Working Paper Series

  • The New Self-Governance: A Theoretical Framework

    Stephen M. Maurer

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP15-002 (May 2015)

    Industry has organized increasingly effective self-governance initiatives since the 1980s. Almost all of these are based on large retailers’ economic leverage over global supply chains. This article documents commonalities in six of the best-studied examples – coffee, dolphin-safe tuna, fisheries, lumber, food processing, and artificial DNA – and offers straightforward economic and political theories to explain them. The theories teach that oligopoly competition can strongly constrain private power so that firms are answerable to a shadow electorate of consumers. Furthermore, rational retailers will find cede significant power to suppliers and NGOs. The arguments generalize traditional claims that free markets constrain private power and suggest an explicit framework for deciding when private politics are legitimate.

  • The Economics of Memory: How Copyright Decides Which Books Do (and Don’t) Become Classics

    Stephen M. Maurer

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP15-001 (April 2015)

    Legal scholars usually analyze copyright as an incentive and sometime obstacle to creation. This encourages us to see publishers as middlemen who siphon off rents that would be better spent on authors. By comparison, recent social science research emphasizes that word-of-mouth markets are highly imperfect. This means that many deserving titles will never find readers unless some publisher takes the trouble to market them. But this second view is deeply subversive. After all, the need for publishers – and reward – does not end when a book is published. At least in principle, copyright should last forever. 

    The trouble with this argument is that it assumes what ought to be proven. How much effort do publishers really invest in finding forgotten titles? And does vigorous marketing attract more readers than high copyright prices deter? This article looks for answers in the history of 20th Century print publishers and today’s Print-on-Demand and eBook markets. We argue that, far from promoting dissemination, copyright frequently operates to suppress works that would otherwise erode the price of new titles. This pathology has gotten dramatically worse in the Age of eBooks. Meanwhile, public domain publishers are facing their own crisis. Mid-20th Century books had large up-front costs. This deterred copyists. By comparison, digital technologies make it easy for copyists to enter the market. This has suppressed profits to the point where many public domain publishers spend little or nothing on forgotten titles.

    The article concludes by reviewing possible reforms. Partial solutions include clarifying antitrust law so that firms have more freedom to implement price discrimination; modifying copyright so that consumers can re-sell used eBooks; letting on-line markets limit the number of publishers allowed to post redundant public domain titles on their sites; and strengthening non-commercial institutions for finding, curating, and delivering quality titles to readers.

  • Tropical Economics

    Solomon Hsiang, Kyle C. Meng

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (February 2015)

  • Geography, Depreciation, and Growth

    Solomon Hsiang, Amir S. Jina

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (February 2015)

  • Does the Environment Still Matter? Daily Temperature and Income in the United States

    Solomon Hsiang, Tatyana Deryugina

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (December 2014)

    It is widely hypothesized that incomes in wealthy countries are insulated from environmental conditions because individuals have the resources needed to adapt to their environment. We test this idea in the wealthiest economy in human history. Using within-county variation in weather, we estimate the effect of daily temperature on annual income in United States counties over a 40-year period. We find that this single environmental parameter continues to play a large role in overall economic performance: productivity of individual days declines roughly 1.7% for each 1°C (1.8°F) increase in daily average temperature above 15°C (59°F). A weekday above 30°C (86°F) costs an average county $20 per person. Hot weekends have little effect. These estimates are net of many forms of adaptation, such as factor reallocation, defensive investments, transfers, and price changes. Because the effect of temperature has not changed since 1969, we infer that recent uptake or innovation in adaptation measures have been limited. The non-linearity of the effect on different components of income suggest that temperature matters because it reduces the productivity of the economy's basic elements, such as workers and crops. If counties could choose daily temperatures to maximize output, rather than accepting their geographicallydetermined endowment, we estimate that annual income growth would rise by 1.7 percentage points. Applying our estimates to a distribution of "business as usual" climate change projections indicates that warmer daily temperatures will lower annual growth by 0.06-0.16 percentage points in the United States unless populations engage in new forms of adaptation.

