Mon, 20 August 2018
Is public schooling a public good, a merit good, or a demerit good? Public schooling fails both conditions specified in the standard economic definition of a public good. In order to place public schooling into one of the remaining two categories, I first assess all of the theoretical positive and negative externalities resulting from public schooling as opposed to publicly financed universal school vouchers. Then, in an original contribution to the literature, I quantify the magnitude and sign of the net externality of government schooling in the United States using the preponderance of the most rigorous scientific evidence.
We discuss this paper in addition to a recent blog post Corey wrote entitled "We Shouldn’t Need to Use Science to Grant Educational Freedom." Corey argues that we should have a strong presumption in favour of letting families choose where their kids go to school. In the academic debate on school choice, people adopt an implicit balance of evidence standard for supporting or opposing school choice. But it makes more sense to place the burden of evidence on those who seek to limit others' choices.
Mon, 13 August 2018
My guest today, Mario Macis of Johns Hopkins University, has done a number of interesting studies related to blood and organ donation, particularly the compensation of blood and organ donors. For instance, Mario and his coauthor, Nicola Lacetera, observed the effect of an incentive system that offered symbolic rewards to blood donors in a particular Italian town. They found that when prizes for frequent donation were publicly announced, people donated more blood, indicating that social image concerns are a factor in blood donation.
Through a large-scale natural field experiment with the American Red Cross, Mario and his coauthors showed that offering donors economic incentives to donate blood increases donation without increasing the fraction of ineligible donors.
Mario's more recent research deals with people's attitudes towards compensated kidney donation. Using a choice experiment, Mario and his coauthors study the determinants of Americans' views on these repugnant transactions:
Regulation and public policies are often the result of competition and compromise between different views and interests. In several cases, strongly held moral beliefs voiced by societal groups lead lawmakers to prohibit certain transactions or to prevent them from occurring through markets. However, there is limited evidence about the specific nature of the general population’s opposition to using prices in such contentious transactions. We conducted a choice experiment on a representative sample of Americans to examine preferences for legalizing payments to kidney donors. We found strong polarization, with many participants in favor or against payments regardless of potential supply gains. However, about 20% of respondents would switch to supporting payments for large enough supply gains. Preferences for compensation have strong moral foundations. Respondents especially reject direct payments by patients, which they find would violate principles of fairness. We corroborate the interpretation of our findings with the analysis of a costly decision to donate money to a foundation that supports donor compensation.
Finally, we discuss some proposed legislation that would allow limited experiments in compensating kidney donors.
Fri, 3 August 2018
Here on Economics Detective Radio, we've had many discussions about the early modern period, and the circumstances that gave rise to the modern levels of sustained economic growth that were heretofore unheard of in human history. One important question is, what was it about England and the Low Countries in the early modern period that made them the first to transition to modern-style economies? A related, and equally important question is why other times and places throughout history failed to produce an industrial revolution.
My guest today, George Tridimas, has done interesting work exploring the question of why the Greek golden age of 500-300 BCE didn't produce sustained economic growth. He gives a number of explanations, ranging from cultural and political factors to Greece's acute lack of the energy sources necessary to produce enough heat to smelt steel.