The Digest

A free monthly publication featuring non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest
There would have been 65 percent more cases of COVID-19 in the 347 Chinese cities outside Hubei province had Wuhan not been locked down on January 23. Human mobility contributes to the transmission of infectious diseases that threaten global health. A principal response of many countries to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to impose restrictions on people’s movements. However, such policies are controversial because they have a negative economic impact, and they...

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India lost 16.7 million people. Five hundred and fifty thousand died in the US. Spain’s death rate was low, but the disease was called “Spanish flu” because the press there was first to report it. An estimated 40 million people, or 2.1 percent of the global population, died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918–20. If a similar pandemic occurred today, it would result in 150 million deaths worldwide. In The Coronavirus and the Great Influenza Pandemic: Lessons...
Analysis of new data from the early 1930s suggests that depositors’ fears led to runs on banks that were clustered in time and space. These panics significantly reduced lending and monetary aggregates. Between 1929 and 1932, the money supply and bank lending in the United States declined by more than 30 percent. In Contagion of Fear (NBER Working Paper 26859), Kris James Mitchener and Gary Richardson attribute much of this decline to the changing behavior of bank...
Male judges who hear more cases alongside female judges are 4.3 percentage points more likely to hire a female law clerk subsequently. Labor-market discrimination can be harmful to those who are discriminated against as well as to society at large, since discrimination can lead to inefficient allocation of workers to potential jobs. There is an active debate over the extent of such discrimination, and how to address it. In Professional Interactions and Hiring...
The Second Avenue subway extension cost $4.5 billion and generated more than $7 billion in property appreciation, but public revenue rose by only a fraction of the benefits. Transit infrastructure is a critical asset in most cities, but it is expensive to build. To finance expenditures of this magnitude, local governments must either be able to identify revenue streams that will cover the cost, or argue that there are going to be substantial non-revenue benefits...
When copyright law increased the financial returns to composition in Italian states conquered by France, both the quantity and quality of new operas rose. Copyright laws introduced in two Italian states following Napoleon’s late 18th-century military victories increased the number and quality of new operas, according to Michela Giorcelli and Petra Moser. Their study, Copyright and Creativity: Evidence from Italian Opera during the Napoleonic Age (NBER Working...
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