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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

On a diet

Neighborhood disadvantage and obesity across childhood and adolescence: Evidence from the NLSY Children and Young Adults cohort (1986 – 2010)

Steven Elías Alvarado

Social Science Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research suggests that youth who grow up in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods face higher odds of becoming obese. Neighborhood effects scholars, meanwhile, have suggested that contextual influences may increase in strength as children age. This is the first study to examine whether developmental epochs moderate the effect of neighborhood disadvantage on obesity over time. I use thirteen waves of new restricted and geo-coded data on children ages 2 - 18 from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Children and Young Adults. Bivariate and pooled logistic regression results suggest that neighborhood disadvantage has a stronger impact on adolescents' likelihood of becoming obese. Fixed effects models reveal that after adjusting for observed and unobserved confounders, adolescents continue to face higher odds of becoming obese due to the conditions associated with living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Moreover, as research on adults suggests, girls experience larger impacts of neighborhood disadvantage than boys.

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Revealing the burden of obesity using weight histories

Andrew Stokes & Samuel Preston

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 19 January 2016, Pages 572–577

Abstract:
Analyses of the relation between obesity and mortality typically evaluate risk with respect to weight recorded at a single point in time. As a consequence, there is generally no distinction made between nonobese individuals who were never obese and nonobese individuals who were formerly obese and lost weight. We introduce additional data on an individual’s maximum attained weight and investigate four models that represent different combinations of weight at survey and maximum weight. We use data from the 1988–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, linked to death records through 2011, to estimate parameters of these models. We find that the most successful models use data on maximum weight, and the worst-performing model uses only data on weight at survey. We show that the disparity in predictive power between these models is related to exceptionally high mortality among those who have lost weight, with the normal-weight category being particularly susceptible to distortions arising from weight loss. These distortions make overweight and obesity appear less harmful by obscuring the benefits of remaining never obese. Because most previous studies are based on body mass index at survey, it is likely that the effects of excess weight on US mortality have been consistently underestimated.

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Poverty, inequality, and increased consumption of high calorie food: Experimental evidence for a causal link

Boyka Bratanova et al.

Appetite, forthcoming

Abstract:
Rising obesity represents a serious, global problem. It is now well established that obesity is associated with poverty and wealth inequality, suggesting that these factors may promote caloric intake. Whereas previous work has examined these links from an epidemiological perspective, the current paper examined them experimentally. In Study 1 we found that people experimentally induced to view themselves as poor (v. wealthy) exhibited increased calorie intake. In Study 2, participants who believed that they were poorer or wealthier than their interaction partners exhibited higher levels of anxiety compared to those in an equal partners condition; this anxiety in turn led to increased calorie consumption for people who had a strong need to belong. The findings provide causal evidence for the poverty-intake and inequality-intake links. Further, we identify social anxiety and a strong need to belong as important social psychological factors linking inequality to increased calorie intake.

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The Waiter’s Weight: Does a Server’s BMI Relate to How Much Food Diners Order?

Tim Döring & Brian Wansink

Environment and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Does the weight of a server have an influence on how much food diners order in the high-involvement environment of a restaurant? If people are paying for a full meal, this has implications for consumers, restaurants, and public health. To investigate this, 497 interactions between diners and servers were observed in 60 different full-service restaurants. Diners ordered significantly more items when served by heavy wait staff with high body mass indexes (BMI; p < .001) compared with wait staff with low body mass indexes. Specifically, they were four times as likely to order desserts (p < .01), and they ordered 17.65% more alcoholic drinks (p < .01). These findings provide valuable evidence in recent lawsuits against weight discrimination, and it suggests to consumers who decide what they will and will not order at a restaurant — such as a salad appetizer, no dessert, and one drink — than to decide when the waiter arrives.

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The Effect of Smoking on Obesity: Evidence from a Randomized Trial

Charles Courtemanche, Rusty Tchernis & Benjamin Ukert

NBER Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
This paper aims to identify the causal effect of smoking on body mass index (BMI) using data from the Lung Health Study, a randomized trial of smoking cessation treatments. Since nicotine is a metabolic stimulant and appetite suppressant, quitting or reducing smoking could lead to weight gain. Using randomized treatment assignment to instrument for smoking, we estimate that quitting smoking leads to an average long-run weight gain of 1.5-1.7 BMI units, or 11-12 pounds at the average height. These magnitudes are considerably larger than those typically estimated by studies that do not account for the endogeneity of smoking. Our results imply that the drop in smoking in recent decades explains 14% of the concurrent rise in obesity. Semi-parametric models provide evidence of a diminishing marginal effect of smoking on BMI, while subsample regressions show that the impact is largest for younger individuals, females, those with no college degree, and those with healthy baseline BMI levels.

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Eating Healthy or Feeling Empty? How the 'Healthy=Less Filling' Intuition Influences Satiety

Jacob Suher, Rajagopal Raghunathan & Wayne Hoyer

Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, January 2016, Pages 26–40

Abstract:
To help understand the unconscious drivers of overeating, we examine the effect of health portrayals on people’s judgments of the fillingness of food. An implicit association test and two consumption studies provide evidence that people hold an implicit belief that healthy foods are less filling than unhealthy foods, an effect we label the “healthy=less filling” intuition. The consumption studies provide evidence that people order greater quantities of food, consume more of it, and are less full after consuming a food portrayed as more versus less healthy. In addition, we demonstrate a novel tactic for reversing consumers’ intuitions: highlighting the nourishing aspects of healthy food mitigates the belief that it is less filling. Taken together, these findings add to the burgeoning body of work on the psychological causes of weight-gain and obesity and points to a way of overturning the pernicious effects of the “healthy=less filling” intuition.

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Incentivizing Nutritious Diets: A Field Experiment of Relative Price Changes and How They are Framed

John Cawley et al.

NBER Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
This paper examines how consumers respond to price incentives for nutritious relative to less-nutritious foods, and whether the framing of the price incentive as a subsidy for nutritious food or a tax on non-nutritious food influences consumers’ responses. Analyzing transaction data from an 8-month randomized controlled field experiment involving 208 households, we find that a 10% relative price difference between nutritious and less nutritious food does not significantly affect overall purchases, although low-income households respond to the subsidy frame by buying more of both nutritious and less-nutritious food.

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Premium-Based Financial Incentives Did Not Promote Workplace Weight Loss In A 2013–15 Study

Mitesh Patel et al.

Health Affairs, January 2016, Pages 71-79

Abstract:
Employers commonly use adjustments to health insurance premiums as incentives to encourage healthy behavior, but the effectiveness of those adjustments is controversial. We gave 197 obese participants in a workplace wellness program a weight loss goal equivalent to 5 percent of their baseline weight. They were randomly assigned to a control arm, with no financial incentive for achieving the goal, or to one of three intervention arms offering an incentive valued at $550. Two intervention arms used health insurance premium adjustments, beginning the following year (delayed) or in the first pay period after achieving the goal (immediate). A third arm used a daily lottery incentive separate from premiums. At twelve months there were no statistically significant differences in mean weight change either between the control group (whose members had a mean gain of 0.1 pound) and any of the incentive groups (delayed premium adjustment, −1.2 pound; immediate premium adjustment, −1.4 pound; daily lottery incentive, −1.0 pound) or among the intervention groups. The apparent failure of the incentives to promote weight loss suggests that employers that encourage weight reduction through workplace wellness programs should test alternatives to the conventional premium adjustment approach by using alternative incentive designs, larger incentives, or both.

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Does Leaving School in an Economic Downturn Persistently Affect Body Weight? Evidence from Panel Data

Johanna Catherine Maclean

Industrial Relations, January 2016, Pages 122–148

Abstract:
In this study I test whether leaving school when the state unemployment rate is high persistently affects body weight. Because the time and location of school leaving are potentially endogenous, I predict the economic conditions at school leaving with instruments based on birth date and residence at age 14. My findings show that by age 40 men (women) who left school when the state unemployment rate was high have lower (higher) body weight.

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Messages from the Food Police: How Food-Related Warnings Backfire Among Dieters

Nguyen Pham, Naomi Mandel & Andrea Morales

Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, January 2016, Pages 175-190

Abstract:
This research shows when and how food-related warnings can backfire by putting consumers in a state of reactance. Across three studies, we demonstrate that dieters (but not nondieters) who see a one-sided message focusing on the negative aspects of unhealthy food (vs. a one-sided positive or neutral message) increase their desire for and consumption of unhealthy foods. In contrast, dieters who see a two-sided message (focusing on both the negative and positive aspects of unhealthy food) are more likely to comply with the message, thereby choosing fewer unhealthy foods. Our research suggests that negatively-worded food warnings (such as public service announcements) are unlikely to work – nondieters ignore them, and dieters do the opposite. Although preliminary, our findings also suggest that two-sided messages may offer a better solution.

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Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Adaptation to Physical Activity in Adult Humans

Herman Pontzer et al.

Current Biology, 8 February 2016, Pages 410–417

Abstract:
Current obesity prevention strategies recommend increasing daily physical activity, assuming that increased activity will lead to corresponding increases in total energy expenditure and prevent or reverse energy imbalance and weight gain. Such Additive total energy expenditure models are supported by exercise intervention and accelerometry studies reporting positive correlations between physical activity and total energy expenditure but are challenged by ecological studies in humans and other species showing that more active populations do not have higher total energy expenditure. Here we tested a Constrained total energy expenditure model, in which total energy expenditure increases with physical activity at low activity levels but plateaus at higher activity levels as the body adapts to maintain total energy expenditure within a narrow range. We compared total energy expenditure, measured using doubly labeled water, against physical activity, measured using accelerometry, for a large (n = 332) sample of adults living in five populations. After adjusting for body size and composition, total energy expenditure was positively correlated with physical activity, but the relationship was markedly stronger over the lower range of physical activity. For subjects in the upper range of physical activity, total energy expenditure plateaued, supporting a Constrained total energy expenditure model. Body fat percentage and activity intensity appear to modulate the metabolic response to physical activity. Models of energy balance employed in public health should be revised to better reflect the constrained nature of total energy expenditure and the complex effects of physical activity on metabolic physiology.

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The Effect of Fitness Branding on Restrained Eaters’ Food Consumption and Postconsumption Physical Activity

Joerg Koenigstorfer & Hans Baumgartner

Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
People who want to control their body weight often aim to regulate both energy intake (by reducing food consumption) and energy expenditure (by increasing physical activity), thus addressing both sides of the energy balance equation. Marketers have developed fitness-branded food that may lead restrained eaters (i.e., consumers who are chronically concerned about their body weight) to believe that they can achieve these two goals at the same time by consuming the food. The purpose of this research is to investigate the effects of fitness branding in food marketing (i.e., the integration of fitness into the branding of food) on consumption and physical activity in restrained (vs. unrestrained) eaters. The authors show that fitness branding increases consumption volumes for restrained eaters unless consumers view the food as dietary forbidden. Restrained eaters are also less physically active after consuming fitness-branded food, and food consumption volumes mediate this effect in restrained eaters. Fitness branding may therefore have undesirable effects on the weight-control behaviors of restrained eaters because it discourages physical activity despite an increase in consumption, which is contrary to the principle of energy balance.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, February 8, 2016

Out of pocket

The Incidence of Mandated Health Insurance: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act Dependent Care Mandate

Gopi Shah Goda, Monica Farid & Jay Bhattacharya

NBER Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
The dependent care mandate is one of the most popular provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA). This provision requires that employer-based insurance plans cover health care expenditures for workers with children 26 years old or younger. While there has been considerable scholarly and policy interest in the effects of this mandate on health insurance coverage among young adults, there has been little scholarly work measuring the costs and incidence of this mandate and who pays the costs of it. In our empirical work, we exploit the fact that some states had dependent care mandates in years prior to the passage of the ACA. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), we find that workers at firms with employer-based coverage – whether or not they have dependent children – experience an annual reduction in wages of approximately $1,200. Our results imply that the marginal costs of mandated employer-based coverage expansions are not entirely borne only by the people whose coverage is expanded by the mandate.

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Using Options to Measure the Full Value-Effect of an Event: Application to Obamacare

Paul Borochin & Joseph Golec

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many event studies only measure a fraction of an event's full value effect because they do not adjust for market anticipation of the event. We present a method based on stock and options prices to measure the full effect that accounts for market anticipation. We apply the method to the passage of Obamacare. Our method estimates the full value effect of Obamacare on the healthcare sector as $55 billion, compared to $16 billion when market anticipation is ignored. The method is applicable to most major events because it only requires that some affected firms have traded stock options.

