the history of global pandemics can help inform responses to COVID-19 and efforts to address the root causes of poverty. Music in the audio by Podington Bear.
4/4/202219 minutes, 4 seconds
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Ep. 48: Reframing development in Africa

The past weighs on every country, and nowhere is that more true than in Africa. The continent’s legacy of slavery, colonialism, and division has stood in the way of Africa’s struggle for stability and economic progress. But in a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, authors Nathan Canen and Leonard Wantchekon argue that economists must primarily consider the impact of modern-day policy choices to fully understand long-term growth in Africa. They say that political distortions—situations where special interest groups are able to direct economic development toward their own ends rather than toward improving general welfare—play an underappreciated role in Africa’s development. Approaching the continent’s economic growth through that lens may lead to more insights about how to create institutions that give average citizens a leg up on special interest groups. Canen and Wantchekon recently spoke with Tyler Smith about how state capture is holding back economic progress in Africa and what to do about it.
3/16/202224 minutes, 54 seconds
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Ep. 47: Moving on up?

In the first half of the twentieth century, four million African Americans left the Jim Crow South to create new lives for themselves. They moved to cities like Detroit, Baltimore, and Chicago in what came to be known as “the Great Migration.” And indeed, they did improve their economic standing, with some families doubling their earnings. But opportunities to move up the ladder would dwindle for the generations that followed. In a paper in the American Economic Review, Ellora Derenoncourt shows that the way northern cities responded to the migration dampened the earnings potential for African Americans living in those locations today.  She says the findings offer insights into how some policies that encourage families to move to opportunity, such as voucher programs, ignore more fundamental questions about the elements that make neighborhoods thrive. Derenoncourt spoke with Chris Fleisher about her research, the mechanisms that reduced earnings potential for Black residents in some northern cities, and the implications for programs aimed at moving low-income and minority families to opportunity.
3/2/202219 minutes, 33 seconds
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Ep. 46: Money well spent

The United States has dramatically increased its funding for public schools over the last four decades. Real per-pupil expenditures have nearly doubled since 1980.  In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, author Jason Baron found that when school budgets increased in Wisconsin, how that money got allocated made a big difference into student outcomes. Baron says that additional spending on operations, such as teacher salaries and support services, positively affected test scores, dropout rates, and postsecondary enrollment. But extra capital expenditures on new buildings and renovations had little impact. He spoke with Tyler Smith about why different types of school funding matter and how school budgets may continue to evolve.
2/16/202222 minutes, 15 seconds
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Ep. 45: Immigration politics

Nine in ten Republicans say increasing border security is important, and immigration remains a salient issue with voters entering the 2022 midterm elections. But it’s not just general opposition to immigrants that registers with voters. The skills immigrants bring shape how US voters view them. In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, authors Anna Maria Mayda, Giovanni Peri, and Walter Steingress investigate how Republican vote share changed with an influx of differently skilled workers. They say that Republicans lost votes in places where the immigrants were highly skilled, for example, in fields like health care or IT, while gaining vote share where there was an influx of low-skilled foreign workers. Additionally, they find that if overall immigration—including all skill levels—had been cut in half in certain states between 1990 and 2016, it would have swung the 2016 election for Democrats. Mayda spoke with Chris Fleisher recently about how immigrant skill level shapes public perceptions, the extent to which this affected Republican support, and the implications for how immigration is talked about by policymakers and covered in the media.
2/2/202217 minutes, 44 seconds
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Ep. 44: Inverted outcomes resulting from the Electoral College system

Only four times in US presidential history has the candidate with fewer popular votes won the election. Two of those occurred recently in 2000 and 2016, leading to calls to reform the system. Far from being a fluke, this peculiar outcome of the US Electoral College has a high probability in close races, according to a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. Authors Michael Geruso, Dean Spears, and Ishaana Talesara say that regardless of changes in demographics and institutions, the odds of so-called inverted elections in close races has been about the same over the last 200 years. Geruso says that while Republicans benefit today from the chance of an inverted election, it hasn’t always been that way.  He recently spoke with Tyler Smith about why the Electoral College causes inversions and what he thinks about moving to a national popular vote.  
1/19/202222 minutes, 20 seconds
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Inoculating adolescents, protecting the public

This is a rebroadcast of a conversation that Chris Fleisher had with University of Georgia professor Emily Lawler back in 2019 about her research on vaccine mandates for adolescents.
1/5/202220 minutes, 39 seconds
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Ep. 43: The long-run benefits of public preschool

Head Start was launched nearly sixty years ago as part of the United States’ War on Poverty. Since then, it has helped prepare millions of kids for first grade. The architects of the program hoped that putting disadvantaged children on more equal footing with their better-off peers would set them up for future success. But the long-run impacts are only now becoming clear. In a paper in the American Economic Review, authors Martha J. Bailey, Shuqiao Sun, and Brenden Timpe found that Head Start significantly boosted educational attainment and economic self-sufficiency later in life. The returns were so great that the program more than paid for itself. Bailey says their findings offer important insights into evaluating large-scale social programs, especially those that invest in people while they are young. She recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the long-term effects of Head Start and its lessons for early childhood intervention programs. 
12/22/202114 minutes, 31 seconds
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Ep. 42: Reimagining public safety research

