Grade inflation article – BU looks tough

A few quotes from a story in today’s Boston Globe.

“Harvard, other schools still fighting grade inflation” The Boston Globe By Marcella Bombardieri. December 05, 2013

“At Yale College, where 62 percent of grades are in the A range, proposals to curb grade inflation are in doubt following student protests and faculty concern.”

“After a Boston Globe analysis in 2001 found that an astonishing 91 percent of Harvard College students were graduating with honors, officials released data showing that 48.5 percent of grades were A’s and A-minuses, compared to 33.2 percent who received those marks in 1985.”

“In response to the uproar that followed, the [Harvard] faculty capped honors — summa, magna, and cum laude — at 60 percent.”

“In response to a professor’s question at Tuesday’s meeting of the [Harvard] Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Jay M. Harris, dean of undergraduate education, said that the median grade awarded to undergraduates is an A-minus, while the most frequently awarded grade is an A.”

“Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, found in a national survey that 41 percent of students had grade point averages of A-minus or higher in 2009, compared to just 7 percent in 1969.”

“A few universities emphasize strict grading, or what students unhappily call “grade deflation.” Boston University has been known for difficult grading for many years.”

Personal experience with the new Federal Exchange web site

Randall P. Ellis, Professor, Boston University Department of Economics and past president of the American Society of Health Economists.

Today, Tuesday Dec 3, I went on line to check out the new web site for selecting individual health insurance. I checked out options for enrolling in the Oxford County Maine. The web page now has a totally new feel and look to it. Most importantly, it allowed me to shop for different plan options without having to first pass through the extensive security barriers which used to prevent people from shopping until they established eligibility. Now, it is attractive and better than the Massachusetts exchange.

I clicked through 50 screens, and dozens of plans in the middle of Tuesday morning with no noticeable delays or glitches. (The Boston University benefits web site gave me more problems in recent weeks.)

The options look terrific to me, although I am covered at work and hence not eligible to enroll through the exchanges.

The premium in rural Oxford County Maine for a 20 year old in the lowest cost option is only $110 per month, without any government subsidy. That is astoundingly low compared to the overpriced policies that were previously available.

I also priced out a gold plan (Community Advantage) comparable to my coverage at Boston University for a family of three. Without any subsidy, that plan would be $1799 per month. The Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Gold Guided Access plan was $2013/month. At BU I am currently paying $1813 per month. So these two plans look reasonable to me in comparison. Of course my employer subsidizes my coverage, and many will be eligible for subsidies from the ACA or their employer.

Also new is the link to the Kaiser Family Foundation calculator, which allows the user to get an estimate of any savings that he or she is eligible for based on income and family size. I played with it for a while, and it worked well. I quickly used that calculator to calculate that a 39 year old in Oxford Maine earning $30,000 per year could expect to pay $3790 per year, and then receive a tax credit of $1278, bringing the total cost to $2512 per year which is 8.37%.

This new interface makes shopping on the exchanges simple and easy to understand.

Although terribly unpleasant, the flaws in the initial system promoted awareness and discussion in the media about the new exchanges, which is good. It also encouraged employers to step forward and offer coverage instead of relying on individuals. Both of these are very positive outcomes.

I predict that enrollments through the exchanges by the end of December will be below the initial, optimistic forecasts of the administration, but that millions more will enroll in early 2014 as people fill out their tax forms and are prompted to answer whether they have health insurance. In Massachusetts, that was a greater motivation to purchasing than the end of the calendar year.

Playing video games does not predict voilent behavoir in children

(Reposted from The Incidental Economist) This November 2013 UK study confirms what other studies have shown, which is that playing video games does not predict psychosocial adjustment problems in young children. Even watching 3 hours of TV per day in the UK has no meaningful association.

I also reposted my favorite graph about videos and gun violence from an earlier TIE posting.

Perhaps the 50th anniversary of  JFK’s death, done with a $20 mail order rifle, is yet another good time to refocus on gun control.

Happy Thanksgiving!


The dangers of TV and video games
Posted: 25 Nov 2013 06:01 AM PST
From Archives of Diseases of Childhood, “
Do television and electronic games predict children’s psychosocial adjustment? Longitudinal research using the UK Millennium Cohort Study

BACKGROUND: Screen entertainment for young children has been associated with several aspects of psychosocial adjustment. Most research is from North America and focuses on television. Few longitudinal studies have compared the effects of TV and electronic games, or have investigated gender differences.

PURPOSE: To explore how time watching TV and playing electronic games at age 5 years each predicts change in psychosocial adjustment in a representative sample of 7 year-olds from the UK.

METHODS: Typical daily hours viewing television and playing electronic games at age 5 years were reported by mothers of 11 014 children from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Conduct problems, emotional symptoms, peer relationship problems, hyperactivity/inattention and prosocial behaviour were reported by mothers using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Change in adjustment from age 5 years to 7 years was regressed on screen exposures; adjusting for family characteristics and functioning, and child characteristics.

RESULTS: Watching TV for 3 h or more at 5 years predicted a 0.13 point increase (95% CI 0.03 to 0.24) in conduct problems by 7 years, compared with watching for under an hour, but playing electronic games was not associated with conduct problems. No associations were found between either type of screen time and emotional symptoms, hyperactivity/inattention, peer relationship problems or prosocial behaviour. There was no evidence of gender differences in the effect of screen time.

CONCLUSIONS: TV but not electronic games predicted a small increase in conduct problems. Screen time did not predict other aspects of psychosocial adjustment. Further work is required to establish causal mechanisms.

