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That question is a bit on the dramatic size, but I found this paper to be fascinating:

Adjusting Measures of Economic Output for Health: Is the Business Cycle Countercyclical?
by Mark L. Egan, Casey B. Mulligan, Tomas J. Philipson  –  NBER Working Paper #19058

Many national accounts of economic output and prosperity, such as gross domestic product (GDP) or net domestic product (NDP), offer an incomplete picture by ignoring, for example, the value of leisure, home production, and the value of health.  Discussed shortcomings have focused on how unobserved dimensions affect GDP levels but not their cyclicality, which affects the measurement of the business cycle.  This paper proposes new measures of the business cycle that incorporate monetized changes in health of the population.  In particular, we incorporate in GDP the dollar value of mortality, treating it as depreciation in human capital analogous to how NDP measures treat depreciation of physical capital.  We examine the macroeconomic fluctuations in the United States and globally during the past 50 years, taking into account how depreciation in health affects the cycle.  Because mortality tends to be pro-cyclical, fluctuations in standard GDP measures are offset by monetized changes in health; booms are not as valuable as traditionally measured because of increased mortality, and recessions are not as bad because of reduced mortality.  Consequently, we find that U.S. business cycle fluctuations appear milder than commonly measured and may even be reversed for the majority of “recessions” after accounting for the cyclicality of health.  We find that adjusting for mortality reduces the measured U.S. business cycle volatility during the past 50 years by about 37% in the United States and 46% internationally.  We discuss future research directions for more fully incorporating the cyclicality of unobserved health capital into standard output measurement.


In other new research, it does not appear that having a computer in the home improves learning outcomes.

 Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Home Computers on Academic Achievement among Schoolchildren
by Robert W. Fairlie, Jonathan Robinson  –  NBER Working Paper #19060

Computers are an important part of modern education, yet many schoolchildren lack access to a computer at home.  We test whether this impedes educational achievement by conducting the largest-ever field experiment that randomly provides free home computers to students.  Although computer ownership and use increased substantially, we find no effects on any educational outcomes, including grades, test scores, credits earned, attendance and disciplinary actions.  Our estimates are precise enough to rule out even modestly-sized positive or negative impacts.  The estimated null effect is consistent with survey evidence showing no change in homework time or other “intermediate” inputs in education.

In “denier” news, the most likely estimate is 1.3C (that’s about 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit). There is absolutely NO consensus on climate sensitivity. “Alarmists” spend a great deal of time torching enormous straw men (see the 97% consensus stuff from Cook for fun) that suggest reasonable people “deny” that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or that humans have added to the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere. That is not where the real meat of the argument is, but when you don’t actually have a good argument, you end up torching straw men. The real meat lies in what exactly climate sensitivies are, and beyond that, how sensitive our health and economies are to those temperature changes. As I’ve said repeatedly, not only is there not a consensus on that, I’d argue we simply know close to nothing about it.  File this last piece under. “The Most Underreported and Misstated Argument Ever.”

4 Responses to “Have We Had ANY Real Recessions in the Last Half-Century?”

  1. Harry says:

    1) Recessions keep economists employed. As long as Rizzo is an economist, this is a good thing.

    2) Wealthy school districts near Philadelphia, around the site of the next US Open, give the kids laptops, which supplement the kids’ smartphones. Other school districts think this is progress, and curriculum PhD’s push for courses to make kids more savvy surfers. This is called progress.

    3) I wish they would name names of all those deniers who do not think CO 2 is not among the greenhouse gasses.

    There was a letter in the WSJ by some scientists at Penn State defending their models and asserting that their models underestimated potential feedback. Just spend some time at Coyote’s links or elsewhere, and find that this is all academic and political hot air. Tree rings, ice cores. The Planet may be warming or cooling, but may there be more powerful influences on the climate than US-produced carbon dioxide?

    Wintercow, a question; is the (quack, in my opinion) theory of “the butterfly effect” (a Freakonomics concept) part of the feedback argument — that as many argued years ago that we were on a fragile tipping point, where a small increase in atmospheric CO2 would cause the Gulf Stream to shift?

    Maybe storms on the sun may be causing all of this, I have no idea. But do they believe increasing CO2 from 380 Ppm to, say 420 ppm will tip the balance? Is the argument that the world is fragile, where the single flutter of a butterfly in Thailand can shift ocean currents?

  2. Harry says:

    By the way, the worst recession I ever went through was not in 2008, but was the recession Jimmy Carter handed over to Ronald Reagan. 2008 was bad for bankers and people invested in real estate, but starting in 1978, things were going down the drain for all kinds of business, and by 1981 manufacturing was in the tank, along with everything else. Ronald Reagan turned it all around with supply-side policy and deregulation, an effort that gave us enough gas to survive to today.

    I forget who took a shot at me for being thankful for Al Gore and John Kerrey not being president, but we would have been deeply down the drain now had we had another four years of Jimmy Carter.

    This is speculative, of course, similar to the theory that we will save the planet by ending combustion, the next liberal idea.

  3. Harry says:

    In new denier news, Rhode Island Senator Whitehouse, using a photo of the Earth as a prop, blames redneck Oklahomans for their own tornado, and blames them also for hurricane damage to Rhode Island. Maybe Speedmaster can post the clip. Oppose cap and trade and venture socialism, and you get what you deserve.

    On O’Reilly tonight, Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist of Accu-Weather (a weather news service familiar to Pennsylvanians) likened Whitehouse’s accusations to ambulance chasing. He said that conditions now are similar to the 1950’s, with the Pacific Ocean relatively cool to the warmer Atlantic. Not being an expert climatologist myself, I have no data to contradict his hypothesis, but there is a plausable mechanism there, as opposed to the prediction of the causality of the increase in the concentration of the trace gas CO2, which everybody agrees is A greenhouse gas.

    Senator Whitehouse’s insinuations are morally repugnant, making political hay so he and his fellows tax carbon, to fill the already replete federal trough.

    By contrast, Tom Coburn, senator from Oklahoma, said he was all for disaster aid from the Feds, as long as there were corresponding cuts elsewhere from other spending, which in Washington means a cut from next year’s increase over the Baseline, which is not where you are supposed to run along in baseball. Some have suggested this is politically hazardous for making this suggestion, but I think the senator would reject the warning as absurd.

    I have spent perhaps 700 days and nights in Oklahoma, all in motels. Maybe more.Unless you count the airports, the Wall Street Journal is unavailable at a news stand. There is the Daily Oklahoman, and there was Paul Harvey, but these people are not stupid rednecks.

    In my travels there I saw just one funnel cloud, high in the sky in Seiling, OK. To my Yankee eyes, it looked a little ominous, but the natives I was with took it most seriously. An alarm was sounded, and everyone within earshot made it to the basement

  4. Harry says:

    Sorry, Wintercow, for being so long-winded, but my phone would not let me complete a few sentences. I blame George Bush.


    …as fast as they could. In Tornado Alley, the locals quit honing their pocket knives, throw their coffee in the grass, and take shelter.

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