Matteo M. Galizzi, George Loewenstein, 14 June 2016

Although not a nudge, the ‘soda tax’ in the UK can nonetheless be justified in part on behavioural grounds. This column analyses the potential effectiveness of the soda tax in reducing consumption. As a behavioural instrument, the tax does not go far enough, and is in fact regressive.  A comprehensive junk food tax should be introduced instead, accompanied by nudges, ‘healthy’ subsidies, and regulation of ‘super-sizing’ practices.

Joan Costa-i-Font, Mireia Jofre-Bonet, Julian Le Grand, 02 June 2016

Obesity, particularly in children, is a major health concern in many developed economies, where it presents a costly risk to health services. Any policy response must take into account the inter-generational transmission of overweightness and obesity to children. This column uses evidence from the Health Survey of England to assess the extent to which nature and nurture factors play a role in the overweightness of children. It finds that any effective policy action must tackle parental overweightness to lower rates of overweightness in children.

Daniel Gallardo Albarrán, 22 May 2016

Industrialisation has been the key to modern economic growth and rapidly rising incomes, but some question whether it is always a blessing when taking a broader view of human wellbeing. While the recent rise of China and other Asian economies has transformed the lives of millions, the experience of Britain in the 19th century shows a more mixed picture of development. This column presents a unified framework for measuring British wellbeing over the period 1780-1850, which shows that better health and higher income levels alternated in improving overall wellbeing, until declining health in the 1840s led to stagnating wellbeing.

James Banks, Carl Emmerson, Gemma Tetlow, 07 May 2016

Many countries are increasing the age at which people can start claiming state-funded pensions. One objection often raised is that such policies are unfair because some will be too unhealthy to remain in paid work. This column compares employment rates in England of older people today to those of earlier generations, and also to those of younger people today. These comparisons suggest that a significant minority of older people appear to be unable to work on the grounds of health alone. 

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We are looking for original/unpublished scientific papers that shed new light on the topic “Overweight and Obesity in Asia and the Pacific.” All papers should be based on sound theoretical and/or empirical evidence.

The papers should be related to, though not limited to, one the following topics:

-Determinants of overweight and obesity across countries or within countries across different stratifications (age, gender, education, income, rural/urban, etc.) as well as across time.
-Country studies on the cost of illness, including the costs for health systems as well as the economic costs (including macroeconomic impact) of overweight and obesity.
-Case studies of experiences to reduce overweight and obesity implementing non-market (such as education) or market measures (such as sugar tax).

Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner, Marco Manacorda, 18 April 2016

Stress and violence during the nine months in utero has been widely shown to have important effects on child development. To date this research has largely focused on extreme and relatively rare events. This column uses data from Brazil to explore how exposure to day-to-day violence can affect birth weight. The birth weight of newborns whose mothers are exposed to a homicide during their first trimester is significantly lower. This effect is smaller for mothers who live in more violent neighbourhoods, consistent with the interpretation that violence is more stressful when it is rare. 

Eva Arceo, Rema Hanna, Paulina Oliva, 16 April 2016

Pollution levels are orders of magnitude higher in lower-income countries than in the developed world. This means that studies of the health effects of pollution based on data from the latter will not necessarily be relevant to the former. This column reports on the effect of air pollution on infant mortality in Mexico City. Significant effects are found that are much larger than found in earlier work based on US data. These findings highlight the potential pitfalls of naively extrapolating findings from high-income to developing countries.

Eli Berman, Mitch Downey, Joe Felter, 15 February 2016

The bloody conflicts in Syria and Iraq have forced the issue of refugees onto the global agenda. However, among the neglected aspects of this discussion are how governance can be restored to conflict regions and the welfare effects that such actions, which are likely to be coercive, will have on local residents. This column examines the impact of a counter-insurgency programme in the Philippines on one development outcome in contested territories – malnutrition of young children. The programme saw a substantial long-term decrease in malnutrition in recaptured areas, but a rise in malnutrition in neighbouring areas. Such efforts may simply displace insurgents and their negative effects, rather than reducing them.

Michael Kremer, Christopher Snyder, Natalia Drozdoff, 29 January 2016

Many observers believe that pharmaceutical firms prefer to invest in drugs to treat diseases rather than vaccines. This column presents an economic rationale for why such a pattern may emerge for diseases like HIV/AIDS. The population risk of such diseases resembles a Zipf distribution, which makes the shape of the demand curve for a drug more conducive to revenue extraction than for a vaccine. Based on revenue calibrations using US data on HIV risk, the revenue from a drug is about four times greater.

