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Timothy Taylor: Conversable Economist

Conversable Economist is an economics blog by Timothy Taylor, who is the author of several economics books. Timothy goes deep into details about a range of topics, backing his arguments up with statistics and data.

Time to Worry Less About Federal Budget Deficits?

 Jason Furman and Lawrence Summers are prominent Democratic-leaning academic economists, but not among those whose names have been put forward for prominent economic policy positions in a Biden administration--which leaves them free to be a little iconoclastic. Yesterday, they presented a "Discussion Draft" of "A Reconsideration of Fiscal Policy in the Era of Low Interest Rates" in an online event hosted by the Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy and the Peterson Institute for...

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Remember the Opioid Crisis?

The COVID-19 pandemic is deservedly the main public health story of our time. But spare a thought for the opioid crisis, which hasn't gone away, and has led to the deaths of about 500,000 Americans in the last two decades. Johanna Catherine Maclean, Justine Mallatt, Christopher J. Ruhm, and Kosali Simon provide an update and overview in "Economic Studies of the Opioid Crisis" (November 2002, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 28067). As they point out, the number of deaths...

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Cancelling Plans for a Robo-Apocalyse?

We know from historical experience that it's common to hear prophesies about how new automation technologies will wipe out jobs (for examples, see here,  here, here, here, and here) We also know that that the past can be an imperfect guide to the future. Leslie Willcocks offers a number of reasons to believe that claims of future job loss may be overstated in "Robo-Apocalypse cancelled? Reframing the automation and future of work debate" (Journal of Information Technology, 35:4, pp. 286-302,...

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When Hamilton and Jefferson Agreed! On Fisheries

As all of us who learn our US history from Broadway musicals know, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton disagreed on everything. But in the aftermath the US Revolutionary War, when George Washington had become the first US president, he asked Jefferson and Hamilton to work together in creating a plan to rescue the fisheries off the New England coast, which had suffered greatly during the Revolutionary War. Jefferson and Hamilton agreed on an incentive-based plan--although for...

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An Economist Chews Over Thanksgiving

 As Thanksgiving preparations arrive, I naturally find my thoughts veering to the evolution of demand for turkey, technological change in turkey production, market concentration in the turkey industry, and price indexes for a classic Thanksgiving dinner. Not that there's anything wrong with that. [This is an updated, amended, elongated, and cobbled-together version of a post that was first published on Thanksgiving Day 2011The last time the U.S. Department of Agriculture did a...

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Thanksgiving Origins

Thanksgiving is a day for a traditional menu, and part of my holiday is to reprint this annual column on the origins of the day.The first presidential proclamation of Thanksgiving as a national holiday was issued by George Washington on October 3, 1789. But it was a one-time event. Individual states (especially those in New England) continued to issue Thanksgiving proclamations on various days in the decades to come. But it wasn't until 1863 when a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale,...

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The Dominance of Peoria in the Processed Pumpkin Market

 As I prepare for a season of pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread (made with cornmeal and pecans), pumpkin soup (especially nice wish a decent champagne) and perhaps a pumpkin ice cream pie (graham cracker crust, of course),  I have been mulling over why the area around Peoria, Illinois, so dominates the production of processed pumpkin.[In honor of pumpkin pie, I'm repeating this blog published in 2017The facts are clear enough. As the US Department of Agriculture points out (citations omitted):In...

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What If All Jobs Were Potentially Part-time?

Some jobs in business and law seem to require exceptionally long hours and being perpetually on-call. Indeed, one main reason for the remaining wage gap between college-educated it's mostly men who end up in these jobs, while professional women are more likely to end up in careers where the work is full-time or part-time, but not extreme overtime (for discussion, see here and here). This pattern raises an obvious question: is it really so impossible to divide up these extreme overtime jobs...

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Where Does Increased Revenue from Men’s College Football and Basketball Go?

College sports can be readily divided into two groups: in one group, sports are an extracurricular activity mainly subsidized by the institution; in the other group, the big-revenue sports of football and men's basketball generate large and revenues far beyond the existing costs of those programs--which is money that can be spent in other ways. Craig Garthwaite, Jordan Keener, Matthew J. Notowidigdo and Nicole F. Ozminkowski examine these issues in "Who Profits From Amateurism? Rent-Sharing...

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Futures and Options for Farmers, But Why Not for Homeowners?

One of the difficulties in explaining about futures and options is that they can seem detached from reality--just games that rich people play with money. However, the farm sector offers some extremely practical examples of how these tools are used. Daniel Prager, Christopher Burns, Sarah Tulman, and James MacDonald explain in "Farm Use of Futures, Options, and Marketing Contracts" (US Department of Agriculture, Economic Information Bulletin Number 219, October 2020). I'll walk through a few...

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