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Generosity and Prosocial Behavior in Healthcare Provision: Evidence from the Laboratory and Field

Michelle Brock, Andreas Lange & Kenneth Leonard

Journal of Human Resources, Winter 2016, Pages 133-162

Abstract:
Do health workers sometimes have intrinsic motivation to help their patients? We examine the correlation between the generosity of clinicians — as measured in a laboratory experiment — and the quality of care they provide (1) in their normal work environment, (2) when a peer observes them, and (3) six weeks after an encouragement visit from a peer. We find that clinicians defined as generous in the laboratory provide 8 percent better care in their normal work environment. On average, all clinicians provide 3 percent and 8 percent better care when observed by a peer and after encouragement, respectively. Importantly, generous clinicians react to peer scrutiny and encouragement in the same way as ungenerous clinicians.

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Financial Health Economics

Ralph Koijen, Tomas Philipson & Harald Uhlig

Econometrica, January 2016, Pages 195–242

Abstract:
We provide a theoretical and empirical analysis of the link between financial and real health care markets. This link is important as financial returns drive investment in medical research and development (R&D), which, in turn, affects real spending growth. We document a “medical innovation premium” of 4–6% annually for equity returns of firms in the health care sector. We interpret this premium as compensating investors for government-induced profit risk, and we provide supportive evidence for this hypothesis through company filings and abnormal return patterns surrounding threats of government intervention. We quantify the implications of the premium for the growth in real health care spending by calibrating our model to match historical trends, predicting the share of gross domestic product (GDP) devoted to health care to be 32% in the long run. Policies that had removed government risk would have led to more than a doubling of medical R&D and would have increased the current share of health care spending by more than 3% of GDP.

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Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care Access and Utilization Under the Affordable Care Act

Jie Chen et al.

Medical Care, February 2016, Pages 140–146

Objective: To examine racial and ethnic disparities in health care access and utilization after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance mandate was fully implemented in 2014.

Research Design: Using the 2011–2014 National Health Interview Survey, we examine changes in health care access and utilization for the nonelderly US adult population. Multivariate linear probability models are estimated to adjust for demographic and sociodemographic factors.

Results: The implementation of the ACA (year indicator 2014) is associated with significant reductions in the probabilities of being uninsured (coef=−0.03, P<0.001), delaying any necessary care (coef=−0.03, P<0.001), forgoing any necessary care (coef=−0.02, P<0.001), and a significant increase in the probability of having any physician visits (coef=0.02, P<0.001), compared with the reference year 2011. Interaction terms between the 2014 year indicator and race/ethnicity demonstrate that uninsured rates decreased more substantially among non-Latino African Americans (African Americans) (coef=−0.04, P<0.001) and Latinos (coef=−0.03, P<0.001) compared with non-Latino whites (whites). Latinos were less likely than whites to delay (coef=−0.02, P<0.001) or forgo (coef=−0.02, P<0.001) any necessary care and were more likely to have physician visits (coef=0.03, P<0.005) in 2014. The association between year indicator of 2014 and the probability of having any emergency department visits is not significant.

Conclusions: Health care access and insurance coverage are major factors that contributed to racial and ethnic disparities before the ACA implementation. Our results demonstrate that racial and ethnic disparities in access have been reduced significantly during the initial years of the ACA implementation that expanded access and mandated that individuals obtain health insurance.

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Rich, Poor, Singles, and Couples. Who Receives Medicaid in Old Age and Why?

Margherita Borella, Mariacristina De Nardi & Eric French

NBER Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
We use the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) data set to study who receives Medicaid in old age and why. First, we conduct a descriptive analysis of Medicaid recipiency along a number of important observables. This analysis shows that, while fewer people with high permanent income receive Medicaid, a significant fraction of high permanent income people receive Medicaid at very old ages. It also shows that more single people receive Medicaid than people in couples, that people who just lost their spouse rapidly become very similar in their Medicaid recipiency and other important observable characteristics to people who have been single for much longer, and that bad health commoves with Medicaid recipiency. Finally, this analysis shows even people having long-term care insurance end up on Medicaid, but that the fraction of people in this group that is on Medicaid is one-third that of the entire population of the elderly. Second, multivariate regression analysis allows us to disentangle the effects of many observables on Medicaid recipiency while conditioning for others and reveals several interesting patterns. First, permanent income and other variables capturing economic background have a major role in determining individuals’ Medicaid coverage and explain much of the observed differences in Medicaid recipiency among singles, couples, and people who recently lost their spouse. Second, impairments in the activities of daily living and residency in a nursing home have a large effect on the probability of being on Medicaid, with the effect of nursing home residency being relatively large for those in the middle and upper income groups. Lastly, having long-term care insurance has no independent effect on the probability of ending up on Medicaid.

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The Relationship between Periodontal Interventions and Healthcare Costs and Utilization. Evidence from an Integrated Dental, Medical, and Pharmacy Commercial Claims Database

Kamyar Nasseh, Marko Vujicic & Michael Glick

Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Periodontal disease has been linked to poor glycemic control among individuals with type 2 diabetes. Using integrated dental, medical, and pharmacy commercial claims from Truven MarketScan® Research Databases, we implement inverse probability weighting and doubly robust methods to estimate a relationship between a periodontal intervention and healthcare costs and utilization. Among individuals newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, we find that a periodontal intervention is associated with lower total healthcare costs (−$1799), lower total medical costs excluding pharmacy costs (−$1577), and lower total type 2 diabetes-related healthcare costs (−$408).

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Effects of Medicaid Disease Management Programs on Medical Expenditures: Evidence from a natural experiment in Georgia

Keith Kranker

Journal of Health Economics, March 2016, Pages 52–69

Abstract:
In recent decades, most states’ Medicaid programs have introduced disease management programs for chronically ill beneficiaries. Interventions assist beneficiaries and their health care providers to appropriately manage chronic health condition(s) according to established clinical guidelines. Cost containment has been a key justification for the creation of these programs despite mixed evidence they actually save money. This study evaluates the effects of a disease management program in Georgia by exploiting a natural experiment that delayed the introduction of high-intensity services for several thousand beneficiaries. Expenditures for medical claims decreased an average of $89 per person per month for the high- and moderate-risk groups, but those savings were not large enough to offset the total costs of the program. Impacts varied by the intensity of interventions, over time, and across disease groups. Heterogeneous treatment effect analysis indicates that decreases in medical expenditures were largest at the most expensive tail of the distribution.

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Anticipatory Behavior in Response to Medicare Part D's Coverage Gap

Cameron Kaplan & Yuting Zhang

Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Under the standard Medicare Part D benefit structure, copayments for medications change discontinuously at certain levels of accumulative drug spending. Beneficiaries pay 25% of the cost of medications in the initial phase, 100% in the coverage gap, and 5% in the catastrophic phase. We examine whether individuals anticipate these copayment changes and adjust their consumption in advance. We use variation in birth-months of beneficiaries who enroll in Part D plans when they first turn 65. Birth-months generate exogenous variation in the end-of-year price because those who enroll earlier in the year are more likely to reach the coverage gap than those who enroll later. We study the impact of variation in end-of-year price on the first three months of medication use immediately following enrollment. We use difference-in-differences to adjust for seasonal trends in use, by comparing our main study group with those who receive low-income subsidies, and therefore do not face a coverage gap. We find strong evidence of anticipatory behavior, with an implied elasticity with respect to future prices ranging from −0.2 to −0.5. In addition, we find that beneficiaries modify their consumption by changing the quantity of prescriptions filled, instead of switching between brand-name and generic drugs.

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Reductions in Diagnostic Imaging With High Deductible Health Plans

Sarah Zheng et al.

Medical Care, February 2016, Pages 110–117

Background: Diagnostic imaging utilization grew rapidly over the past 2 decades. It remains unclear whether patient cost-sharing is an effective policy lever to reduce imaging utilization and spending.

Materials and Methods: Using 2010 commercial insurance claims data of >21 million individuals, we compared diagnostic imaging utilization and standardized payments between High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and non-HDHP enrollees. Negative binomial models were used to estimate associations between HDHP enrollment and utilization, and were repeated for standardized payments. A Hurdle model were used to estimate associations between HDHP enrollment and whether an enrollee had diagnostic imaging, and then the magnitude of associations for enrollees with imaging. Models with interaction terms were used to estimate associations between HDHP enrollment and imaging by risk score tercile. All models included controls for patient age, sex, geographic location, and health status.

Results: HDHP enrollment was associated with a 7.5% decrease in the number of imaging studies and a 10.2% decrease in standardized imaging payments. HDHP enrollees were 1.8% points less likely to use imaging; once an enrollee had at least 1 imaging study, differences in utilization and associated payments were small. Associations between HDHP and utilization were largest in the lowest (least sick) risk score tercile.

Conclusions: Increased patient cost-sharing may contribute to reductions in diagnostic imaging utilization and spending. However, increased cost-sharing may not encourage patients to differentiate between high-value and low-value diagnostic imaging services; better patient awareness and education may be a crucial part of any reductions in diagnostic imaging utilization.

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Association of Hospital Prices for Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting with Hospital Quality and Reimbursement

Bria Giacomino et al.

American Journal of Cardiology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although prices for medical services are known to vary markedly between hospitals, it remains unknown whether variation in hospital prices is explained by differences in hospital quality or reimbursement from major insurers. We obtained “out-of-pocket” price estimates for coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) from a random sample of U.S. hospitals for a hypothetical patient without medical insurance. We compared hospital CABG price to 1) “fair price” estimate from Healthcare Bluebook data using each hospital’s zip code and 2) Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) composite CABG quality score and risk-adjusted mortality rate. Among 101 study hospitals, 53 (52.5%) were able to provide a complete price estimate for CABG. The mean price for CABG was $151,271, and ranged from $44,824 - $448,038. Except for geographic census region, which was weakly associated with price, hospital CABG price was not associated with other structural characteristics or CABG volume (p >.10 for all). Likewise, there was no association between a hospital’s price for CABG with average reimbursement from major insurers within the same zip code (ρ = 0.07, p value = 0.6), STS composite quality score (ρ = 0.08, p value = 0.71), or risk-adjusted CABG mortality (ρ = -0.03 p value = 0.89). In conclusion, the price of CABG varied more than 10-fold across U.S. hospitals. There was no correlation between price information obtained from hospitals and the average reimbursement from major insurers in the same market. We also found no evidence to suggest that hospitals that charge higher prices provide better quality of care.

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Impacts on Emergency Department Visits from Personal Responsibility Provisions: Evidence from West Virginia's Medicaid Redesign

Tami Gurley-Calvez et al.

Health Services Research, forthcoming

Objective: To examine the impact of a 2007 redesign of West Virginia's Medicaid program, which included an incentive and “nudging” scheme intended to encourage better health care behaviors and reduce Emergency Department (ED) visits.

Study Design: We utilized a “differences in differences” technique with individual and time fixed effects to assess the impact of redesign on ED visits. Starting in 2007, categorically eligible Medicaid beneficiaries were moved from traditional Medicaid to the new Mountain Health Choices (MHC) Program on a rolling basis, approximating a natural experiment. Members chose between a Basic plan, which was less generous than traditional Medicaid, or an Enhanced plan, which was more generous but required additional enrollment steps.

Principal Findings: We found that contrary to intentions, the MHC program increased ED visits. Those who selected or defaulted into the Basic plan experienced increased overall and preventable ED visits, while those who selected the Enhanced plan experienced a slight reduction in preventable ED visits; the net effect was an increase in ED visits, as most individuals enrolled in the Basic plan.

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The Impact of the Medicare Hospital Readmission Reduction Program in New York State

Brian McGarry, Albert Blankley & Yue Li

Medical Care, February 2016, Pages 162–171

Background: Medicare’s Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP) created clear financial incentives for hospitals to prevent readmissions. Although existing evidence suggests readmission rates have been declining, the direct contribution of this policy to these reductions is unclear. Furthermore, it is unknown whether HRRP has produced unintended effects, including the substitution of outpatient hospital care for readmissions.

Research Design: Difference-in-difference estimation using prepolicy and postpolicy hospital claims data and the proportion of a hospital’s inpatient revenue at risk for HRRP penalization to identify policy exposure. Policy effects are estimated using multivariate logistic regressions.

Results: We find significant global reductions in readmissions in the postpolicy years, but no evidence of a differential policy effect on patients discharged from hospitals at risk for proportionally larger HRRP penalties in either postpolicy year 1 [adjusted odd ratio (AOR) =1.00, P=0.733] or 2 (AOR=1.01, P=0.315). HRRP did increase the odds of patients from hospitals facing greater financial risk having a 30-day ED visit in both postpolicy years (AOR=1.04, P=0.009 and AOR=1.07, P<0.001).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that while readmissions have decreased in New York State, these declines may not be directly attributable to HRRP penalties. The policy did produce significant potentially unintended effects in the form of greater postdischarge ED utilization among facilities facing proportionally larger penalties.