The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked a national conversation around police reform, with proposals ranging from reallocating resources to outright abolition of local departments. Economists could help inform these discussions. But critics say existing economic research falls short of understanding the true impacts of policing on communities. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Yale sociologist Monica C. Bell offers proposals for how economists can deepen their understanding of policing and public safety. She says a good first step is to separate those two concepts.  Bell recently spoke with Chris Fleisher about how focusing on crime limits our understanding of the way policing shapes communities, why more research is needed on community-based safety programs, and how qualitative approaches can inform research based on big data.
12/8/202126 minutes, 21 seconds
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Ep. 41: Divergences in life expectancy across US states

With advances in modern medicine, US life expectancy steadily improved over the second half of the 20th century. But that progress masked a growing gap in mortality between poorer and richer states that started in the 1980s.  The exact reasons for this divergence are still unknown, but a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives helps rule out some possibilities and provides guidance about where to look next. Authors Benjamin K. Couillard, Christopher L. Foote, Kavish Gandhi, Ellen Meara, and Jonathan Skinner say that two types of explanations stand out. On the one hand, previous research has found numerous ways that state institutions and policies have affected health outcomes. And on the other hand, there are reasons to believe that behavior and culture also contribute to mortality differences. Disentangling these two strands may be a significant challenge for future research, according to the authors.Meara, who is Professor of Health Economics and Policy at Harvard, and Foote, who is Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, recently spoke with Tyler Smith about rising geographic disparities in US mortality.The edited highlights of that conversation are below, and the full interview can be heard using the podcast player. [Note: The views expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Federal Reserve System or the Boston Fed.]
11/24/202121 minutes, 17 seconds
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Ep. 40: The recovery of Southern wealth after the Civil War

The American Civil War and emancipation ended chattel slavery, and as a result, substantially reduced the fortunes of slaveholding households in the years immediately following the war. In a paper in the American Economic Review, authors Philipp Ager, Leah Boustan, and Katherine Eriksson find that many White former slave-owning households rebuilt much of their lost wealth in just one generation, and within two generations, most had recovered entirely. According to the authors, this rapid recovery was made possible by non-material advantages, such as social networks and political connections, which persisted in spite of the large loss of wealth. The research challenges common narratives around the South’s recovery from the Civil War by documenting the persistence of much of the wealth created from chattel slavery. Boustan recently spoke with Chris Fleisher about how she and her coauthors approached their research and what their findings say about wealth and inequality.  
11/10/202125 minutes, 47 seconds
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Ep. 39: Deterring crime with DNA databases

DNA databases have become essential for solving crimes with few to no leads. But their benefits extend beyond finding suspects.  They provide a powerful tool for preventing crimes from happening in the first place, according to a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. Authors Anne Sofie Tegner Anker, Jennifer L. Doleac, and Rasmus Landersø found that the expansion of DNA databases in Denmark led to a sharp reduction in recidivism. While some citizens worry about potential abuse of this surveillance tool, the effectiveness of registering offenders in DNA databases stands out compared to traditional policing measures. Professor Doleac recently spoke with Tyler Smith about how DNA registration deters crime and how policymakers should weigh the tradeoff between privacy and effective policing measures.
10/27/202120 minutes, 26 seconds
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Ep. 38: Growth by proximity

Austin was a laid-back college town in the 1980s when a student at the University of Texas named Michael Dell began selling computers from his dorm room. At the time, Texas’s capital city was perhaps known more for high hats than high-tech. But the company Dell started would become the world’s largest PC maker and attracted a slew of talent that turned Austin into a technology hub. Enrico Moretti has studied how these “agglomeration economies” develop and the ways they drive growth. In a paper in the American Economic Review, he says that inventors produce more patented research when surrounded by other top talent in their field.   He also says that tech clusters will continue to thrive after the pandemic, despite speculation that they will be less relevant in a world of more remote work. Moretti spoke with Chris Fleisher about agglomeration and what the case study of Kodak in Rochester, New York, can tell us about how clusters affect innovation.
10/13/202123 minutes, 44 seconds
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Ep. 37: Going from gasoline to electric

Countries around the world are contemplating aggressive plans to curb CO₂ emissions in the coming decades. Many see the electrification of the transportation sector as the first step, but in a paper in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, economist Stephen P. Holland warns against using simple bans on the sale of gasoline vehicles to achieve that goal. Holland and coauthors Erin T. Mansur and Andrew J. Yates analyzed a range of policies to encourage the transition from gas powered vehicles to electric vehicles and found that governments may have little control over when that switch happens. Their work shows how policymakers can incentivize manufacturers to ramp down production of gas cars while avoiding too much damage to the overall economy. Professor Holland recently spoke with Tyler Smith about the dangers of banning gasoline vehicles and how best to transition to electric cars. 
9/29/202121 minutes, 33 seconds
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Ep. 36: Demagoguery on the airwaves

Right-wing radio has served as a megaphone for populist outrage in America. Talk-show hosts like Alex Jones and the late Rush Limbaugh have railed against cultural elites, promoted baseless claims of election fraud, stoked a backlash against immigrants, and questioned the effectiveness of masks and vaccinations amid the Covid-19 pandemic. How and to what extent do these charismatic radio personalities influence public opinion? In the American Economic Review, author Tianyi Wang goes back to the 1930s to help answer this question by examining the impact of the religious firebrand Father Charles Coughlin. Known as the “Father of Hate Radio,” Father Coughlin had a devoted following of tens of millions of listeners across the United States, who tuned in to hear him thunder against the evils of Communism, Wall Street bankers, and America’s involvement in World War II. Wang found that Coughlin’s program resonated profoundly with listeners, persuading more than a quarter of them to vote against Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election.  Wang spoke with Chris Fleisher about Coughlin’s history as a populist media figure during the Great Depression, his influence over US public opinion, and the insights for today’s fragmented media. *Theme music in the podcast is from Podington Bear and the Father Charles Coughlin clip is from
9/15/202122 minutes, 55 seconds
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Ep. 35: Work and childcare during the pandemic

