Thursday, November 5, 2020

Fall 2020 Journal of Economic Perspectives Online

I am now in my 34th year as Managing Editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. 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 it various e-reader formats, too. Here, I'll start with the Table of Contents for the just-released Fall 2020 issue, which in the Taylor household is known as issue #134. 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 next week or two, as well.

Symposium: How Much Income and Wealth Inequality? 

"The Rise of Income and Wealth Inequality in America: Evidence from Distributional Macroeconomic Accounts," by "Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman
This paper studies inequality in America through the lens of distributional macroeconomic accounts—comprehensive distributions of the aggregate amount of income and wealth recorded in the official macroeconomic accounts of the United States. We use these distributional macroeconomic accounts to quantify the rise of income and wealth concentration since the late 1970s, the change in tax progressivity, and the direct redistributive effects of government intervention in the economy. Between 1978 and 2018, the share of pre-tax income earned by the top 1 percent rose from 10 percent to about 19 percent, and the share of wealth owned by the top 0.1 percent rose from 7 percent to about 18 percent. In 2018, the tax system was regressive at the top-end; the top 400 wealthiest Americans paid a lower average tax rate than the macroeconomic tax rate of 29 percent. We confront our methods and findings with those of other studies, pinpoint the areas where more research is needed, and describe how additional data collection could improve inequality measurement.
Full-Text Access | Supplementary Materials

"Business Incomes at the Top," by Wojciech Kopczuk and Eric Zwick
Business income constitutes a large and increasing share of income and wealth at the top of the distribution. We discuss how tax policy treats and shapes how businesses are organized and how they distribute economic gains to owners, with the focus on closely held and pass-through firms. These considerations influence whether and how labor and capital income is observed in economic data and feed into research controversies regarding the measurement of inequality and the progressivity of the tax code. We discuss the importance of these issues in the United States and highlight that limited evidence from other countries suggests that they are likely to be important elsewhere.
Full-Text Access | Supplementary Materials

"Growing Income Inequality in the United States and Other Advanced Economies," by Florian Hoffmann, David S. Lee and Thomas Lemieux
This paper studies the contribution of both labor and non-labor income in the growth in income inequality in the United States and large European economies. The paper first shows that the capital to labor income ratio disproportionately increased among high-earnings individuals, further contributing to the growth in overall income inequality. That said, the magnitude of this effect is modest, and the predominant driver of the growth in income inequality in recent decades is the growth in labor earnings inequality. Far more important than the distinction between total income and labor income, is the way in which educational factors account for the growth in US labor and capital income inequality. Growing income gaps among different education groups as well as composition effects linked to a growing fraction of highly educated workers have been driving these effects, with a noticeable role of occupational and locational factors for women. Findings for large European economies indicate that inequality has been growing fast in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, though not in France. Capital income and education don't play as much as a role in these countries as in the United States.
Full-Text Access | Supplementary Materials

Symposium: Economics and Epidemiology

"An Economist's Guide to Epidemiology Models of Infectious Disease," by Christopher Avery, William Bossert, Adam Clark, Glenn Ellison and Sara Fisher Ellison
We describe the structure and use of epidemiology models of disease transmission, with an emphasis on the susceptible/infected/recovered (SIR) model. We discuss high-profile forecasts of cases and deaths that have been based on these models, what went wrong with the early forecasts, and how they have adapted to the current COVID pandemic. We also offer three distinct areas where economists would be well positioned to contribute to or inform this epidemiology literature: modeling heterogeneity of susceptible populations in various dimensions, accommodating endogeneity of the parameters governing disease spread, and helping to understand the importance of political economy issues in disease suppression.
Full-Text Access | Supplementary Materials