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Why Are Obstetric Units in Rural Hospitals Closing Their Doors?

Peiyin Hung et al.

Health Services Research, forthcoming

Data Sources: Hospital discharge data from Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's Statewide Inpatient Databases, American Hospital Association Annual Survey, and Area Resource File for 2010, as well as 2013–2014 telephone interviews of all 306 rural hospitals in nine states with at least 10 births in 2010. Via interview, we ascertained obstetric unit status, reasons for closures, and postclosure community capacity for prenatal care.

Principal Findings: Exactly 7.2 percent of rural hospitals in the study closed their obstetric units. These units were smaller in size, more likely to be privately owned, and located in communities with lower family income, fewer obstetricians, and fewer family physicians. Prenatal care was still available in 17 of 19 communities, but local women would need to travel an average of 29 additional miles to access intrapartum care.

Conclusions: Rural obstetric unit closures are more common in smaller hospitals and communities with a limited obstetric workforce. Concerns about continuity of rural maternity care arise for women with local prenatal care but distant intrapartum care.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Social scene

Similarity in Relationships as Niche Construction: Choice, Stability, and Influence Within Dyads in a Free Choice Environment

Angela Bahns et al.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
A series of field studies focused on the role of similarity as niche construction in friendships. Using a free-range dyad harvest method, we collected 11 independent samples with 1,523 interacting pairs, and compared dyad members’ personality traits, attitudes, values, recreational activities, and alcohol and drug use. Within-dyad similarity was statistically significant on 86% of variables measured. To determine whether similarity was primarily attributable to niche construction (i.e., selection) or social influence, we tested whether similarity increased as closeness, intimacy, discussion, length of relationship, and importance of the attitude increased. There were no effects on similarity of closeness, relationship length, or discussion of the attitude. There were quite modest effects of intimacy, and a reliable effect of the shared importance of the attitude. Because relationship length, intimacy, closeness, and discussion can all serve as markers of opportunity for, or potency of social influence, these data are consistent with the “niche construction” account of similarity. In 2 follow-up controlled longitudinal field studies, participants interacted with people they did not know from their large lecture classes, and at a later time completed a survey of attitudes, values, and personality traits. Interacting pairs were not more similar than chance, but for the 23% of dyads that interacted beyond the first meeting, there was significant similarity within dyad members. These 2 lines of inquiry converge to suggest that similarity is mainly due to niche construction, and is most important in the early stages of a relationship; its importance to further relationship development wanes.

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The Effect of Oxytocin on the Anthropomorphism of Touch

Leehe Peled-Avron, Anat Perry & Simone Shamay-Tsoory

Psychoneuroendocrinology, April 2016, Pages 159–165

Abstract:
One of the leading hypotheses regarding the mechanism underlying the social effects of Oxytocin (OT) is the “social salience hypothesis”, which proposes that OT alters the attentional salience of social cues in a context-dependent manner. Recently, OT was implicated in the process of anthropomorphism; specifically, OT was found to increase the tendency to ascribe social meaning to inanimate stimuli. However, the precise component of social interaction that contributes to this effect remains unclear. Because OT plays a role in the response to touch, whether or not objects are touching in a social context may represent the prominent trigger. Given that OT plays a major role in both anthropomorphism and touch, it is reasonable to assume that OT enhances anthropomorphism specifically for non-human touch, further clarifying its role in altering the perceptual salience of social cues. Here, we examined whether intranasal delivery of OT influences anthropomorphism for touch in inanimate objects. To that end, we implicitly measured the emotional reactions of participants (N = 51) to photos that depicted two humans or two inanimate objects either touching or not touching. We asked them to rate whether they will include each photo in an emotional album and found that OT treatment increased the likelihood of inclusion in an emotional album to photos that contain touch, particularly between inanimate objects. In a follow-up experiment we found that the more human the inanimate objects were perceived, the more included they were in the emotional album. Our findings demonstrate that OT can enhance the social meaning of touch between two inanimate objects and advance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the ability of OT to anthropomorphize environmental cues.

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Where does one stand: A biological account of preferred interpersonal distance

Anat Perry, Nikolay Nichiporuk & Robert Knight

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, February 2016, Pages 317-326

Abstract:
What determines how close you choose to stand to someone? Why do some people prefer farther distances than others? We hypothesized that an important factor is one’s sensory sensitivity level, i.e. how sensitive one is to nearby visual stimulation, noise, touch or smell. This study characterizes the behavioral, hormonal and electrophysiological metrics of interpersonal distance (IPD) preferences in relation to levels of sensory sensitivity. Using both an ecologically realistic task and electroencephalogram (EEG), we found that sensory sensitivity levels predicted IPD preferences, such that the more sensitive one is the farther distance they prefer. Furthermore, electrophysiological evidence revealed that individuals with higher sensory sensitivity show more alpha suppression for approaching stimuli, strengthening the notion that early sensory cortical excitability is involved in one’s social decision of how close to stand to another. The results provide evidence that a core human metric of social interaction is influenced by individual levels of sensory sensitivity.

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Young Deceivers: Executive Functioning and Antisocial Lie-telling in Preschool Aged Children

Shanna Williams et al.

Infant and Child Development, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present study examined the emergence of antisocial lie-telling in very young children. Lie-telling was studied in relation to executive functioning skills and children's abilities to identify both truths and lies. A total of 65 children (Mage in months = 31.75, SD = 1.87) participated in a modified temptation resistance paradigm (TRP; designed to elicit spontaneous lies). Executive functioning was measured through an inhibitory control task and a forward search planning task. The Truth/Lie Identification task was administered (Lyon, Carrick, & Quas, 2010) to measure children's abilities to accurately distinguish truths and lies. During the TRP, a total of 89.23% children peeked at the toy when a research assistant left the room, and of those children, 29.31% lied to the research assistant. Significant differences on executive functioning measures were found between lie-tellers and confessors, as well as for the Truth/Lie Identification task. Lie-tellers had higher scores on measures of inhibitory control and forward search planning. Lie-tellers also had higher accuracy on the Truth/Lie Identification task than confessors. This study provides a unique contribution to the literature by examining 2.5-year-old children's emerging lie-telling abilities, a relatively understudied age during which fledgling lie-telling emerges.

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Say no more! The liability of strong ties on desire for special experiences

Miranda Goode, Kendra Hart & Matthew Thomson

Journal of Consumer Psychology, January 2016, Pages 91–97

Abstract:
Interpersonal connections are often involved in the planning, consuming, and reminiscing of special consumption experiences. Yet we have limited understanding of how consumers in different stages (planning versus reminiscing) influence one another and how this might vary as a function of relationship strength. From two experiments, our findings suggest that when planning a novel special experience, consumers should be cautious of others' reminiscences and, specifically, of memories shared by strong ties. In study 1, we found that a memory shared by a strong tie increases a consumer's desire to switch a novel experience. In study 2, we unpacked this effect by examining the role of savoring and internalization of memory details. When a memory was shared by a stronger (versus weaker) tie, the expected utility of savoring was reduced, and the desire to switch to a new experience increased. Post analyses suggest that this may be due to differences in the extent to which the memory is assimilated as one's own experience.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, February 6, 2016

To match or not to match

One-Way Mirrors in Online Dating: A Randomized Field Experiment

Ravi Bapna et al.

Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The growing popularity of online dating websites is altering one of the most fundamental human activities: finding a date or a marriage partner. Online dating platforms offer new capabilities, such as extensive search, big data–based mate recommendations, and varying levels of anonymity, whose parallels do not exist in the physical world. Yet little is known about the causal effects of these new features. In this study we examine the impact of a particular anonymity feature, which is unique to online environments, on matching outcomes. This feature allows users to browse profiles of other users anonymously, by being able to check out a potential mate’s profile while not leaving any visible online record of the visit. Although this feature may decrease search costs and allow users to search without inhibition, it also eliminates “weak signals” of interest for their potential mates that may play an important role in establishing successful communication. We run a randomized field experiment on a major North American online dating website, where 50,000 of 100,000 randomly selected new users are gifted the ability to anonymously view profiles of other users. Compared with the control group, the users treated with anonymity become disinhibited, in that they view more profiles and are more likely to view same-sex and interracial mates. However, based on our analysis, we demonstrate causally that weak signaling is a key mechanism in achieving higher levels of matching outcomes. Anonymous users, who lose the ability to leave a weak signal, end up having fewer matches compared with their nonanonymous counterparts. This effect of anonymity is particularly strong for women, who tend not to make the first move and instead rely on the counterparty to initiate the communication. Further, the reduction in quantity of matches by anonymous users is not compensated by a corresponding increase in quality of matches.

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Women’s reproductive success and the preference for Dark Triad in men’s faces

Urszula Marcinkowska, Minna Lyons & Samuli Helle

Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Women’s preference for male partners that signal either genetic or parenting advantages for their progeny are predicted to be favoured by natural selection. However, currently there are few studies on how such mate preferences are associated with women’s reproductive success. We examined whether preferences for the Dark Triad personality traits (i.e., Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy) in men’s faces were related to reproductive success in contemporary women. Because out of three Dark Triad features narcissism is most clearly associated with social success and physical and psychological health benefits in men, we predicted that women’s preference for narcissism could be most strongly related to their reproductive success. In line with this, we found that women with preference for high narcissistic men’s faces gave birth to more offspring while controlling for their age, sexual openness (sociosexuality) and self-rated health. Moreover, women with strong preference for Machiavellian male faces reported fewer offspring than their same-aged peers with weak preference, whereas preference for psychopathic men’s faces was unrelated to women’s current number of offspring. These findings suggest that in modern society, women’s preference for some of the Dark Triad traits in men may be related to their reproductive success.

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The ‘Chasing Amy’ Bias in Past Sexual Experiences: Men Can Change, Women Cannot

Daniel Jones

Sexuality & Culture, March 2016, Pages 24-37

Abstract:
An extensive sexual history may deter individuals from committing to a potential romantic partner. However, the reasons for this deterrence may differ between men and women, such that women focus on practical concerns over suitability whereas men focus on reputation. Thus, individuals with extensive sexual histories, who are currently monogamous, should be more acceptable to women than they are to men. Two studies supported this hypothesis. Study 1 found that women rated male targets with a sexually experienced past with increased desirability for a long-term relationship if they reported recent shifts towards monogamy. In contrast, men rated sexually experienced female targets, with a recent shift towards monogamy, as least desirable. Study 2 extended the understanding of this effect by demonstrating that one time sexual experiences (i.e., threesome) had no effect on women’s judgments of currently monogamous men, but continued to negatively affect men’s judgments of currently monogamous women. In sum, women seem accepting of lifestyle changes in men, whereas men fixate on women’s previous experiences in spite of shifts towards monogamy.

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The Role of Facial and Body Hair Distribution in Women’s Judgments of Men’s Sexual Attractiveness

Barnaby Dixson & Markus Rantala

Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Facial and body hair are some of the most visually conspicuous and sexually dimorphic of all men’s secondary sexual traits. Both are androgen dependent, requiring the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone via the enzyme 5α reductase 2 for their expression. While previous studies on the attractiveness of facial and body hair are equivocal, none have accounted as to how natural variation in their distribution may influence male sexual attractiveness. In the present study, we quantified men’s facial and body hair distribution as either very light, light, medium, or heavy using natural photographs. We also tested whether women’s fertility influenced their preferences for beards and body hair by comparing preferences among heterosexual women grouped according their fertility (high fertility, low fertility, and contraceptive use). Results showed that men with more evenly and continuously distributed facial hair from the lower jaw connecting to the mustache and covering the cheeks were judged as more sexually attractive than individuals with more patchy facial hair. Men with body hair were less attractive than when clean shaven, with the exception of images depicting some hair around the areolae, pectoral region, and the sternum that were significantly more attractive than clean-shaven bodies. However, there was no effect of fertility on women’s preferences for men’s beard or body hair distribution. These results suggest that the distribution of facial and body hair influences male attractiveness to women, possibly as an indication of masculine development and the synthesis of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone via 5α reductase.

