Frontiers of economic research

Huailu Li, Kevin Lang, Kaiwen Leong, 28 August 2015

Economic models suggest that competition will prevent those subjected to discrimination from being affected adversely. This column uses an unusual case study of sex workers in Singapore to reveal that having many actors on both sides of the market does not, in fact, eliminate discrimination. Policy intervention remains the best tool to end price discrimination.

David Galenson, Simone Lenzu, 19 August 2015

Rising auction prices for paintings in recent years have reinforced the widespread belief that art markets are irrational and arbitrary. This column discusses new evidence that decisively rejects this belief. Analysis of 50 years of auction results for Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol show that the peaks of both artists’ estimated age-price profiles closely match age profiles for these artists derived from textbooks of art history and the composition of retrospective exhibitions. Auctions produce strong and rational patterns. The most innovative works of the most innovative artists bring the highest prices.

Jeremiah Dittmar, Skipper Seabold, 19 August 2015

Internet-based communications technologies appear to be integral to the diffusion of social movements today. This column looks back at the Protestant Reformation – the first mass movement to use the new technology of the printing press to drive social change. It argues that diffusion of the Reformation was not driven by technology alone. Competition and openness in the media were also crucial, and delivered their biggest effects in cities where political freedom was most limited.

Stefano DellaVigna, Eliana La Ferrara, 28 July 2015

Every day, we are all exposed to all sorts of emotive and exhilarating media entertainment. But what, if any, are the measurable impacts? Are newspapers and periodicals, for instance, more important than soap operas? This column introduces a survey of the wide-ranging literature from the Handbook of Media Economics, presenting a number of surprising findings.

Hans Fricke, Jeffrey Grogger, Andreas Steinmayr, 23 July 2015

The field that a college student majors in can affect labour market outcomes. But we know little of how exposure affects a student’s choice of major. This column shows that exposure to economics increases the probability to major in economics by 2.6 percentage points. This finding is driven by choices of male students. Exposure to the field then does not explain why relatively few women major in economics.

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