Monday, 27 June 2011

NBER papers on transport and labour economics

The NBER publish some good economics! Here are a couple of new working papers I liked the sound of :
Pounds that Kill: The External Costs of Vehicle Weight
Michael Anderson, Maximilian Auffhammer

Heavier vehicles are safer for their own occupants but more hazardous for the occupants of other vehicles. In this paper we estimate the increased probability of fatalities from being hit by a heavier vehicle in a collision. We show that, controlling for own-vehicle weight, being hit by a vehicle that is 1,000 pounds heavier results in a 47% increase in the baseline fatality probability. Estimation results further suggest that the fatality risk is even higher if the striking vehicle is a light truck (SUV, pickup truck, or minivan). We calculate that the value of the external risk generated by the gain in fleet weight since 1989 is approximately 27 cents per gallon of gasoline. We further calculate that the total fatality externality is roughly equivalent to a gas tax of $1.08 per gallon. We consider two policy options for internalizing this external cost: a gas tax and an optimal weight varying mileage tax. Comparing these options, we find that the cost is similar for most vehicles.

(See also my post on external accident risk)

The Incidence of Local Labor Demand Shocks
Matthew J. Notowidigdo

Low-skill workers are comparatively immobile: when labor demand slumps in a city, low-skill workers are disproportionately likely to remain to face declining wages and employment. This paper estimates the extent to which (falling) housing prices and (rising) social transfers can account for this fact using a spatial equilibrium model. Nonlinear reduced form estimates of the model using U.S. Census data document that positive labor demand shocks increase population more than negative shocks reduce population, this asymmetry is larger for low-skill workers, and such an asymmetry is absent for wages, housing values, and rental prices. GMM estimates of the full model suggest that the comparative immobility of low-skill workers is not due to higher mobility costs per se, but rather a lower incidence of adverse labor demand shocks.

In other words, policies that protect against unemployment and poverty also reduce mobility, which obviously doesn't mean the policies aren't worthwhile but does tend to increase the likelihood of both spatially concentrated and temporally extended unemployment.

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