  • American Climate Prospectus: Economic Risks in the United States

    Solomon Hsiang, Robert Kopp, DJ Rasmussen, Michael Mastrandrea, Amir Jina, James Rising, Robert Muir-Wood , Paul Wilson , Michael Delgado, Shashank Mohan, Kate Larsen, Trevor Houser

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (October 2014)

    The United States faces a range of economic risks from global climate change — from increased flooding and storm damage, to climate-driven changes in crop yields and labor productivity, to heat-related strains on energy and public health systems. The American Climate Prospectus (ACP) provides a groundbreaking new analysis of these and other climate risks by region of the country and sector of the economy. By linking state-of-the-art climate models with econometric research of human responses to climate variability and cutting edge private sector risk assessment tools, the ACP offers decision-makers a data driven assessment of the specific risks they face.

    The ACP is the result of an independent assessment of the economic risks of climate change commissioned by the Risky Business Project. In conducting this assessment, RHG convened a research team, co-led by climate scientist Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University and economist Dr. Solomon Hsiang of the University of California, Berkeley, and partnered with Risk Management Solutions (RMS), the world’s largest catastrophe-modeling company for insurance, reinsurance, and investment-management companies. The team’s research methodology and draft work was reviewed by an Expert Review Panel (ERP) composed of leading climate scientists and economists, acknowledged within the report.

    Current versions of the published report can be found here.

  • Climate and Conflict

    Solomon Hsiang, Marshall Burke, Edward Miguel

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (October 2014)

    Until recently, neither climate nor conflict have been core areas of inquiry within economics, but there has been an explosion of research on both topics in the past decade, with a particularly large body of research emerging at their intersection. In this review, we survey this literature on the interlinkages between climate and conflict, by necessity drawing from both economics and other disciplines given the inherent interdisciplinarity of research in this field. We consider many types of human conflict in the review, including both interpersonal conflict - such as domestic violence, road rage, assault, murder, and rape - and intergroup conflict - including riots, ethnic violence, land invasions, gang violence, civil war, and other forms of political instability, such as coups. We discuss the key methodological issues in estimating causal relationships in this area, and largely focus on "natural experiments" that exploit variation in climate variables over time, helping to address omitted variable bias concerns. After harmonizing statistical specifications and standardizing estimated effect sizes within each conflict category, we carry out a hierarchical meta-analysis that allows us to estimate the mean effect of climate variation on conflict outcomes as well as to quantify the degree of variability in this effect size across studies. Looking across 55 studies, we find that deviations from moderate temperatures and precipitation patterns systematically increase the risk of conflict, often substantially, with average effects that are highly statistically significant. We find that contemporaneous temperature has the largest average effect by far, with each 1σ increase toward warmer temperatures increasing the frequency of contemporaneous interpersonal conflict by 2.4% and of intergroup conflict by 11.3%, but that 2-period cumulative effect of rainfall on intergroup conflict is also substantial (3.5%/σ). We also quantify heterogeneity in these effect estimates across settings that is likely important. We conclude by highlighting remaining challenges in this field and the approaches we expect will be most effective at solving them, including identifying mechanisms that link climate to conflict, measuring the ability of societies to adapt to climate changes, and understanding the likely impacts of future global warming. 

  • Experimental Evidence on Distributional Impacts of Head Start [Revise and resubmit, Journal of Political Economy]

    Hilary Hoynes, Marianne P. Bitler, Thurston Domina

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (August 2014)

    This study provides the first comprehensive analysis of the distributional effects of Head Start, using the first national randomized experiment of the Head Start program (the Head Start Impact Study). We examine program effects on cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes and explore the heterogeneous effects of the program through 1st grade by estimating quantile treatment effects under endogeneity (IV-QTE) as well as various types of subgroup mean treatment effects and two-stage least squares treatment effects. We find that (the experimentally manipulated) Head Start attendance leads to large and statistically significant gains in cognitive achievement during the pre-school period and that the gains are largest at the bottom of the distribution. Once the children enter elementary school, the cognitive gains fade out for the full population, but importantly, cognitive gains persist through 1st grade for some Spanish speakers. These results provide strong evidence in favor of a compensatory model of the educational process. Additionally, our findings of large effects at the bottom are consistent with an interpretation that the relatively large gains in the well-studied Perry Preschool Program are in part due to the low baseline skills in the Perry study population. We find no evidence that the counterfactual care setting plays a large role in explaining the differences between the HSIS and Perry findings.