AN NBER PUBLICATION ISSUE: No. 11, November 2017

The Digest

A free monthly publication featuring non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest
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Declining U.S. research productivity means ever-increasing R&D expenditures are required to keep computer technology, medicine, and yields of major crops improving. In Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find? (NBER Working Paper No. 23782), Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones, John Van Reenen, and Michael Webb argue that, to maintain a given rate of economic growth, resources devoted to research must increase over time. They cite both aggregate evidence and measures...

Research Summaries

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Article
Less-educated workers are disproportionately likely to move up the job ladder during expansions, but they also slide down during downturns. Upward movement of workers on a "job ladder" from low-productivity to high-productivity firms is heavily dependent on the business cycle. During booms, net employment at high-productivity firms grows faster than at low-productivity firms, resulting in workers moving up the ladder. During busts, these upward job-to-job changes...
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Article
Most generic drugs are produced by only one or two firms, and the weak or nonexistent competition is associated with high prices. Amid news reports of price gouging and shortages of off-patent prescription drugs, a new study finds that the market for generic drugs is dominated by small-revenue products with only one or two producers. Ernst R. Berndt, Rena M. Conti, and Stephen J. Murphy examine how market forces, regulatory changes, and expanded insurance have...
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New estimates based on data from the Bank for International Settlements suggest countries vary widely in the share of wealth held offshore. Offshore tax havens in exotic locales have been the subject of Hollywood movies and best-selling novels. But data on the importance of tax havens, and the amount of wealth held in them, is elusive. In Who Owns the Wealth in Tax Havens? Macro Evidence and Implications for Global Inequality (NBER Working Paper No. 23805),...
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Those born in a Year of the Dragon are more likely than others to obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher — because parents invest more in them. Is a child born in a certain zodiac year really destined to have more good fortune and success in life than a child born in another year? Many parents in China believe that’s the case for children born in a Year of the Dragon, and some education statistics would appear to confirm it. But in Can Superstition Create a Self-...
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For Americans aged 56–61, median indebtedness rose sharply from 1992 to 2004. For the top quartile, debt doubled between 1992 and 2004, and almost tripled by 2010. In Debt and Financial Vulnerability on the Verge of Retirement (NBER Working Paper No. 23664), Annamaria Lusardi, Olivia S. Mitchell, and Noemi Oggero show that, in recent decades, more and more Americans are entering retirement with significant debt. Debt-to-asset and debt-to-income ratios, as well as...

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