COVID-19 has reshaped work in numerous ways. Many fortunate white-collar Americans spent the last year working from home. Others in service-oriented jobs lost work or spent their workdays behind masks and plexiglass.   These pandemic-related changes have been especially hard on women, according to a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Economists Stefania Albanesi and Jiyeon Kim found that unlike in previous business cycles, employment losses during this recession have been larger for women than for men. They argue that gender differences in occupations and in childcare responsibilities are the main drivers.  The authors’ findings highlight the impact that childcare policies may have on the career prospects of women, as well as on the overall economy. Professor Albanesi recently spoke with Tyler Smith about why the COVID-19 recession poses unique challenges and what policymakers can do to help.  *Theme music by Podington Bear
9/1/202122 minutes, 30 seconds
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Ep. 34: The politics of tax evasion

Tax evasion costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars every year.  But for some Americans, hiding income from the government is about more than keeping every possible penny they earned for themselves. It’s also a form of political protest.   In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, authors Julie Berry Cullen, Nicholas Turner, and Ebonya Washington investigate whether attitudes toward government cause Americans to evade paying personal income taxes. They found that when a new president entered office, taxpayers in counties on the opposite side of the political aisle appeared less willing to share their earnings with the government.  Conversely, those who were politically aligned with the new president were more trusting of how their taxes would be spent. Cullen and Washington spoke with Chris Fleisher about the challenges of researching tax evasion, the importance of public trust in government, and the implications of their findings in a hyperpolarized time.
8/18/202119 minutes, 43 seconds
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Ep. 33: Military handoffs

For a military intervention to end successfully, foreign forces have to hand off security to domestic forces. But historically, these transitions have rarely gone well. In a paper in the American Economic Review, political scientist Austin L. Wright examined the impact of NATO troop withdrawals from Afghanistan on insurgent violence and local perceptions of security conditions. He and coauthors Thiemo Fetzer, Pedro C. L. Souza, and Oliver Vanden Eynde found that the Taliban held back from attacking coalition forces during the initial stages of the drawdown to disguise their true strength, ramping up violence once security was left completely to Afghan forces. Their insights shed light on why the late stages of the current withdrawal have been worse than expected.  Professor Wright recently spoke with Tyler Smith about NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and what the US can do to improve security transitions in the future.  
8/4/202121 minutes, 19 seconds
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Bonus: The case for paying college athletes

**Editor's note: This is a rebroadcast of an interview from 2019. College sports have become big business, and everybody’s making money except the players. The National Collegiate Athletic Association prohibits “student athletes” from receiving a cut of the millions of dollars in revenue that schools collect from games and product licensing. Instead, players get scholarships, the value of which pales in comparison to what they might earn on the open market. But that may be changing. Repeated court challenges and bribing scandals involving star athletes have cast a pall on the two most popular sports of men’s basketball and football. The introduction of legalized gambling this year has intensified the pressure to pay players what they are worth, lest they fall prey to the influence of betters hoping to sway the outcome of a game. Allen Sanderson and John Siegfried have been arguing for years that the system needs to change. In 2015, they published a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that made the case for opening college sports to the free market. Sanderson and Siegfried spoke with the AEA about why they think college athletes should be paid, the potential consequences of doing so, and how the landscape could change over the coming decade.
7/23/202123 minutes, 12 seconds
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Ep. 32: How policy shapes culture

Culture is shaped by the conditions in which humans live. As societies modernize, their cultural traditions will change too. But it’s difficult to identify what is driving those changes and what role public policy may be playing. In a paper in the American Economic Review, UCLA professor Natalie Bau investigated how the introduction of a formal pension system affected traditional family arrangements in Indonesia and Ghana. She found that having access to a pension led parents to invest less in the education of children who would have traditionally supported them in old age. It also resulted in more of those children leaving home after marriage rather than continuing to live with their parents, as was the customary practice. These findings have broader implications for how we understand the interplay between culture and policy, particularly in low-income countries.  Bau spoke with Chris Fleisher about the complexity of studying the intersection of culture and economics, the implications from her research for the wider push for pension reform in the developing world, and the unintended consequences from public policy.
7/21/202115 minutes, 4 seconds
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Ep. 31: More than a few bad apples

Police officers have a lot of discretion in how they enforce the law, but they are not always evenhanded in how they employ their judgement. In a paper in the American Economic Review, Dartmouth College economist Steven Mello examined variations in speeding enforcement by officers with the Florida Highway Patrol.. He and coauthor Felipe Goncalves found that nearly half of the officers practiced racial discrimination and identified the types of officers who discriminated the most. The results undercut claims that racial bias is confined to a few bad apples. Professor Mello recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about how economists study discrimination and what policies might help to address disparate outcomes for minorities.
7/7/202112 minutes, 35 seconds
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Ep. 30: LGBTQ economics