Since we’re never going to have an RCT of TV or video games, these kinds of prospective cohort studies are important. In this one, they followed more than 11,000 children in the UK. They found that watching TV for three hours or more (a day!) at 5 years associated with a higher chance of having a conduct disorder at 7 years versus kids who watched less than an hour a day. How much of a difference? A 0.13 point increase in conduct problems. That corresponds, according to the article, to “0.09 of a SD [standard deviation] increase in age 7 years conduct score. Do you understand now? I don’t either.Anyway, the authors said it was a “small increase in conduct problems”.Video games? No effect.Yes, these are young kids, and it’s unlikely that they have been playing much GTA 5 or Battlefield 4. So I’ll look forward to more data. But that this point, it’s hard to point to a large study like this and find a smoking gun. Figuratively or literally.More on this topic here and here.@aaronecarrollShare

This is my favorite graph on this topic. From here

Two great reposts from TIE/JAMA

This repost from The Incidental Economist (TIE) is one of the best summaries of US Health Care I have seen. I also appended the Uwe posting at the bottom.

(The JAMA Authors are Hamilton Moses III, MD; David H. M. Matheson, MBA, JD; E. Ray Dorsey, MD, MBA; Benjamin P. George, MPH; David Sadoff, BA; Satoshi Yoshimura, PhD

The JAMA Article, which has an abundance of tables, references and graphs, will be on my MA and Ph.D. reading lists.

Anyone interested in keeping up with current US health policy from an economists point of view should subscribe to TIE, although it can be distracting, frustrating, and time consuming.


Study:The Anatomy of Health Care in the United States

Posted: 13 Nov 2013 03:55 AM PST

From JAMA. I reformatted the abstract, and broke it up into paragraphs to make it easier to read:

Health care in the United States includes a vast array of complex interrelationships among those who receive, provide, and finance care. In this article, publicly available data were used to identify trends in health care, principally from 1980 to 2011, in the source and use of funds (“economic anatomy”), the people receiving and organizations providing care, and the resulting value created and health outcomes.

In 2011, US health care employed 15.7% of the workforce, with expenditures of $2.7 trillion, doubling since 1980 as a percentage of US gross domestic product (GDP) to 17.9%. Yearly growth has decreased since 1970, especially since 2002, but, at 3% per year, exceeds any other industry and GDP overall.

Government funding increased from 31.1% in 1980 to 42.3% in 2011. Despite the increases in resources devoted to health care, multiple health metrics, including life expectancy at birth and survival with many diseases, shows the United States trailing peer nations. The findings from this analysis contradict several common assumptions. Since 2000,

  1. price (especially of hospital charges [+4.2%/y], professional services [3.6%/y], drugs and devices [+4.0%/y], and administrative costs [+5.6%/y]), not demand for services or aging of the population, produced 91% of cost increases;
  2. personal out-of-pocket spending on insurance premiums and co-payments have declined from 23% to 11%; and
  3. chronic illnesses account for 84% of costs overall among the entire population, not only of the elderly.

Three factors have produced the most change:

  1. consolidation, with fewer general hospitals and more single-specialty hospitals and physician groups, producing financial concentration in health systems, insurers, pharmacies, and benefit managers;
  2. information technology, in which investment has occurred but value is elusive; and
  3. the patient as consumer, whereby influence is sought outside traditional channels, using social media, informal networks, new public sources of information, and self-management software.

These forces create tension among patient aims for choice, personal care, and attention; physician aims for professionalism and autonomy; and public and private payer aims for aggregate economic value across large populations. Measurements of cost and outcome (applied to groups) are supplanting individuals’ preferences. Clinicians increasingly are expected to substitute social and economic goals for the needs of a single patient. These contradictory forces are difficult to reconcile, creating risk of growing instability and political tensions. A national conversation, guided by the best data and information, aimed at explicit understanding of choices, tradeoffs, and expectations, using broader definitions of health and value, is needed.

My frustration? That anyone treats any of this as news. At some point we need to stop diagnosing the problem and start doing something about it.

The whole thing is worth a read. But none of it will be news for regular visitors to TIE. Why isn’t everyone reading this blog already?!?!?!


Quote: Uwe (Need I say more?)

Posted: 13 Nov 2013 04:00 AM PST

[T]he often advanced idea that American patients should have “more skin in the game” through higher cost sharing, inducing them to shop around for cost-effective health care, so far has been about as sensible as blindfolding shoppers entering a department store in the hope that inside they can and will then shop smartly for the merchandise they seek. So far the application of this idea in practice has been as silly as it has been cruel. […]

In their almost united opposition to government, US physicians and health care organizations have always paid lip service to the virtue of market, possibly without fully understanding what market actually means outside a safe fortress that keeps prices and quality of services opaque from potential buyers. Reference pricing for health care coupled with full transparency of those prices is one manifestation of raw market forces at work.

-Uwe Reinhardt, The Journal of the American Medical Association. I thank Karan Chhabra for the prod.


AHRF/ARF 2012-13 data is available free

AHRF=Area Health Resource File (Formerly ARF)

2012-2013 ARHF can now be downloaded at no cost.

The 2012-2013 ARF data files and documentation can now be downloaded. Click the link below to learn how to download ARF documentation and data.

“The Area Health Resources Files (AHRF)—a family of health data resource
products—draw from an extensive county-level database assembled annually from
over 50 sources. The AHRF products include county and state ASCII files, an MS Access
database, an AHRF Mapping Tool and Health Resources Comparison Tools (HRCT). These
products are made available at no cost by HRSA/BHPR/NCHWA to inform health resources
planning, analysis and decision making..”

“The new AHRF Mapping Tool enables users to compare the availability of healthcare providers as well as environmental factors impacting health at the county and state levels.”

A Monkey’s Fight for Equal Pay

This 2:44 extract from a TED talk by Frans de Waal, a professor of primate behavior at Emory University shows beyond a doubt the role that fairness plays in our  society.

It is both hilarious and incredibly insightful.


Health Exchange Rating Areas with More Insurers Offering Plans Have Lower Premiums


For some reason I have been unable to embed these two figures, but these links should work.




