Pursuit of Truthiness

my gut tells me I know economics

Current Paper Ideas

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Steve Levitt has said that he became a successful economist by coming up with a lot of ideas and quickly discarding the 98% that are bad.  Assuming 98% of my ideas are also bad, I should make sure to have at least 50 ideas to sort through to have a chance of a good one.  Here’s where I am now:

Insurer Mandate Research Program: How do mandates affect insurance prices and quantities? Knowing this, we can determine the price elasticity and the health benefits of health insurance.  Examine specific mandates to determine the elasticities and health benefits of specific procedures.  Determine optimal composition of the “essential health benefits package”.

Rational Lotteries: Determine how often there is a positive expected monetary value to playing the lottery after implicit marginal tax rates are taken into account.  Compare behavior with predictions of prospect theory.

Value of a Statistical Life: Calculate using insurance fraud

Fraud and the Business Cycle: Empirically test the hypothesis that fraud is a cause / leading indicator of recessions.

Elections and Inequality: Expand on my earlier paper about how inequality affects voting.

Size of Nations: What is the optimal size of a nation (empirically, which size maximizes various good outcomes like gdp), and is it decreasing over time as the world gets more peaceful?

How to Make Money: One of the many ironies of economics is that Homo Economicus would keep market anomalies to himself, while economists regularly publish their discoveries.  I will write a blog post of general ideas, but the low-hanging fruit here is perpetually disappearing.

Testing Hansonianism: Robin Hanson is always noting ways in which people care more about buying medicine than health.  One way to empirically investigate this is to see how much demand for hospitals is driven by high subjective evaluations verses objectively good health outcomes using different variations of hospital report cards.

CEO Pay:  Expand on a previous paper of mine that cast doubt on the highly-cited Gabaix and Landier  paper.

Alternative Currencies:  How much are money substitutes expanded in response to central bank tightness (as measured by some kind of Taylor rule).  Theory question- why do some money substitutes (alternative currencies) expand in response to tightness while others (credit) are reduced.

Drug Laws: What is the effect on poverty and other economic outcomes.

I Just Ran 3 Billion Regressions: Update Sala-i-Martin 2001 using another decade of data, and using a modern supercomputer to run the specification that Sala-i-Martin proposed but was unable to do with the computers of the time.

Data-Driven Investigation: All the above ideas basically start with an idea and look to data to test it.  But nowadays there are huge amounts of data being generated that have yet to really be investigated. So an alternative strategy is to be on the lookout for interesting-looking, unexamined datasets.

….not quite to fifty yet.  Perhaps I have lucked out and one of my ideas is actually decent.


Written by James Bailey

February 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Posted in dissertation, Economics

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