A lot has changed since the first economics papers on LGBTQ issues appeared in the mid-1990s.  The volume of research in this area has grown significantly. There is more awareness of an expanding array of identities and a broader push to root out discrimination within the economics profession. Lee Badgett wrote some of those early foundational papers more than two decades ago and has been at the forefront of studying the economics of LGBTQ populations. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Badgett and coauthors Christopher Carpenter and Dario Sansone provide an overview of the literature on LGBTQ individuals and some of the issues involved in advancing the subdiscipline. Getting reliable data is just one huge challenge that economists face. Badgett spoke with Chris Fleisher about how the field has changed since her seminal papers on LGBTQ economics were published, her most surprising findings from researching this paper and latest book, and how she sees her role as an economist engaged in these issues.
6/23/202125 minutes, 24 seconds
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Ep. 29: Making economic tools more reliable

Can economists trust their models? How does their data drive their conclusions? These are some of the big questions that motivate econometrician Isaiah Andrews. The Harvard professor was awarded this year’s John Bates Clark Medal for his contributions to econometric theory and empirical practice. And while Andrews works on some of the most technically difficult questions in economics, he says helping students is crucial to his success.
6/9/202127 minutes, 59 seconds
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Ep. 28: The Pros and Cons of Collaboration

There was a time not long ago when most economists tended to work by themselves.  In 1960, fewer than one in five economics journal articles had more than one author. Today, about three quarters of all papers are produced by research teams. The shift toward collaboration has a lot of upsides for economists, including producing higher impact papers, sharing the division of labor, and enjoying creative partnerships.  Northwestern University economist Benjamin Jones says that there are some downsides too. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Jones says that the rise of teams has made it more difficult to identify individual contributions. This can muddy tenure decisions, hinder grant funding opportunities, and even expand inequality in the field at a time when economics is trying to boost representation of women and minorities. Jones spoke with the AEA’s Chris Fleisher about the rise of research teams, the pros and cons of collaboration, and a few reforms that could help ensure coauthors are getting fair treatment.
5/26/202124 minutes, 30 seconds
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Ep. 27: American capitalism and incarceration

The first private prison in the United States opened in 1984 amidst the war on drugs and overcrowding in public prisons. Now a multi-billion dollar industry, private prisons incarcerate about 8 percent of all America's inmates. In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, University of Wisconsin-Madison economist Anita Mukherjee examined the impact of private prisons on the length of time that inmates serve. She found that inmates in Mississippi served an average of 90 extra days if they were sent to a private facility. The results undercut the industry's claims that private companies provide correctional services more efficiently and at lower cost to governments. Professor Mukherjee recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about why private prisons tend to hold inmates longer and how private prison contracting could be reformed.
5/12/202119 minutes, 21 seconds
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Ep. 26: Creating Africa’s own Green Revolution

More than 50 years ago, a revolution in seed and fertilizer technology bolstered food production and economic well-being in Asia and Latin America. Unfortunately, this “Green Revolution” left sub-Saharan Africa behind. At the turn of the 21st century, many farmers still were struggling to produce enough food to feed their communities. Then, in 2006, a number of African nations embarked on an ambitious plan to invest billions of dollars into their own green revolution. In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, University of Michigan economist Dean Yang and co-authors Michael Carter and Rachid Laajaj examine the effectiveness of a temporary subsidy program in Mozambique. Running a randomized control trial, they found that giving farmers one-time vouchers for seed and fertilizer led to an immediate improvement in crop yields. And as word spread, other farmers not involved in the program got on board and amplified the effects ten-fold. Yang spoke with the AEA’s Chris Fleisher about that experiment in Mozambique, what it revealed about the impact of temporary subsidies, and how RCTs--considered the gold standard in experimental research—could still be improved.
4/28/202123 minutes, 45 seconds
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Ep. 25: Why the United States has the best research universities

At the turn of the 19th century, American universities were mostly under-resourced, regional schools. By World War II, they had become research leaders on the global stage, attracting the world's best scientists. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, economists W. Bentley MacLeod and  Miguel Urquiola say that the US universities’ ascendancy in research started earlier than many people believe.  Just after the Civil War, two innovators found a successful formula. Johns Hopkins and Cornell made key reforms that started attracting the best research talent—and the large sums of money needed to keep it.  Today, reformers would like to tweak practices like tenure that helped create this virtuous circle. But Urquiola says they should keep a few important tradeoffs in mind. Urquiola recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about the history of the US university system and what today's education policymakers can learn from it. 
4/14/202121 minutes, 25 seconds
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Ep. 24: Climate change and migration

Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus has called climate change “the ultimate challenge for economics.” Economists increasingly have been trying to understand how rising tides and global temperatures will impact resource allocation around the globe, as well as the potential policy tools that can help curb damage to our natural world. SMU professor Klaus Desmet says that a lot of those analyses are missing a critical factor: migration. Desmet coauthored a paper in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics that examines how economic output will be affected over the next 200 years as humans move away from coastal areas threatened by rising sea levels. Although losses in vulnerable Southeast Asian cities such as Bangkok and Shanghai will still be very significant, their research shows overall GDP declines are substantially less than predicted by models that don’t account for spatial shifts in economic activity. The AEA’s Chris Fleisher spoke with Desmet about the impacts of rising sea levels on the global economy and the trade-offs between short-run costs of migration and long-run benefits.
3/31/202126 minutes, 32 seconds
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Ep. 23: How much do local leaders matter?