BU to be Well Represented at ASSA 2014


Boston University is again well represented at the ASSA (AEA) meetings to be held in Philadelphia, January 3-5 2014. Counting coauthors, people presiding and discussants equally, current BU affiliates are on the program 46 times (31 distinct names). In addition, recent BU Economics alumni are also on the program at least 24 times, bringing the total to at least 70 BU participants, nearly tying the 71 participants at the 2013 meetings in San Diego. (This total is almost certainly an undercount, since recognizing the names of BU alumni is imprecise. I apologize for missing some names.) Of these 70 participating, 28 are current Economics faculty, 11 are current SMG faculty, one is in the SPH, six were Ph.D. Economics students at the time they submitted, and 24 are alumni. This year three professors share the title for the most appearances on the ASSA program: Alisdair McKay, Kevin Lang and Laurence Kotlikoff, each of whom appears three times on the program in various roles. Well done colleagues!


PS: It is not too early to begin planning for attending the 2015 meetings, which will be January, in Boston and are sure to set a new record for BU involvement.


PPS. If you attend either conference, plan to attend the BU reception, which is now an ASSA tradition for Saturday evening at 6:00.

Saturday, Jan 4, from 6-8pm at the Loews Philadelphia- Commonwealth Hall A1.

The preliminary ASSA program is linked here.

Below is a full list of BU participants and the time and place of their sessions. (Also an easy way for you to check for your own time and room although this is the PRELIMINARY program.)


Jan 03, 2014 8:00 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 305
American Economic Association
Evaluation of Social Programs (H4)
Smallpox and Human Capital Development: 1850-1930
Dara N. Lee (University of Missouri)
Jan 03, 2014 8:00 am, Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Regency Ballroom A
American Finance Association
Credit Risk I (G1)
Synthetic or Real? The Equilibrium Effects of Credit Default Swaps on Bond Markets
Martin Oehmke (Columbia University)
Adam Zawadowski (Boston University)
Jan 03, 2014 8:00 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 306
American Economic Association
Health Economics (I1)
Presiding: Kathleen Carey (Boston University)
Does Reputation Matter? Patient-Created Reviews and Drivers of Demand for Physician Services On
Sonal Vats (Boston University)
Michael Luca (Harvard Business School)
Why Does the Health of Immigrants Deteriorate?
Osea Giuntella (University of Oxford)
Jan 03, 2014 8:00 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 403
Econometric Society
Industrial Organization: Theory and Applications (L1)
Strategic Responses to Used-Goods Markets: Airbus and Boeing since 1997
Myongjin Kim (Boston University)
Discussants: Myongjin Kim (Boston University)
Jan 03, 2014 10:15 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 201-A
American Economic Association
Looking Back at the United States during the Late Nineteenth Century: Lessons from the American Economy during the Time of the Great Migration Era (J6)
Technical Change and the Relative Demand for Skilled Labor: The United States in Historical Perspective
Lawrence Katz (Harvard University)
Robert Margo (Boston University)

Jan 03, 2014 10:15 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Grand Ballroom – Salon J
American Economic Association
Firms, Uncertainty and the Business Cycle (E3)
Entry, Exit, Firm Dynamics, and Aggregate Fluctuations
Berardino Palazzo (Boston University)
Gian Luca Clementi (New York University)
Jan 03, 2014 10:15 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Grand Hall
American Economic Association
Macroeconomics Poster Session (E1) (Poster Session)
Investment Decisions of the Elderly
Valentina Michelangeli (Bank of Italy)
Jan 03, 2014 10:15 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Grand Ballroom – Salon K
Association of Environmental & Resource Economists
Automobiles, Fuel Markets and Energy Efficiency (Q4)
Testing a Model of Consumer Vehicle Purchases
Gloria Helfand (US Environmental Protection Agency)
Ari Kahan (US Environmental Protection Agency)
David Greene (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
Changzheng Liu (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
Michael Shelby (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
Jan 03, 2014 10:15 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 102-A
Labor & Employment Relations Association
Building a Sustainable Biomedical Research Workforce (J5)
The Biomedical Postdoc: Human Capital Investment or Holding Pattern?
Shulamit Kahn (Boston University)
Donna K. Ginther (University of Kansas)
Jan 03, 2014 2:30 pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 201-C
American Economic Association
Public Policy and the Design of Medicare Part D (I1)
Medicare Part D: Are Insurers Gaming the Low-Income Subsidy Design?
Francesco Decarolis (Boston University)
Jan 03, 2014 2:30 pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 105-B
American Economic Association
