Health insurance competition: effects on premiums, hospital rates, and welfare

In evaluating health insurance mergers recently proposed in the U.S., regulators have grappled with the costs and benefits of reduced insurer competition. Our study examines the direct and indirect effects that a reduction in the number of insurers has on premiums, provider reimbursement rates, and consumer welfare. Using detailed health and enrollment data and focusing on a part of the commercial health care market, we examine whether consumers are typically harmed when an insurer is removed from the market. Absent premium setting constraints, we find that premiums typically rise, and consumers are generally harmed as they suffer from having fewer options. However, we also find that the reimbursement rates negotiated by hospitals need not always increase, and in many cases, can actually fall.

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A most egalitarian profession: pharmacy and the evolution of a family-friendly occupation

Pharmacy is among the most highly paid professions in the United States today; it is also one of the most egalitarian. Analysing extensive survey data on pharmacists and the general population, this research reveals how as the profession has become more flexible and the fraction of women has grown to a majority, pharmacy has become more highly paid relative to comparable occupations. The variance of pay has also declined and the relative hourly pay of women has risen. Technological changes that increased substitutability among pharmacists, the growth of pharmacy employment in retail chains and hospitals, and the related decline of independent pharmacies have all contributed to these outcomes.

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How tax rates influence the migration of superstar inventors

This paper shows that taxes affect the international location decisions of the best “superstar” inventors. Higher tax rates lead to a significantly lower share of superstar inventors remaining in their home country and a lower share of foreign superstar inventors who move to the country. This may have significant fiscal and innovation costs for a country that should be taken into account when setting tax policy.

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Demand for residential broadband: the impact of usage-based pricing

The telecommunications sector is undergoing major changes largely driven by the growing importance of data services and the proliferation of online activities. This shift has led to a variety of concerns among regulators, including concerns that internet service providers may discriminate against certain types of traffic, and that private incentives for innovation may be inadequate. This research explores these issues by estimating consumer demand for residential broadband using high-frequency data from subscribers facing a three-part tariff. The findings indicate that the three-part tariff eliminates low-value traffic; and that while the costs associated with investment in fibre-optic networks are likely to be recoverable in some markets, there is a large gap between social and private incentives to invest.

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Medical innovation and the labor market: the importance of reducing drug side effects

Pharmaceutical innovation can be enormously valuable, leading to the development of medical treatments that save lives and improve patient quality of life. However, new medications that are powerful and effective are often accompanied by painful and uncomfortable side effects. This article summarizes a recent paper, “Why Medical Innovation is Valuable: Health, Human Capital, and the Labor Market”. The author develops a dynamic framework to assess the value of pharmaceutical innovation. The framework incorporates patient incentives for long-run health along with their preferences for treatments with fewer side effects. A key finding is that evaluating effective medical treatments without considering their side effects can be misleading.

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Does welfare inhibit success? The long-term effects of removing low-income youth from the disability rolls

Despite the controversy surrounding welfare programs, there is little empirical evidence about the long-term effects of these programs on recipients. In a recent paper, Deshpande (2016), I study the long-term effects of removing low-income youth from a large cash welfare program, using a policy change from the 1996 welfare reform law. I find that youth who are removed from welfare have low earnings and minimal earnings growth in adulthood. The results indicate that this welfare program does not substantially inhibit success and self-sufficiency among youth.

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Can market based regulation reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Evidence from the United States

Market-based mechanisms such as ‘cap-and-trade’ have become increasingly popular policy tools for reducing harmful emissions. But designing these schemes so that emissions are curbed efficiently requires understanding key elements of an industry’s structure, notably the degree of market power and the extent to which unregulated foreign producers compete with domestic firms. This research investigates these issues in the US cement industry, an emissions-intensive sector exposed to foreign competition. The findings suggest that the optimal regulatory policy in such industries may be to rebate compliance costs partially on the basis of output or to impose border tax adjustments.

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Studying advanced mathematics: the potential boost to women’s career prospects

Why are there so few women in highly paid careers as chief executives and, more generally, in finance, business, science, technology, engineering and mathematics? Analysing Danish data on young people whose educational and professional lives have been tracked over two decades since they started high school, this research suggests that part of the reason lies in restrictive bundling of courses, which deters talented young women from acquiring advanced mathematical skills. Changing the learning environment and designing the curriculum to identify and foster young women with high mathematical abilities would attract more of them and help to reduce the gender pay gap.

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Economic benefits of transportation infrastructure: historical evidence from India and America

Dave Donaldson is an empirical trade economist and recipient of the 2017 John Bates Clark Medal. His research examines the intersection of international trade and development economics. Donaldson’s paper “Railroads of the Raj: Estimating the Impact of Transportation Infrastructure?” (American Economic Review, forthcoming) investigates the economic benefits from building transportation infrastructure studying the case of railways in 19th century India. This paper is widely viewed as both a methodological breakthrough and substantively important paper in the field. The article below provides a summary of his work.

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Why currency devaluations are losing economic punch

Competitive devaluations are again becoming a popular macroeconomic policy. For example, a competitive devaluation was one of the three pillars of Abenomics, the economic policy of Shinzo Abe’s administration to fight secular stagnation in Japan. It was also discussed as a potential tool for debt-ridden southern European countries, had they been able to abandon the euro.

But while Japan reduced the value of the yen by 50 percent relative to the US dollar between 2012 and 2015, the impact on trade and employment was underwhelming. The Economist derided the policy as an “uncompetitive devaluation.”[1]

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