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Gendered jocks or equal players? Athletic affiliation and hooking up among college students

Rachel Allison

Sociological Spectrum, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research has found sex-specific effects of athletic participation on young adult sexuality, with male athletes reporting increased sexual activity and female athletes reporting lower levels of sexual activity relative to non-athlete peers. Yet research has not examined sexual activity by athletic affiliation beyond quantity, nor considered the normative landscape of non-relational college sexual culture. The current paper examines the relationships between sex, athletic affiliation, and hooking up among students at 14 U.S. universities with Division I and II athletics programs. Findings show that, controlling for demographics and background characteristics, 1) male and female athletes participate in hooking up at higher rates than non-athletes, and 2) male athletes have less male dominated hookups in terms of sexual initiation. Results are discussed in terms of the increasing value similarity of men and women's collegiate sports programs.

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Consensual Victim–Perpetrator Intercourse after Nonconsensual Sex: The Impact of Prior Relationship

Megan Sawatsky, Samantha Dawson & Martin Lalumière

Journal of Sex Research, Winter 2016, Pages 194-203

Abstract:
Some female victims of nonconsensual sex subsequently have consensual sexual intercourse with the perpetrator and are more likely to do so if intercourse occurred during the nonconsensual sex than if it did not. Some evolutionary psychologists have postulated that there is something significant about nonconsensual intercourse that causes women to subsequently have a sexual relationship with the perpetrator (e.g., risk of pregnancy). In this study, we investigated a parsimonious explanation that has previously been overlooked: Intercourse is more likely during nonconsensual sex when the victim and perpetrator have previously had a sexual relationship; thus, subsequent consensual intercourse may simply be a continuation of that prior relationship. A sample of 945 women completed an Internet-based survey, of whom 41% had experienced nonconsensual sex since age 14. As expected, victims who had intercourse with perpetrators prior to the nonconsensual sex event were significantly more likely than other victims to experience nonconsensual intercourse and to engage in subsequent consensual intercourse with the perpetrator. When considering only the small subsample of victims who never had a prior romantic or sexual relationship with the perpetrator, the odds of subsequent consensual intercourse were still significantly greater following nonconsensual sex with intercourse versus without intercourse.

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Interracial attraction among college men: The influence of ideologies, familiarity, and similarity

James Brooks & Helen Neville

Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current study integrated constructs from the fields of relationship science (i.e., similarity and familiarity) and intergroup research (i.e., racial ideologies, particularly color-blind racial ideology and multiculturalism) to explore interracial romantic attraction. Using a person-perception design, 124 Black (n = 62) and White (n =62) heterosexual college men indicated their romantic attraction to the dating profiles of three Black and three White women. Results from analyses consistent with a linear mixed-model approach supported most of the hypotheses, including participants in general were more attracted to women of the same race and that greater endorsement of multicultural ideological beliefs was associated with increased interracial attraction. For White men, greater endorsement of color-blind racial ideology was predictive of a decrease in interracial romantic attraction as hypothesized. Contrary to the hypotheses, increased interracial contact for Black men was associated with an increase in same race attraction. Results are discussed in the context of existing literature, and important next steps are also discussed.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, February 5, 2016

Developing state

State Capacity and American Technology: Evidence from the 19th Century

Daron Acemoglu, Jacob Moscona & James Robinson

NBER Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
Robert Gordon's The Rise and Fall of American Economic Growth provides a compelling interpretation of how technical change and innovation has radically changed the living standards of the citizens of the US in the past 150 years. Lying behind these changes are the institutions which have allowed the country to harness its human potential. In this paper we conduct an empirical investigation of the impact of one key set of institutions, the capacity of the US state as proxied by the presence of post offices in a county, on innovation. We show that between 1804 and 1899, the time when the US became the world technological leader, there is a strong association between the presence and number of post offices in a county and patenting activity, and it appears that it is the opening of postal offices that leads to surges in patenting activity, not the other way around. Our evidence suggests that part of the yet untold story of US technological exceptionalism is the way in which the US created an immensely capable and effective state.

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Does Governance Cause Growth? Evidence from China

Ross Wilson

World Development, March 2016, Pages 138-151

Abstract:
This study tests the causal relationships between quality of governance and economic growth at the provincial level in China during the post-Mao reform era. Exploiting the wide cross-provincial variation and rapid change over time in governance institutions and economic performance in China during this period (covering 1985-2005), the study provides a new perspective on the relationship between governance and growth. Whereas a large body of prior literature has demonstrated a strong positive association between high-quality governance institutions and good economic performance at the cross-country level, few quantitative studies have explicitly tested the direction of causality between changes in governance quality and changes in economic outcomes. This study aims to address this gap in the literature by testing two causal hypotheses on the interplay between provincial-level governance and economic performance in China: (i) improvements in provincial quality of governance predict subsequent economic growth rates, and (ii) increases in provincial economic growth rates predict subsequent changes in quality of governance. Using new heterogeneous Granger causality tests that allow for potential differences in the causal relations across provinces, I show a significant and positive effect of economic growth on subsequent quality of governance, largely driven by growth in the secondary sector, but no significant effect of quality of governance on economic growth. These findings suggest that improvements in formal governance have not been a key factor driving China's rapid growth; instead, the observed positive association between governance and growth reflects the ability of provincial governments to harness the potential created by economic growth to implement subsequent governance improvements. For researchers studying the effect of governance on growth, the results suggest that greater attention should be paid to possible reverse causality from economic outcomes to governance changes.

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Hard or Easy? Difficulty of Entrepreneurial Startups in 107 Climato-Economic Environments

Evert Van de Vliert, Onne Janssen & Gerben Van der Vegt

Applied Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Driven by existential needs for thermal comfort, nutrition, and health, human populations create cultural adaptations to environmental conditions. Entrepreneurs starting new businesses in more threatening or more challenging environments may be a case in point. In a secondary analysis of population-level data from 107 nations, we cross-sectionally examined six adaptation hypotheses based on climato-economic theorising. The regression results show that new business creation is experienced as being the hardest in the threatening environments of poorer countries with colder winters and cooler summers (e.g. Bolivia and Ukraine), and as being the easiest in the challenging environments of richer countries with hotter summers and warmer winters (e.g. Singapore and United Arab Emirates). Rival explanations in terms of the historical trajectory of state emergence (state antiquity, colonial past, communist past) and societal development (industrialisation, democratisation, education) are ruled out and discussed. This article suggests that results of individual-level and group-level research into entrepreneurship are tentative at best as long as cultural adaptations to climato-economic environments are left out of consideration.

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The Effect of IMF Programs on Women's Economic and Political Rights

Nicole Detraz & Dursun Peksen

International Interactions, forthcoming

Abstract:
Though much research has been devoted to the socioeconomic and political consequences of International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs for recipient countries, little is known about the impacts of these programs on the level of respect for women's rights. We postulate that IMF-induced policy reforms of privatization and public spending cuts, and the growing political repression and instability following the implementation of IMF programs, undermine the government's ability and willingness to protect women's economic and political rights. To substantiate the theoretical claims, we combine data on women's political and economic rights with data on IMF programs for the years 1981-2005. Our findings suggest that IMF involvement is likely to deteriorate the level of respect for women's economic rights while having no discernible effect on women's political rights. The results further indicate that the effect of these programs is not conditioned by political regime type and economic wealth of recipient countries. One major policy implication of our findings is that the IMF should begin to recognize that the conditions attached to lending programs might be implemented at the expense of women's economic rights and that more explicit protections for women's rights need to be included in program negotiations.

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Paradox Lost?

Richard Easterlin

University of Southern California Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
Or Paradox Regained? The answer is Paradox Regained. New data confirm that for countries worldwide long-term trends in happiness and real GDP per capita are not significantly positively related. The principal reason that Paradox critics reach a different conclusion, aside from problems of data comparability, is that they do not focus on identifying long-term trends in happiness. For some countries their estimated growth rates of happiness and GDP are not trend rates, but those observed in cyclical expansion or contraction. Mixing these short-term with long-term growth rates shifts a happiness-GDP regression from a horizontal to positive slope.

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The Economic Consequences of Hugo Chavez: A Synthetic Control Analysis

Kevin Grier & Norman Maynard

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
We use the synthetic control method to perform a case study of the impact of Hugo Chavez on the Venezuelan economy. We compare outcomes under Chavez's leadership and polices against a counterfactual of "business as usual" in similar countries. We find that, relative to our control, per capita income fell dramatically. While poverty, health, and inequality outcomes all improved during the Chavez administration, these outcomes also improved in each of the corresponding control cases and thus we cannot attribute the improvements to Chavismo. We conclude that the overall economic consequences of the Chavez administration were bleak.

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The Influence of Ancestral Lifeways on Individual Economic Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa

Stelios Michalopoulos, Louis Putterman & David Weil

NBER Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
We explore the role of an individual's historical lineage in determining economic status, holding constant his or her current location. This is complementary to the more common approach to studying how history shapes economic outcomes across locations. Motivated by a large literature in social sciences stressing the beneficial influence of agricultural transition on contemporary economic performance at the level of countries, we examine the relative status of descendants of agriculturalists vs. pastoralists. We match individual-level survey data with information on the historical lifeways of ancestors, focusing on Africa, where the transition away from such modes of production began only recently. Within enumeration areas and occupational groups, we find that individuals from ethnicities that derived a larger share of subsistence from agriculture in the pre-colonial era are today more educated and wealthy. A tentative exploration of channels suggests that differences in attitudes and beliefs as well as differential treatment by others, including less political power, may contribute to these divergent outcomes.

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Income inequality and violent crime: Evidence from Mexico's drug war

Ted Enamorado et al.

Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
The goal of this paper is to examine the effect of inequality on crime rates in a unique context, Mexico's drug war. The analysis exploits an original dataset containing inequality and crime statistics on more than 2000 Mexican municipalities over a 20-year period. To uncover the causal effect of inequality on crime, we use an instrumental variable for the Gini coefficient that combines the initial income distribution at the municipality level with national trends. Our estimates indicate that a one-point increment in the Gini coefficient between 2007 and 2010 translates into an increase of more than 36% in the number of drug-related homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. The fact that the effect found during the drug war is substantially greater is likely caused by the rise in rents to be extracted through crime and an expansion in the employment opportunities in the illegal sector through the proliferation of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), accompanied by a decline in legal job opportunities and a reduction in the probability of being caught given the resource constraints faced by the law enforcement system. Combined, the latter factors made the expected benefits of criminal activity shift in a socially undesirable direction after 2007.

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The Long Shadows of Spanish and French Colonial Education

Horst Feldmann

Kyklos, February 2016, Pages 32-64

Abstract:
Both Spanish and French colonial education included several features that restricted education. Many of them persisted long after independence. Against this background, this paper econometrically studies whether in the recent past the colonial legacy still affected schooling in the ex-colonies of these two former colonial powers - and, for comparison, in the ex-colonies of Britain, the third of the former big three colonial powers. Using a large sample of countries and numerous controls, it finds substantial negative effects on both secondary enrollment and average years of schooling in former French and, especially, in former Spanish colonies. The negative effects on females are particularly large. By contrast, there are no effects in former British colonies.

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Sovereign Debt Relief and Its Aftermath

Carmen Reinhart & Christoph Trebesch

Journal of the European Economic Association, February 2016, Pages 215-251

Abstract:
This paper studies sovereign debt relief in a long-term perspective. We quantify the relief achieved through default and restructuring in two distinct samples: 1920-1939, focusing on the defaults on official (government to government) debt in advanced economies after World War I; and 1978-2010, focusing on emerging market debt crises with private external creditors. Debt relief was substantial in both eras, averaging 21% of GDP in the 1930s and 16% of GDP in recent decades. We then analyze the aftermath of debt relief and conduct a difference-in-differences analysis around the synchronous war debt defaults of 1934 and the Baker and Brady initiatives of the 1980s/1990s. The economic landscape of debtor countries improves significantly after debt relief operations, but only if these involve debt write-offs. Softer forms of debt relief, such as maturity extensions and interest rate reductions, are not generally followed by higher economic growth or improved credit ratings.

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Roots of the Industrial Revolution

Morgan Kelly, Joel Mokyr & Cormac O'Grada

University College Dublin Working Paper, November 2015

Abstract:
We analyze factors explaining the very different patterns of industrialization across the 42 counties of England between 1760 and 1830. Against the widespread view that high wages and cheap coal drove industrialization, we find that industrialization was restricted to low wage areas, while energy availability (coal or water) had little impact. Instead we find that industrialization can largely be explained by two factors related to the human capability of the labour force. Instead of being composed of landless labourers, successful industrializers had large numbers of small farms, which are associated with better nutrition and height. Secondly, industrializing counties had a high density of population relative to agricultural land, indicating extensive rural industrial activity: counties that were already reliant on small scale industry, with the technical and entrepreneurial skills this generated, experienced the strongest industrial growth. Looking at 1830s France we find that the strongest predictor of industrialization again is quality of workers shown by height of the population, although market access and availability of water power were also important.

