The NBER Digest

Building New Highways Pays Off Most near Large Hubs
but It's Economically Beneficial in Remote Areas Too

Research featured in the current edition of The NBER Digest shows that new highway construction is broadly economically beneficial. Benefits are largest in areas where roads connect large economic hubs, but even in rural mountainous areas the estimated benefits exceed annual construction and maintenance costs. Also featured in this issue of the free monthly Digest are studies of the effects of mandatory disclosure of an industrial formula, the long-term payoff for investing in bonds of countries that default, the later-life impact of retaining students in 8th grade due to low English and math scores, the lasting legacy of Civil War General Sherman's March through the South, and the earnings results of women who attend highly selective schools.

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New NBER Research

19 April 2019

Assessing the Gains from E-Commerce

E-Commerce spending in the United States accounted for eight percent of consumption by 2017, yielding consumers over $1,000 per household in travel cost saving, according to a study by Paul Dolfen, Liran Einav, Peter J. Klenow, Benjamin Klopack, Jonathan D. Levin, Laurence Levin, and Wayne Best.

18 April 2019

Allocating Kidneys from Deceased Donors

Nikhil Agarwal, Itai Ashlagi, Michael A. Rees, Paulo J. Somaini, and Daniel C. Waldinger find that an alternative to the current mechanism for allocating kidneys from deceased donors, informed by which patients are most likely to accept a given kidney, would substantially increase welfare.

17 April 2019

Political Parties Matter ... for their Unfunded Pensions

Unfunded pension benefits, especially those for police and fire-fighters, grow faster under mayors who are members of the Democratic than the Republican Party, according to a study by Christian Dippel.
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Control of Infectious Diseases Benefited Both Genders;
Research Explores Why Women's Gains Were Greater

Before the 20th century, women in the United States did not live as long as men; today they live significantly longer, here and in most of the world. Control of infectious diseases extended life expectancy for both genders, but appears to have benefited women more. Research by Adriana Lleras-Muney of UCLA and Claudia Goldin of Harvard, both NBER research associates, identifies a possible reason.

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The NBER Reporter

A Central Focus of the NBER's Program on Education:
Exploring the Productivity of of American Universities

When earnings are used to measure benefits, the productivity of a dollar is fairly similar across a wide array of selective postsecondary institutions in the United States, suggesting that market forces compel some amount of efficiency among selective institutions, according to research discussed in a new report on the NBER's program on Education. In contrast, market forces appear to exert little productivity discipline on nonselective schools, possibly because those schools' students are poorly informed investors or rely greatly on third parties to pay their tuition. The full report is in the new edition of the quarterly NBER Reporter. Also featured in this issue are articles on financial misconduct, survey expectations, patents and innovation, and charitable-giving behaviors.

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The NBER Bulletin on Health

First Edition of Free Bulletin on Health Features Study
of Medicare Advantage Effects on the Use of Opioids

Researchers exploring the role of health insurance design in reducing prescription opioid use in the United States find that Medicare Advantage plans are structured in a way that gives them greater opportunity than stand-alone Part D plans to affect opioid prescription rates. Counties with higher Medicare Advantage enrollment have lower opioid prescription rates, particularly from high-volume prescribers. The findings are featured in the new NBER Bulletin on Health. Also featured are studies of intergenerational wounds from the Civil War and the effects of air pollution on dementia. Another new bulletin, on retirement and disability research, is coming soon.

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A Look at What People Actually Are Consuming
Provides an Alternative Perspective on Inequality

Concern over sharp increases in income inequality has risen in recent years. But NBER Research Associate Bruce D. Meyer of the University of Chicago says income is not a good measure of real inequality and well-being. His research shows that — when measured in terms of consumption, what people actually have — inequality has declined for the lowest 20 percent of the distribution since 2005.

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