Economics

Banking The World

Banking The World
The MIT Press

(eds.) Cull, Robert, Asli Demirgüç-Kunt and Jonathan Morduch
12/01/2012

About 2.5 billion adults, just over half the world’s adult population, lack bank accounts. If we are to realize the goal of extending banking and other financial services to this vast “unbanked” population, we need to consider not only such product innovations as microfinance and mobile banking but also issues of data accuracy, impact assessment, risk mitigation, technology adaptation, financial literacy, and local context. In Banking the World, experts take up these topics, reporting on new research that will guide both policy makers and scholars in a broader push to extend financial markets.

The contributors consider such topics as the complexity of surveying people about their use of financial services; evidence of the impact of financial services on income; the occasional negative effects of financial services on poor households, including disincentives to work and overindebtedness; and tools for improving access such as nontraditional credit scores, financial incentives for banking, and identification technologies that can dramatically reduce loan default rates.

From Endeavor to Achievement and Back Again: Government's Greatest Hits in Peril

From Endeavor to Achievement and Back Again: Government's Greatest Hits in Peril
In To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government. Steven Conn, Ed., Oxford Univeristy Press

Paul C. Light
07/01/2012

"These 10 articles from leading scholars address federal government activism in such areas as health, education, transportation, and the arts. In some areas, federal involvement has been direct; for example, while school public systems are governed locally, Washington provides about 10% of k–12 funding. Similarly, antipoverty programs, such as the New Deal’s Social Security Act and Aid for Dependent Children, have played a major role in reducing the poverty rate from around 40% in 1900 to 11.2% in 1974. At other times, Washington has exerted influence more subtly, through regulations and research. Examples include the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which mandated the separation of investment and commercial banking and the WWII-era research that yielded compounds to prevent and cure malaria, syphilis, and tuberculosis. Further, as public policy scholar Paul C. Light points out in a fascinating concluding piece, more than two-thirds of leading governmental initiatives have been supported by both Democratic and Republican administrations. However, Light adds, the massive tax cut in 2001 “continue[s] to constrain federal investment in problem solving.” The scholars brought together by Ohio State historian Conn (History’s Shadow) persuasively demonstrate how the growth of “big government” throughout the 20th century has benefited ordinary Americans so comprehensively and unobtrusively that they have often taken it for granted."

Publishers Weekly

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-19-985855-2

Behavioral Foundations of Microcredit: Experimental and Survey Evidence from Rural India

Behavioral Foundations of Microcredit: Experimental and Survey Evidence from Rural India
American Economic Review 102 (2), April 2012: 1118-1139.

Bauer, Michal; Julie Chytilová; and Jonathan Morduch
04/01/2012

We use experimental measures of time discounting and risk aversion for villagers in south India to highlight behavioral features of microcredit, a financial tool designed to reduce poverty and fix credit market imperfections. The evidence suggests that microcredit contracts may do more than reduce moral hazard and adverse selection by imposing new forms of discipline on borrowers. We find that, conditional on borrowing from any source, women with present-biased preferences are more likely than others to borrow through microcredit institutions. Another particular contribution of microcredit may thus be to provide helpful structure for borrowers seeking self-discipline.

Do interest rates matter? Credit demand in the Dhaka Slums

Do interest rates matter? Credit demand in the Dhaka Slums
Journal of Development Economics, 97(2): 437-449

Dehejia, Rajeev; Heather Montgomery and Jonathan Morduch
03/01/2012

“Best practice” in microfinance holds that interest rates should be set at profit-making levels, based on the belief that even poor customers favor access to finance over low fees.  Despite this core belief, little direct evidence exists on the price elasticity of credit demand in poor communities.  We examine increases in the interest rate on microfinance loans in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Using unanticipated between-branch variation in prices, we estimate interest elasticities from -0.73 to -1.04, with our preferred estimate being at the upper end of this range. Interest income earned from most borrowers fell, but interest income earned from the largest customers increased, generating overall profitability at the branch level. 