Women and Development (J16)
Presiding: Alicia Adsera (Princeton University)
Jan 03, 2014 2:30 pm, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 406
Cliometrics Society
Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective (N2)
Economies of Scale in Nineteenth Century American Manufacturing Revisited: A Resolution of the Entrepreneurial Labor Input Problem
Robert A. Margo (Boston University and NBER)
Carola Frydman (Boston University and NBER)
Jan 03, 2014 2:30 pm, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 401
Econometric Society
Banks, Sovereign Risk and Currency Wars (F5)
Sovereign Risk and Financial Risk
Simon Gilchrist (Boston University)
Vivian Yue (Federal Reserve Board)
Egon Zakrajsek (Federal Reserve Bank)
Jan 03, 2014 2:30 pm, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 306
National Economic Association
Innovations in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (O3)
Innovation Strategies in Entrepreneurial Firms: Market Maturity and Killer Apps in the iPhone Ecosystem
Pai-Ling Yin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Jason Davis (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Yulia Muzyrya (Boston University)
Jan 04, 2014 8:00 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 103-B
American Economic Association
Financial Frictions, Business Cycles and Investment Dynamics (E2)
Uncertainty, Financial Frictions, and Investment Dynamics
Simon Gilchrist (Boston University)
Jae Sim (Federal Reserve Board)
Egon Zakrajsek (Federal Reserve Board)
Francois Gourio (Boston University)
Berardino Palazzo (Boston University)
Jan 04, 2014 8:00 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 107-B
American Economic Association
Racial Disparities (J1)
Presiding: Kevin Lang (Boston University)
Attorney Empowerment in Voir Dire and the Racial Composition of Juries
Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann (University of Houston)
Jeremy Blair Smith (Analysis Group)
The Black-White Education-Scaled Test-Score Gap in Grades K-7
Timothy N. Bond (Purdue University)
Kevin Lang (Boston University)
Johannes Schmieder (Boston University)
Jan 04, 2014 8:00 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 307
Economic Science Association
Identifying Time Preferences from Lab and Field Data (D9)
Identifying Self Control in Field Data
Sendhil Mullanaithan (Harvard University)
Supreet Kaur (Boston University)
Michael Kremer (Harvard University)
Jan 04, 2014 10:15 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Grand Ballroom – Salon C
American Economic Association
Agency Conflicts and Asset Pricing (G1)
Andrea M. Buffa (Boston University)
Dimitri Vayanos (London School of Economics)
Paul Woolley (London School of Economics)
Jan 04, 2014 10:15 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 204-C
American Economic Association
Behavioral Economics and Public Policy (H3)
How Product Standardization Affects Choice: Evidence from the Massachusetts Health Insurance Exchange
Keith Marzilli Ericson (Boston University)
Amanda Starc (University of Pennsylvania)
Jan 04, 2014 10:15 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 109-B
American Economic Association
Computational Solutions to Optimal Policy Problems (C6)
Presiding: Laurence Kotlikoff (Boston University)
Generational Risk – Is It a Big Deal?
Jasmina Hasanhodzik (Boston University)
Laurence J. Kotlikoff (Boston University)
Laurence J. Kotlikoff (Boston University)
Jan 04, 2014 10:15 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 404
Econometric Society
Risk and Ambiguity (D8)
No Two Experiments are Identical
Larry Epstein (Boston University)
Yoram Halevy (University of British Columbia)
Jan 04, 2014 10:15 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 405
Econometric Society
Wage Inequality (E2)
Presiding: Alisdair McKay (Boston University)
Idiosyncratic Risk and the Dynamics of Aggregate Consumption: A Likelihood-Based Perspective
Alisdair McKay (Boston University)
Jan 04, 2014 10:15 am, Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Regency Ballroom C2
International Economic & Finance Society
Exchange Rates and Fundamentals (F4)
On What States Do Prices Depend? Evidence from Micro-Prices in Ecuador
Craig Benedict (Vanderbilt University)
Mario Crucini (Vanderbilt University)
Anthony Landry (Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas)
Jan 04, 2014 2:30 pm, Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Millenium Hall
American Finance Association
The Consequences of Imperfect Financial Markets (G1)
Intangible Capital and Corporate Cash Holdings
Antonio Falato (Federal Reserve Board)
Dalida Kadyrzhanova (University of Maryland)
Jae Sim (Federal Reserve Board)
Jan 04, 2014 2:30 pm, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 406
Cliometrics Society
Technology and Property Rights (N7)
Copyright and the Allocation of Talent
Petra Moser (Stanford University)
Megan MacGarvie (Boston University)
Hoan Nguyen (Stanford University)
Turning Points in Leadership: Shipping Technology in the Portuguese and Dutch Merchant Empires
Claudia Rei (Vanderbilt University)

