It’s a Small World, After All

Where's wally?
Where’s wally?

We all know we’re only 7 steps away from Jonny Depp. Or Obama. Or Lionel Messi (maybe, quite literally if you’re here at the GSE.) However, the world is not only small; it is shrinking. We are becoming more interconnected through new forms of communication. We find out information through these networks, which then influences our decisions. What we do, therefore, is influenced by whom we know.

Matt Jackson at Stanford University has been analysing the increasing connectedness of the world and its implications on spreading information, and came to Barcelona to explain his findings at the UPF opening ceremony. (And there we were thinking we’d been here so long, you could look us up on the book directory at the library and know where to find us.)

So what is a network and how can we think about connectivity within one? Continue reading “It’s a Small World, After All”

Spotlight on Faculty Research: Prof. Pau Olivella

Prof. Pau Olivella (PhD, Northwestern) is a Barcelona GSE Affiliated Professor and Associate Professor at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He is also the Research Director for the Heath Economics and Policy program at the GSE. This spring, Prof. Olivella was the co-author for an article on the following health economics topic-

Does having a voluntary private health insurance sector lead to costs savings?

In many countries, including the UK, a fraction of the population enjoys public and private health insurance covering a similar portfolio of services; hence, they have duplicate coverage. In principle, this could translate into lower healthcare costs in the public health system. Indeed, an emprirical study by Pau Olivella and Marcos Vera-Hernandez (UCL), suggests that people in the UK who buy their own private health insurance are more likely to use healthcare services than those who receive insurance as a fringe benefit of their job. For example, they are 50% more likely to be hospitalised than those who got insurance through their employer.

But are these individuals really in worse health? Analysis of data from the British Household Panel Survey shows they are not. Indeed, on average, the number of health problems faced by those who purchase private insurance is the same as for those who get insurance through the employer. In fact, the higher tendency of insurance buyers to use healthcare services comes from their preferences for health. In particular, they are 7 percentage points more likely to state that health is very important for them. Therefore, it all boils down to another empirical question for further investigation: what are the true drivers of healthcare costs?

The promises and pitfalls of genoeconomics

What can our genes tell us about our economic behaviour?
What can our genes tell us about our economic behaviour?

In keeping up with cutting-edge economics research, GSE chose a controversial topic for its opening seminar in the microeconomic series for this academic year:  Genoeconomics.

Daniel Benjamin came to the UPF campus on September 30th to give an introduction into this brand new field of research. The areas is currently opening up in light of the cheap DNA data now available to researchers. Given, as Benjamin rightly stated, it is natural for economists to seize on this new opportunity for analytical enquiry, he has been testing the question: does our genetic code influence our economic behaviour?

Benjamin gave us a brief overview of the kinds of effects his work his modeling, which I will summarise even more briefly: over 99% of genetic data is the same from one person to another, however along the genome there are certain locations where variation is more likely.  One such variation is a Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs – pronounced ‘snips’ – for short); there are around 10 million such variations in the human genome. Although there is also genetic variation of other types, this is the most common. Benjamin and his many collaborators are studying SNPs. Continue reading “The promises and pitfalls of genoeconomics”

Hanging Out at the Lower Bound- Otmar Issing Welcomes The BGSE

(Originally posted at Econ Point of View)

After three weeks of math brush-up courses and a week of fall term, it is nice to know we can “start” the year here at BGSE. While cava and food were incentives to attend, there was another reason. Professor Otmar Issing, President of the Center for Financial Studies and former member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, was giving the opening lecture on monetary policy. While there are about as many opinions about monetary policy as people, Otmar Issing has the academic and policy credentials to deserve a serious listen. He isn´t some no name student on a blog.

Continue reading “Hanging Out at the Lower Bound- Otmar Issing Welcomes The BGSE”

28th Barcelona GSE Lecture

by Professor Joel Slemrod

(Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan) on MONDAY, October 21, 2013 at 18:45 pm.

