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AN NBER PUBLICATION ISSUE: No. 11, November 2003

The Digest

A free monthly publication featuring non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest
For given religious beliefs, increases in church attendance tend to reduce economic growth. In contrast, for given church attendance, increases in some religious beliefs -- notably heaven, hell, and an afterlife -- tend to increase economic growth. Some researchers argue that explanations for economic growth should be broadened to include cultural determinants. Culture may influence economic outcomes by affecting such personal traits as honesty, thrift, willingness to...

Research Summaries

Article
No-fault limits on driver liability in an accident, by diminishing the possibility of being sued, increase fatalities by about 10 percent. When states adopt compulsory automobile insurance regulations and no-fault liability laws, some drivers may become a little more lax or relaxed. They may drive slightly faster or a little less cautiously, aware that the financial and legal consequences of an accident are reduced. They may be somewhat less likely to use seat belts...
Article
Public enforcement appears to play a small role in the development of stock markets...Private enforcement systems foster greater investor confidence and ultimately more robust securities markets. In What Works in Securities Laws? (NBER Working Paper No. 9882) Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, and Andrei Shleifer compare securities laws in 49 countries to evaluate their effect on the development of stock markets. This analysis focuses on the provisions of...
Article
Between 1965 and 1995 poorer countries gained more in terms of longevity than richer countries did. Thus, the change in inequality in income per capita actually underestimates the degree of convergence in welfare across countries. Although GDP per capita is the common measure for a nation's quality of life, material gain is only one of many aspects of life that determine economic well being. Economic welfare also depends on lifespan: the number of years over which...
Article
Doubling prices would reduce underage drinking by 28 percent and underage binge drinking by 51 percent. Intensive advertising by the alcohol industry has such a strong influence on adolescents that its elimination would lower underage drinking in general and binge drinking in particular, according to a study by Henry Saffer and Dhaval Dave. In Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Consumption by Adolescents (NBER Working Paper No. 9482), the authors also find that hefty...
Article
Economic incentives...affect the number and the commercial value of inventions generated in universities. American universities are an important source of technical change, accounting for roughly half of all basic research and almost 5 percent of all domestic patent grants in the United States. In the past two decades, technology licensing by American universities has grown dramatically. The number of U.S. patent awards to university inventors rose from 500 in 1982 to...

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