After a failed revolution in 1848, hundreds of Germans were expelled from their home country and settled in the US. It was not obvious that this eclectic group would play an important role in American politics and change the course of the nation. Their words and leadership helped President Lincoln and the North win the Civil War, according to a paper in the American Economic Review. Authors Christian Dippel and Stephan Heblich found that these German immigrants significantly boosted Union Army enlistments through newspapers, social clubs, and public speaking tours. The story of these so-called Forty-Eighters offers important insights into how grassroots leaders shape social movements. Dippel recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about getting around something economists call the “reflection problem,” the legacy of the Forty-Eighters, and what their example offers today’s leaders.  
3/17/202130 minutes
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Ep. 22: Supreme polarization

Democrats may control the White House and Congress, but Republicans have a clear advantage on the nation’s highest court.  Sixteen of the last 20 appointments to the Supreme Court have been GOP nominees, including six of nine sitting justices. Critics say that this has caused an imbalance of power that threatens the court’s legitimacy. University of Chicago law professor Daniel Hemel questions, however, whether some of the reforms being discussed would help. Hemel has a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives arguing that ideological polarization on the Supreme Court is nothing new. And while it’s true that Republicans have dominated recent appointments, proposals like 18-year term limits would do little to address partisan fighting. In fact, term limits could make matters even worse. Hemel spoke with the AEA’s Chris Fleisher about the history of ideological division on the Supreme Court, proposals for creating a more balanced court, and what changes he believes hold the most promise for addressing those concerns.
3/3/202126 minutes, 58 seconds
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Bonus: Tech: economists wanted

Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are pushing today’s technology frontier. And critical to their enterprises are economists who’ve honed their skills at universities. In the Winter 2019 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, economists Susan Athey and Michael Luca outlined this growing, mutual influence between economics and the tech industry. Athey and Luca have spent their careers with one foot in academia and the other in the tech sector. Athey—in addition to being a professor at Stanford—served as chief economist at Microsoft and currently sits on the boards of Expedia, Lending Club, Rover, and Ripple. Luca is a professor at Harvard and works with a variety of tech companies. His efforts at Yelp led to the creation of an economic research initiative there. Athey says that economists have the training and tools to make meaningful contributions at tech companies, while also feeling intellectually challenged. The AEA spoke with Athey and Luca about the many new opportunities for collaboration between tech companies with large amounts of data and economists looking to experiment in the digital economy.
2/17/202121 minutes, 3 seconds
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Ep. 21: The consquences of school choice.

In the US, most students enroll in their neighborhood school. But sometimes, they have a choice. Families might be given vouchers for other public or private institutions further from their homes. Policymakers’ hope is that kids in underperforming schools won’t be limited by where they can afford to live. Harvard professor Chris Avery says that the housing market is important to how school choice programs function. In the January issue American Economic Review, Avery and his co-author Parag Pathak update some of the economic models from a highpoint of school-choice research in the 1990s to consider how these programs affect where people live. Their results show how choice programs can actually undercut their own goals. Avery spoke with the AEA’s Chris Fleisher about the research on this issue, the challenges of detangling school assignment from family income, and the potential implications for educational reform.
2/3/202123 minutes, 8 seconds
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Ep. 20: Rereading The Road to Serfdom

Friedrich Hayek is one of the giants of 20th century economics. He did important work on everything from business cycles to psychology, earning a Nobel Prize in economics in 1974.  However, Hayek is perhaps best known for his book, The Road to Serfdom. Since its publication in 1944, many leaders and politicians have cited it as a proof that countries that experiment with socialism will inevitably end up as a totalitarian state. Duke economist Bruce Caldwell says that the book's message was much more nuanced and often misinterpreted by later generations.  He sets the record straight in the September issue of the Journal of Economic Literature by expanding on Hayek’s thinking and the intellectual climate in which Hayek was writing. Just as important, Caldwell’s research shows the importance of digging into the origins of economic debates. Caldwell recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about the intellectual backdrop to The Road to Serfdom, the challenges of writing for a wider audience, and the history of economic ideas.   The edited highlights of that conversation are below, and the full interview can be heard using the podcast player below.
1/20/202125 minutes, 26 seconds
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Ep. 19: Social well-being and academic success

Schools are academic institutions. But they are not only that. They are also social spaces that are critical to children’s development. Whether inside the classroom or out on the playground, kids learn how to problem solve, to adapt, persevere, and resolve conflicts. And those schools that are best at fostering these skills are setting their students up for longer term success, according Northwestern professor Kirabo Jackson. In the December issue of the American Economic Review: Insights, Jackson and co-authors Shanette Porter, John Easton, Alyssa Blanchard, and Sebastian Kiguel examine Chicago Public high schools to determine whether they could have a meaningful impact on ninth graders’ social well-being, and how that affected longer-run outcomes. Jackson spoke with the AEA's Chris Fleisher about that research, the challenges of helping kids develop in a remote learning environment, and why schools need to consider social support along with academics.
1/6/202124 minutes, 56 seconds
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Ep. 18: The promise of conditional cash transfers

Simply giving cash with a few strings attached could be one of the most promising ways to reduce poverty and insecurity in the developing world. Today, over 63 countries have at least one such program.  And while these policies have been around for a few decades, little is known about how much so-called conditional cash transfers (CCT) improve people's lives over the long term. A paper in the November issue of the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy fills that gap by studying Indonesia’s conditional cash transfer program over a six year period.  Authors Nur Cahyadi, Rema Hanna, Benjamin Olken, Rizal Adi Prima, Elan Satriawan, Ekki Syamsulhakim found that the Family Hope Program dramatically boosted school enrollment rates and the use of healthcare facilities. But most importantly, they found signs that families permanently benefited from the extra support. Significantly fewer kids suffered from stunted growth when their parents got cash—an outcome that requires continuous investment throughout childhood.  Hanna recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about the effectiveness of conditional cash transfers, the risks of making conditions too strict, and what program designers should keep foremost in mind.
12/23/202016 minutes, 38 seconds
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Ep. 17: Gendered laws