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Endogenous Legal Traditions and Economic Outcomes

Carmine Guerriero

Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Outcomes are deeply influenced by the set of institutions used to aggregate the citizens' preferences over the harshness of punishment, i.e., the legal tradition. I show that while under common law appellate judges' biases offset one another at the cost of legal uncertainty, under civil law the legislator chooses a certain legal rule that is biased only when he favors special interests, i.e., when preferences are sufficiently heterogeneous and/or political institutions are sufficiently inefficient. Thus, common law can produce better outcomes only under this scenario. To test this prediction, I construct a novel continuous measure of legal traditions for 49 transplants, many of which reformed the transplanted institutions, and I devise an instrumental variables approach dealing with the endogeneity of both legal and political institutions. The evidence, which is robust across several strategies, confirms the model implications and stresses the relevance of distinguishing between proxies measuring only the technological efficiency of the law and those picking up also the citizenry's satisfaction with its cultural content.

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On the threshold of adulthood: A new approach for the use of maturation indicators to assess puberty in adolescents from medieval England

Mary Lewis, Fiona Shapland & Rebecca Watts American

Journal of Human Biology, January/February 2016, Pages 48-56

Objectives: This study provides the first large scale analysis of the age at which adolescents in medieval England entered and completed the pubertal growth spurt. This new method has implications for expanding our knowledge of adolescent maturation across different time periods and regions.

Methods: In total, 994 adolescent skeletons (10-25 years) from four urban sites in medieval England (AD 900-1550) were analyzed for evidence of pubertal stage using new osteological techniques developed from the clinical literature (i.e., hamate hook development, cervical vertebral maturation (CVM), canine mineralization, iliac crest ossification, and radial fusion).

Results: Adolescents began puberty at a similar age to modern children at around 10-12 years, but the onset of menarche in girls was delayed by up to 3 years, occurring around 15 for most in the study sample and 17 years for females living in London. Modern European males usually complete their maturation by 16-18 years; medieval males took longer with the deceleration stage of the growth spurt extending as late as 21 years.

Conclusions: This research provides the first attempt to directly assess the age of pubertal development in adolescents during the 10th-17th centuries. Poor diet, infections, and physical exertion may have contributed to delayed development in the medieval adolescents, particularly for those living in the city of London. This study sheds new light on the nature of adolescence in the medieval period, highlighting an extended period of physical and social transition.

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Out of Africa: Human Capital Consequences of In Utero Conditions

Victor Lavy, Analia Schlosser & Adi Shany

NBER Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
This paper investigates the effects of environmental conditions during pregnancy on later life outcomes using quasi-experimental variation created by the immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in May 24th 1991. Children in utero prior to immigration faced dramatic differences in medical care technologies, prenatal conditions, and prenatal care at the move from Ethiopia to Israel. One of the major differences was adequacy of micronutrient supplements, particularly iodine, iron and folic acid. We find that children exposed in an earlier stage of the pregnancy to better environmental conditions in utero have two decades later higher educational attainment (lower repetition and dropout rates and higher Baccalaureate rate) and higher education quality (achieve a higher proficiency level in their Baccalaureate diploma). The average treatment effect we estimate is driven mainly by a strong effect on girls. We find however, no effect on birth weight or mortality for girls.

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Flip the Switch: The Impact of the Rural Electrification Administration 1935-1940

Carl Kitchens & Price Fishback

Journal of Economic History, December 2015, Pages 1161-1195

Abstract:
To isolate the impact of access to electricity on local economies, we examine the impact of the Rural Electrification Administration low-interest loans in the 1930s. The REA provided loans to cooperatives to lay distribution lines to farms and aid in wiring homes. Consequently, the number of rural farm homes electrified doubled in the United States within five years. We develop a panel data set for the 1930s and use changes within counties over time to identify the effect of the REA loans on a wide range of socio-economic measures. The REA loans contributed significantly to increases in crop output and crop productivity and helped stave off declines in overall farm output, productivity, and land values, but they had much smaller effects on nonagricultural parts of the economy. The ex-ante subsidy from the low-interest loans was large, but after the program was completed, nearly all of the loans were fully repaid, and the ultimate cost to the taxpayer was relatively low.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Yes or no

Hiding personal information reveals the worst

Leslie John, Kate Barasz & Michael Norton

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 26 January 2016, Pages 954-959

Abstract:
Seven experiments explore people's decisions to share or withhold personal information, and the wisdom of such decisions. When people choose not to reveal information - to be "hiders" - they are judged negatively by others (experiment 1). These negative judgments emerge when hiding is volitional (experiments 2A and 2B) and are driven by decreases in trustworthiness engendered by decisions to hide (experiments 3A and 3B). Moreover, hiders do not intuit these negative consequences: given the choice to withhold or reveal unsavory information, people often choose to withhold, but observers rate those who reveal even questionable behavior more positively (experiments 4A and 4B). The negative impact of hiding holds whether opting not to disclose unflattering (drug use, poor grades, and sexually transmitted diseases) or flattering (blood donations) information, and across decisions ranging from whom to date to whom to hire. When faced with decisions about disclosure, decision-makers should be aware not just of the risk of revealing, but of what hiding reveals.

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Do Emotions Expressed Online Correlate with Actual Changes in Decision-Making?: The Case of Stock Day Traders

Bin Liu, Ramesh Govindan & Brian Uzzi

PLoS ONE, January 2016

Abstract:
Emotions are increasingly inferred linguistically from online data with a goal of predicting off-line behavior. Yet, it is unknown whether emotions inferred linguistically from online communications correlate with actual changes in off-line activity. We analyzed all 886,000 trading decisions and 1,234,822 instant messages of 30 professional day traders over a continuous 2 year period. Linguistically inferring the traders' emotional states from instant messages, we find that emotions expressed in online communications reflect the same distributions of emotions found in controlled experiments done on traders. Further, we find that expressed online emotions predict the profitability of actual trading behavior. Relative to their baselines, traders who expressed little emotion or traders that expressed high levels of emotion made relatively unprofitable trades. Conversely, traders expressing moderate levels of emotional activation made relatively profitable trades.

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Preference-consistent information repetitions during discussion: Do they affect subsequent judgments and decisions?

Stefan Schulz-Hardt, Annika Giersiepen & Andreas Mojzisch

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
During discussions, people typically introduce more information supporting their preferences as compared to information conflicting with these preferences, and they also repeat the former information more often than the latter. Although this preference-consistent discussion bias has been shown across several studies, its consequences for subsequent decisions have largely escaped attention. In particular, it is unclear whether selectively repeating preference-consistent information increases the likelihood that the recipient decides in accordance with the speaker's preference. From a rational point of view, information repetitions constitute redundancy and, hence, should not affect the recipient's decision. By contrast, in two experiments we demonstrate that selectively repeating information in favor of a particular decision alternative changes preference ratings in favor of this alternative (Experiment 1) and makes a decision for this alternative more likely (Experiment 2). This result is shown for written discussion protocols (Experiment 1) and for face-to-face discussions with a confederate (Experiment 2).

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The tide that lifts all focal boats: Asymmetric predictions of ascent and descent in rankings

Shai Davidai & Thomas Gilovich

Judgment and Decision Making, January 2016, Pages 7-20

Abstract:
In six studies, we find evidence for an upward mobility bias, or a tendency to predict that a rise in ranking is more likely than a decline, even in domains where motivation or intention to rise play no role. Although people cannot willfully change their height (Study 1), and geographical entities cannot willfully alter their temperature (Study 2), number of natural disasters (Study 3), levels of precipitation (Studies 4A and 4B), or chemical concentration (Study 5), subjects believed that each is more likely to rise than drop in ranking. This bias is due to an association between a ranking's order and the direction of absolute change, and to the tendency to give considerable weight to a focal agent over non-focal agents. Because people generally expect change to be represented in terms of higher ranks, and because they tend to focus on specific, focal targets, they believe that any given target will experience a larger relative increase than other targets. We discuss implications for social policy.

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Perceiving Prospects Properly

Jakub Steiner & Colin Stewart

American Economic Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
When an agent chooses between prospects, noise in information processing generates an effect akin to the winner's curse. Statistically unbiased perception systematically overvalues the chosen action because it fails to account for the possibility that noise is responsible for making the preferred action appear to be optimal. The optimal perception pattern exhibits a key feature of prospect theory, namely, overweighting of small probability events (and corresponding underweighting of high probability events). This bias arises to correct for the winner's curse effect.

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Are the Disabled Less Loss Averse? Evidence from a Natural Policy Experiment

Yuval Arbel, Danny Ben-Shahar & Stuart Gabriel

Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
Research findings show that disabled persons often develop physical and psychological mechanisms to compensate for disabilities. Coping mechanisms may not be limited to the psychophysiological domain and may extend to cognitive bias and loss aversion. In this study, we apply unique microdata from a natural policy experiment to assess the role of loss aversion in home purchase among nondisabled and disabled households. Results of survival analysis indicate that the physically disabled are substantially less loss averse in home purchase. Furthermore, loss aversion varies with other population characteristics and attenuates with degree of disability. Findings provide new evidence of diminished cognitive bias and more rational economic decision-making among the physically disabled.

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Can irrational investors survive in the long run? The role of generational type transmission

Scott Condie & Kerk Phillips

Economics Letters, February 2016, Pages 40-42

Abstract:
This paper considers whether expected utility maximizers who have incorrect beliefs can survive as controllers of a significant portion of market wealth in the long run. Unlike infinitely-lived agent models, where this is not the case, we consider a model with successive generations of investors. Each generation inherits wealth and investor type from the previous generation. We show that if rational parents produce only rational children, and irrational parents always produce only irrational children, then the results from the infinitely-lived setup carry through. However, if parents of one type can produce even a small fraction of children of the other type, then irrational investors will always control a non-vanishing portion of total wealth. Hence, understanding the exact nature of the transmission of incorrect beliefs is key to understanding long-run market prices.

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On incidental catalysts of elaboration: Reminders of environmental structure promote effortful thought

Ryan Rahinel et al.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2016, Pages 1-7

Abstract:
Life is filled with situations in which cognitive elaboration can powerfully sway outcomes, and yet our understanding of the contextual factors that impact elaboration are greatly limited to those entwined with the focal evaluation, judgment, or decision. In response, this research tests whether a more fundamental, incidental feature of the environment - structure - might influence the extent to which individuals engage in elaboration. Three studies demonstrate that incidental reminders of structure increase elaboration (Experiment 1), which in turn impacts individuals' confidence in their choice (Experiment 2) as well as the choice itself (Experiment 3). Collectively, the findings offer novel insight into the role of structure in promoting elaboration, and suggest that structure-seeking may be functional in part because it leads to more thoughtful, considered judgments and decisions.

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Irrational time allocation in decision-making

Bastiaan Oud et al.

Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 13 January 2016

Abstract:
Time is an extremely valuable resource but little is known about the efficiency of time allocation in decision-making. Empirical evidence suggests that in many ecologically relevant situations, decision difficulty and the relative reward from making a correct choice, compared to an incorrect one, are inversely linked, implying that it is optimal to use relatively less time for difficult choice problems. This applies, in particular, to value-based choices, in which the relative reward from choosing the higher valued item shrinks as the values of the other options get closer to the best option and are thus more difficult to discriminate. Here, we experimentally show that people behave sub-optimally in such contexts. They do not respond to incentives that favour the allocation of time to choice problems in which the relative reward for choosing the best option is high; instead they spend too much time on problems in which the reward difference between the options is low. We demonstrate this by showing that it is possible to improve subjects' time allocation with a simple intervention that cuts them off when their decisions take too long. Thus, we provide a novel form of evidence that organisms systematically spend their valuable time in an inefficient way, and simultaneously offer a potential solution to the problem.

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Prompting deliberation increases base-rate use

Natalie Obrecht & Dana Chesney

Judgment and Decision Making, January 2016, Pages 1-6

Abstract:
People often base judgments on stereotypes, even when contradictory base-rate information is provided. In a sample of 438 students from two state universities, we tested several hypotheses regarding why people would prefer stereotype information over base-rates when making judgments: A) People believe stereotype information is more diagnostic than base-rate information, B) people find stereotype information more salient than base-rate information, or C) even though people have some intuitive access to base-rate information, they may need to engage in deliberation before they can make full use of it, and often fail to do so. In line with the deliberative failure account, and counter to the diagnosticity account, we found that inducing deliberation by having people evaluate statements supporting the use of base-rates increased the use of base-rate information. Moreover, counter to the salience and diagnosticity accounts, asking people to evaluate statements supporting the use of stereotypes decreased reliance on stereotype information. Additionally, more numerate subjects were more likely to make use of base-rate information.

