A streetcar named big business
In the early 19th century, businesses were generally small and local, even as the economy grew. But a study found that the electrification of the streetcar system in Boston from 1889 to 1896 — which increased speed and capacity and reduced fares — significantly reduced the share of sole-proprietorship grocers near streetcar routes. With customers able to come from far and wide, some grocers were able to grow their businesses and seize a bigger share of the market.
You, W., “The Economics of Speed: The Electrification of the Streetcar System and the Decline of Mom-and-Pop Stores in Boston, 1885-1905,” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics (forthcoming).
The MR degree
An economist at Northeastern University finds that a higher ratio of male-to-female students at a four-year college is associated with higher future marriage rates for both male and female graduates, and higher future earnings for male graduates and the spouses of female graduates, even controlling for other college demographics and admissions selectivity. The hypothesis is that a higher male-to-female ratio shifts a college’s dating market in favor of women, privileging commitment and male breadwinning.
Guo, J., “The Role of College Sex Ratios on Marriage and Earnings,” Northeastern University (October 2020).
A peace of royalty
A study shows that kinship ties between European royal families were critical to maintaining peace, such that “a pair of monarchs whose only family connection is a pair of married children would see a 9.5 percentage point increase in their annual war probability if this marriage tie were dissolved.” An increase in ties between royal families can explain almost half of the reduction in war in the 19th century.
Benzell, S. & Cooke, K., “A Network of Thrones: Kinship and Conflict in Europe, 1495-1918,” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics (forthcoming).
An economist at Princeton finds that men in South Carolina who lost their eligibility for Medicaid upon reaching age 19 had an increased risk of being incarcerated, particularly if they were using mental health services and medications. Estimates suggest the cost of providing Medicaid to these individuals after age 18 would have been significantly lower than the costs of the crimes they committed. It also would have been lower than the cost of another deterrence strategy — increasing the length of prison sentences.
Jácome, E., “Mental Health and Criminal Involvement: Evidence from Losing Medicaid Eligibility,” Princeton University (October 2020).
To win regulatory approval for its acquisition of NBC Universal, Comcast committed to offering heavily discounted broadband Internet service to low-income families. For several years, Comcast was unique in offering such a widely available discount. A study finds that the program increased employment among eligible households, compared to low-income households that weren’t eligible because of location, timing, or other factors. On average, the estimated “benefit to enrolled households is approximately $2,202 [per year] . . . more than four times the estimated cost to provide the service, including the monthly broadband subsidy, fee waivers, and other administrative costs.”
Zuo, G., “Wired and Hired: Employment Effects of Subsidized Broadband Internet for Low-Income Americans,” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy (forthcoming).