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AN NBER PUBLICATION ISSUE: No. 5, May 2010

The Digest

A free monthly publication featuring non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest
Mandatory calorie posting influenced consumer behavior at Starbucks in New York City, causing average calories per transaction to drop by 6 percent. Nutrition labeling on packaged food has been mandatory in the United States since the early 1990s, and printing tiny lists on cans and bags has long been accepted practice. Yet, in spite of this improvement in providing information, the share of Americans who are obese has continued to rise, increasing from 15.9 percent...

Research Summaries

Article
Real estate bond issuance, which accounted for nearly 23 percent of all corporate debt issued in 1925, fell to just 0.14 percent of the debt market by 1934 and some days no bonds traded. The real estate bond market soon vanished. The financial innovations that propelled the boom and collapse of the commercial real estate securities market in the last decade parallel those of that same market in the 1920s. Issuance of commercial mortgage-backed securities financed the...
Article
How cities pick their treasurers - whether by elections or through appointments - can have an impact on their cost of borrowing. In California, cities that appoint treasurers spend 13 to 23 percent less in borrowing costs than comparable cities with elected treasurers, according to Elected Versus Appointed Policymakers: Evidence from City Treasurers (NBER Working Paper No. 15643). Were all California cities with elected treasurers to replace them with appointed...
Article
In states without either stringent recycling laws or bottle deposit laws, respondents recycled 4.4 bottles out of 10. In states with deposit laws and stringent recycling requirements, respondents recycled 8.3 out of 10 bottles. Plastic water bottles can be disposed of in at least three ways: curbside recycling, returning the bottles for deposits, or simply placing them in with general trash. The decision to recycle is affected by the opportunity cost of one's time...
Article
[In an international comparison of airlines and legal systems] better creditor rights are associated with aircraft of a younger vintage [and with] newer technology. It is well established that legal rules designed to protect corporate shareholders and creditors are associated with more developed financial markets and stronger economic growth. Yet most of the research to support this belief has been based on cross-country macroeconomic outcomes, and it was not able to...
Article
Students' forecasts of expected earnings in different majors are often incorrect ... 7.5 percent of students would switch majors if they made no such forecast errors. Although various studies have documented differences in earnings across college majors, comparatively little is known about how students choose their major. In Modeling College Major Choices Using Elicited Measures of Expectations and Counterfactuals (NBER Working Paper No. 15729), co-authors Peter...

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