"Epidemiology's Time of Need: COVID-19 Calls for Epidemic-Related Economics," by Eleanor J. Murray
The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted scientific conversations and scientific divisions into the public consciousness. Epidemiology and economics have long operated in distinct silos, but the COVID-19 pandemic presents a complex and cross-disciplinary problem that impacts all facets of society. Many economists have recognized this and want to engage in efforts to mitigate and control the pandemic, but others seem more interested in attacking epidemiology than attacking the virus. As an epidemiologist, I call upon economists to join with us in combating COVID-19 and in preventing future pandemics. In this essay, I attempt to provide some insight for economists into how epidemiology works, where it doesn't work, and the much-needed answers that economists can help us obtain. I hope this will spur economists towards an epidemic-related economics that can provide a blueprint for a healthy economy and population.
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"A 30-Year Perspective on Property Derivatives: What Can Be Done to Tame Property Price Risk?" by Frank J. Fabozzi, Robert J. Shiller and Radu S. Tunaru
The housing sector is the largest spot market in the world without a developed derivative contract to serve the risk management needs of market participants. This paper describes the evolution within a wider economic context of property derivatives in the United States and worldwide. We review various economic arguments presented in the literature to highlight the advantages of these financial instruments to society. The paper also provides a critical perspective on the principal obstacles hindering the development of property derivatives based on real estate prices—especially housing prices—and what can be done to overcome these difficulties. The issues discussed can serve as a guide for designing property derivatives capable of hedging real estate risk that has resurfaced time and time again in financial crises.
Full-Text Access | Supplementary Materials

"Welfare Analysis Meets Causal Inference," by Amy Finkelstein and Nathaniel Hendren
We describe a framework for empirical welfare analysis that uses the causal estimates of a policy's impact on net government spending. This framework provides guidance for which causal effects are (and are not) needed for empirical welfare analysis of public policies. The key ingredient is the construction of each policy's marginal value of public funds (MVPF). The MVPF is the ratio of beneficiaries' willingness to pay for the policy to the net cost to the government. We discuss how the MVPF relates to "traditional" welfare analysis tools such as the marginal excess burden and marginal cost of public funds. We show how the MVPF can be used in practice by applying it to several canonical empirical applications from public finance, labor, development, trade, and industrial organization.
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"The Persistent Effects of Initial Labor Market Conditions for Young Adults and Their Sources," by Till von Wachter
Unlucky young workers entering the labor market in recessions suffer a range of medium- to long-term consequences. This paper summarizes the findings of the growing empirical literature on this subject and uses it to assess economic models of career development. The literature finds large initial effects on earnings, labor supply, and wages that tend to fade after ten to fifteen years in the labor market, and that are accompanied by changes in occupation, job mobility, and employer characteristics. Adverse initial labor market entry also has persistent effects on a range of social outcomes, including timing and completed fertility, marriage and divorce, criminal activities, attitudes, and risky alcohol consumption. There is also evidence that early exposure to depressed labor market lowers health and raises mortality in middle age, patterns accompanied by a reopening of earnings gaps.
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"Retrospectives: Regulating Banks versus Managing Liquidity: Jeremy Bentham and Henry Thornton in 1802," by John Berdell and Thomas Mondschean
At nearly the same moment, Jeremy Bentham and Henry Thornton adopted diametrically opposed approaches to stabilizing the financial system. Henry Thornton eloquently defended the Bank of England's actions as the lender of last resort and saw its discretionary management of liquidity as the key stabilizer of the credit system. In contrast, Jeremy Bentham advocated the imposition of strict bank regulations and examinations, without which, he predicted, Britain would soon experience a systemic crisis—which he called "universal bankruptcy." There are strong parallels but also dramatic differences with our recent attempts to reduce systemic risk within financial systems. The Basel III bank regulatory framework effectively intertwines Bentham's and Thornton's diametrically opposed approaches to stabilizing banks. Yet Bentham's and Thornton's concerns regarding the stability of the wider financial system remain alive today due to financial innovation and the politics of responding to financial crises.
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"Recommendations for Further Reading," by Timothy Taylor
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