Journal of Law, Finance and Accounting International Conference 2015

The Journal of Law, Finance and Accounting (JLFA) and Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Accounting and Finance are hosting an international conference June 1-2, 2015, on research at the intersection of the three fields. The JLFA is a new outlet sponsored by the NYU Stern School of Business, NYU Law School and KPMG. Per the email I received:

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  1. The impact of the structure of the legal system — including legal origins, procedural rules, and the legal environment in general, on the evolution of financial contracts, financial markets, business enterprises and business groups.

  2. The impact of particular legal and market institutions, including accounting, on financial markets and corporate actions, and innovation, economic growth and stability.

  3. The co-evolution of the legal rules and market institutions that govern financial sector activity, that activity itself, and the nature of the broader economy and financial markets.

  4. The regulation, organization, and performance of financial institutions.

  5. The relationships between the structure and performance of financial institutions, and the performance of these institutions and the overall performance of financial markets and economies.

  6. The interplay between legal rules, accounting regulations, corporate governance, firm performance, cost of equity and debt capital, financial market performance, and economic performance.

  7. The political economy of the regulation of corporate governance, financial institutions, and financial markets.

  8. Accounting, finance, and legal issues concerning ownership and property.

Sounds like an interesting opportunity. For more information, see the conference announcement at SSRN (linked here).

Food Access and Food Policy

Ploeg, Dutko and Breneman have a new paper coming out in Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy taking to task the way food access and “food desserts” are measured and the implications of those challenges for policy design.

They provide a good description of the ways in which food access is measured and some of the data sources used for developing those measures. Most of these have to do with measuring things like income, distance to stores, availability of transportation, etc.; measuring retail food availability versus healthy food availability; a tendency to focus only on low-income neighborhoods; and defining what is means to say access is “adequate” or “inadequate” from a policy perspective.

One of the things they do not mention, which I have been thinking about recently as a potential research project, is the extent to which food access measures correlate with health outcomes in a community. This is closely related to work Diogo Souza Monteiro at Newcastle University has begun looking at the kinds of grocery stores in UK neighborhoods and the incidence of various public health outcomes.

Focusing on health outcomes would go well beyond the critique of the tendency to focus on low-income neighborhoods, since even in communities where food access is (relatively) good or where incomes are on average higher, there could be differing health outcomes associated with the types and numbers of food retailers available. Just because a healthy food option is readily available does not mean local health will necessarily be better. And after all, a significant reason for caring about food access is not for the sake of access to food itself, but for the (public) health consequences of limited food access. So the existence of a correlation between health outcomes (or types of health outcomes) and measures of food access and food security would seem a necessary first step in designing any potential policies to address the food access problem.

That said, Ploeg, Dutko and Breneman’s paper seems a good starting point for thinking more clearly about food access and food policy. Unfortunately, I think the paper is gated. The abstract follows.

Policymakers have dedicated increasing attention to whether Americans have access to healthful food. As a result, various methods for measuring food store access at the national level have been developed to identify areas that lack access. However, these methods face definitional, data, and methodological limitations. The focus on neighborhoods instead of individuals underestimates the barriers that some individuals face in accessing healthy food, and overestimates the problem in other neighborhoods. This paper reviews and critiques currently available national-level measures of food access. While multiple measures of food access are needed to understand the problem, we recommend greater attention be paid to individual measures of food store access.

Research Productivity of New Economics PhDs

The Economist posted a blog last week about the research productivity of new PhDs in economics. They point to a recent paper by John Conley and Ali Sina Önder in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Below is the abstract:

We study the research productivity of new graduates from North American PhD programs in economics from 1986 to 2000. We find that research productivity drops off very quickly with class rank at all departments, and that the rank of the graduate departments themselves provides a surprisingly screen_shot_2014-11-05_at_16.31.22poor prediction of future research success. For example, at the top ten departments as a group, the median graduate has fewer than 0.03 American Economic Review (AER)-equivalent publications at year six after graduation, an untenurable record almost anywhere. We also find that PhD graduates of equal percentile rank from certain lower-ranked departments have stronger publication records than their counterparts at higher-ranked departments. In our data, for example, Carnegie Mellon’s graduates at the 85th percentile of year-six research productivity outperform 85th percentile graduates of the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, and Berkeley. These results suggest that even the top departments are not doing a very good job of training the great majority of their students to be successful research economists. Hiring committees may find these results helpful when trying to balance class rank and place of graduate in evaluating job candidates, and current graduate students may wish to re-evaluate their academic strategies in light of these findings.

I remember one of my graduate advisers, Lee Benham, claiming that the mode number of publications among PhD economists was zero. I think that was Lee’s way of encouraging grad students who are sweating out their dissertations and trying to get papers out for publication. Conley and Önder’s results would seem to substantiate his claim.

Celebrating the Life and Work of Ronald Coase

The Ronald Coase Institute is hosting a conference to celebrate the life and work of Ronald Coase. “The Next Generation of Discovery: Research Inspired by Ronald Coase” will be held in Washington, DC, March 27-28. Speakers will include Nobel laureates Kenneth Arrow and Oliver Williamson, other distinguished senior scholars and practitioners, and young alumni of the Ronald Coase Institute.

Regulation and Contract Choice in the Distribution of Wine

That’s the title of a new working paper with one of my former students, Michelle (Mullins) Santiago. You can access the full paper here. The abstract follows:

The wine industry in the United States has grown tremendously over the past few decades, from fewer than 1,000 wineries in 1980 to upwards of 7,700 today. The growth has occurred over a period that has seen substantial changes in the structure of the wine industry, the modes of distribution available to wineries, and the regulations governing them, perhaps most notably the advent of direct-to-consumer shipping of wine across state boundaries. Most economic research, however, has focused on supply relations between wineries and wine grape growers rather than between wineries and their downstream markets. In this paper we examine wineries’ contracting behavior with downstream distributors and the effects of industry structure, winery organizational structure, and state laws regarding direct shipment and distribution franchise laws.

The Coase Theorem In Action

When transaction costs are sufficiently low, private market transactions work very well for reallocating property rights to their highest valued use. That’s the basic idea of the notion George Stigler popularized as “the Coase Theorem”. Looks like US Bank not only recognizes it, but sees themselves as lowering transaction costs with their app. (HT Greg Mankiw)

When Consumers Speak

I spent the past week teaching managerial economics in a new masters of agribusiness and entrepreneurship program at Agricultural University-Plovdiv. It was a good opportunity to reinforce (or in some cases introduce) an understanding of property rights and of the role of markets not just to coordinate resources but to elicit, reveal and transmit knowledge throughout the economy. (It was also somewhat apropos that the class ended on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, and Nov 10 is Bulgaria’s anniversary of the end of Communist control.)

One of the issues we discussed was the sensitivity of many Bulgarians (and Europeans in general) to things like genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply and the use of antibiotics and growth-stimulating hormones in meat and dairy. We discussed differences in attitudes between consumers in the US (in general) and in Europe, and differences among consumers in the US. We discussed alternate ways of responding to those sensitivities–whether government-imposed regulations or privately-organized initiatives in response to consumer demands. So news this week from the US provided two very timely examples. Continue reading