Budget Slack, Institutions, and Transparency

Budget Slack, Institutions, and Transparency
Public Administration Review 72(2): 187-95

Rose, Shanna, and Daniel L. Smith.
03/01/2012

Economic theory suggests that it is optimal for governments to use precautionary saving as a countercyclical tool. However, the availability of surplus funds often triggers political pressure for tax cuts and spending increases. Mechanisms for alleviating that pressure include limiting the transparency of slack resources and limiting politicians' discretion to use slack resources for purposes other than stabilization. This article investigates the extent to which these two mechanisms are substitutes. In particular, the authors examine whether the widespread adoption of budget stabilization funds (BSFs) in the U.S. states over the past several decades has been accompanied by a decline in conservative revenue forecast bias. Using panel data from 47 states over a 22-year period, they find that the adoption of a BSF reduces revenue underestimation by approximately two-thirds; however, the size of the effect depends in part on how much a state saves in the BSF and the rules governing BSF deposits and withdrawals. The results suggest that BSFs have the unintended effect of increasing fiscal transparency.

Valuing Improvement in Value Based Purchasing

Valuing Improvement in Value Based Purchasing
Circulation:  Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.  5:163-170  

Borden, William and Jan Blustein.
03/01/2012

Background

Medicare will soon implement hospital value-based purchasing (VBP), using a scoring system that rewards both achievement (absolute performance) and improvement (performance increase over time).  However, improvement is defined so as to give less credit to initial low performers than initial high performers.  Since initial low performers are disproportionately hospitals in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, these institutions stand to lose under Medicare’s VBP proposal. 

 

Methods

We developed an alternative improvement scale, and applied it to hospital performance throughout the US.   Using 2005-2008 Medicare process measures for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and heart failure (HF), we calculated hospital scores using Medicare’s proposal and our alternative.  Hospital performance scores were compared across 5 locational dimensions of socioeconomic disadvantage: poverty, unemployment, physician shortage, high school and college graduation rates.

 

Results

Medicare’s proposed scoring system yielded higher overall scores for the most locationally advantaged hospitals for 4 out of 5 dimensions in AMI and 2 out of 5 for HF.  Using our alternative, differences in overall scores between hospitals in the most and least advantaged areas were attenuated, with locationally advantaged hospitals having higher overall scores for 3 out of 5 dimensions in AMI and 1 out of 5 dimensions for HF. 

 

Conclusions

Using an alternative VBP formula that reflects the principle of “equal credit for equal improvement,” resulted in a more equitable distribution of overall payment scores, which could allow hospitals in both socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged areas to succeed under VBP.

 

 

Above Board: Raising the Standards for Passenger Service Workers at the Nation's Busiest Airports

Above Board: Raising the Standards for Passenger Service Workers at the Nation's Busiest Airports

Mason, C. Nicole & Garcia, Lisette
02/01/2012

I n the fall of 2011, the Women of Color Policy Network at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service conducted a survey of over 300 passenger service workers at the region's three major airports: LaGuardia, Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International.
Only workers contracted by the airlines were surveyed. This report focuses on the impact of the low-bid
contracting system on passenger service workers at the airports. It also proposes ways forward and concrete recommendations to raise job quality and performance standards for companies contracted directly with airlines.

The economic burden placed on healthcare systems by childhood obesity

The economic burden placed on healthcare systems by childhood obesity
Expert Rev Pharmacoecon Outcomes Res. 2012 Feb;12(1):39-45.

Trasande L and Brian Elbel.
02/01/2012

The obesity epidemic has transformed children's healthcare, such that diabetes, hypertension and the metabolic syndrome are phrases more commonly used by child health providers than ever before. This article reviews the economic consequences of this epidemic for healthcare delivery systems, both in the short term when obesity has been associated with increased utilization, and in the long term where increased likelihood of adult obesity and cardiovascular disease is well documented. Large investments through research and prevention are needed and are likely to provide strong returns in cost savings, and would optimally emerge through a cooperative effort between private and government payers alike. 

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