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Research from My Favorite Economic Gabfest

I’ve just gotten back home after a terrific few days at the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity.  It’s my favorite gabfest of the year, featuring economic analysis that is both serious research, and also connected to ongoing policy debates.  (OK, I’m biased–I’m an editor, and organize the conference along with Berkeley’s David Romer.)  And while I think some of you may enjoy slogging your way through the latest papers, others may prefer your summaries simpler and lighter. So I went ahead and recorded a few short videos summarizing the papers. I hope you enjoy!

The Dynamics of Political Language” by Jacob Jensen, Suresh Naidu, Laurence Wilse-Samson, and Ethan Kaplan
Key finding: Think the U.S. political debate is currently more polarized than it’s ever been? Think again. A careful textual analysis of the entire US Congressional Record shows today’s partisanship is by no means unprecedented.  (Like big data? You’ll love this analysis, which also includes an analysis of the entire text of 5 million books.)

Dimensions of Progress: Poverty from the Great Society to the Great Recession by Bruce Meyer and James Sullivan
Key finding: Takes a careful look at alternative ways of measuring poverty.  While the official measure suggests little progress, much of this is a statistical artifact, and in fact we’ve made great strides in reducing poverty.

What Have They Been Thinking? Home Buyer Behavior in Hot and Cold Markets” by Karl Case, Robert Shiller, and Anne Thompson
Key insight: Surveys of home buyers showed that unrealistic expectations helped fuel the housing bubble.  At its peak, buyers expected house prices to continue to rise by 10 percent or more per year for at least the next decade. Good times were crazy times.

The Ins and Outs of Forecasting Unemployment: Using Labor Force Flows to Forecast the Labor Market” by Regis Barnichon and Christopher J. Nekarda
Key insight: The authors find a whole new way of forecasting unemployment which is enormously more accurate than existing methods. The idea is to look closely at the flows of people entering and exiting unemployment.

The U.S. Employment-Population Reversal in the 2000s: Facts and Explanations” by Robert A. Moffitt
Key insight: Yes, we’ve all been disappointed by the failure of the employment-to-population ratio to recover in this recession.  But it turns out that this slowdown pre-dates the Great Recession, and was a feature of the 2000s.

See second half of the video above for my summary of this paper.

Capital Controls: Gates and Walls” by Michael Klein
Key insight: When you think about capital controls, it’s important to distinguish between permanent controls (“walls”), and temporary episodic controls (“gates”).