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The Digest

A free monthly publication featuring non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest
There is an inadequate supply of high-quality euro-denominated assets that international investors and central banks can use as a store of value, and no eurozone-wide “safe” government-backed asset. Launched in 2002 as the sole legal tender in 12 countries, the euro’s introduction marked a milestone in a decades-long effort to provide Europe with an international currency of the same stature as the dollar. While now used by 341 million people in 19 of the 27...

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Five nations and the Gates Foundation committed $1.5 billion to support development of a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine that is estimated to have saved 700,000 lives in low-income countries. Advance Market Commitments (AMCs) were proposed in the early 2000s as a way to encourage the development and distribution of vaccines for diseases primarily affecting developing countries. AMC donors pledge that if a firm develops a specified new vaccine and sets the price...
A 2019 reform to the H1-B allocation rules, the fourth change in 15 years, gives high-skill applicants the highest possible chance of securing a visa. Launched as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, the H-1B visa program is intended to satisfy demand for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher in occupations that require specialized technical knowledge. With the H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004, Congress capped the number of permits at 85,000 a year, with 20,000...
Productivity of workers in Chennai, India benefited less from increased sleep time at home, where sleeping conditions were poor, than from high-quality naps at their workplace. Poor urban residents of developing nations sleep relatively little, and a new study from India suggests why. It’s not that they don’t spend enough time trying to sleep, but that the quality of the sleep they are getting is surprisingly poor. Although participants in the study averaged...
Projects submitted under a winner-takes-all structure were more novel, and more team driven, than those submitted under a structure in which multiple winners shared a prize. Which is the more cost-effective way to spur innovation: to offer a single large prize, or to offer a set of smaller prizes with the same total value divided among multiple winners? In The Effects of Prize Structures on Innovative Performance (NBER Working Paper 26737), Joshua Graff Zivin and...
More-stringent licensing regulations are associated with less competition and higher prices, but not with better service or higher customer satisfaction. Licensing laws apply to a growing share of the US labor force. They now affect nearly 30 percent of all workers, including electricians, contractors, interior designers, salon specialists, and at least 1,100 other occupations. Licensing is often justified as a way of protecting consumers from poor service...

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