I have been the Managing Editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives since the first issue in Summer 1987. The JEP is published by the American Economic Association, which decided about a decade ago–to my delight–that the journal would be freely available on-line, from the current issue all the way back to the first issue. You can download individual articles or entire issues, and it is available in various e-reader formats, too. Here, I’ll start with the Table of Contents for the just-released Spring 2023 issue, which in the Taylor household is known as issue #144. Below that are abstracts and direct links for all of the papers. I will probably blog more specifically about some of the papers in the few weeks, as well.
Symposium on Spatial and Urban Economics
“Economic Activity across Space: A Supply and Demand Approach,” by Treb Allen and Costas Arkolakis
What do recent advances in economic geography teach us about the spatial distribution of economic activity? We show that the equilibrium distribution of economic activity can be determined simply by the intersection of labor supply and demand curves. We discuss how to estimate these curves and highlight the importance of global geography—the connections between locations through the trading network—in determining how various policy relevant changes to geography shape the spatial economy.
“Neighborhood Change, Gentrification, and the Urbanization of College Graduates,” by Victor Couture and Jessie Handbury
We study changing trends in within-city sorting by education over the last 40 years. We show that neighborhoods closest to the centers of large US cities rose from having the lowest levels of college attainment in 1980 to the highest in 2017. We discuss the determinants of changes in sorting patterns, focusing on the role of transportation technology and income growth. We outline various consequences of the recent urbanization of college graduates on neighborhood amenities, house prices, and segregation. We highlight the tendency of college graduates to cluster into select central neighborhoods, likely limiting opportunities for interactions across educational lines.
“Constraints on City and Neighborhood Growth: The Central Role of Housing Supply,” by Nathaniel Baum-Snow
The US urban population increased by almost 50 percent between 1980 and 2020, with this growth heavily concentrated in the Sun Belt and at the fringes of metropolitan areas. This paper considers the role of housing supply in shaping the growth of cities and neighborhoods. Housing supply constraints have meant that demand growth has increasingly manifested as price growth rather than as increases in housing units or population in larger and denser metropolitan areas and neighborhoods. New housing is provided at increasingly higher cost in areas that have higher intensity of existing development and more restrictive regulatory environments. Both forces have strengthened over time, making quantity supplied less responsive to growing demand, driving housing price growth in many areas, and pushing housing quantity growth further out into urban fringes. As a result of such pressures on the cost of new construction, the United States has recently experienced more rapid price growth and a declining influence of new construction on the housing stock.
“Quantitative Urban Models: From Theory to Data,” by Stephen J. Redding
Economic activity is highly unevenly distributed within cities, as reflected in the concentration of economic functions in specific locations, such as finance in the Square Mile in London. The extent to which this concentration reflects natural advantages versus agglomeration forces is central to a range of public policy issues, including the impact of local taxation and transport infrastructure improvements. This paper reviews recent quantitative urban models, which incorporate both differences in natural advantages and agglomeration forces, and can be taken directly to observed data on cities. We show that these models can be used to estimate the strength of agglomeration forces and evaluate the impact of transportation infrastructure improvements on welfare and the spatial distribution of economic activity.
Symposium on Universal Health Insurance
“Achieving Universal Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: Addressing Market Failures or Providing a Social Floor?” by Katherine Baicker, Amitabh Chandra and Mark Shepard
The United States spends substantially more on health care than most developed countries, yet leaves a greater share of the population uninsured. We argue that incremental insurance expansions focused on addressing market failures will propagate inefficiencies and will fail to facilitate the active policy decisions needed to achieve socially optimal coverage. By instead defining a basic bundle of services that is publicly financed for all, while allowing individuals to purchase additional coverage, policymakers could both expand coverage and maintain incentives for innovation, ensuring universal access to innovative care in an affordable system.
