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  1. Just because something is popular … you know, over 58% of my students favor eliminating studying as a requirement to do well in college; over 58% of the children in my kids’ school think Reeses Pieces are an essential part of a quality diet; over 58% of Catholics want the rest of the world to be Catholic; over 58% of Americans believe that food with DNA in it should be labeled …
  2. Cleaning up a Superfund site (i.e. a federally designated toxic waste site) improves educational outcomes. Given that the research on Superfund demonstrates that toxicity of sites does not dictate which sites get cleaned, and the little to no health benefits of the cleanups, this is a bit surprising (well, science should be surprising). I think their causality checks are decent, after all they only look at families that had kids before and after site cleanup, so the selection effect of residential sorting would not seem to be at play. My sense is that this would not replicate. In addition, to really make a policy claim here, we’d want to know what the total costs of Superfund cleanup are per unit of educational improvement. Note that the researchers are testing whether site cleanup is correlated with the probability of students repeating a grade and whether they are suspended from school. First, we’d want to see whether anything else would be driving those changes based on location, and second, I would love to see the impact of location on ALL of the possible educational outcomes. You would think that statistically you would find “significance” in some outcomes. How many showed significance?
  3. How have efforts to recruit and support low-income, high-achieving students worked in Texas?
  4. In another paper by Cornell scholars, did the expansion of Medicaid under the PPACA improve patients’ receipt of preventive care? What about helping patients adopt healthier lifestyles?
  5. Does environmental regulation reduce employment? These authors find the answer, perhaps surprising to many, of “no.” I can go in two directions here. First, I can feel sympathy for the authors wasting their time on a study like this in response to misguided public rhetoric about jobs and green policy. Or, I can move further into the land of being uncharitable and suggest that if one of my intro students sent me a paper like this they would not pass the class. Whether regulation creates, destroys, or does nothing to jobs is a complete head-fake. That is not what is at issue. Any decent economics student understands two things. First, jobs are a cost. Second, whether a policy is a good idea or not is crucially dependent on the net benefits of the program. Would you call innovations in tractor technology a bad thing because the net impact on employment in the “affected” sector as compared to the “other” sector has been negative? In other words, I do not think the rise in manufacturing jobs offset the loss of farm jobs over the 20th century. In fact, any economic change is going to change the composition of jobs. When we learn how trade seems to work, even if you have a dire view of foreign trade, we understand that trade changes the composition of jobs, at a first pass it will not change the number. So pointing to the fact that the number of jobs is not changed when we impose environmental regulations tells us nothing about whether those regulations are sensible or cost-effective. When the US imposes a tariff on Chinese tires, and Chine responds by imposing a tariff on American nylon manufacturers, what we see is more tire jobs in the US and less nylon jobs, and more nylon jobs in China and fewer tire jobs – so unemployment, by “looking at the big picture” would seem to be unchanged. But of course, what you should recognize is that both the US and China are made worse off by the tariffs.
  6. Interesting – housing field experiments demonstrating discrimination seem to replicate even if the face of selection error corrections. Field experiments on labor markets demonstrating discrimination are not as robust to reexamination. Note, that if you want to play tribal politics here, you would not have guessed who one of the authors was. I am sure that when he is talking about and researching about the minimum wage people will understand this. Not.
  7. They see it as “ineffective price regulation” and I see it as not allowing enough competition. After all, is there any reason to believe that well-drilling has huge natural monopoly characteristics? Is it not the case that there is not free and open entry into fracking?
  8. Both homo-economicus and homo-ethicus? Why do children take care of their elderly parents?
  9. How long until someone writes that communities should therefore want to get hit by natural disasters?

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