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2020-2021

October

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin is awarded the 2020 Nemmers Prize in Economics

October 15, 2020 – from Northwestern
For her groundbreaking insights into the history of the American economy, the evolution of gender roles and the interplay of technology, human capital and labor markets. Claudia Goldin is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University. She was the director of the NBER’s Development of the American Economy program from 1989 to 2017 and was recently appointed as co-director of the NBER’s group on Gender in the Economy.

Alumna Bridgette Heller named to Northwestern Board of Trustees

October 14, 2020 – from Northwestern Now
Heller received a bachelor’s degree in economics and computer studies from Northwestern and an MBA from Kellogg. In 2019, Heller received the Northwestern Alumni Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Northwestern Alumni Association.

Congratulations to Econ Senior, Michael Zhou, for being named on Chicago Inno's Top 25 under 25 list!

October 14, 2020 – from Chicago Inno
Zhou, currently a senior at Northwestern University, leads Mock On, an online mock trial academy for high schoolers. As a collegiate mock trial competitor himself and the president of Northwestern's Mock Trial team, he knows the ins and out of the activity. But when Covid-19 hit, his mock trial season was cut short. Knowing that other students were facing the same issue, he launched Mock On in May and has since hosted two online Zoom camps. More than 50 students from around the U.S. have signed up and learned about the mock trial process.

Read "As U.S. unemployment soared, Germany’s barely budged. Is America’s safety net enough?" citing Matthias Doepke recently published in the Washington Post

October 13, 2020 – from The Washington Post
The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.9 percent last month, a substantial improvement from the nearly 15 percent mark it hit in April, but significantly worse than other advanced economies around the world. Germany’s comparable unemployment rate, for example, peaked at 4.4 percent. For years, economists have debated whether the United States does enough to help its unemployed. The pandemic recession — the worst downturn the world has seen in nearly a century — has given a new sense of urgency to the discourse.

Read "This recession threatens to wipe out decades of progress for U.S. women" citing research by Matthias Doepke

October 8, 2020 – from The Seatte Times
Women helped pull the U.S. economy out of the last recession. This time around they are falling behind. The pandemic is disproportionately affecting women and threatening to wipe out decades of their economic progress. As the crisis drags on, some of the biggest pain points are among women of color and those with young children. These setbacks — characterized by some economists as the nation’s first female recession — stand in sharp contrast to the dramatic progress women made in the expansion following the last financial crisis. The jobs, income and promotions that women lose as a result of the coronavirus could hold back economic growth and sideline an entire generation of women.

Listen to Joel Mokyr on the podcast, Building Tomorrow, discussing: "How did we get so rich?"

October 7, 2020 – from Libertarianism.org
In the 18th century, something sparked a wave of technological innovation and economic growth that has transformed the world for the better. Economists have argued about what that something was ever since. Our guest today, Professor Joel Mokyr, argues that it was a change in western European cultural attitudes that provided that spark. Enlightenment curiosity fomented a belief that practical knowledge could improve the world in tangible and permanent ways. Do we assume that progress will always happen? What threatens the concept of progress?

Read Molly Schnell's article "Local exposure to school shootings and youth antidepressant use" recently published by PNAS

October 6, 2020 – from PNAS.org
In the last two decades, over 240,000 American students were on school grounds when a gunman opened fire at their school. While public attention often focuses on the victims who were killed, less is known about the impacts of school shootings on surviving youth. This study represents the largest analysis to date of the effects of school shootings on an important indicator of youth mental health: the use of prescription antidepressants. We find that local exposure to fatal school shootings leads to persistent and significant increases in youth antidepressant use. These impacts are smaller in areas with a higher density of mental health providers who focus on behavioral interventions.

Check out The New York Times article "Why Did Hundreds of Thousands of Women Drop Out of the Workforce?" citing Matthias Doepke's research

October 5, 2020 – from The New York Times
The September jobs numbers, released by the Labor Department on Friday, confirmed what economists and experts had feared: The recession unleashed by the pandemic is sidelining hundreds of thousands of women and wiping out the hard-fought gains they made in the workplace over the past few years. While the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in September, far below the record high of nearly 15 percent in April, a large part of that drop was driven not so much by economic growth — though there were some job gains — but by hundreds of thousands of people leaving the job market altogether. A majority of those dropping out were women. Of the 1.1 million people ages 20 and over who left the work force (neither working nor looking for work) between August and September, over 800,000 were women, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.

Matthias Doepke's research cited in The Wall Street Journal article "How the Coronavirus Crisis Threatens to Set Back Women’s Careers"

October 5, 2020 – from The Wall Street Journal
Seven months into a pandemic that has turned work and home life upside down, working women are confronting painful choices that threaten to unravel recent advances in gender equity—in pay, the professional ranks and in attaining leadership positions. Women have already lost a disproportionate number of jobs. That is partly because of a segregated workforce in many fields in which women make up more of the lower-income service and retail jobs that vanished as Covid-19 gripped the economy. While women are 47% of the U.S. labor force, they accounted for 54% of initial coronavirus-related job losses and still make up 49% of them, according to McKinsey & Co.

