Wesley Clair Mitchell

The NBER at 100:
A Century-Long Search
for Facts to Underpin
Economic Policy

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) was founded one hundred years ago — on January 23, 1920 — as a New York State nonprofit corporation. The founders, who were leaders in business and academia, declared that the organization would "encourage ... investigation, research, and discovery, and the application of knowledge... in the fields of economic, social, and industrial science." Its research program, formulated by founding Director of Research Wesley Clair Mitchell, focused on determining and reporting facts of relevance to economic policy, while adhering to the founders’ prescription to abstain from making policy recommendations.

In its first half century, the NBER supported a small group of researchers who carried out major projects on topics such as national income accounting, business cycle fluctuations, the measurement of monetary aggregates, and the role of human capital in labor markets, and who published their findings in NBER volumes. More recently, it has concentrated on convening groups of its more than 1,500 college- and university-based affiliates to conduct research, on hosting research colloquia, and on enabling grant-funded research by its affiliates.

Former Director of Research Solomon Fabricant described the NBER's founding and early years in a short history. Over the course of 2020, the NBER will host a series of events to consider current and future directions in economic research.

The NBER Reporter

Report on the NBER's Health Care Program
Reviews Major Sources of High US Medical Costs

The lead article in the new NBER Reporter provides an overview of scores of working papers that explore Americans' soaring medical costs, their declining life expectancy, and impacts of the Affordable Care Act. Also in this edition of the free, quarterly Reporter, in which NBER researchers summarize work in sub-fields of economics, are articles on market concentration, financial market dynamics, behavioral health, and household expectations.
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New NBER Research

24 January 2020

Racial Disparities in Time Spent Waiting to Vote

Relative to residents of white neighborhoods, residents of black neighborhoods waited 29 percent longer to vote in 2016 and were 74 percent more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place, M. Keith Chen, Kareem Haggag, Devin G. Pope, and Ryne Rohla find.

23 January 2020

From Fog to Smog: the Value of Pollution Information

A nationwide real-time air quality monitoring and disclosure program in China triggered behavioral changes in household activity when pollution is elevated, ranging from avoiding outdoor activities to purchasing air purifiers. These behaviors reduced air pollution's mortality cost by nearly 7 percent, Panle Jia Barwick, Shanjun Li, Liguo Lin, and Eric Zou find.

22 January 2020

Exposure to School Shootings and Antidepressant Use

Local exposure to fatal school shootings increases youth antidepressant use by about 21 percent in the following two years, Maya Rossin-Slater, Molly Schnell, Hannes Schwandt, Sam Trejo, and Lindsey Uniat find. The increase is smaller in areas where more mental health providers focus on behavioral interventions.
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Why Hasn't Investment Come Back Strongly
in the Years Since the 2007-08 Financial Crisis

Among trends of great concern in the United States are a decades-long decline in productivity growth and relatively weak investment in physical capital that has persisted since the Great Recession. Research by Janice C. Eberly of Northwestern University and the NBER shows that the rise in importance of intangible capital can help explain both trends. Moreover, she finds that intangibles may be contributing to the rise of market concentration.
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The NBER Digest

Regulatory Changes That Boosted Private Equity Markets
Are Associated with a Sharp Decline in IPOs in the US

Of companies first financed in 1994, before passage of a law boosting private equity markets, 26 percent went public through an IPO; for those first financed in 2000 or later, the IPO rate has fallen to between 2 and 3 percent, according to a study featured in the current edition of The NBER Digest. Also featured in the January issue of the free, monthly Digest are studies of opioid abuse among War on Terror veterans, the benefits to young firms of winning the H-1B visa lottery, the effect of China's retaliatory tariffs on US consumption, and the relationship between credit booms and equity performance, and the impact of a estate taxes on billionaires’ residency.
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Innovation Policy and the Economy,
Volume 20, Now Available

Edited by NBER Research Associates Josh Lerner and Scott Stern, the latest volume in the Innovation Policy and the Economy series explores changes in the ability of the United States to attract talented foreign workers, the role of sponsoring institutions in shaping immigration policy, the division of innovative labor between research universities and corporate labs, the effectiveness of various innovation policies in the pharmaceutical sector, effects of competition policy, uses of experimental policy design, and geographic disparities in innovation, joblessness, and technological dynamism.

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Bulletin on Retirement and Disability

The Role That Self-Employment Plays
in Facilitating Work at Older Ages

Understanding the trends in self-employment at older ages is increasingly important as more Americans work into their later years. Results of a survey on self-employment is summarized in the winter issue of the free Bulletin on Retirement and Disability. The research shows that the share of self-employed rises sharply with age and that highly educated older adults are considerably more likely to be self-employed than less-educated workers. Also featured in this issue: a summary of research on trends in retirement income adequacy, an exploration of research on the retirement income choices of defined contribution plan participants, and a Q & A with newly appointed Retirement and Disability Research Center co-director James Choi.
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