Jan 04, 2014 2:30 pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 102-A
Labor & Employment Relations Association
Human Capital at Work: Education and Health (J5)
Impact of Comorbid Mental and Physical Illness on Employment,, Earnings Loss and Disability
E. Nilay Kafali (Harvard University)
Benjamin Cook (Harvard University)

Jan 04, 2014 2:30 pm, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 401
Econometric Society
Bounded Rationality and Markets (D4)
Presiding: Bart Lipman (Boston University)
Foundations for Optimal Inattention
Andrew Ellis (Boston University)
Jan 04, 2014 2:30 pm, Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Washington A
National Tax Association
Taxes, Top Incomes, and Executive Compensation (H2)
The Impact of Taxes and Regulations on Executive Compensation: An Examination of the TARP Rules
Carola Frydman (Boston University)
Seth H. Giertz (University of Nebraska)
Jacob Mortenson (Georgetown University and Joint Committee on Taxation)
Jan 05, 2014 8:00 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 201-C
American Economic Association
Theory and Measurement of Intangible Capital (E2)
Customer Capital over the Business Cycle
Francois Gourio (Boston University)
Leena Rudanko (Boston University)
Jan 05, 2014 8:00 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 203-A
American Economic Association
Transfers and Networks in Developing Countries (O1)
The Network Effects of Financial Interventions: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Nepal
Margherita Comola (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Silvia Prina (Case Western Reserve University)
Silvia Prina (Case Western Reserve University)
Jan 05, 2014 8:00 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 404
Econometric Society
Searching and Contracting (D3)
Repeated Contracting in Decentralised Markets
Sambuddha Ghosh (Boston University)
Seungjin Han (McMaster University)
Jan 05, 2014 8:00 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 102-A
Labor & Employment Relations Association
Human Capital at Work: Talent, Skills (J5)
Shulamit Kahn (Boston University)
Jan 05, 2014 10:15 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Grand Ballroom – Salon K
American Economic Association
Credit and Collateral (G2)
Rising Intangible Capital, Shrinking Debt Capacity and the United States Corporate Savings Glut
Jae W. Sim (Federal Reserve Board)
Antonio Falato (Federal Reserve Board)
Dalida Kadyrzhanova (University of Maryland)
Jan 05, 2014 10:15 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Grand Ballroom – Salon A
American Economic Association
Education, Human Capital and Gender (J16)
Presiding: Kevin Lang (Boston University)
Labour Market Decisions of Immigrant Households
Alicia Adsera (Princeton University)
Ana Ferrer (University of Calgary)
Daniele Paserman (Boston University)
Jan 05, 2014 10:15 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 403
Econometric Society
Life-Cycle Decision-Making with Intergenerational Interactions and Health/Life Expectations (I1)
Bequest Motives in a Life-Cycle Model with Intergenerational Interactions
Loretti Isabella Dobrescu (University of New South Wales)
Fedor Iskhakov (University of South Wales)
Jan 05, 2014 10:15 am, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 406
Econometric Society
Using Information Technology to Improve Health in Developing Countries (O1)
Presiding: Wesley Yin (Boston University)
Using Text-Message Authentication to Combat Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals
Daniel Bennett (University of Chicago)
Seema Jayachandran (Northwestern University)
Wesley Yin (Boston University)
Jan 05, 2014 1:00 pm, Philadelphia Marriott, Grand Ballroom – Salon I
Association for Comparative Economic Studies
Shall I Fear Thou? Theoretical and Empirical Evidence on the Determinants, Effects, and Persistence of Aggression vs. Cooperation (Z1)
Presiding: Pauline Grosjean (University of New South Wales)
Terrorism: A Tale of Reputation and Intimidation
Sambuddha Ghosh (Boston University)
Gabriele Gratton (University of New South Wales)
Caixia Shen (Shangai University of Finance and Economics)
Jan 05, 2014 1:00 pm, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 401
Econometric Society
Asset Pricing-Theory (G1)
Robust Contracts in Continuous Time
Jianjun Miao (Boston University)
Alejandro Rivera (Boston University)
Jan 05, 2014 1:00 pm, Philadelphia Marriott, Meeting Room 403
Econometric Society
Inference and Statistical Decision Theory (C1)
On the Computation of Size-Correct Power-Directed Tests with Null Hypotheses Characterized by Inequalities
Adam McCloskey (Brown University)
Jan 05, 2014 8:00 am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 204-A
American Economic Association
Medical Innovation (I1)
The Local Influence of Principal Investigators on Technology Adoption: Evidence from New Cancer Drugs
Leila Agha (Boston University)
David Molitor (University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign)
Entries with current affiliation of Boston University (46 entries, 31 names)
Adam Zawadowski (Boston University) SMG
Alejandro Rivera (Boston University) SMG
Alisdair McKay (Boston University) Econ  *3
Andrea M. Buffa (Boston University) SMG
Andrew Ellis (Boston University) Econ PhD (now at LSE)
Bart Lipman (Boston University) Econ
Berardino Palazzo (Boston University) SMG *2
Carola Frydman (Boston University and NBER) Econ *2
Daniele Paserman (Boston University) Econ
Francesco Decarolis (Boston University) Econ
Francois Gourio (Boston University) Econ *2
Jasmina Hasanhodzik (Boston University) Econ Ph.D. candidate
Jianjun Miao (Boston University) Econ
Johannes Schmieder (Boston University) Econ
Kathleen Carey (Boston University) SPH
Keith Marzilli Ericson (Boston University) SMG
Kevin Lang (Boston University) Econ *3
Larry Epstein (Boston University) Econ
Laurence J. Kotlikoff (Boston University) Econ *3
Leena Rudanko (Boston University) Econ
Leila Agha (Boston University) SMG
Megan MacGarvie (Boston University) SMG
Myongjin Kim (Boston University) Econ Ph.D (now at U Oklahoma) *2
Robert A. Margo (Boston University and NBER) Econ *2
Sambuddha Ghosh (Boston University) Econ *2
Shulamit Kahn (Boston University) SMG *2
Simon Gilchrist (Boston University) Econ *2
Sonal Vats (Boston University) Econ Ph.D candidate
Supreet Kaur (Boston University) SMG, (IR?)
Wesley Yin (Boston University) Econ *2 (now at UCLA)
Yulia Muzyrya (Boston University) SMG

Jan 04, 2014 2:30 pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 102-A
Labor & Employment Relations Association
Human Capital at Work: Education and Health (J5)
Presiding: Phanindra Wunnava (Middlebury College and IZA)
Private and Social Returns to Education: Evidence from the Current Population Survey
Kristen Monaco (California State University-Long Beach)
Steven Yamarik (California State University-Long Beach)
Impact of Comorbid Mental and Physical Illness on Employment, Earnings Loss and Disability
E. Nilay Kafali (Harvard University)
Benjamin Cook (Harvard University)
Employment Patterns of Foreign-Born Immigrants in the United States: The Role of English Proficiency
Ying Zhen (Wesleyan College)
Paul Harrington (Drexel University)

Joe Stiglitz Essay on Martin Luther King and inequality

My colleague Michael Manove forwarded this article which is worth reading and pondering.

It is available directly at the New York Times at the link below. Two pages.

The Great Divide August 27, 2013, 8:58 pm 167 Comments
How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics

“I had the good fortune to be in the crowd in Washington when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
gave his thrilling “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963. I was 20 years old, and had just finished
college. It was just a couple of weeks before I began my graduate studies in economics at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology…”

I thank Saikat Kundu  for bringing to my attention the following NYT article.  I pasted two short excerpts below.

July 31, 2013, 10:20 am

Revealing a Health Care Secret: The Price


“The Surgery Center of Oklahoma is an ambulatory surgical center in Oklahoma City owned by its roughly 40 surgeons and anesthesiologists. What makes it different from every other such facility in America is this: If you need an anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, you will know beforehand — because it’s on their Web site — that it costs $6,990 if you self-pay in advance. If you need a tonsillectomy, that’s $3,600. Repair of a simple closed nasal fracture: $1,900. These prices are all-inclusive.”


“Why are health care costs so high? It’s not because of quality; numerous studies have failed to find any correlation between price and quality. Nor is price a function of hospital costs — not when one facility in Oklahoma City can charge 7.5 times what another charges for the same procedure.

One of the most important reasons has to do with the political and market power of health care providers, who are essentially able to name their charges. The foundation of that system is the fact that only sellers, and not buyers, know the price. If prices are secret, patients can’t comparison shop. There is no way to push prices down, or force providers to compete on price. Price secrecy hides the need for reform. “Getting prices out in the open is crucial to bringing prices down,” said Katherine Hempstead, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”

Our Daily US Gun Killings

This repost is from the Daily Kos.

While Sandy Hook murders and the Marathon Bombing get a lot national attention, it is the daily tragedy of gun shootings and killings that should be of greatest concern. The Daily Kos simply compiled lists of all of the daily reports of murders for a week ending April 1 on the above web site.  Here is the April 1 media summary, the Monday after Easter.