“The Prices in the Crises: What We Are Learning from 20 Years of Health Insurance in Low- and Middle-Income Countries,” by Jishnu Das and Quy-Toan Do
Governments in many low- and middle-income countries are developing health insurance products as a complement to tax-funded, subsidized provision of healthcare through publicly-operated facilities. We discuss two rationales for this transition. First, health insurance would boost fiscal revenues for healthcare, as post-treatment out-of-pocket payments to providers would be replaced by pre-treatment insurance premia to health ministries. Second, increased patient choice and carefully designed physician reimbursements would increase quality in the healthcare sector. Our essay shows that, at best, these objectives have only been partially met. Despite evidence that health insurance has provided financial protection, consumers are not willing to pay for unsubsidized premia. Health outcomes have not improved despite an increase in utilization. We argue that this is not because there was no room to improve the quality of care but because behavioral responses among healthcare providers have systematically undermined the objectives of these insurance schemes.
Symposium on the Economics of Mental Health
“America’s Continuing Struggle with Mental Illnesses: Economic Considerations,” by Richard G. Frank and Sherry A. Glied
Mental illnesses affect roughly 20 percent of the US population. Like other health conditions, mental illnesses impose costs on individuals; they also generate costs that extend to family members and the larger society. Care for mental illnesses has evolved quite differently from the rest of health care sector. While medical care in general has seen major advances in the technology of treatment this has not been the case to the same extent for the treatment of mental illnesses. Relative to other illnesses, the cost of care for mental illnesses has grown more slowly and the social cost of illness has grown more rapidly. In this essay we offer evidence about the forces underpinning these patterns and emphasize the challenges stemming from the heterogeneity of mental illnesses. We examine institutions and rationing mechanisms that affect the ability to make appropriate matches between clinical problems and treatments. We conclude with a review of implications for policy and economic research.
“Depression and Loneliness among the Elderly in Low- and Middle-Income Countries,” by Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Erin Grela, Madeline McKelway, Frank Schilbach, Garima Sharma and Girija Vaidyanathan
We combine data from longitudinal surveys in seven low- and middle-income countries (plus the United States for comparison) to document that depressive symptoms among those aged 55 and above are prevalent in those countries and, unlike in the United States, increase sharply with age. Depressive symptoms in one survey wave are associated with a greater decline in ability to carry out basic daily activities and a higher probability of death in the next wave. Using additional data from a panel survey we conducted in Tamil Nadu with a focus on elderly living alone, we document that social isolation, poverty, and physical health challenges are strongly correlated with depression. We discuss potential policy interventions in these three domains, including some results from our randomized control trials in the Tamil Nadu sample.
“An Introductory Guide to Event Study Models,” by Douglas L. Miller
The event study model is a powerful econometric tool used for the purpose of estimating dynamic treatment effects. One of its most appealing features is that it provides a built-in graphical summary of results, which can reveal rich patterns of behavior. Another value of the picture is the estimated pre-event pseudo-“effects”, which provide a type of placebo test. In this essay I aim to provide a framework for a shared understanding of these models. There are several (sometimes subtle) decisions and choices faced by users of these models, and I offer guidance for these decisions.
“Retrospectives: Edgar Sydenstricker: Household Equivalence Scales and the Causes of Pellagra,” by Philip Clarke and Guido Erreygers
In the early part of the 20th century the disease pellagra, now almost unknown, affected and killed thousands of people in the United States. Some claimed it was an infection, while others maintained it was due to a dietary deficiency. The economist Edgar Sydenstricker (1881–1936), who was a member of a US Public Health Service team examining the disease, argued it was critical to understand how pellagra varied by levels of income. Collecting survey data, he realized equivalence scales were needed to adjust household incomes. His research demonstrated that there was a strong negative correlation between the incidence of pellagra and equivalized household income. Further analysis of the dietary differences between households suggested that a dietary deficiency associated to a restricted availability of animal protein food was the cause of pellagra. This was confirmed more than a decade later when a deficiency of vitamin B-3 was identified as the cause.
“Recommendations for Further Reading,” by Timothy Taylor