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Cut your losses and let your profits run: How shifting feelings of personal responsibility reverses the disposition effect

Jaakko Aspara & Arvid Hoffmann

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, December 2015, Pages 18-24

Abstract:
The disposition effect refers to individuals' tendency to sell their winning investments too early, while holding on to their losing investments too long. This behavioral bias has negative consequences for individuals' wealth, because losing investments usually continue to underperform, while winning investments typically continue to outperform. The present research demonstrates that shifting feelings of personal responsibility can reverse individuals' susceptibility to the disposition effect. In particular, results from three experiments indicate that the disposition effect is reversed when (i) prior investment gains are attributed to external factors while prior investment losses are attributed to individuals' own faults, (ii) individuals invest someone else's money instead of their own, and (iii) when individuals have an alternative, socially oriented investment goal, such as self-expression besides a financial gains goal. The results have implications for financial service professionals, such as financial advisors.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Budget mess

Fiscal Analysis is Darned Hard

Eric Leeper

NBER Working Paper, December 2015

Abstract:
Dramatic fiscal developments in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and global recession led researchers to recognize how little we know about fiscal policies and their impacts. This essay argues that fiscal analysis that aims to address pertinent issues and provide useful inputs to policymakers is intrinsically hard. I illustrate this with examples torn from the economic headlines in many countries. I identify some essential ingredients for useful fiscal analysis and point to examples in the literature that integrate some of those ingredients. Recent methodological advances give reason to be optimistic about fiscal analyses in the future.

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The Welfare Cost of Perceived Policy Uncertainty: Evidence from Social Security

Erzo Luttmer & Andrew Samwick

NBER Working Paper, December 2015

Abstract:
Policy uncertainty can reduce individual welfare when individuals have limited opportunities to mitigate or insure against consumption fluctuations induced by the policy uncertainty. For this reason, policy uncertainty surrounding future Social Security benefits may have important welfare costs. We field an original survey to measure the degree of policy uncertainty in Social Security and to estimate the impact of this uncertainty on individual welfare. On average, our survey respondents expect to receive only about 60 percent of the benefits they are supposed to get under current law. We document the wide variation around the expectation for most respondents and the heterogeneity in the perceived distributions of future benefits across respondents. This uncertainty has real costs. Our central estimates show that on average individuals would be willing to forego around 6 percent of the benefits they are supposed to get under current law to remove the policy uncertainty associated with their future benefits. This translates to a risk premium from policy uncertainty equal to 10 percent of expected benefits.

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Sharing Risk with the Government: On the Causal Effects of Taxes on Corporate Risk-Taking

Alexander Ljungqvist, Liandong Zhang & Luo Zuo

NBER Working Paper, December 2015

Abstract:
Using a natural experiment in the form of 113 staggered changes in corporate income tax rates across U.S. states, we provide causal evidence on how taxes affect corporate risk-taking decisions. Higher taxes are expected to reduce the expected profit per unit of risk, as the government shares in a firm’s upside but not in its downside. Consistent with this prediction, we find that firms respond to tax increases by reducing risk. We find no corresponding sensitivity to tax cuts, suggesting that firms find it easier to reduce risk than to increase it. Tax loss-offset rules moderate firms’ sensitivity to taxes by allowing firms to partly share downside risk with the government.

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The Political Color of Fiscal Responsibility

Andreas Müller, Kjetil Storesletten & Fabrizio Zilibotti

Journal of the European Economic Association, February 2016, Pages 252–302

Abstract:
We propose a dynamic general equilibrium model that yields testable implications about the fiscal policy run by governments of different political color. Successive generations of voters choose taxation, expenditure, and government debt through repeated elections. Voters are heterogeneous by age and by the intensity of their preferences for public good provision. The political equilibrium switches stochastically between left- (pro-public goods) and right-leaning (pro-private consumption) governments. A shift to the left (right) is associated with a fall (increase) in government debt, an increase (fall) in taxation, and an increase (fall) in government expenditures. However, left-leaning governments engage in more debt accumulation during recessions. These predictions are shown to be consistent with the time-series evidence for the United States in the postwar period, and also with the evidence for a panel of OECD countries.

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Voter turnout and the size of government

Linuz Aggeborn

European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper uses Swedish and Finnish municipal data to investigate the effect of changes in voter turnout on the tax rate, public spending and vote-shares. A reform in Sweden in 1970, which overall lowered the cost of voting, is applied as an instrument for voter turnout in local elections. The reform increased voter turnout in Sweden. The higher voter turnout resulted in higher municipal taxes and greater per capita local public spending. There are also indications that higher turnout decreased the vote share for right-wing parties. I use an individual survey data set to conclude that it was in particular low income earners that began to vote to a greater extent after the reform.

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Agglomeration, Tax Differentials, and the Mobility of Professional Athletes

Grant Driessen & Steven Sheffrin

Public Finance Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Interstate mobility may limit states’ ability to choose their desired tax policies. The forces of agglomeration, however, may allow states more leeway in setting tax rates. Moreover, mobility and agglomeration effects are not uniform for all individuals within a state and may vary significantly across different groups. We explore this heterogeneity by examining the residential location decisions of professional racecar drivers and golfers, which have similar industry characteristics but different levels of agglomeration. Consistent with our theory, we show that tax preferences are a powerful determinant of golfer residential patterns, while agglomeration mitigates much of this effect among racecar drivers. These findings highlight the need to better understand how competition and agglomeration interact when formulating tax policy.

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Income Taxes on Social Security Benefits

Patrick Purcell

Social Security Administration Working Paper, December 2015

Abstract:
Since 1984, Social Security beneficiaries with total income exceeding certain thresholds have been required to pay federal income tax on some of their benefit income. Because those income thresholds have remained unchanged while wages have increased, the proportion of beneficiaries who must pay income tax on their benefits has risen over time. A Social Security Administration microsimulation model projects that an annual average of about 56 percent of beneficiary families will owe federal income tax on part of their benefit income from 2015 through 2050. The median percentage of benefit income owed as income tax by beneficiary families will rise from 1 percent to 5 percent over that period. If Congress does not adjust income tax brackets upward to approximate the historical ratio of taxes to national income, the proportion of benefit income owed as income tax will exceed these projections.

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Chronicle of a War Foretold: The Macroeconomic Effects of Anticipated Defense Spending Shocks

Nadav Ben Zeev & Evi Pappa

Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
We identify news shocks to U.S. defense spending as the shocks that best explain future movements in defense spending over a five-year horizon and are orthogonal to current defense spending. Our identified shocks, though correlated with the Ramey (2011) news shocks, explain a larger share of macroeconomic fluctuations and produce significant demand effects. News about increases in defense spending induces significant and persistent increases in output, hours worked, inflation and the interest rate, and significant increases in investment, consumption and the excess returns of defense contractors on impact.

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Does the Composition of Government Expenditure Matter for Long-Run GDP Levels?

Norman Gemmell, Richard Kneller & Ismael Sanz

Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the long-run GDP impacts of changes in total government expenditure and in the shares of different spending categories for a sample of OECD countries since the 1970s, taking account of methods of financing expenditure changes and possible endogenous relationships. We provide more systematic empirical evidence than available hitherto for OECD countries, obtaining strong evidence that reallocating total spending towards infrastructure and education is positive for long-run output levels. Reallocating spending towards social welfare (and away from all other expenditure categories pro-rata) may be associated with modest negative effects on output in the long run.

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The Association Between Professional Performing Arts and Knowledge Class Growth: Implications for Metropolitan Economic Development

Arthur Nelson et al.

Economic Development Quarterly, February 2016, Pages 88-98

Abstract:
Economic development in the current century may favor those metropolitan areas that attract the “knowledge class.” This study provides a cross-sectional analysis associating the presence of one or more professional symphony, opera, or ballet/dance organizations with knowledge class growth. The authors find that the presence of one type of such organization is associated with a 1.1% change in knowledge class employment over the period from 2000 to 2010, two types are associated with a 1.5% change, and all three are associated with a 2.2% change. Between 2000 and 2010, the presence of at least one professional performing arts organization is associated with about 540,000 knowledge class jobs, generating about $60 billion in annual income among those 118 metropolitan areas with professional performing arts organizations. Metropolitan economic development implications are offered.

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Did the Community Renewal Tax Incentives Pirate Businesses From Other Places?

Richard Smith

Economic Development Quarterly, February 2016, Pages 46-61

Abstract:
An early concern regarding place-based economic developments was that they might encourage business relocation into target neighborhoods at the expense of other places. To address this concern, when the U.S. Congress passed the Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) program, it included an “antipirating” provision prohibiting use of grants for business relocation. Later iterations of the EZs and Renewal Communities (RCs) received tax incentives only. The RC program did not include an antipirating provision. Did businesses relocate? This study compares business moves within 1,000 feet inside a given RC/EZ with moves within 1,000 feet outside the RC/EZ before and after the intervention. Data are from the National Establishment Time Series (NETS) Database for California and Tennessee. Moves into some RC/EZs increased but so did moves out, leading to no statistically significant net change in numbers of firms. There were no obvious differences between RCs and EZs. The article concludes with policy recommendations.

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Quality of Life Amenities as Contributors to Local Economies: Views of City Managers

James Vanderleeuw & Jason Sides

Journal of Urban Affairs, forthcoming

Abstract:
Is the level of importance attached to quality of life amenities, such as parks and restaurants, influenced by the objectives of the economic development strategy developed by city leaders? This research question drives the analysis presented in this article. We consider municipal leaders’ views of community amenities and how these opinions are influenced by the desire to either create jobs for community residents or generate greater municipal revenue. We evaluate the expectation that the need to generate city revenue will exert the greatest influence on the perceived importance of community amenities. Findings are generated using original survey data from city managers of 133 Texas cities. The results confirm expectations that city managers view quality of life amenities as more efficacious in contributing to revenue generation than job creation. The impact of these findings for the understanding of how city managers promote certain economic development strategies is discussed.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Family issues

Parental Debt and Children’s Socioemotional Well-being

Lawrence Berger & Jason Houle

Pediatrics, February 2016

Objectives: We estimated associations between total amount of parental debt and of home mortgage, student loan, automobile, and unsecured debt with children’s socioemotional well-being.

Methods: We used population-based longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 Cohort and Children of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 Cohort. Our analytic sample consisted of 29 318 child-year observations of 9011 children and their mothers observed annually or biennially from 1986 to 2008. We used the Behavioral Problems Index to measure socioemotional well-being. We used ordinary least squares regressions to estimate between-child associations of amounts and types of parental debt with socioemotional well-being, net of a host of control variables, and regressions with child-specific fixed effects to estimate within-child associations of changes in parental debt with changes in socioemotional well-being, net of all time-constant observed and unobserved confounders.

Results: Greater total debt was associated with poorer child socioemotional well-being. However, this association varied by type of debt. Specifically, higher levels of home mortgage and education debt were associated with greater socioemotional well-being for children, whereas higher levels of and increases in unsecured debt were associated with lower levels of and declines in child socioemotional well-being.

Conclusions: Debt that allows for investment in homes (and perhaps access to better neighborhoods and schools) and parental education is associated with greater socioemotional well-being for children, whereas unsecured debt is negatively associated with socioemotional development, which may reflect limited financial resources to invest in children and/or parental financial stress. This suggests that debt is not universally harmful for children’s well-being, particularly if used to invest in a home or education.

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The Quantity-Quality Trade-off and the Formation of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills

Chinhui Juhn, Yona Rubinstein & Andrew Zuppann

NBER Working Paper, December 2015

Abstract:
We estimate the impact of increases in family size on childhood and adult outcomes using matched mother-child data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. Using twins as an instrumental variable and panel data to control for omitted factors we find that families face a substantial quantity-quality trade-off: increases in family size decrease parental investment, decrease childhood cognitive abilities, and increase behavioral problems. The negative effects on cognitive abilities are much larger for girls while the detrimental effects on behavior are larger for boys. We also find evidence of heterogeneous effects by mother's AFQT score, with the negative effects on cognitive scores being much larger for children of mothers with low AFQT scores.