It’s well documented that women earn less than men for doing the same job. But the pay gap is just one way in which women are economically disadvantaged. In some countries, women cannot work without their husband’s permission. They have restricted access to credit and are effectively penalized for having children. And this discrimination is not just governed by social norms; it is codified in the law. In the American Economic Review: Insights, renowned economist Penny Goldberg and co-authors Marie Hyland and Simeon Djankov provide the first global picture of gender discrimination by the law as it affects women’s economic opportunities. They dig into the World Bank’s newly compiled database of gendered laws covering 190 economies and going back 50 years to examine legal gender discrimination against women. Progress has been made, such as creating more job opportunities for women as demand for their labor has grown. But Goldberg said the progress has been uneven and there are some aspects of the law, especially around equal pay and parenthood, that have been slower to change. Goldberg, a Yale professor and former vice president of the AEA, spoke with us about gender discrimination in the law, which countries are the most and least progressive, how legal reforms can result in a more equitable economy, and questions she would like to see other economists pursue. *Music in the audio is by Sound of Picture.
12/9/202022 minutes, 53 seconds
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Ep. 16: The anatomy of inequality

More and more of the wealth in the richest countries is going to their richest citizens. And there are no signs that it’s stopping. But how inequality has grown—who it’s affecting and why—has changed significantly over the last four decades, according to a paper in the Fall issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Authors Florian Hoffmann, David S. Lee, and Thomas Lemieux say that since 2000 income inequality in the US has shifted more to the top of the income distribution and that income from capital has grown more important. But these patterns differ across European countries—a sign that inequality is a policy choice.  If policymakers want to close this growing gap between the haves and the have nots, Hoffman says better education will be key. Hoffman recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about the anatomy of inequality in advanced economies, the many potential factors behind its growth, and how COVID-19 could exacerbate the problem.
11/25/202017 minutes, 10 seconds
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Ep. 15: How economists can help combat COVID-19

Epidemiology used to be a quiet discipline whose experts were not much used to being in the public eye.   Then COVID-19 happened. Suddenly, epidemiologists everywhere were being called into service to track the virus and formulate a plan to combat its spread. But Boston University epidemiologist Eleanor Murray says there are a lot of questions about the pandemic’s impact that are beyond her field’s expertise. In the Journal of Economic Perspectives, she makes the case that economists have an important role to play in studying and responding to COVID-19.  She recently spoke with the AEA’s Chris Fleisher about why estimated cases and deaths in some of the early models were so wildly different, some of the most urgent questions about the pandemic that economists should tackle, and why she believes it’s important that both fields work together.
11/11/202021 minutes, 26 seconds
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Bonus episode: How Democrats lost the South

The GOP has owned the US South, winning a majority of the region’s votes in every presidential election for the past 40 years. But it wasn’t always this way. The so-called “Solid South” used to vote reliably Democratic. So what happened? Most scholars believe it was backlash to Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. Still, even today, the question is not completely settled. Researchers Ilyana Kuziemko and Ebonya Washington used Gallup poll data available through Cornell University’s Roper Center to investigate the role that racial attitudes — as opposed to economic concerns — played in Southern whites’ defection from the Democratic party. Their paper published in the American Economic Review in October 2018 concludes that whites’ backlash to the Civil Rights law explains almost entirely the shift toward the Republican Party. Kuziemko and Washington spoke with the AEA after their paper was published about how their research contributes to our understanding of voters’ motivations during that period and why researchers need to be careful about connecting that experience to today’s political environment.
10/30/202027 minutes, 14 seconds
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Ep. 14: Importing polarization

The gap between red and blue America has been expanding for decades, and the consequences of this increasing polarization are clear to close oberserves of Washington But why Americans have grown so far apart in the first place is still a complicated, unanswered question. Part of the story appears to be the sudden rise of China as an export powerhouse, according to a paper in the October issue of the American Economic Review. Authors David Autor, David Dorn, Gordon Hanson, and Kaveh Majlesi say that trade competition from China has redicalized many Americans in declining manufacturing towns. Long-term joblessness and insecurity has pushed people in those communities to the far-right and far-left edges of the political spectrum.  But Hanson says in this episode of the Research Highlights podcast that it’s not a failure of trade policy. It’s a failure of America’s safety net to protect the workers hit hardest by Chinese imports. Hanson recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about how economic and cultural insecurity drive hyper partisanship and what policymakers can do to help areas distressed by the China trade shock.
10/28/202022 minutes, 30 seconds
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Ep. 13: Populism's rise

Populism’s rise has sparked fundamental questions for advanced democracies around the world. Perhaps the biggest question is why it’s happening. Some research points to economic explanations. Americans who gravitated to President Trump’s nationalistic appeals and British voters who approved leaving the European Union were frustrated by job losses associated with globalization. And that anxiety made them susceptible to politicians who promised to claw back their economic power.  Political scientist Yotam Margalit says that explanation is overstated. He says that long-term cultural changes, like growing ethnic diversity and the shift toward urbanization, are bigger factors underlying the populist appeal. These changes have sparked resentments among some groups that threaten to undermine liberal democracy, itself.
10/14/202024 minutes, 23 seconds
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Ep. 12: Taxing hidden wealth