September

Check out Robert Gordon’s article “Transatlantic Technologies: Why Did the ICT Revolution Fail to Boost European Productivity Growth?” as featured in Vox-EU and in the NBER Digest

September 23, 2020 – from VoxEU
The benefits of the ‘ICT revolution’ are readily seen in labour productivity statistics for the US, but a similar acceleration of productivity growth was not seen in Western Europe. This column argues that most of the 1995-2005 US productivity growth revival was driven by ICT-intensive industries producing market services and computer hardware. In contrast, the EU10 experienced a 1995-2005 growth slowdown due to a paucity of ICT investment, a failure to capture the efficiency benefits of ICT, and performance shortfalls in specific industries. After 2005 both the US and the EU10 suffered a growth slowdown, indicating that the benefits of the ICT revolution were temporary rather than providing a new permanent era of faster productivity growth.

Read Giorgio Primiceri's co-authored article in Liberty Street Economics, "What’s Up with the Phillips Curve?"

September 21, 2020 – from Liberty Street Economics
U.S. inflation used to rise during economic booms, as businesses charged higher prices to cope with increases in wages and other costs. When the economy cooled and joblessness rose, inflation declined. This pattern changed around 1990. Since then, U.S. inflation has been remarkably stable, even though economic activity and unemployment have continued to fluctuate. For example, during the Great Recession unemployment reached 10 percent, but inflation barely dipped below 1 percent. More recently, even with unemployment as low as 3.5 percent, inflation remained stuck under 2 percent. What explains the emergence of this disconnect between inflation and unemployment? This is the question we address in “What’s Up with the Phillips Curve?,” published recently in Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

Check out Ivan Canay's joint paper called "On the Use of Outcome Tests for Detecting Bias in Decision Making"

September 18, 2020
The decisions of judges, lenders, journal editors, and other gatekeepers often lead to disparities in outcomes across affected groups. An important question is whether, and to what extent, these group-level disparities are driven by relevant differences in underlying individual characteristics, or by biased decision makers. Becker (1957) proposed an outcome test for bias leading to a large body of related empirical work, with recent innovations in settings where decision makers are exogenously assigned to cases and vary progressively in their decision tendencies. We carefully examine what can be learned about bias in decision making in such settings. Our results call into question recent conclusions about racial bias among bail judges, and, more broadly, yield four lessons for researchers considering the use of outcome tests of bias.

Check out "Economists are turning to culture to explain wealth and poverty" the Economist article citing research by Joel Mokyr

September 10, 2020 – from the Economist
The emergence of the discipline of economics in the 18th century was the result of people trying to explain something that had never happened before. At the time a handful of countries were becoming fabulously rich, while others remained dirt-poor. In 1500 the world’s richest country was twice as well-off as the poorest one; by 1750 the ratio was five to one. It is no coincidence that the most famous book in economics, published in 1776, inquired into “the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”.

Read a review of Joel Mokyr's book, A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy, published in the Journal of Economic Literature

September 10, 2020 – from American Economic Association
Why is modern society capable of cumulative innovation? In A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy, Joel Mokyr persuasively argues that sustained technological progress stemmed from a change in cultural beliefs. The change occurred gradually during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and was fostered by an intellectual elite that formed a transnational community and adopted new attitudes toward the creation and diffusion of knowledge, setting the foundation for the ethos of modern science. The book is a significant contribution to the growing literature that links culture and economics. This review discusses Mokyr’s historical analysis in relation to the following questions: What is culture and how should we use it in economics? How can culture explain modern economic growth? Will the culture of growth that caused modern prosperity persist in the future?

Congratulations to our economics faculty members Sara Hernandez, Daley Kutzman, and Jeff Lewis on being honored in the Associated Student Government's Faculty and Administrator Honor Roll! Thank you for your dedication and care for our students!

September 9, 2020 – from Northwestern ASG
Each year, the Associated Student Government (ASG) collected nominations for the Faculty and Administrator Honor Roll from the student body during the spring ASG election. Nearly 200 students participated in 2019-20, writing thorough and complex portraits for their small, medium, and large class professors and administrators and staff members who make Northwestern the institution that it is. ASG wishes to honor the work of the faculty and administrators whose dedication and care for students led to their inclusion on this list. Here is your 2019-2020 Faculty and Administrator Honor Roll.

Matthias Doepke quotes in CNBC article " Two kids, no support system and $167 in unemployment benefits: One single mom’s plight in the age of Covid-19"

September 8, 2020 – from CNBC.com
Jennifer Haynes didn’t just fall through cracks in the country’s social safety net. In her case, it’s been more like a chasm. Haynes, 42, a self-employed chef and single mother living in Rancho Cucamonga, California, had been getting $167 a week in unemployment benefits and an extra $600 a week from the federal government. The aid was enough to catch up on a few months of bills and feed her 11-year-old twin boys.

Read Chris Udry and Douglas Gollin's paper entitled " Heterogeneity, Measurement Error, and Misallocation: Evidence from African Agriculture" published in the Journal of Political Economy

September 1, 2020 – from The Journal of Political Economy
Standard measures of productivity display enormous dispersion across farms in Africa. Crop yields and input intensities appear to vary greatly, seemingly in conflict with a model of efficient allocation across farms. In this paper, we present a theoretical framework for distinguishing between measurement error, unobserved heterogeneity, and potential misallocation. Using rich panel data from farms in Tanzania and Uganda, we estimate our model using a flexible specification in which we allow for several kinds of measurement error and heterogeneity. We find that measurement error and heterogeneity together account for a large fraction of the dispersion in measured productivity.
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