Frontiers of economic research

Risk attitudes are context-specific

Ganna Pogrebna, Graham Loomes, 2 August 2014

Researchers use various measures of individual risk attitudes to help explain a wide variety of economic behaviours, including investment decisions and firms’ entry and exit decisions. This column presents recent evidence showing that such measures are very context-specific and need to be used with caution, since the very same people can sometimes appear to be risk taking and sometimes appear to be risk averse, depending on the specific measure used. These discrepancies may arise because people have imprecise preferences under risk, and their responses are liable to be influenced by the particular methods used to elicit them.

Research quality assessment tools: Lessons from Italy

Graziella Bertocchi, Alfonso Gambardella, Tullio Jappelli, Carmela A. Nappi, Franco Peracchi, 28 July 2014

Assessing the quality of academic research is important – particularly in countries where universities receive most of their funding from the government. This column presents evidence from an Italian research assessment exercise. Bibliometric analysis – based on the journal in which a paper was published and its number of citations – produced very similar evaluations of research quality to informed peer review. Since bibliometric analysis is less costly, it can be used to monitor research on a more continuous basis and to predict the outcome of future peer-reviewed assessments.

Sticky prices and behavioural indifference curves

John Komlos, 24 July 2014

Many quantities fail to respond smoothly to price changes. This column stresses that the ‘endowment effect’ – a well-known behavioural economics concept – implies kinks in indifference curves at the current consumption bundle price. Such kinks may account for the stickiness of prices, wages, and interest rates.

Piketty’s two laws

Ton van Schaik, 6 July 2014

Piketty’s book “Capital in the 21st century” has gained popularity with its finding of a growing gap between wage earners and capital owners. This column presents a test to the two main laws in Piketty’s book. The attractiveness of these two laws is in their simplicity, but so is their limitation. Piketty neglects investment replacement and depreciation.

Using happiness scales to inform policy: Strong words of caution

Timothy N. Bond, Kevin Lang, 4 July 2014

Self-reported measures of happiness are growing in popularity as alternatives to GDP. This column presents a novel statistical critique of the validity of comparing such measures across groups. Since monotonic transformations of individuals’ happiness levels can reverse average happiness rankings between countries, no meaningful comparison can be made without assumptions on the distribution of happiness.

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