The IRS knows that taxpayers hide a large chunk of their wealth overseas. According to the best estimates, Americans hold more than a trillion dollars in offshore tax havens.  But it's not easy to find those secret accounts and make tax dodgers pay their fair share. In the August issue of the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, Daniel Reck says that an array of enforcement efforts in 2008 provide a starting point.  He and his co-authors Niels Johannesen, Patrick Langetieg, Max Risch, and Joel Slemrod looked at how special incentives, better information sharing, and more aggressive prosecution by US authorities led to the voluntary disclosure of thousands of foreign accounts. Overall, the new compliance raised nearly a billion dollars in annual tax revenue. However, Reck says that more progress is needed to understand how the ultra wealthy use complex networks of ownership to hide their assets.
9/30/202018 minutes, 3 seconds
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Ep. 11: Reviving distressed communities

The US spends nearly $50 billion a year on job-creating business incentives. Unfortunately, a lot of this money doesn’t go to the places that need it most. Upjohn Institute senior economist Tim Bartik says that policymakers must do more to invest in distressed regions. In the Journal of Economic Perspectives, he argues that policymakers could get more bang for their buck by targeting needy communities. Even more, economic development officials need to broaden their approach beyond cash grants and tax incentives, which might be politically popular but are less effective at generating jobs than skills training, brownfield development, or other programs. Bartik spoke with the AEA’s Chris Fleisher about which incentives are most effective, the trade-offs of becoming a high-tech hub, and why places will continue to matter even when more workers are doing their jobs from home.
9/16/202023 minutes, 58 seconds
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Ep. 10: What helps and hurts minorities’ progress in an economics career?

Black, Latinx, and Native American people are badly underrepresented in economics.  In 2017, they were 30 percent of the US population, but earned fewer than 10 percent of economics PhDs. The question now facing economists is why minorities are opting for other careers. To find out, Gary Hoover of the University of Oklahoma reached out to minorities still in the profession, as well those who ultimately decided to leave it. He and his co-authors Amanda Bayer and Ebonya Washington published their in-depth survey results in the Summer issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.  While some respondents faced openly hostile environments, many graduate students and faculty said that more subtle forms of biases made them feel like outsiders.  Hoover says that all economists can do more to inform, mentor, and welcome underrepresented groups. But it starts with listening. He recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about minority experiences in economics, including his own, and some concrete steps for making the profession more inclusive.
9/2/202021 minutes, 12 seconds
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Ep. 9: A century of women’s enfranchisement

This week marks the centennial of women’s enfranchisement in the United States and women have never been so politically powerful—or politically divided with men. The “sex gap” in partisanship and voter turnout continues to widen. Once willing to defer the work of politics to men, women now have a 4 percentage point advantage in voter turnout. The partisanship gap has also grown. Women are 12 percentage points more likely to identify with the Democratic Party. Dartmouth professor Elizabeth Cascio says the shifts in turnout reflect generational change. The gains have come from younger, higher-participation cohorts replacing older women who were less likely to vote. On the other hand, women of all ages have contributed to the changes in partisanship. The increasing Democratic identification of women is less about women becoming more liberal and more about how Democrats and Republicans have come to differentiate themselves. Her paper with co-author Na’ama Shenhav looking back on a century of the American woman voter appears in the Spring issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Cascio recently spoke with the AEA’s Chris Fleisher about how women’s political influence has evolved differently from men’s and the factors driving that change.
8/19/202027 minutes, 4 seconds
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Ep. 8: Wielding charity for political influence

The amount of money in politics seems to grow every year. Spending by outside groups reached a record of half billion dollars in the 2016 elections cycle, and lobbying expenditures regularly exceed $3 billion annually. But economists Marianne Bertrand and Matilde Bombardini argue that a lot of corporate influence is still overlooked. In the July issue of the American Economic Review, they estimate that as much as $1 billion a year of corporate philanthropy is used to sway congressional representatives. For a typical year, that’s over twice as much as contributions form political action committees (PAC). Money from corporate foundations could be having a far reaching effect on how our laws and regulations get written. But unlike traditional lobbying, there are few transparency requirements for such charitable spending. Professors Bertrand and Bombardini recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about the political influence that corporations wield through their charities and what can be done about it. Theme music is by Sound of Picture.
8/5/202018 minutes, 24 seconds
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Ep. 7: Building barriers

Even before there was President Trump, there was “the wall.” America has spent billions on border enforcement, which includes a barrier between the US and Mexico. And the current administration’s nationalistic promises to put “America first” have given the border wall heightened symbolic importance. But it’s not clear just how effective it is in actually preventing migrants from entering the US. Ben Feigenberg says the wall does, in fact, have a substantial impact on the number of people crossing the border. In the July issue of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, he says that construction of a border fence reduced migration by up to 35 percent. However, that doesn’t seem to be any more cost-effective than hiring more border patrol agents. The AEA’s Chris Fleisher spoke with Feigenberg about what his research says about the effectiveness of border walls, potential unintended consequences, and how economics can inform debates around policing and criminal justice. *Theme music is by Sound of Picture.
7/22/202020 minutes, 12 seconds
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Ep. 6: Autocracies in the information age

