Week of May 2, 2016

1. Affordable Housing and Cities: The rising cost of housing is pushing lower income households out of US cities with the most job growth. Trulia, an online real estate information something or other, documents which US cities lower-income households are fleeing fastest. That's a perverse way to get the benefits that a higher proportion of economically stable households brings to cities.

2. Inequality: The new issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives has a special section on inequality. Attanasio and Pistaferri consider consumption inequality vs. income inequality. Currie and Schwandt find that while mortality at age 40 and 50 has been falling more slowly in poorer counties in the US, mortality of children has been falling more quickly in poorer counties, reducing inequality. Mortality reductions have been especially large among African American men from 1990 to 2010. 

3. Evidence-Based Policy and Time Scales: Of course, the main focus of study on what's been happening to African American men from 1990 to 2010 is mass incarceration. Also in the JEP issue, Lofstrom and Raphael take a look at changing sentencing guidelines, incarceration rates and crime rates. They find that sentencing changes in the 1980s increased incarceration and likely reduced crime rates by 1/3, but further "tightening" in the 1990s increased incarceration without any effect on crime rates. I heard Raj Chetty at a conference this week where he noted that Moving to Opportunity didn't "work" for 20 years, until it did--when evidence emerged that while MtO didn't have an effect on adults and teenagers, younger children experienced large gains. Now there's a policy dilemma: Doing more of what worked in criminal justice yielded bad outcomes, while doing less of what didn't work in housing and opportunity forestalled good ones. (See also, the Gates Foundation Small Schools Initiative and the Mexican Soda Tax.)  

4. Financial Education: What happens when you add financial literacy to the Boot Camp curriculum of new soldiers? It changes behavior in the first year, but all of that disappears in the second year--except for rates of retirement savings, which once set don't get changed. There is no effect on labor outcomes. Which suggests yet again we're probably teaching the wrong things, the wrong ways. Speaking of, there is a Journal of Professionalizing Financial Counseling and Coaching, which focuses on quality, consistency and accountability. That sounds like a very good idea.

5. Regulation: The Center for Global Development looks at how financial regulation can better advance financial inclusion (yes, it's from March, but I didn't get a chance to look at it until this week). One area of regulation that desperately needs continuing attention: the high cost of remittances everywhere, but particularly transfers to and within Africa

Via Maria May of BRAC, a look at the work it takes to go from technology to use in digital financial services

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