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The Distribution of Paycheck Protection Program Funds

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The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was one of the largest measures undertaken by the federal government to protect businesses and their employees from the adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020, and administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). PPP guaranteed about $800 billion in low-interest loans made by financial institutions to businesses with up to 500 employees, promising to forgive those loans if borrowers maintained employment.

Almost from the program’s beginning, questions were raised about who was getting the loans and whether the distributions were fair. Answering these questions is challenging, however, because of a lack of data on eligible firms and their owners. In Racial Disparities in the Paycheck Protection Program (NBER Working Paper 29748), Sergey Chernenko and David S. Scharfstein offer...

Managing Infrastructure Procurement

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Infrastructure projects, especially mega-projects, are notorious for costing more than projected and taking longer than expected to complete. In a keynote address at a recent NBER conference on transportation economics, Alexander Budzier of the University of Oxford presented evidence on the source of cost overruns and the effectiveness of various strategies for avoiding them. He considered the role of procurement policies as well as project management.

From the NBER Bulletin on Health

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Intended and Unintended Health Effects of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

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Almost all US states have implemented an electronic prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) over the past 25 years in an effort to mitigate the risks of prescription drug abuse. Providers, pharmacists, and law enforcement can query these web-based databases, which track prescriptions of controlled substances within each state. PDMPs facilitate identification of potential misuse by patients and excessive prescribing by providers. Kentucky introduced the first electronic PDMP in July 1999 and two decades later Missouri was the only state without one.

In Behavioral Responses to Supply-Side Drug Policy during the Opioid Epidemic (NBER Working Paper 29596), Simone Balestra, Helge Liebert, Nicole Maestas and Tisamarie B. Sherry document...

From the NBER Reporter: Research, program, and conference summaries

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Assessing Environmental Regulation in Automobile Markets

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Spending on transportation is the second-largest category of personal expenditure in the United States, surpassed only by housing. Spending on automobiles is in turn the largest component of transportation expenditures, an amount that is on par with health care and food. Moreover, emissions from transportation constitute just under a third of total US greenhouse gas emissions, with light-duty vehicles accounting for almost two-thirds of this total. These figures make studying the economic effects of automobile market regulation especially important.

The effects of environmental regulations on automobiles are governed by complex interactions between consumer behavior and firm decisions in the markets for both new and used vehicles…

From the NBER Bulletin on Retirement and Disability

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Opioid Use by SSDI Beneficiaries and the Effect of Opioid Prescribing on SSDI Claiming

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Chronic pain is a leading cause of work disability and a primary reason for receipt of SSDI benefits. Prescription opioids are frequently prescribed for chronic pain, but their use has been scrutinized in recent years due to concerns about addiction and overdose. Understanding how common prescription opioid use is among SSDI beneficiaries and how opioid use affects employment and SSDI applications is critical to the SSDI program.

Researchers Nicole Maestas, Tisamarie Sherry, and Alexander Strand explore these issues in a pair of new working papers. In Opioid Use among Social Security Disability Insurance Applicants, 2013–2018 (NBER RDRC Working Paper NB19-28-1), the three researchers...

From the NBER Bulletin on Entrepreneurship

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The Rise of Private Financing for Entrepreneurs

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In Private or Public Equity? The Evolving Entrepreneurial Finance Landscape (NBER Working Paper 29532), Michael Ewens and Joan Farre-Mensa survey the changes in the US entrepreneurial finance market over the last two decades. Their study begins by describing the differences between publicly listed and private firms, and then explores how several regulatory, technological, and competitive changes affecting both startups and investors have affected the costs and benefits of going public. The paper emphasizes the growing costs of the disclosures required of public firms, and also observes that major technological changes have reduced the initial capital investment…

Featured Working Papers

African Americans who were younger when their county ordered school desegregation, and therefore experienced more years of integrated schooling, had better adult labor market outcomes than their older counterparts who experienced fewer years, Garrett Anstreicher, Jason Fletcher, and Owen Thompson find.

Despite the low levels of taxation and public good provision, a large proportion of Africans prefer lower taxation and fewer public goods. James A. Robinson attributes this to deeply seated African ideas about the nature of the state and its potential threats to autonomy.

During the onset of COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia, older users of an online learning platform were more likely to take telework courses, while younger workers increased enrollments in courses related to occupation-specific and computer-related skills, according to research by Ina Ganguli, Jamal I. Haidar, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Samuel W. Stemper, and Basit Zafar.

Administrative data from Michigan provide evidence that foster care placement substantially reduces the chances of adult arrests, convictions, and incarceration for children. Foster care also improves a range of children’s safety, academic, and behavioral outcomes, E. Jason Baron and Max Gross find.

The 1993 expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit reduced reports of physical or sexual assault and counts of physical or sexual intimate partner violence per 100 women surveyed, especially among unmarried women and Black women, Resul Cesur, Núria Rodriguez-Planas, Jennifer Roff and David Simon find.

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Research Spotlights

NBER researchers discuss their work on subjects of wide interest to economists, policymakers, and the general public. Recordings of more-detailed presentations, keynote addresses, and panel discussions at NBER conferences are available on the Lectures page.
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Research Spotlight
The COVID-19 pandemic affected businesses in different industries in disparate ways.  Those in customer contact...
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Research Spotlight
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was one of the central elements of the pandemic stimulus program. It was designed...
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Research Spotlight
The number of deaths from drug overdoses and alcohol abuse rose during the first 16 months of the COVID-19 pandemic....
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Research Spotlight
Employment in the US declined early in the pandemic, and has remained below its pre-pandemic level as the number of...
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Research Spotlight
The rate of increase in the US Consumer Price Index during 2021 was the fastest in nearly three decades. There is an...
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