Prof. Slemrod will speak on: Policy Insights from a Tax-Systems Perspective

Joel Slemrod is the Paul W. McCracken Collegiate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics. He also serves as Director of the Office of Tax Policy Research, an interdisciplinary research center housed at the Ross School of Business. A leading expert on tax policy, professor Slemrod received the B.A. degree from Princeton University in 1973 and the Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1980. Professor Slemrod has been a consultant to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Canadian Department of Finance, the New Zealand Department of Treasury, the South Africa Ministry of Finance, the World Bank, and the OECD. Besides numerous articles in top economics journal, professor Slemrod also produced highly acclaimed books on taxation. He is the co-author with Jon Bakija of Taxing Ourselves: A Citizen’s Guide to the Debate over Taxes, whose 5th edition will be published in 2013, and with Len Burman of Taxes in America: What Everyone Needs to Know, published in 2012. From 1992 to 1998 Professor Slemrod was editor of the National Tax Journal. In 2012 he received from the National Tax Association its most prestigious award, the Daniel M. Holland Medal for distinguished lifetime contributions to the study and practice of public finance.

Continue reading “28th Barcelona GSE Lecture”

The Aftermath of the Latin American Boom?

Throughout this academic year, we have learned about European policy making, immigration issues in the United States, OECD´s effort to put up with the current crisis, Spain’s unemployment and labor market and why Northern countries engage in intra-industry trade. My contribution to this blog is oriented towards the Southern Cone of the globe, and is a personal assessment of some of the challenges that Latin America in particular, faces as a region today.

Cover for the book “Enough of Histories” of Andrés Oppenheimer by artist Alfredo Sabat (2010)

While many countries in the north confront one of the worst financial crisis in history, the ability that Latin American countries have had to adapt to the recent crisis has been remarkable. Nevertheless, what was first called as the Latin American boom now appears to be coming to an end.

Continue reading “The Aftermath of the Latin American Boom?”

How to go from an unknown graduate student in Economics to front page news of New York Times.

How to go from being an unknown graduate student in Economics to landing the front page of the New York Times in one week? And no, you don’t even have to win a Nobel Prize in Economics at 24. All you have to do is replicate a paper. Yes, you did read it right- just replicate a paper. All of a sudden your usual problem set assignment for Econometrics could result in Paul Krugman dedicating his NYT column to you. However…on your way to stardom you might need a bit of luck. And it might be helpful to choose to replicate a certain, how to say it nicely, erroneous paper of Harvard professors Rogoff and Reinhart at a time when fiscal austerity is quite a hot topic. This is the story of Thomas Herndon.

59240_565090046858814_1938070884_n Continue reading “How to go from an unknown graduate student in Economics to front page news of New York Times.”

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

New Yorker - Frank Cotham
New Yorker – Frank Cotham

It is the season to be job hunting. Amidst trying to decide on new courses, finalizing dissertation proposals and enjoying the Barcelona sunshine, starting this fall we will all have to find something new to keep ourselves busy. While maybe we can stretch the wait out a bit further, studying is not free, and at some point the balance of most of our la Caixa accounts will approach dangerous levels.

Any questionnaire of career plans of GSE students would no doubt throw up a very diverse set of answers. Continue reading “Don’t Sell Yourself Short”

Private Information or (and?) Local Thinking during the Housing Bubble

A few weeks ago I came across a research paper named “Wall Street and the Housing Bubble” by Cheng, Raina and Xiong (2012). I found it while I was reading the always-interesting (and diverse) blog “Nada es Gratis”.  In here, you can find (in spanish) a thorough synopsis of what the article is about. The paper analyzes whether the experts in securitization were aware of the housing bubbles and the possibility of the collapse of housing prices in the US. Namely, they test the “Inside Job” view, popularized by the film of the same name which held the view (among other things) that insiders were aware of the financial bubble during 2004-2006 and its inner workings. At first glance their results are at least thought-provoking.

eGVqb2NvMTI=_o_inside-job-documentary-trailer-hd Continue reading “Private Information or (and?) Local Thinking during the Housing Bubble”

How (not) to explain the stability of marriage with economic models.

The last couple of months we have been breathing, eating, sleeping and dreaming of Economics. Very quickly words and phrases such as optimization, consistency, “my function of studying has a negative first derivation since monday”, “there is no Nash equilibrium in our restaurant choices” entered our every day communication. Most popular Google searches and old bookmarks were replaced by blogs about econometrics and game theory, and reading the news came down to skipping to the Economics and Finance section. There was nothing to complain about, as Bukowski put it “if you are going to try, go all the way”, and there was no other way to do a Masters in Economics. But when it came down to economic models trying to explain love, I was not going to give in so easily.

For Economics followers, the Nobel Prize in Economics is a bit of an Oscar’s. Continue reading “How (not) to explain the stability of marriage with economic models.”