April 1, 2013 edition (Monday)


Northwest Miami-Dade, Fla. — A 4-year-old girl died after being struck by a bullet while sitting in a parked car at a residence along with several other children about 6:10 p.m. Saturday. Police believe one of the children might have accidentally fired the gun.

Kansas City, Mo. — A 14-year-old boy, a middle school student, was shot and killed on a street when someone fired at him from a passing car about 3 p.m. Saturday. A 15-year-old boy who was with the victim was not injured.

Indianapolis, Ind. — A man cleaning his gun was killed about 3:30 p.m. Saturday when the weapon accidentally discharged.

Philadelphia, Penn. — A 27-year-old woman was accidentally shot and killed by her 28-year-old boyfriend about 7:45 p.m. Saturday. The boyfriend says he was arguing with a neighbor, possibly an uncle, when the neighbor threatened him with a hammer. Fearing for his safety, the boyfriend took out a gun, but then tripped and accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting the woman in the neck.

Cleveland Heights, Calif. — A 25-year-old woman was apparently accidentally shot and killed outside a restaurant by a security guard about 3 a.m. Saturday. Police say the victim and three other women were involved in an altercation with the guard inside the restaurant. As he was escorting them off the property, he was knocked to the ground and his weapon discharged, hitting the victim.

Harrisburg, N.C. — A 50-year-old man shot and killed two of his neighbors — a 64-year-old man and a 42-year-old man — in the backyard of one of their homes on a cul-de-sac. He then used the gun to kill himself after a several-hours-long standoff with police. The shooting was related to a dispute of some sort.

Ashtabula, Ohio — A 52-year-old man was shot and killed outside a church by his 25-year-old son shortly after Easter services ended about 1:15 p.m. Sunday.

Hartford, Conn. — A 22-year-old man was shot to death behind a building about 9:20 p.m. Sunday. He was hit once in the head.

Forney, Tex. — A 63-year-old man and his 65-year-old wife were found shot to death at their home Saturday night. The man was the district attorney for the county and police believe the victims were targeted.

North Harris County, Tex. — A 25-year-old man was fatally shot outside a house about 11:30 p.m. Saturday night.

Los Angeles, Calif. — About 11:10 p.m. yesterday, a man and woman encountered two gunmen after they went outside their home to investigate a car-alarm that was going off. A confrontation resulted and it ended up in the house where the man, 50 years old, was shot twice in the chest. He died a short time later. Police report that the gunmen and the victim might have known each other.

Washington, D.C. — A 33-year-old man was shot and killed about 2:10 a.m. Saturday outside an apartment complex. He had been shot in the chest.

Melbourne, Fla. — A sales manager at an auto dealership was shot and killed during an apparent road-rage incident while test-driving a vehicle for a trade-in. During the test drive, the manager stopped to make a right-hand turn and was rear-ended by another car. The driver of that car, a 64-year-old man, then shot the victim, killing him.

Oakland, Calif. — A 31-year-old man was fatally shot while sitting inside a car around 10 a.m. yesterday. The gunman fled in a vehicle.

Oakland, Calif. — A man was fatally shot while on a street about 4:10 p.m. yesterday.

Oakland, Calif. — A man was fatally shot while on a street about 8:10 p.m. yesterday.

Jacksonville, Fla. — A 32-year-old man was fatally shot Sunday morning after getting into a disagreement with a 20-year-old man. Police are looking for the suspect.

Brooklyn, N.Y. — A 37-year-old livery-cab driver on his way to pick up a fare was killed about 12:45 a.m. today after being shot in the face and crashing his minivan.

Bronx, N.Y. — A 28-year-old man was shot in the throat and killed about 12:15 a.m. yesterday inside an apartment building.

Las Vegas, Nev. — A 43-year-old man is a suspect in the shooting deaths of his mother and father. The son claimed he found the couple fatally shot inside their home about 9 p.m. Friday. Police initially thought it was a case of murder-suicide, but now believe the son killed them.

St. Louis, Mo. — When someone in a passing car shot at a group of people, one of the bullets struck a 4-year-old girl in the shoulder as she walked with her mother up the steps of a home. Police arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with the incident.

South Pittsburgh, Tenn. — About 6:30 p.m. Thursday, a 13-year-old was struck in the shoulder by a bullet when his father tested his gun by firing it from his back porch into thick woods. The father didn’t know his son was in the woods; he thought the boy was inside the house. The victim was listed in good condition.

Madison County, Ga. — A 17-year old boy watching TV in a living room accidentally shot himself in the hand while trying to unload a pistol on Saturday.

Port Deposit, Md. — A 20-year-old man accidentally shot himself in the torso when he tripped and fell while walking back to his house after target shooting Saturday about 2:30 p.m. No word on his condition.

Chicago, Ill. — Someone in a moving car opened fire on a 21-year-old man sitting on a porch about 7:30 p.m. yesterday. The victim was struck in the abdomen and was listed in serious condition.

Chicago, Ill. — A 26-year-old man was shot in the hip and knee while leaving a store about 9:15 p.m. yesterday. He was listed in critical condition.

Chicago, Ill. — A 29-year-old man walking down a street was shot in the leg about 9:50 p.m. when someone fired shots at him from a passing car. He was listed in stable condition.

Stamford, Conn. –About 7 p.m. Thursday, a 26-year-old man accidentally shot himself in the leg at his residence while cleaning his semi-automatic gun after returning from a firing range. No word on his condition.

Milwaukee, Wis. — About 9:15 p.m. Saturday, a 17-year-old male was shot by someone during an altercation over a female acquaintance. No word on his condition.

New Orleans, La. — A man was shot in the foot about 7 p.m. yesterday. No word on his condition.

Oakland, Calif. — Someone was shot about 7 p.m. yesterday. No word on the victim’s condition.

Jacksonville, Fla. — A man was shot in the upper torso about 9 p.m. yesterday. He was expected to survive.

