Abstracts of three articles in or forthcoming in the Review of Economics and Statistics

"Are Tenure Track Professors Better Teachers?"

This study makes use of detailed student-level data from eight cohorts of first-year students at Northwestern University to investigate the relative effects of tenure track/tenured versus contingent faculty on student learning. We focus on classes taken during a student’s first term at Northwestern and employ an identification strategy in which we control for both student-level fixed effects and next-class-taken fixed effects to measure the degree to which contingent faculty contribute more or less to lasting student learning than do other faculty. We find consistent evidence that students learn relatively more from contingent faculty in their firstterm courses. This result is driven by the fact that the bottom quarter of tenure track/tenured faculty (as indicted by our measure of teaching effectiveness) has lower “value added” than their contingent counterparts. Differences between contingent and tenure track/tenured faculty are present across a wide variety of subject areas and are particularly pronounced for Northwestern’s averages and less-qualified students.

"Does Planning Regulation Protect Independent Retailers?"

Regulations curbing the entry of large retail stores have been introduced in many countries to protect independent retailers. Analyzing a planning reform launched in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, I show that independent retailers were actually harmed by the creation of entry barriers against large stores. This is because the entry barriers created the incentive for large retail chains to invest in smaller and more centrally located formats, which competed more directly with independents and accelerated their decline. Overall, these findings suggest that restricting the entry of large stores may exert negative competitive effects on independent retailers.

"Under the Cover of Darkness: How Ambient Light Influences Criminal Activity".

We exploit daylight saving time (DST) as an exogenous shock to daylight, using both the discontinuous nature of the policy and the 2007 extension of DST, to consider the impact of light on criminal activity. Regression discontinuity estimates show a 7% decrease in robberies following the shift to DST. As expected, effects are largest during the hours directly affected by the shift in daylight. We discuss our findings within the context of criminal decision making and labor supply, and estimate that the 2007 DST extension resulted in $59 million in annual social cost savings from avoided robberies.

"Death rates have been increasing for middle-aged white women, decreasing for men"

You've probably read about the recent Case and Deaton paper about the increase in the death rate among middle-aged white Americans. Andrew Gelman at Columbia has a very interesting further analysis of the data and his conclusion is that the uptrend is solely in the women:

Since 2005, the death rate has been rising for middle-aged white women and declining for middle-aged white men. Not by a lot—we’re talking a change of 4% over a decade—but this is what we see.

Comments by John Thacker suggest that this might be explained by smoking.

"The 2015 Budget Act Spends Now and Saves Later"

My clock says it's 2015. The Republicans have a majority of both houses of Congress. Can't they do any better than this?

Governor John Kasich claimed in the October 28 Republican Debate that the budget deal, formally known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, is “the same old stuff since I left. You spend the money today and then you hope you’re going to save money tomorrow.” In the sense that the Bipartisan Budget Act includes near-term spending in exchange for later cuts, this statement is largely true.

"Reframing the Debate about Payday Lending"

From researchers at the New York Federal Reserve. Should change the debate over this much-maligned practice considerably.

Except for the ten to twelve million people who use them every year, just about everybody hates payday loans. Their detractors include many law professors, consumer advocates, members of the clergy, journalists, policymakers, and even the President! But is all the enmity justified? We show that many elements of the payday lending critique—their “unconscionable” and “spiraling” fees and their “targeting” of minorities—don’t hold up under scrutiny and the weight of evidence.