Excessive drinking during pregnancy is known to harm the foetus, but estimating the effects of moderate prenatal alcohol consumption is difficult, since mothers who choose to drink may differ systematically from those who do not. This column presents recent research showing that a genetic variant in a maternal alcohol-metabolising gene (ADH1B) is negatively related to prenatal alcohol exposure, and unrelated to any of the background characteristics associated with prenatal drinking. Using this genetic variant as an ‘instrumental variable’, the authors find strong negative effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on child educational achievement.
The surge in unemployment in many EU countries has prompted concerns that the underlying structural unemployment has shifted upwards, so that high rates of joblessness could persist also once the recovery is on a solid footing. In this column we draw on recent analysis (European Commission, 2013) and focus on two issues: to what extent the reduced efficiency of labour market matching is contributing to growing structural unemployment? Which are the main drivers of matching efficiency across the EU?
Inequality has the potential to undermine growth. However, greater redistribution requires higher tax rates, which reduce incentives to work and save. Moreover, the evidence that inequality is bad for growth might simply reflect the fact that more unequal societies choose to redistribute more, and those efforts are antithetical to growth. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on pre- and post-tax inequality. The authors find that income equality is protective of growth, and that redistributive transfers on average have little if any direct adverse impact on growth.
The GNI is often regarded as the best indicator of a country’s living standards, but it does not record unilateral transfers – most importantly remittances – which are amongst the largest types of income inflows to developing countries. For many developing countries GNDI is significantly larger than GNI, from 3% for India to 75% for Liberia. This column argues that GNDI is preferable, since GNI masks heterogeneity in purchasing power.
The question of why people vote has intrigued social scientists for decades. This column discusses a model of voting due to social image motivations and presents empirical tests based on it. In this model, an individual would be motivated to vote because of an anticipation of being asked after the election. The results of a conducted field experiment suggest that the anticipation of being asked provides a large motivation to vote. In fact, the motivation is as large as being paid $5-15 to vote. Applying this methodology to other elections would provide more rigorous evidence about the validity of the proposed model.
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