Washington, D.C. — A 16-year-old boy was shot and wounded while on a street about 12:40 a.m. today when someone in a car fired at him. His injuries were reported as non life-threatening.

Jacksonville, Fla. — A man sitting in front of a house with two or three friends was shot twice in the leg about 5 p.m. Saturday when a car pulled up and someone in the car opened fire. The victim was reported to have non life-threatening injuries.

Oregon City, Ore. — After a 22-year-old woman parked her car about 10:20 p.m. Sunday, a male stranger approached from behind and grabbed her hair and then began dragging her backward. The assailant fled when she pulled out a handgun and pointed it at him.

Today’s sources: Akron Beacon Journal,, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Hartford Courant, Houston Chronicle, KABC-TV Los Angeles, KCTV-TV Kansas City,, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Oakland Tribune, The Oregonian, Orlando Sentinel,, Times-Picayune, Washington Post, WCAU-TV Philadelphia, WISH-TV Indianapolis, WRCB-TV Chattanooga, WSOC-TV Charlotte, WTLV-TV Jacksonville

Early Exchange Bids from NY are VERY LOW

This news is sufficiently important that I am posting sections of several articles and summaries.

From July 16, 2013 New York Times:

Health Plan Cost for New Yorkers

Set to Fall 50%

By and
Published: July 16, 2013

Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

Read Full article here. Particularly view the graphic.

Comments from today:

New York Times

9) Obamacare is the Right’s Worst Nightmare
from New York Times by Paul Krugman

News from New York: it looks as if insurance premiums on the individual market are going to plunge thanks to Obamacare. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; in fact, the New York experience perfectly illustrates why Obamacare had to look the way it does. And it also illustrates why conservatives should be terrified about this legislation, as it takes effect. Americans may have had a lot of misgivings in advance, thanks to vast, deliberately spread misinformation. But I agree with Matt Yglesias – unless the GOP finds even more ways to sabotage the plan, this thing is going to work, it’s going to be extremely popular, and it’s going to wreak havoc with conservative ideology.

Wall Street Journal

10) Big Labor Wakes Up to ObamaCare
from Wall Street Journal by Editorial Board

Every revolution devours its children, but it’s still surprising to see some of ObamaCare’s keenest boosters deny paternity so soon after the birth. Witness the emotional volte-face from three top union leaders, warning that the program will “shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40-hour workweek that is the backbone of the American middle class.”


11) ObamaCare’s Coalition Begins to Fracture
from Wall Street Journal by Karl Rove

The three union leaders also complained their nonprofit insurance plans are still subject to ObamaCare’s new 2%-3% tax on each insurance policy. They want their members exempted from the tax every other family with health insurance must pay. Who knew labor leaders were such staunch tax opponents? It will not help Democratic enthusiasm in the 2014 midterm elections if ObamaCare causes (a) more workers to lose their union-provided insurance and (b) their hours and paychecks to be cut. In addition, Democratic candidates could be seriously damaged if the three labor bosses follow through on their letter’s threat to stop helping elect Democrats if the law isn’t changed.

2) Obama to Tout Americans Already Benefiting from Health Law
from USA Today by Aamer Madhani

President Obama will use a speech at the White House on Thursday to tout how a provision in his signature health care law is forcing health insurance providers to return money to consumers. With his administration facing deadlines to establish health care exchanges in all 50 states by Oct. 1 and GOP lawmakers continuing to call for a repeal of the law, the president is looking to trumpet the law by highlighting one of the most tangible ways Americans are benefiting from it even as his administration struggles to fully implement it. With that objective in mind, Obama will hone in on what is known as the medical loss ratio provision of the health care law in his speech. The provision requires insurers to refund customers when they spend less than 80% of premiums they collect on medical care. This year the provision will result in 8.5 million Americans receiving $500 million in rebates later this summer, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency estimates that the average rebate is about $100 per family.

Washington Post

8) Obama’s Last Campaign: Inside the White House Plan to Sell Obamacare
from Washington Post by Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff

The focus on young, minority voters. The heavy reliance on microtargeting. The enthusiasm about nontraditional communications channels. The analytics-rich modeling. It sounds like the Obama campaign. And administration officials don’t shy away from the comparison. But the effort will have to go far beyond engineering turnout among key demographics. The administration needs to build more insurance marketplaces than they ever expected, and create an unprecedented IT infrastructure that lets the federal government’s computers seamlessly talk to the (often ancient) systems used in state Medicaid offices. They need to fend off repeal efforts from congressional Republicans – like Wednesday’s vote to delay the individual mandate – and somehow work with red-state bureaucracies that want to see Obamacare fail. And they can’t escape the fact that the law, three years after passage, remains stubbornly unpopular.

To the Sea by the T

Although Boston has many beaches, all swimmable, many people just go to the Cape and don’t think to try the beaches nearby. This link from BU TODAY, To the Sea by the T has a really cool Map showing the beaches and how to get there via the T for the cost of a subway fare. My favorite is Revere Beach (200 meters from the Blue Line Revere Beach stop), particularly for the National Sand Sculpting Festival that runs July 19-21 in 2013. Most people’s favorite is Nantasket Beach on Hull (best by car, since still a 3.1 mile walk or short taxi from the T).  Bicycling is another option…  Taking the ferry to one of the Boston Harbor Islands is another easy choice.

To the Sea by the T

A guide to MBTA-accessible beaches

National Sand Sculpting Festival

Unbelievable pictures from past sand sculpture contests at Revere Beach.

2012 and 2012




Enjoy Summer!

Useful reference for serious SAS programmers

I often do bootstrap and simulations in my research, and for some background research, I found the following excellent short article on how to use SAS to do efficient replications/bootstrapping/jackknifing.

Paper 183-2007
Don’t Be Loopy: Re-Sampling and Simulation the SAS® Way
David L. Cassell, Design Pathways, Corvallis, OR

Here is an elegant example that shows how to do 1000 replications of the Kurtosis of X. Note that proc univariate could be replaced with anything. Discussion of proc append and critique of alternative programs is also useful.