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Contact frequencies with nieces and nephews in Finland: Evidence for the preferential investment in more certain kin theory

Antti Tanskanen & Mirkka Danielsbacka

Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming

Abstract:
Based on maternity certainty and paternity uncertainty, one can predict that individuals will channel investment in their kin according to more genetically certain investment options. According to the preferential investment in more certain kin theory, if aunts and uncles have the option to invest in either their sisters’ or their brothers’ children they would prefer to invest in their sisters’ children. However, this question has not been previously explored in contemporary societies with nationally representative data from two generations of aunts and uncles. In our study, we have used data gathered in the Generational Transmissions in Finland project in 2012. The respondents represent older adults (born between 1945 and 1950, n = 1,604) and younger adults (born between 1962 and 1993, n = 1,159). We find that when aunts and uncles have nieces and nephews via both sisters and brothers, they have more contacts with their sisters’ children than their brothers’ children. Thus, the results are in accordance with the preferential investment theory.

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WIC Participation and Maternal Behavior: Breastfeeding and Work Leave

Lindsey Rose Bullinger & Tami Gurley-Calvez

Contemporary Economic Policy, January 2016, Pages 158-172

Abstract:
We examine the effects of the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program on breastfeeding outcomes and maternal employment decisions. This research expands the existing literature using an alternative identification strategy and a broader set of outcomes. Using data from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, we control for selection bias into WIC using the variation in food prices as an instrumental variable. The results of this study are robust to a number of specification and falsification tests. We find WIC decreases exclusive breastfeeding by nearly 50% and increases work leave duration by over 20%.

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Un-Fortunate Sons: Effects of the Vietnam Draft Lottery on the Next Generation’s Labor Market

Sarena Goodman & Adam Isen

Federal Reserve Working Paper, December 2015

Abstract:
We study how randomized variation from the Vietnam draft lottery affects the next generation's labor market. Using the universe of federal tax returns, we link fathers from draft cohorts to their sons and offer two primary findings. First, sons of men called by the lottery have lower earnings and labor force participation than their peers. Second, they are more likely to volunteer for military service themselves. Similar but smaller effects are uncovered for daughters. Our findings demonstrate that manipulating parental circumstances can alter children's outcomes and, more specifically, are consistent with two separately operating channels: (1) parental inputs as important determinants of human capital development and (2) intergenerational transmission of occupation.

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Promotion of Positive Parenting and Prevention of Socioemotional Disparities

Adriana Weisleder et al.

Pediatrics, February 2016

Objective: The goal of this study was to determine what effects pediatric primary care interventions, focused on promotion of positive parenting through reading aloud and play, have on the socioemotional development of toddlers from low-income, primarily immigrant households.

Methods: This randomized controlled trial included random assignment to 1 of 2 interventions (Video Interaction Project [VIP] or Building Blocks [BB]) or to a control group. Mother–newborn dyads were enrolled postpartum in an urban public hospital. In VIP, dyads met with an interventionist on days of well-child visits; the interventionist facilitated interactions in play and shared reading through provision of learning materials and review of videotaped parent–child interactions. In BB, parents were mailed parenting pamphlets and learning materials. This article analyzes socioemotional outcomes from 14 to 36 months for children in VIP and BB versus control.

Results: A total of 463 dyads (69%) contributed data. Children in VIP scored higher than control on imitation/play and attention, and lower on separation distress, hyperactivity, and externalizing problems, with effect sizes ∼0.25 SD for the sample as a whole and ∼0.50 SD for families with additional psychosocial risks . Children in BB made greater gains in imitation/play compared with control.

Conclusions: These findings support the efficacy of VIP, a preventive intervention targeting parent–child interactions, for enhancing socioemotional outcomes in low-income toddlers. Given the low cost and potential for scalability of primary care interventions, findings support expansion of pediatric-based parenting programs such as VIP for the primary prevention of socioemotional problems before school entry.

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Adolescent Susceptibility to Peer Influence in Sexual Situations

Laura Widman et al.

Journal of Adolescent Health, forthcoming

Purpose: One consistent predictor of adolescents' engagement in sexual risk behavior is their belief that peers are engaging in similar behavior; however, not all youth are equally susceptible to these peer influence effects. Understanding individual differences in susceptibility to peer influence is critical to identifying adolescents at risk for negative health outcomes. The purpose of this project was to identify predictors of susceptibility to peer influence using a novel performance-based measure of sexual risk taking.

Methods: Participants were 300 early adolescents (Mage = 12.6 years; 53% female; 44% Caucasian) who completed (1) a pretest assessment of demographics, sexual attitudes, and hypothetical scenarios measuring the likelihood of engaging in sexual risk behavior and (2) a subsequent experimental procedure that simulated an Internet chat room in which youth believed that they were communicating with peers regarding these same hypothetical scenarios. In reality, these “peers” were computer-programmed e-confederates. Changes in responses to the sexual scenarios in the private pretest versus during the public chat room provided a performance-based measure of peer influence susceptibility.

Results: In total, 78% of youth provided more risky responses in the chat room than those in pretest. The most robust predictor of this change was gender, with boys significantly more susceptible to peer influence than girls. Significant interactions also were noted, with greater susceptibility among boys with later pubertal development and African-American boys.

Conclusions: Results confirm that not all youth are equally susceptible to peer influence. Consistent with sexual script theory, boys evidence greater susceptibility to social pressure regarding sexual behavior than girls.

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Mothers' Long-Term Employment Patterns

Alexandra Killewald & Xiaolin Zhou

Harvard Working Paper, December 2015

Abstract:
Previous research on maternal employment has disproportionately focused on married, college-educated mothers and examined either current employment status or postpartum return to employment. Following the life course perspective, we instead conceptualize maternal careers as long-term life course patterns. Using data from the NLSY79 and optimal matching, we document four common employment patterns of American mothers over the first 18 years of maternity. About two-thirds follow steady patterns, either full-time employment (38 percent) or steady nonemployment (24 percent). The rest experience “mixed” patterns: long-term part-time employment (20 percent), or a multiyear period of nonemployment following maternity, then a return to employment (18 percent). Consistent employment following maternity, either full-time or part-time, is characteristic of women with more economic advantages. Women who experience consistent nonemployment disproportionately lack a high school degree, while women with return to employment following a long break tend to be younger with lower wages prior to maternity. Race is one of the few predictors of whether a mother is consistently employed full time versus part time: consistent part-time labor is distinctive to white women. Our results support studying maternal employment across the economic spectrum, considering motherhood as a long-term characteristic, and employing research approaches that reveal the qualitative distinctness of particular employment patterns.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, February 1, 2016

Betting on sure things

Revolving doors on Wall Street

Jess Cornaggia, Kimberly Cornaggia & Han Xia

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Credit analysts often leave rating agencies to work at firms they rate. We use benchmark rating agencies as counterfactuals to measure rating inflation in a difference-in-differences framework and find that transitioning analysts award inflated ratings to their future employers before switching jobs. We find no evidence that analysts inflate ratings of other firms they rate. Market based measures of hiring firms' credit quality further indicate that transitioning analysts' inflated ratings become less informative. We conclude that conflicts of interest at the analyst level distort credit ratings. More broadly, our results shed light on the economic consequences of revolving doors.

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Do Brokers of Insiders Tip Other Clients?

William McNally, Andriy Shkilko & Brian Smith

Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine trading activity around insider transactions on the Toronto Stock Exchange and find evidence that some traders mimic insider positions. Our unique data set allows us to establish a direct connection between insiders, their brokerages, and the brokerages' other clients. The findings are consistent with the possibility that some brokerages tip their clients about insider trades. Insiders in our sample have good timing; returns are usually positive (negative) after insider purchases (sales). Insiders' good timing translates to the mimicking transactions, which appear to be profitable net of trading costs. Evidence consistent with tipping is observed mainly for smaller independent brokerages.

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When does the stock market listen to economic news? New evidence from copulas and news wires

Ivan Medovikov

Journal of Banking & Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
We study association between macroeconomic news and stock market returns using the statistical theory of copulas, and a new comprehensive measure of news based on textual review and classification of news wires. We find the impact of economic news on equity returns to be nonlinear and asymmetric. In particular, controlling for economic conditions and surprises associated with releases of economic data, we find that the market reacts strongly and negatively to the most unfavourable macroeconomic news, but appears to largely discount the good news. Further, the most-unfavorable news creates price drift, and we document that selling stocks short in the wake of unusually-bad news yields annual abnormal gross returns greater than four percent.

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Nominal price illusion

Justin Birru & Baolian Wang

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We explore the psychology of stock price levels and provide evidence that investors suffer from a nominal price illusion in which they overestimate the room to grow for low-priced stocks relative to high-priced stocks. While it has become increasingly clear that nominal price levels influence investor behavior, why prices matter to investors is a question that as of yet has gone unanswered. We find widespread evidence that investors systematically overestimate the skewness of low-priced stocks. In the broad cross-section of stocks, we find that investors substantially overweight the importance of price when forming skewness expectations. Asset pricing implications of our findings are borne out in the options market. A zero-cost option portfolio strategy that exploits investor overestimation of skewness for low-priced stocks generates significant abnormal returns. Finally, investor expectations of future skewness increase drastically on days that a stock undergoes a split to a lower nominal price. Empirically, however, future physical skewness decreases following splits.

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Attracting Attention in a Limited Attention World: Exploring the Causes and Consequences of Extreme Positive Earnings Surprises

Allison Koester, Russell Lundholm & Mark Soliman

Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigate why extreme positive earnings surprises occur and the consequences of these events. We posit that managers know before analysts when extremely good earnings news is developing, but can have incentives to allow the earnings news to surprise the market at the earnings announcement. In particular, managers can use an extreme positive earnings surprise to attract investor attention when they believe their stock is neglected and future performance is expected to be strong. Analysts, who must allocate scarce resources across many firms, can also be inattentive and miss signals that suggest good performance is going to be announced. Using various proxies for extreme positive earnings surprises, management expectations for future performance and desire for attention, and analyst neglect, we find evidence that an extreme positive earnings surprise is a predictable event. These findings are incremental to controlling for a firm's information environment, earnings volatility, and operating leverage. Finally, we show that extreme positive earnings surprises are a successful method for attracting attention, with significant increases in the number of institutional owners, the number of analysts, and trading volume during the subsequent three years.

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The Calm before the Storm

Ferhat Akbas

Journal of Finance, February 2016, Pages 225-266

Abstract:
I provide evidence that stocks experiencing unusually low trading volume over the week prior to earnings announcements have more unfavorable earnings surprises. This effect is more pronounced among stocks with higher short-selling constraints. These findings support the view that unusually low trading volume signals negative information, since, under short-selling constraints, informed agents with bad news stay by the sidelines. Changes in visibility or risk-based explanations are insufficient to explain the results. This evidence provides insights into why unusually low trading volume predicts price declines.

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Does Dodd-Frank affect OTC transaction costs and liquidity? Evidence from real-time CDS trade reports

Yee Cheng Loon & Zhaodong (Ken) Zhong

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines transaction costs and liquidity in the index CDS market by matching intraday quotes to real-time trade reports made available through the Dodd-Frank reforms. We find that the average relative effective spread is 0.27% of price level or 2.73% of CDS spread. Dodd-Frank does affect transaction costs and liquidity. Liquidity improves after the commencement of public dissemination of OTC derivatives trades. Moreover, cleared trades, trades executed on exchange-like venues, end-user trades, and bespoke trades exhibit lower trading costs, price impact, and price dispersion. These findings improve our understanding of the OTC derivatives market that is undergoing fundamental changes.

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Do stock splits signal undervaluation?

Mohammad Karim & Sayan Sarkar

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
Signaling theory of stock splits postulates that managers use stock splits to convey favorable private information to the market about the fair value of the firm and thus attempts to reduce or eliminate undervaluation. In this paper, we investigate this proposition using three different misvaluation estimates. Contrary to the undervaluation hypothesis, we find that split firms are overvalued, rather than undervalued for the seven years surrounding split announcements. Moreover, the overvaluation reaches its peak in the split announcement year and declines in the post-split period. Overall, our results suggest that firms do not use stock splits to signal undervaluation.

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Speculative Investors and Transactions Tax: Evidence from the Housing Market

Yuming Fu, Wenlan Qian & Bernard Yeung

Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines the impact of a policy change in transaction tax on speculators. The policy intervention took place in Singapore's housing market; it effectively raised the transaction cost in a segment favored by short-term speculators. Relative to the unaffected control sample, we find that the rise in transaction cost, equivalent to a two- to three-percentage-point increase in transaction tax, reduced speculative trading in the treatment segment by 75% and raised its price volatility by 18%. It also significantly reduced price informativeness. We further show that the results are likely due to a relatively greater withdrawal by informed speculators than by destabilizing speculators following the transaction cost increase.

