7 November 2012

Export Networks and Cross-Border Mergers and Acquisitions

Bruce Blonigen, Lionel Fontagné, Nicholas Sly, and Farid Toubal find strong evidence from M&A activity in France over the period 1999-2006 that foreign multinationals seek firms with strong prior export behavior and recent productivity losses. Two seemingly opposing incentives simultaneously motivate global M&A activity: on one hand, in a world where trade costs vary across locations, the formation of export networks creates cost synergies between firms in different locations. Firms with high initial levels of productivity are better able to establish these costly export networks, which makes them more attractive targets for takeover by multinationals, especially those located far from the domestic market. On the other hand, firm productivities change over time, and when a domestic firm's performance suffers, it may be more profitable to transfer control of its assets to new management. Thus, productivity losses among target firms provide an opportunity for multinational acquirers to obtain desired assets at relatively lower costs.

6 November 2012

Pharmacy, a Family-Friendly Occupation

The profession of "pharmacist" is probably the most egalitarian of all U.S. professions today. More women than men now work as pharmacists; they are relatively well paid; and they experience only a small gender earnings gap and less earnings dispersion than in many other occupations. Using surveys of pharmacists for 2000, 2004, and 2009 and data from the American Community Surveys and the Current Population Surveys, economists Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz explore why the substantial entrance of women into this profession was associated with an increase in their earnings relative to male pharmacists. Their results suggest that the growth of large national pharmacy chains and hospitals, and the related decline in independent pharmacies, were keys to the profession becoming more family-and female-friendly.

5 November 2012

Smoking, Obesity, and Life Expectancy

Sam Preston, Andrew Stokes, Neil Mehta, and Bochen Cao project the combined effect of declining smoking and increasing obesity on U.S. mortality between 2010 and 2040. They conclude that for men, the reductions in smoking will have larger effects on mortality throughout the period than the rise in obesity: male life expectancy at age 40 is predicted to increase by almost one year because of these changes. Among women, though, the two effects largely offset one another, and a gain of only about three months of life is expected by 2040.

2 November 2012

Land and House Price Measurement in China

China is virtually unique globally in that transactions prices of vacant land are observed regularly there. When Yongheng Deng, Joe Gyourko, and Jing Wu construct land price indexes for 35 major Chinese cities, they find that average land values have skyrocketed in many markets, not just those near the coast, over the last nine years. Their estimates show double-digit compound average annual growth in real, constant-quality land values, with the period 2009-10 seeing even larger price increases. The amount of land coming to market for sale also has been increasing sharply in recent years.

1 November 2012

Duration Dependence and Labor Market Conditions

Kory Kroft, Fabian Lange, and Matthew Notowidigdo conducted an experiment in which fictitious resumes, which differed only in whether a job applicant was unemployed and for how long, were sent to real job postings in 100 U.S. cities. They found that the likelihood of receiving a callback for an interview decreased significantly with the length of a fictitious worker's unemployment spell, especially during the first eight months. That effect -- called duration dependence -- is stronger when the labor market is tighter. These results suggest that employers use the length of an unemployment spell as a signal of productivity, but that signal is less informative in weak labor markets.

31 October 2012

The Effects of Environmental Regulation on the Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturing

Using data from the 1972-1993 Annual Survey of Manufactures, researchers Michael Greenstone, John List, and Chad Syverson estimate the effects of air quality regulations on the total factor productivity (TFP) of manufacturing plants. They find that stricter air quality regulations are associated with a decline in TFP of roughly 2.6 percent: ozone regulations have particularly large negative effects on productivity, but carbon monoxide regulations appear to increase measured TFP, especially among refineries. After correcting for other influences -- including price increases, output declines, and sample selection of plants that survived over the entire period -- they estimate a 4.8 percent decline in TFP for polluting plants in regulated areas. In economic terms, this corresponds to an annual cost of roughly $21 billion, or nearly 9 percent of manufacturing sector profits in this period.

30 October 2012

Shale Gas Development and Property Values

The processes required to develop and produce natural gas from shale rock use a great deal of water and require underground, high-pressure, chemical injections. The risks associated with leasing one’s land to gas-exploration-and-production companies are especially important for those who depend on groundwater as a source of drinking water. Using data on property sales from 2004 to 2009 in an area with shale gas wells -- Washington County, Pennsylvania -- Lucija Muehlenbachs, Elisheba Spiller, and Christopher Timmins find that house prices are positively affected by the drilling of a shale gas well unless the property depends on groundwater. Such properties are negatively affected: by itself, groundwater risk reduces property values by up to 24 percent.

29 October 2012

Charitable Donations to Higher Education

Jeff Brown, Stephen Dimmock, and Scott Weisbenner find that donations to higher education - especially capital donations designated for university endowment or buildings - are positively and significantly correlated with the average income and house values in the university's home state. They also find that donations increase when a university suffers a large negative shock to its endowment relative to its operating budget.

26 October 2012

The U.S. Labor Market: Status Quo or a New Normal?

The Great Recession brought high rates of unemployment that have been slow to recede. When Edward Lazear and James Spletzer analyze labor market data, they find that the increased rates of unemployment in recent years cannot be explained by structural changes, industrial or demographic shifts, or a mismatch of skills with job vacancies. Instead, their findings suggest that unemployment is being caused by cyclical factors that are simply more pronounced during the current recession than in prior recessions.

25 October 2012

Public Procurement and the Private Supply of Green Buildings

Timothy Simcoe and Michael Toffel examine whether green building procurement policies which apply only to municipal buildings accelerate the use of green building practices by private-sector developers. The researchers find that the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard for sustainable building practices diffuses nearly twice as quickly among private-sector developers in municipalities that adopt government-oriented green building procurement policies as in a matched control sample of cities of similar size, demographics, and environmental preferences. In addition, they find more LEED adoption among "neighbor cities" - those bordering the city that adopted a green building policy. They suggest that government purchasing policies may break deadlocks that emerge when coordinated investments are required to adopt a common standard, and that this in turn may stimulate the private-sector market for the goods and services targeted by government green procurement policies.
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