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AN NBER PUBLICATION ISSUE: No. 2, February 2021

The Digest

A free monthly publication featuring non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest
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Individuals with friends exposed to COVID-19 outbreaks were more likely to stay at home, and less likely to oppose economic shutdowns to contain the virus. Designing a public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires an understanding of the factors that influence individual choices affecting the spread of the virus. In Social Networks Shape Beliefs and Behavior: Evidence from Social Distancing during the COVID-19 Pandemic (NBER Working Paper 28234),...

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Article
In 2019, less than 10 percent of small firms had unsecured revolving credit lines, while more than 80 percent of large firms did. In Bank Liquidity Provision across the Firm Size Distribution (NBER Working Paper 27945), Gabriel Chodorow-Reich, Olivier Darmouni, Stephan Luck, and Matthew C. Plosser characterize how the nature of bank lending to businesses varies across firms of different sizes. They find that smaller firms have credit with much shorter maturities,...
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Black households were concentrated in distressed areas of Northern cities years before the federal government created color-coded maps to indicate investment risk. Depression-era federal maps that classified areas of major US cities on the basis of credit risk did not create racially segregated neighborhoods, but rather locked in already existing patterns, according to research by Price V. Fishback, Jessica LaVoice, Allison Shertzer, and Randall Walsh that is...
Article
In response to stock market moves, target date funds rebalance their portfolios to achieve a preset mix of stocks and bonds, thereby creating a force that may dampen market swings. Retail investors who hold mutual funds often chase performance, investing more in funds that outperform their counterparts and in stock funds in general after periods of strong stock market returns. Target date funds (TDFs), in contrast, follow a rigid rule for the share of their assets...
Article
The current deceased donor kidney allocation system prolongs recipients’ lives by an average of 8.8 years. Alternative allocation rules could raise this substantially. The process by which kidneys from deceased donors are allocated among potential recipients is an example of a resource allocation problem that does not rely on prices but that has attracted substantial interest from economists. About 100,000 patients in the United States currently are suffering from...
Article
A ruler’s talents mattered more to national economic success in the absence of parliamentary constraints. The role of national leaders in accelerating or hindering their nation’s economic growth is a subject of long debate. In History’s Masters: The Effect of European Monarchs on State Performance (NBER Working Paper 28297), Sebastian Ottinger and Nico Voigtländer offer new empirical evidence on this question. They analyze the reigns of 331 monarchs in 13 European...
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