The NBER Digest

Dramatic Reduction of French Trade Barriers in 1860
Shocked Industrialists but Was a Boon to the Country

Facing industrialists who staunchly supported protectionism, representatives of Emperor Napoléon III secretly negotiated a treaty with Great Britain to reduce trade barriers. When the shock hit, French producers upgraded operations, diversified exports, and thrived. The story is told in a paper featured in the latest edition of the NBER Digest. Other studies summarized in this issue of the free monthly Digest explore the job-finding attitudes of unemployed people, report on the efficacy of efforts to reduce air pollution and promote solar energy, consider whether “forward guidance” at the consumer level could become a policy tool, measure the impacts on India of sudden demonetization, compare the borrowing behavior of public and private firms, and examine the results of an early trade liberalization in France.

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New NBER Research

15 February 2019

Economic Conditions and the Disability Insurance Program

The Great Recession induced nearly one million Social Security Disability Insurance applications that otherwise would not have been filed, resulting in over 400,000 new beneficiaries who made up 8.9 percent of all SSDI entrants between 2008-2012,Nicole Maestas, Kathleen J. Mullen, and Alexander Strand calculate.

14 February 2019

Firms in Benchmark Portfolios Face Lower Costs of Capital

Firms that are included in benchmark portfolios – such as the S&P500 Index – are effectively subsidized by asset managers, according to Anil K. Kashyap, Natalia Kovrijnykh, Jian Li, and Anna Pavlova. Managers have incentives to hold some of the equity of firms in these firms regardless of their risk characteristics, which raises share prices and lowers required returns.

13 February 2019

The Effects of Medicare Advantage on Opioid Use

Compared to enrollment in a stand-alone drug plan, enrollment in Medicare Advantage, which integrates drug coverage with other medical benefits, significantly reduces beneficiaries’ likelihood of filling an opioid prescription, Laurence C. Baker, Kate Bundorf, and Daniel Kessler find.
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Unions’ Capacity to Mitigate Income Inequality
Varies with Skills of the Workers Being Organized

What is the nature of the relationship between growing inequality, slow wage growth, and declines in union membership? What explains the income gap between union and nonunion households? Suresh Naidu, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at Columbia University and an NBER researcher, discusses what he and his colleagues have found.

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The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health

Black Men who Visit Black Primary Care Doctors
Are More Likely to Accept Preventative Health Care

Black men are less likely to visit a doctor and receive preventative services like diabetes screening than their non-black counterparts. A study summarized in the most recent issue of the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health finds that black male patients who see black doctors elect to receive recommended preventative health screenings at a much higher rate than those who see a non-black doctor. Also featured in this edition of the Bulletin: A look at the long-term impacts of Hurricane Katrina on survivors' mortality rates and an analysis of how fragmentation of the kidney exchange market constrict hospitals' efforts to match donors to recipients.

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Survey of Older Americans Finds Many are Lacking
in Understanding Needed for Key Financial Decisions

More than half of older Americans surveyed did not understand interest rates, inflation, and the meaning of diversifying risk reports Olivia S. Mitchell of the University of Pennsylvania and NBER, an author of numerous papers on topics including the timing of Social Security claiming, scams aimed at the elderly, and financial vulnerability on the verge of retirement.

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Education, Skills, and Technical Change:
Implications for Future U.S. GDP Growth

Over the past few decades, U.S. business and industry have been transformed by the advances and redundancies produced by the knowledge economy. The workplace has changed, and much of the work differs from that performed by previous generations. Can human capital accumulation in the United States keep pace with the evolving demands placed on it? How can the workforce of tomorrow acquire the skills and competencies that are most in demand?

Education, Skills, and Technical Change explores various facets of these questions, providing an overview of educational attainment in the United States and the channels through which labor force skills and education affect GDP growth. Contributors to this volume focus on a range of educational and training institutions and bring new data to bear on how we understand the role of college and vocational education and the size and nature of the skills gap. This work links a range of research areas such as growth accounting, skill development, higher education, and immigration, and examines how well students are being prepared for the world of work now and in the future.

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Images and Realities of U.S. Immigrant Flows:
Which Countries’ Applicants are Favored, and Why

Immigrants to the United States from Algeria have higher educational attainment than those from Israel and Japan. Edward P. Lazear of Stanford University and the NBER has researched the dramatic differences in earnings, educational attainment, and entrepreneurship of immigrants from various countries.

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The NBER Reporter

Improving Weak Public Sector Worker Performance
in Developing Countries by Incentivizing Individuals

Poor delivery of health and educational services in developing countries directly affects the quality of life of millions of people. Research featured in the current edition of the NBER Reporter finds that rewarding individual performance works better than across-the-board salary increases in making improvements. Also in this edition of the quarterly are reports on research into comparative rates of return, the NBER's Household Finance Working Group, the role of financial factors in economic fluctuations, and the price and quality of prescription drugs.

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New Research Associates
and Faculty Research Fellows for 2018

The NBER appointed 58 new research associates and 45 new faculty research fellows in 2018. New appointees must be faculty members at North American colleges and universities, and are recommended by program directors in the culmination of a highly competitive process.
New appointees and their research program affiliations


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