Fletcher School, Tufts University, and Wellesley College
Exporters tend to be bigger, more productive and pay higher wages than companies that do not sell abroad. So should the government foster exporting by subsidizing such firms, and those that may become exporters?Read more
During economic downturns the social safety net can play a critical buffering role for families as well as for the economy more broadly. However, over the past couple of decades there has been an important shift in U.S. social policy towards a system that makes the availability of assistance more dependent on participation in paid-work. Does this shift hinder the ability of social programs to play a buffering role during periods of high unemployment?
During the Great Recession, SNAP and Unemployment Insurance programs acted as a counterforce to the economic shock: greatly increasing government spending and expanding income support to families in a way that was at least equal to the cushioning role that they have played in previous recessions, if not more. The EITC, while a large share of our cash transfers to low income families with children, did not do much in terms of providing a countercyclical force. And the AFDC/TANF program provided essentially no role in smoothing the income fluctuations experienced by families. Further, it is likely that the countercyclical smoothing from SNAP and Unemployment Insurance was in part due to explicit federal responses to the Great Recession. A better safety net would have automatic triggers prompting expansions in times of need without requiring local, state, or federal interventions.
Megan Greene (Harvard) and Michael Klein, Executive Editor of EconoFact discuss some of the reasons for the confluence of low unemployment and low inflation in the United States.Read more
While the regulation of air pollution has visible costs — such as decreased manufacturing employment, sectoral reallocation, and increased production costs — putting a dollar value on the benefits of cleaner air has been difficult. Researchers have turned to "natural experiments", situations that cause unexpected or random shocks to air quality, to better understand the impact of air pollution. Using such tools, an ever-growing literature shows that breathing dirty air can increase medical costs, shorten lifespans, hinder learning, and even impair our ability to make everyday decisions.
For the first time in decades, the air quality in the United States got worse over the last year. This reversal of air quality trends may be temporary – an unusual number of wildfires in 2017 generated some big negative effects. But scientists expect climate change will increase the size, frequency, and intensity of wildfires, which means that this is unlikely to be a one-time problem. Moreover, anthropogenic pollution sources, both in the United States and abroad, remain the largest contributors to air pollution on the planet. Research is providing increasing evidence that exposure to air pollution reduces health at birth; decreases cognitive ability and memory; increases medical visits; and increases premature mortality. As we debate the costs and benefits of environmental regulation and climate action, we must consider the human health and mortality effects of dirty air.
Michael Klein, Executive Editor of EconoFact and Jeffrey Zabel (Tufts) discuss why it may be necessary for some housing policies to be set a the state level in order to improve housing affordability, and what it takes to make that happen.Read more