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Links (5/24/19)

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Raj Chetty’s plan to change how Harvard teaches economics - Vox Raj Chetty, a prominent faculty member whom Harvard recently poached back from Stanford, this spring unveiled “Economics 1152: Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems.” Taught with the help of lecturer Greg Bruich, the class garnered 375 students, including 363 undergrads, in its first term. That’s still behind the 461 in Ec 10 — but not by much. Fiscal Policy Options for Japan - Blanchard and Tashiro For many years, the Japanese government has promised an eventual return to primary budget surpluses, but it has not delivered on these promises. Its latest goal is to return to primary balance by 2025. Blanchard and Tashiro, however, argue that, in the current economic environment in Japan, primary deficits may be

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  • Raj Chetty’s plan to change how Harvard teaches economics - Vox
    Raj Chetty, a prominent faculty member whom Harvard recently poached back from Stanford, this spring unveiled “Economics 1152: Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems.” Taught with the help of lecturer Greg Bruich, the class garnered 375 students, including 363 undergrads, in its first term. That’s still behind the 461 in Ec 10 — but not by much.
  • Fiscal Policy Options for Japan - Blanchard and Tashiro
    For many years, the Japanese government has promised an eventual return to primary budget surpluses, but it has not delivered on these promises. Its latest goal is to return to primary balance by 2025. Blanchard and Tashiro, however, argue that, in the current economic environment in Japan, primary deficits may be needed for a long time, because they may be the best tool to sustain demand and output, alleviate the burden on monetary policy, and increase future output. What primary deficits are used for, however, is equally important, and the Japanese government should put them to better use. The authors recommend that, given Japan’s aging population, the government should spend on measures aimed at increasing fertility—and by implication population and output growth—which are likely to more than pay for themselves. ...
  • The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich - Bloomberg
    ... Zucman, 32, is an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley and the world’s foremost expert on where the wealthy hide their money. His doctoral thesis, advised by Piketty, exposed trillions of dollars’ worth of tax evasion by the global rich. For his most influential work, he teamed up with his Berkeley colleague Emmanuel Saez, a fellow Frenchman and Piketty collaborator. Their 2016 paper, “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 1913,” distilled a century of data to answer one of modern capitalism’s murkiest mysteries: How rich are the rich in the world’s wealthiest nation? The answer—far richer than previously imagined—thrust the pair deep into the American debate over inequality. ...
  • Who's paying for the US-China trade war? - FT Alphaville
    President Trump has long said it is China, not the US, who will pay for the ongoing trade war. But as tensions flare-up, it has become increasingly clear that much of the burden is falling on consumers stateside. ... Of the $200bn worth of Chinese imports now subject to 25 per cent tariffs as of May 10, roughly 40 per cent of those products are consumer goods like furniture, electrical equipment and apparel, according to the USTR. Chinese officials have threatened another round of their own
  • New China Tariffs Increase Costs to U.S. Households - Liberty Street Economics
    Tariffs on $200 billion of U.S. imports from China subject to earlier 10 percent levies increased to 25 percent beginning May 10, 2019, after a breakdown in trade negotiations. In this post, we consider the cost of these higher tariffs to the typical U.S. household. One way to estimate the effect of these higher tariffs is to draw on the recent experience of the 2018 U.S. tariffs. Our recent study found that the 2018 tariffs imposed an annual cost of $419 for the typical household. This cost comprises two components: the first, an added tax burden faced by consumers, and the second, a deadweight or efficiency loss. The magnitude of these costs depends on how a tariff affects the prices charged by foreign exporters and the U.S. demand for imported goods. Studies, including our own, have found that the tariffs that the United States imposed in 2018 have had complete passthrough into domestic prices of imports, which means that Chinese exporters did not reduce their prices. Hence, U.S. domestic prices at the border have risen one‑for-one with the tariffs levied in that year. Our study also found that a 10 percent tariff reduced import demand by 43 percent.
  • The Real Cost of Trump’s Tariffs - Jeffrey Frankel
    Whereas winners tend to outnumber losers when trade is liberalized, raising tariffs normally has the opposite result. US President Donald Trump appears to have engineered a spectacular example of this: his trade war with China has hurt almost every segment of the US economy, and created very few winners.
  • Trade slowdown is more dangerous than in the past - Financial Times
    ...the OECD reports that the economic growth rate across the block doubled in the first quarter from the previous one. But a quick growth spurt does not undermine the reasons for the OECD to sound the alarm. Angel Gurría, its secretary-general, is correct when he says: “The world economy is in a dangerous place.” And the main danger is the threat to international trade, which has slowed abruptly, as the chart below shows. Its rate of increase has fallen from 5.5 per cent in 2017 to what the OECD thinks will be 2.1 per cent and 3.1 per cent this year and next respectively. That is lower than projected economic growth, meaning trade is shrinking as a share of global economic activity. ...
  • Federal Reserve Board issues Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households - FRB
    The Federal Reserve Board's latest Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households found that most measures of economic well-being and financial resilience in 2018 were similar to, or slightly better than, those in 2017. Overall, the financial experiences reported by the 11,000 adults surveyed in 2018 were largely positive, and many families have experienced substantial gains since the survey began in 2013, in line with the nation's ongoing economic expansion. When asked about their overall economic well-being, 75 percent of U.S. adults said they were "doing okay" or "living comfortably"—up 12 percentage points from 2013. The survey also asked how they would pay for a hypothetical unexpected expense of $400. Sixty-one percent said they would pay the expense with cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement; 27 percent would borrow or sell something; and 12 percent would not be able to cover it. In 2013, only half of adults said they would pay with cash or its equivalent. Despite the improved finances of many adults, the survey continued to detect areas of financial distress as well as persistent differences by race, education level, and, in some cases, geography...
  • Opening the machine learning black box – Bank Underground
    Machine learning models are at the forefront of current advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. However, they are routinely, and rightly, criticised for being black boxes. In this post, I present a novel approach to evaluate machine learning models similar to a linear regression – one of the most transparent and widely used modelling techniques. The framework rests on an analogy between game theory and statistical models. A machine learning model is rewritten as a regression model using its Shapley values, a payoff concept for cooperative games. The model output can then be conveniently communicated, eg using a standard regression table. This strengthens the case for the use of machine learning to inform decisions where accuracy and transparency are crucial.
  • Leisure-enhancing technological change - VoxEU
    How we spend our time is changing rapidly. This column argues that an important driver is leisure-enhancing innovation, aimed at capturing our time, attention, and data. Leisure-enhancing technologies can help account for both the rise in leisure hours and the decline in productivity observed across the industrialised world. Their nature carries important implications for the long-run viability of the platforms’ business models, for measurement of economic activity, and for welfare.
  • Is Cryptocurrency What Makes Ransomware Possible? - Credit Slips
    The story about Baltimore's entire municipal IT system being held hostage by ransomware has two angles that might be of interest...
    The dozen things experimental economists should do (more of) - VoxEU
    Experimental economists must tackle the generalisability and applicability of the evidence they produce. This column discusses principles to enhance these when designing and conducting experiments or reporting findings. Good practice is especially important when policy recommendations are made based on experimental results.
Mark Thoma
Mark Allen Thoma (born December 15, 1956) is a macroeconomist and econometrician and a Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics of the University of Oregon. Thoma is best known as a regular columnist for The Fiscal Times through his blog "Economist's View", which Paul Krugman called "the best place by far to keep up with the latest in economic discourse", and as an analyst at CBS MoneyWatch. He is also a regular contributor to EconoMonitor.

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