(I will note that it starts by creating a sample that is 1000 times as large as the original, but still, it is very fast given what is being done.)

proc surveyselect data=YourData out=outboot /* 1 */
seed=30459584 /* 2 */
method=urs /* 3 */
samprate=1 /* 4 */
outhits /* 5 */
rep=1000; /* 6 */
proc univariate data=outboot /* consider noprint option here to reduce output */;
var x;
by Replicate; /* 7 */
output out=outall kurtosis=curt;
proc univariate data=outall;
var curt;
output out=final pctlpts=2.5, 97.5 pctlpre=ci;

31 charts to destroy your faith in humanity

This humorous web site from the Washington Post’s WonkBlog is worth a look. It will only take a couple of minutes.

31 charts that are informative but illustrates how one can put a negative spin on anything.

Here is the original post that it is spoofing.

Congrats to our 570 New Graduates!

I invite you to join me in celebrating our Class of 2013  Department of Economics graduates.

This past weekend, Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences Department of Economics awarded degrees to

21    PhD students
257 MA students  of all kinds (MA, MAPE, MAEP, MAGDE MA/MBA, BA/MA)
292 BA students

Congratulations to all 570 degree recipients!

The number of graduate degree recipients (278) fell behind the number of  BA students (292) with strong grown in both!

Last year (2012) there were 15 PhDs, 245 MA degree recipients, and 257 BA recipients. Overall, we had a one year growth of over 10%!

Wennberg, Staiger et al on Observational Intensity Bias

This very interesting paper by John Wennberg, Doug Staiger et al develops a new approach for calibrating risk adjustment models so as to not over adjust for the higher intensity of coding that results when there are more visits. In short, in markets where doctors do more visits, they will also tend to code more diagnoses. Their approach takes into account both visits and diagnoses to improve model fit. There are many further questions one could ask, but this is destined to be an influential paper.

NEJM Study Says Eat Olive Oil and Nuts

There has been a lot of news recently about a NEJM randomized trial  Spanish study of diets that shows  statistically significant benefits of two Mediterranean diets, one providing free olive oil, the other providing free nuts (mostly walnuts), along with other diet recommendations.Scientists randomly assigned 7,447 men and women in Spain over age 55 who were overweight, were smokers, or had diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease to follow the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet as the control group. Here is the key paragraph from the NY Times.

“One group assigned to a Mediterranean diet was given extra-virgin olive oil each week and was instructed to use at least 4 four tablespoons a day. The other group got a combination of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts and was instructed to eat about an ounce of the mix each day. An ounce of walnuts, for example, is about a quarter cup — a generous handful.”

The articles in the Times and Post have emphasized that it was the Mediterranean diet, but the following important blog from Dr. Aaron Carroll, highlights that it very likely that the effects were solely due to increased olive oil and nuts, since the three groups do not differ meaningfully in their consumption of other foods (red meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, grains, red wine, etc.).  Hence instead of saying “Go Mediterranean”, it should have said “Eat Olive Oil and Nuts” to reduce heart and stroke risks.

See table linked in this blog.

Now we’re all going Mediterranean?

More work should be done in this area.

Here is the full cite and abstract from the NEJM.

Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet

Ramón Estruch, M.D., Ph.D., Emilio Ros, M.D., Ph.D., Jordi Salas-Salvadó, M.D., Ph.D., Maria-Isabel Covas, D.Pharm., Ph.D., Dolores Corella, D.Pharm., Ph.D., Fernando Arós, M.D., Ph.D., Enrique Gómez-Gracia, M.D., Ph.D., Valentina Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Ph.D., Miquel Fiol, M.D., Ph.D., José Lapetra, M.D., Ph.D., Rosa Maria Lamuela-Raventos, D.Pharm., Ph.D., Lluís Serra-Majem, M.D., Ph.D., Xavier Pintó, M.D., Ph.D., Josep Basora, M.D., Ph.D., Miguel Angel Muñoz, M.D., Ph.D., José V. Sorlí, M.D., Ph.D., José Alfredo Martínez, D.Pharm, M.D., Ph.D., and Miguel Angel Martínez-González, M.D., Ph.D. for the PREDIMED Study Investigators

February 25, 2013DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1200303

Abstract: The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and cereals; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets; and wine in moderation, consumed with meals. In observational cohort studies and a secondary prevention trial (the Lyon Diet Heart Study), increasing adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been consistently beneficial with respect to cardiovascular risk. A systematic review ranked the Mediterranean diet as the most likely dietary model to provide protection against coronary heart disease. Small clinical trials have uncovered plausible biologic mechanisms to explain the salutary effects of this food pattern. We designed a randomized trial to test the efficacy of two Mediterranean diets (one supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and another with nuts), as compared with a control diet (advice on a low-fat diet), on primary cardiovascular prevention.

Steve Brill Interview on the Daily Show

Steve Brill, who just wrote a 36 page article for Time Magazine, conducted an informative interview on the daily show on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013. Here is the link to the unedited version. It is in three parts, and lasts about 12 minutes (including some ads). Worth watching if you have time.—steven-brill-extended-interview-pt–1

Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity

There is a very interesting article about obesity in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in the topic.

K. Casazza and Others | N Engl J Med 2013;368:446-454

To tempt you to look at the full article, here is the list of what the team considers myths.



Small sustained changes in energy intake or expenditure will produce large, long-term weight changes

Setting realistic goals in obesity treatment is important because otherwise patients will become frustrated and lose less weight

Large, rapid weight loss is associated with poorer long-term weight outcomes than is slow, gradual weight loss

Assessing the stage of change or diet readiness is important in helping patients who seek weight-loss treatment

Physical-education classes in their current format play an important role in preventing or reducing childhood obesity

Breast-feeding is protective against obesity

A bout of sexual activity burns 100 to 300 kcal for each person involved


Read the article to learn about “presumptions” and “facts”.