The Financial Analysis of Public-Sector Pensions:
Valuation and Investment Behavior

Underfunded public pensions pose a host of legal and financial issues for state and local governments, for which the funds represent financial liabilities running into trillions of dollars. Jeffrey R. Brown, dean of the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, outlines the discussion among economists about measuring these liabilities and explains some of his research into pension funds' investment practices. Some of his research papers on these issues are here and here.

New NBER Research

16 March 2018

The Rise of Women in the High-Skilled Labor Market

Since 1980, the probability of finding work in a cognitive/high-wage occupation has fallen for college-educated men and risen for college-educated women. Guido Matias Cortes, Nir Jaimovich, and Henry E. Siu attribute this to the rising importance of social skills in these occupations.

15 March 2018

The Rise of Monopoly Power in the United States

Gauti B. Eggertsson, Jacob A. Robbins, and Ella Getz Wold suggest that recent trends in both the rate of economic growth and the labor share of national income can be explained by two factors: an increase in market power and pure profits in the U.S. economy, and a persistent long-term decline in real interest rates.

14 March 2018

Impacts of In-kind Transfers of Medicaid Home Care

A study by Ethan M.J. Lieber and Lee M. Lockwood finds that Medicaid’s in-kind provision of formal home care significantly reduces how much recipients value the benefit but reaches a small fraction of the eligible population that has greater demand for formal home care, is sicker, and has worse-than-average informal care options.
More Research

New from the Studies in Income and Wealth Series:
Measuring and Modeling Health Care Costs

Health care costs represent a nearly 18 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and 20 percent of government spending. While there is detailed information on where these health care dollars are spent, there is much less evidence on how this spending affects health.

The research in Measuring and Modeling Health Care Costs seeks to connect what is known about expenditures with measurable results to probe questions of methodology, changes in the pharmaceutical industry, and the shifting landscape of physician practice. Studies in this volume investigate, for example, obesity's effect on health care spending, the effect of generic pharmaceutical releases on the market, and the disparity between disease-based and population-based spending. Researchers apply a range of economic tools to the analysis of health care and health outcomes.

Practical and descriptive, this latest volume in the Studies in Income and Wealth series is full of insights relevant to health policy students and specialists alike.

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On the News

Cryptocurrency Interest on Campus High
Despite the Ups and Downs of Bitcoin

Bitcoin values soared last year and have declined sharply in 2018, but interest in the cryptocurrency and its technology is soaring at some leading graduate schools of business and economics, The New York Times reported February 9. A primary voice in the Times story was David Yermack of New York University and the NBER, author of several recent NBER working papers on Bitcoin and related subjects.

The research:
By Yermack and Max Raskin: Digital Currencies, Decentralized Ledgers, and the Future of Central Banking
By other NBER researchers: Market Structure in Bitcoin Mining

The Times news report: Cryptocurrencies Come to Campus

NBER in the News

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This Week's Working Papers


Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Program Offers Opportunities
for Independent Research on Health and Aging Issues

NBER's pre-doctoral fellowship program, funded by the National Institute on Aging under the direction of Professor David Cutler of Harvard University and Professor Amy Finkelstein of MIT, gives trainees studying at Greater Boston-area universities exposure to a wide range of NBER research projects related to health outcomes and behaviors. Participating fellows pursue independent research while benefiting from opportunities for regular interaction with the NBER's large network of prominent investigators in the economics of aging and health.
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Call for Papers
41st Annual NBER Summer Institute

The NBER Digest

Can Older Americans Be Encouraged to Keep Working?
Yes, if the Jobs Are Familiar and the Hours Are Flexible

With concern spreading over the rising percentage of older Americans and the possibilities of labor shortages, a study summarized in the March edition of The Digest finds that 40 percent of retirees would be willing to return to a job like the one they held previously, even for less money, and about 60 percent would return to work if they had a flexible schedule. Also featured in this month’s issue are studies of the effects of internet markets on used book prices and availability, the influence of state versus national licensing on interstate movement of professionals, the reason U.S. retail chains embrace uniform pricing, the results of President Roosevelt’s confiscation of German book copyright protections in 1942, and the varying impacts of the oil glut caused by the hydraulic fracking boom.

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The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health

Smoke-Free Laws Don’t Just Benefit Smokers;
Infants and Children Have Better Health Outcomes Too

The positive effects of smoking bans are well documented for smokers, but the spillover effects that reducing environmental tobacco smoke may have on infants and children is relatively unknown. A study of 100 percent smoke-free laws, summarized in the latest issue of the NBER's Bulletin on Aging and Health, finds that expectant mothers living in areas covered by smoke-free laws have a 3.3 percent associated decline in the probability of their baby being born with low birth weight — one of a host of positive infant and child health outcomes.

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The NBER Reporter

Exploring the Global Decline in Labor's Share:
Lower-Cost Capital, Structure in Industry Are Keys

The labor share of national income has declined in most U.S. states and, globally, in most industries, including manufacturing, wholesale, and retail. NBER researchers explore the causes and implications in the current edition of The NBER Reporter. Also featured in this edition of the quarterly Reporter are articles by bureau-affiliated economists about their studies of the expanded scope of the NBER Program on Industrial Organization, the growing importance of social skills for success in the labor market, the dynamics of the international business cycle, and the importance of children's birth order in their adult outcomes.

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