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Uncommon Knowledge: The impacts of legalization

This Starbuds Dispensary is located in the low-income neighborhood of Elyria-Swansea in Denver. Elyria-Swansea has the highest concentration of marijuana licenses in Colorado. Cyrus McCrimmon for The Boston Globe

A higher housing market

When Colorado allowed municipalities to legalize retail marijuana sales, some did, and some didn’t. Local retail legalization was associated with a 6 percent increase in home prices on average, especially in urban and moderately priced areas.

Cheng, C. et al., “The Effect of Legalizing Retail Marijuana on Housing Values: Evidence from Colorado,” Economic Inquiry (forthcoming).

Losing the dues comes due

According to a Boston University economist and his colleagues, the Democratic Party paid dearly for the passage of right-to-work laws by Republicans. In states with such laws, workers cannot be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Comparing counties in right-to-work states with neighboring counties in states without such laws, researchers found that passage of the laws led to fewer votes for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. According to survey data, working-class residents (but not professional workers) were less likely to report get-out-the-vote contact in states that passed right-to-work laws. After the enactment of these laws, union fundraising for state and local races (and Democratic funding in general) fell sharply. As a result, “state legislators and US representatives are less likely to have a working-class background,” while “state legislative policy also shifts to the right.”

Feigenbaum, J. et al., “From the Bargaining Table to the Ballot Box: Political Effects of Right to Work Laws,” National Bureau of Economic Research (January 2018).


Not safe enough

Mathematical modeling showed how a hypothetical HIV vaccine that is perfectly safe but only partially effective can make everyone worse off, because an increase in risky social interactions among a more complacent population can outweigh reduced transmission risk. “The National Institutes of Health might want to go big — e.g. deliver a highly effective vaccine — or go home,” researchers concluded.

Talamàs, E. & Vohra, R., “Go Big or Go Home: Partially-Effective Vaccines Can Make Everyone Worse Off,” University of Pennsylvania (January 2018).


It’s not the regulations, stupid!

Recent statistics on job creation and business startups suggest a decline in economic dynamism in the United States. A recent study by economists — including one with the Census Bureau and one who’s a prominent libertarian-leaning blogger — found that the growth of federal regulations did not explain the decline. Lower dynamism was seen in both highly and lightly regulated sectors.

Goldschlag, N. & Tabarrok, A., “Is Regulation to Blame for the Decline in American Entrepreneurship?” Economic Policy (January 2018).

All the news that’s fit to distract

European economists found that Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza from 2000 to 2011 were significantly more likely to occur on the day before pre-planned political or sports events were expected to dominate US broadcast news. In other words, “Israeli authorities may strategically choose the timing of their attacks to minimize negative publicity in the United States.” This was not the case for Palestinian attacks or for Israeli attacks that were not expected to cause a lot of civilian casualties.

Durante, R. & Zhuravskaya, E., “Attack When the World Is Not Watching? U.S. News and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Journal of Political Economy (forthcoming).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.