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Firm geographic dispersion and financial analysts' forecasts

Petya Platikanova & Marco Maria Mattei

Journal of Banking & Finance, March 2016, Pages 71-89

Abstract:
Using a text-based measure of geographic dispersion that captures the economic ties between a firm and its geographically distributed economic interests, this study provides evidence that financial analysts issue less accurate, more dispersed and more biased earnings forecasts for geographically dispersed firms. We observe the degree to which a firm has an overlapping distribution of economic centers in comparison to industry competitors and suggest that geographically similar firms have lower information gathering costs and thereby more precise earnings forecasts. Empirical evidence supports this prediction. We further find that the geographic dispersion across the U.S. is less likely to affect forecast precision when a firm has economic activities in states with highly correlated local shocks. Our findings suggest that the effect of geographic dispersion is more pronounced for soft-information environments where information is more difficult to make impersonal by using technological advances. Consistent with the information asymmetry argument, we find that geographically dispersed firms have less comparable and more discretionary managed earnings, have less extensive than industry competitors segment information, are more likely to restate sale segment information, and issue annual and quarterly filings with a delay.

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Does Increased Competition Affect Credit Ratings? A Reexamination of the Effect of Fitch's Market Share on Credit Ratings in the Corporate Bond Market

Kee-Hong Bae, Jun-Koo Kang & Jin Wang

Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, October 2015, Pages 1011-1035

Abstract:
We examine two competing views regarding the impact of competition among credit rating agencies on rating quality: the view that rating agencies do not sacrifice their reputation by inflating firm ratings, and the view that competition among rating agencies arising from the conflict of interest inherent in an "issuer pay" model creates pressure to inflate ratings. Using Fitch's market share as a measure of competition among rating agencies and controlling for the endogeneity problem caused by unobservable industry effects, we find no relation between Fitch's market share and ratings, suggesting that competition does not lead to rating inflation.

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The Impact of More Frequent Portfolio Disclosure on Mutual Fund Performance

Sitikantha Parida & Terence Teo

Journal of Banking & Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper analyzes the impact of more frequent portfolio disclosures on performance of mutual funds. Since 2004, SEC requires all U.S. mutual funds to disclose their portfolio holdings on a quarterly basis from semi-annual previously. This change in regulation provides a natural setting to study the impact of frequency of disclosure on performance of mutual funds. Prior to the policy change, we find that successful semi-annual funds outperform successful quarterly funds by 17-20 basis points a month. After 2004, their performance goes down and they no longer outperform successful quarterly funds. This reduction in performance is higher for semi-annual funds holding illiquid assets. These results support our hypothesis that the performance of funds with more frequent disclosure, particularly of those holding illiquid assets, suffer more from front running activities. We also find complementary evidence that the profitability of a hypothetical front running strategy based on public disclosures goes up with the frequency of portfolio disclosures.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Not in the mood

Major Depression With Seasonal Variation: Is It a Valid Construct?

Megan Traffanstedt, Sheila Mehta & Steven LoBello

Clinical Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is based on the theory that some depressions occur seasonally in response to reduced sunlight. SAD has attracted cultural and research attention for more than 30 years and influenced the DSM through inclusion of the seasonal variation modifier for the major depression diagnosis. This study was designed to determine if a seasonally related pattern of occurrence of major depression could be demonstrated in a population-based study. A cross-sectional U.S. survey of adults completed the Patient Health Questionnaire–8 Depression Scale. Regression models were used to determine if depression was related to measures of sunlight exposure. Depression was unrelated to latitude, season, or sunlight. Results do not support the validity of a seasonal modifier in major depression. The idea of seasonal depression may be strongly rooted in folk psychology, but it is not supported by objective data. Consideration should be given to discontinuing seasonal variation as a diagnostic modifier of major depression.

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The Power of Language and Labels: “The Mentally Ill” Versus “People With Mental Illnesses”

Darcy Haag Granello & Todd Gibbs

Journal of Counseling & Development, January 2016, Pages 31–40

Abstract:
Undergraduate students (N = 221), adults in a community sample (N = 211), and professional counselors and counselors-in-training (N = 269) were given a measure of tolerance. Within each sample, half of the participants were given a version that used the term “the mentally ill” and half were given a version that used the term “people with mental illnesses.” Individuals receiving the version with the term “the mentally ill” had lower levels of tolerance. Professional counselors had the largest differences in tolerance on the basis of language.

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Pleasure Now, Pain Later: Positive Fantasies About the Future Predict Symptoms of Depression

Gabriele Oettingen, Doris Mayer & Sam Portnow

Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Though common sense suggests that positive thinking shelters people from depression, the four studies reported here showed that this intuition needs to be qualified: Positive thinking in the form of fantasies about the future did indeed relate to decreased symptoms of depression when measured concurrently; however, positive fantasies predicted more depressive symptoms when measured longitudinally. The pattern of results was observed for different indicators of fantasies and depression, in adults and in schoolchildren, and for periods of up to 7 months (Studies 1–4). In college students, low academic success partially mediated the predictive relation between positive fantasies and symptoms of depression (Study 4). Results add to existing research on the problematic effects of positive fantasies on performance by suggesting that indulging in positive fantasies predicts problems in mental health.

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Firearms matter: The moderating role of firearm storage in the association between current suicidal ideation and likelihood of future suicide attempts among United States military personnel

Lauren Khazem et al.

Military Psychology, January 2016, Pages 25-33

Abstract:
The relationship between firearm ownership and suicide is well documented. This study hypothesized that how soldiers store their firearms would moderate the relationship between suicidal ideation and the self-reported likelihood of engaging in a future suicide attempt, and that this relationship would be explained by fearlessness about death. There were 432 military personnel (91.3% men, 74.2% White, Mage = 27.60) who endorsed current ownership of a private firearm and who were recruited from a military base in the southeastern United States (94.5% National Guard). Firearm storage moderated the relationship between suicidal ideation and the self-reported likelihood of engaging in a future suicide attempt, but this relationship was not explained by fearlessness about death. Individuals who reported keeping their firearms loaded and stored in an unsecure location exhibited higher mean levels of fearlessness about death. Findings highlight the need for research examining contributors to suicide risk in the context of firearm storage, and provide support for suicide prevention efforts involving restricting means.

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Poor but Happy? Income, Happiness, and Experienced and Expected Meaning in Life

Sarah Ward & Laura King

Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Three studies demonstrate that income is positively associated with meaning in life (MIL) and that this relationship is moderated by positive affect (PA). Moreover, people’s forecasts about these associations resemble the actual data. Study 1 (N = 1,666) used a nationally representative sample to demonstrate that PA moderates the effect of income on MIL. At high levels of PA, income was unrelated to MIL, but at low PA, income was positively associated with MIL. Study 2 (N = 203) provided experimental support for the interaction between income and PA interaction using a PA induction. Although income predicted MIL in the control condition, it was unrelated to MIL following a PA induction. Study 3 (N = 277) demonstrated that people forecast their future lives will be more meaningful if they are wealthy versus poor, which was especially true among people who expect to be unhappy.

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Worrying About the Future: An Episodic Specificity Induction Impacts Problem Solving, Reappraisal, and Well-Being

Helen Jing, Kevin Madore & Daniel Schacter

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research has demonstrated that an episodic specificity induction — brief training in recollecting details of a recent experience — enhances performance on various subsequent tasks thought to draw upon episodic memory processes. Existing work has also shown that mental simulation can be beneficial for emotion regulation and coping with stressors. Here we focus on understanding how episodic detail can affect problem solving, reappraisal, and psychological well-being regarding worrisome future events. In Experiment 1, an episodic specificity induction significantly improved participants’ performance on a subsequent means-end problem solving task (i.e., more relevant steps) and an episodic reappraisal task (i.e., more episodic details) involving personally worrisome future events compared with a control induction not focused on episodic specificity. Imagining constructive behaviors with increased episodic detail via the specificity induction was also related to significantly larger decreases in anxiety, perceived likelihood of a bad outcome, and perceived difficulty to cope with a bad outcome, as well as larger increases in perceived likelihood of a good outcome and indicated use of active coping behaviors compared with the control. In Experiment 2, we extended these findings using a more stringent control induction, and found preliminary evidence that the specificity induction was related to an increase in positive affect and decrease in negative affect compared with the control. Our findings support the idea that episodic memory processes are involved in means-end problem solving and episodic reappraisal, and that increasing the episodic specificity of imagining constructive behaviors regarding worrisome events may be related to improved psychological well-being.

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Secret Society 123: Understanding the Language of Self-Harm on Instagram

Megan Moreno et al.

Journal of Adolescent Health, January 2016, Pages 78–84

Purpose: Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) content is present on social media and may influence adolescents. Instagram is a popular site among adolescents in which NSSI-related terms are user-generated as hashtags (words preceded by a #). These hashtags may be ambiguous and thus challenging for those outside the NSSI community to understand. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the meaning, popularity, and content advisory warnings related to ambiguous NSSI hashtags on Instagram.

Methods: This study used the search term “#selfharmmm” to identify public Instagram posts. Hashtag terms co-listed with #selfharmmm on each post were evaluated for inclusion criteria; selected hashtags were then assessed using a structured evaluation for meaning and consistency. We also investigated the total number of Instagram search hits for each hashtag at two time points and determined whether the hashtag prompted a Content Advisory warning.

Results: Our sample of 201 Instagram posts led to identification of 10 ambiguous NSSI hashtags. NSSI terms included #blithe, #cat, and #selfinjuryy. We discovered a popular image that described the broader community of NSSI and mental illness, called “#MySecretFamily.” The term #MySecretFamily had approximately 900,000 search results at Time 1 and >1.5 million at Time 2. Only one-third of the relevant hashtags generated Content Advisory warnings.

Conclusions: NSSI content is popular on Instagram and often veiled by ambiguous hashtags. Content Advisory warnings were not reliable; thus, parents and providers remain the cornerstone of prompting discussions about NSSI content on social media and providing resources for teens.

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Are natural disasters in early childhood associated with mental health and substance use disorders as an adult?

Johanna Catherine Maclean, Ioana Popovici & Michael French

Social Science & Medicine, February 2016, Pages 78–91

Abstract:
Understanding factors that influence risk for mental health and substance use disorders is critical to improve population health and reduce social costs imposed by these disorders. We examine the impact of experiencing a natural disaster — a serious fire, tornado, flood, earthquake, or hurricane — by age five on adult mental health and substance use disorders. The analysis uses data from the 2004 to 2005 National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. The analysis sample includes 27,129 individuals ages 21–64 years. We also exploit information on parenting strategies to study how parents respond to natural disasters encountered by their children. We find that experiencing one or more of these natural disasters by age five increases the risk of mental health disorders in adulthood, particularly anxiety disorders, but not substance use disorders. Parents alter some, but not all, of their parenting strategies following a natural disaster experienced by their children. It is important to provide support, for example through counseling services and financial assistance, to families and children exposed to natural disasters to mitigate future mental health and substance use problems attributable to such exposure.

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Retrospective Appraisals Mediate the Effects of Combat Experiences on PTS and Depression Symptoms in U.S. Army Medics

Barbara Pitts & Martin Safer

Journal of Traumatic Stress, forthcoming

Abstract:
A life-threatening traumatic experience can cause physical and psychological distress, but it can also be remembered with pride from having demonstrated one's courage and abilities under severe circumstances. Characteristics of the event, early response, as well as later personal reflection, together determine the individual's response to a traumatic event. We investigated how traumatic combat experiences and retrospective appraisals of those experiences affected reports of symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression in 324 U.S. Army medics. Higher levels of combat experiences were associated with both appraisals of threat to life (r = .40) and appraisals of personal benefit of the deployment (r = .15). Threat appraisals were associated with increases (r = .33 and .29), whereas benefit appraisals were associated with decreases (r = −.28 and −.30, respectfully), in symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression. These opposing mediation pathways led to weak or nonsignificant total effects, which concealed the effects of combat intensity on posttraumatic stress (R2 = .28) and depression (R2 = .24). Acknowledging the beneficial effects that a combat experience had on one's life was associated with less intense behavioral health symptoms and offset the detrimental effects of traumatic combat experiences.

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Effect of a legal prime on clinician’s assessment of suicide risk

Noah Chase Berman et al.

Death Studies, Winter 2016, Pages 61-67

Abstract:
The present study evaluates how liability influences mental health clinicians’ assessment of suicide risk. In this online vignette-based experiment, clinicians (N = 268) were either primed with a legal standard prior to a case vignette or presented the case vignette alone. Clinicians then rated the patient’s likelihood of suicide and need for hospitalization. Results indicated that trainees provided significantly lower ratings of suicide risk following presentation of the legal standard, but this was not associated with hospitalization endorsement. Results have training and legal implications for improving the accuracy of suicide risk assessment in both trainees and licensed professionals.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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