The world has been adjusting to the information age for the last 50 years now. And so have its autocracies, according to our guest today. Daniel Treisman, political scientist at UCLA, says that illiberal leaders are building modern authoritarian regimes with a new set of tools to keep themselves in power. In the Fall 2019 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Treisman and his coauthor Sergei Guriev described these so-called informational autocrats, which no longer terrorize their citizens like traditional autocrats—if they can avoid it. Instead, these dictators suppress widespread knowledge of their own incompetence and criminal activity by manipulating major media outlets, disguising themselves as democracies, and hiding their violence. In such an atmosphere, unflattering stories about leaders tend not to reach the general public. Professor Treisman recently spoke with the AEA’s Tyler Smith about how informational autocrats retain their power, why they had to adapt, and how new coalitions may be able to fight back.
7/8/202024 minutes, 34 seconds
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Bonus episode: The gender gap in economics

Swarthmore professor Amanda Bayer has worked much of her career to address diversity in economics. She has published papers about it, served on the AEA’s Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession, and co-organized a national summit on the topic with the Federal Reserve. She is also the creator and editor of Diversifying Economic Quality, a widely read online resource that promotes inclusive, innovative, and evidence-based teaching practices in economics. She also helped develop the AEA's "Best Practices for Economists" aimed at building a more diverse and inclusive profession. In this 2017 interview, the AEA's Chris Fleisher and Diana Schoder talk with Bayer about the severity of the gender gap in economics, why addressing it is more than an issue of fairness, and her own experiences as she advanced her career.
7/1/202031 minutes, 31 seconds
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Ep. 5: Rethinking racial discrimination

The economics profession is in a moment of racial reckoning. A field still dominated by white men is rethinking long-held notions about racial discrimination and its impact on the profession. That includes the way that the issue is studied. Harvard professor Mario Small says that sociology can help. There is a lot about how institutional discrimination works that traditional economic models miss. In the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, he and his co-author, the late Devah Pager, say that limiting the study of discrimination to the actions of prejudiced individuals “dramatically understates” the impact on social inequality, on labor markets, credit, housing, and many other contexts. Professor Small recently spoke with the AEA’s Chris Fleisher about how economists should broaden their notions of discrimination, how the lack of diversity in economics constrains the research, and some big questions he would like to see economists take on.
6/24/202023 minutes, 36 seconds
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Ep. 4: The persistence of poverty and insecurity

Few economists have shed as much light on the long-run impact of institutions as Melissa Dell. Her efforts, which earned her this year’s John Bates Clark Medal, have helped pinpoint some of the root causes of poverty and insecurity around the world. Her research stands out for the novel datasets she’s collected and the innovative ways she’s put them to use. Notably, the Harvard professor has shown how Peru’s history of colonialism shaped the economy it has today. Her work ranges from state-building in Vietnam to the unintended consequences of crackdowns on drug-trafficking in Mexico.  Dell is deeply interested in untangling the complicated role that coercive state actions have had on societies.  Co-hosts Tyler Smith and Chris Fleisher spoke with Dell about the through line to her research, the insights she’s gained from first-hand experience, and what advice she has for young economists.
6/10/202021 minutes, 50 seconds
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Ep. 3: Scrutinizing for-profit colleges

For-profit colleges hope to be profitable again. Years of intense regulatory scrutiny over high student loan default rates and lawsuits over boiler room recruiting tactics resulted in rapid enrollment declines, revenue losses, and a wave of closings. But now, with a sympathetic Education Department and skyrocketing demand for online education amid the Covid-19 pandemic, for-profit schools are preparing for a comeback. Our guest today says that could be a cause for concern. Stephanie Riegg Cellini has studied the industry for more than a decade. She says that, despite claims that for-profits are serving people ignored by traditional schools, students at for-profit schools are generally better off in less expensive community colleges and public institutions. There is little reason to believe that for-profit colleges have learned from their past mistakes, and yet we may see many laid off workers flocking back to these schools amid a poor economy.  Her most recent paper, with coauthors Leslie Turner and Rajeev Darolia, appears in the May issue of the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. Cellini spoke with us about that research, whether for-profits could get a boost if the US heads back into recession, and why policymakers must remain vigilant. Music is by Sound of Picture.
5/27/202018 minutes, 21 seconds
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Ep. 2: Supplying a fiscal lifeline

There’s little doubt that the US has entered a recession. Stock markets have been continuously rattled since February, and over 20 million people filed for unemployment last month.  Fortunately, economists have learned a lot about fighting recessions since the 2008 financial crisis, according to our guest today.  Valerie Ramey is a leader in the field of fiscal-policy research. She has spent her career trying to pin down multipliers that measure the impact of government spending and taxing on the overall economy.  She says there are many worthwhile steps the government can take to support households and business during a slump, but the timing and circumstances can’t be ignored. That’s especially true of the current situation. (If you think back to the financial crisis, things seemed to be moving so quickly then. Well, that was a snail’s pace compared to the pace at which things are moving now.) Ramey summarized the outpouring of fiscal research over the last ten years in the Spring 2019 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.   The American Economic Association spoke with her about why economists were caught off guard by the last recession, the best tools for fighting the current downturn, and what we should expect from the government’s fiscal response so far. Theme music by Sound of Picture.
5/13/202018 minutes, 11 seconds
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Introducing the AEA Research Highlights podcast

Five years ago, the American Economic Association began posting short, readable summaries of the research published in our journals. We called them Research Highlights, and in that time, we’ve really seen the audience for these grow to include thousands of tenured professors, students, and everyday people who just want to learn more about economics.  Now, we’re hoping to keep growing our audience by giving you something to listen to, as well.  
4/22/20201 minute, 29 seconds