Resul Cesur, Pınar Mine Güneş, Erdal Tekin, Aydogan Ulker, 18 January 2016

The goal of universal health coverage has been pursued by countries in a number of ways, most notably through demand-side policies. In 2005, Turkey extended basic healthcare services to its entire population under a free-of-charge, centrally administered system. This column examines the impact of this supply-side programme on mortality and birth rates. Results show that the program was successful in lowering both mortality and birth rates across provinces, particularly for the most vulnerable populations. These findings provide compelling evidence in favour of providing accessible healthcare services to all citizens.

Janet Currie, 15 January 2016

Studies of the effects of economic fluctuations on health have come to wildly different conclusions. This may be because the effects are different for different groups. Using US data, this column looks at the health consequences of the Great Recession on mothers, a sub-population that has thus far been largely neglected in the literature. Increases in unemployment are found to have large negative health effects and to increase incidences of smoking and substance abuse among mothers. These effects appear to be concentrated on disadvantaged groups such as minorities, and point to short- and long-term consequences for their children.

Asha Abdel-Rahim, Dany Jaimovich, Aleksi Ylönen, 13 December 2015

One of the most important effects of armed conflicts is the forced displacement of large numbers of civilians. When conflicts end, many who have left their homes return, facing the challenge of rebuilding their lives in post-conflict areas. This column analyses the outcomes of returning households during a short-lived interwar period in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Returning households, particularly those that are female-headed, face worse economic conditions. But returnees fare better on various health indicators, likely related to changes in sanitary habits picked up during displacement.

Jan van Ours, Ali Palali, 16 October 2015

A major aim of cigarette taxes and tobacco control policies is to encourage smokers to quit. It is therefore important to understand the dynamics of quitting decisions in two-smoker couples. This column uses Dutch data to examine whether spousal peer effects exist for smoking cessation decisions. After controlling for the fact that couples are more likely to be similar to begin with, no evidence is found of one partner’s decision to quit affecting their spouse’s decision.

Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 26 July 2015

How does Latin American well-being compare to the advanced nations? This column presents a new historical index of human development that allows for analyses of trends in Latin American development since 1870. The results unearth a number of puzzles that pit rising income against flagging developments in well-being.

Anne Case, Angus Deaton, 18 July 2015

High suicide rates are often cited as evidence of social failure. Despite this, some countries and regions that do very well in terms of happiness have among the highest suicide rates. This column explores this paradox using global data on suicide and self-reported life satisfaction. Although the paradox is confirmed for Eastern European and wealthy countries, inconsistent patterns emerge when other demographic factors are taken into account. This might reflect the empirical difficulty of explaining suicide, but might also be indicative of the unreliability of self-reports of happiness.

Matthew E. Kahn, Cong Sun, Siqi Zheng, 08 July 2015

China’s cities suffer from extremely high levels of air pollution, and Chinese consumers spend more than $US100 million on anti-smog products per year. Using recent internet sales data, this column explores how investing in such self-protection products varies for consumers with different income brackets. The urban poor are shown to be less likely to engage in this health-improving strategy. This suggests that cross-sectional income comparisons understate lifetime inequality.

Áureo de Paula, John Lynham, Timothy Halliday, 22 June 2015

For policy to target air pollution optimally, a thorough understanding of its harms is required. However, disentangling the health effects of specific pollutants has proved challenging, as multiple chemicals tend to co-occur in industrial pollution. This column exploits volcanic emissions in Hawaii to examine the health impact of a specific pollutant – airborne particulates. Short-term exposure to particulate pollution is found to increase pulmonary-related hospitalisations and expenditures, particularly among very young children. 

Dora L. Costa, Matthew E. Kahn, 27 April 2015

Newspapers report good and bad news, but the reporting doesn’t always match reality. This column presents evidence from turn-of-the-century America that news reports of typhoid tracked mortality patterns, but the reporting was biased. Spikes in death rates led to bigger jumps in media coverage when death rates were low. This could be due to the idea that deviations from Kahneman and Tversky’s ‘reference points’ are more newsworthy, or due to the possibility that bad news is more valuable to readers when things seem to be going well.

Rena M. Conti, Ernst Berndt, David H. Howard, 25 March 2015

Total US prescription drug spending rose 13% in 2014, the biggest increase in a decade. Driving this trend is spending on branded specialty drugs, which rose an unprecedented 31%. This column discusses recent research into the relationship between inflation-adjusted launch prices and survival benefits and approval year for 58 anticancer drugs approved in the US between 1995 and 2013. The authors find that launch prices are going up by $8,500 per year, approximately 12% year over year.

Nezih Guner, Yuliya Kulikova, Joan Llull, 19 January 2015

Married couples are healthier than singles. This column works to determine the direction of causality by exploiting panel data. In line with the evolutionary psychology literature, healthier individuals seem to be more desirable and are thus more likely to sort into marriage; but there also exists a ‘protective’ health value to marriage. It seems that couples encourage each other to take precautions.

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