Martin Feldstein, 1939-2019
Renowned Economist and NBER President Emeritus

Martin Feldstein, president of the NBER for nearly 30 years, George F. Baker Professor of Economics at Harvard University, chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984, and one of the most prolific and influential economists of the last half century, passed away on Tuesday, June 11. He was 79.

Feldstein’s leadership of the NBER had a profound and lasting effect on applied economic research. He was appointed president of the NBER in 1977 and, aside from his years of CEA service, served in this role until 2008. He transformed the organization and created the network structure that today encompasses nearly 1,600 affiliated scholars. He moved the NBER headquarters from New York City to Cambridge, launched the NBER Summer Institute and regular meetings of program groups, and promoted NBER working papers as an important channel for dissemination of economic research. Feldstein recognized the value of enhanced communication, at conferences and through sharing pre-publication manuscripts, in advancing research progress. He authored or coauthored 165 NBER working papers and edited 19 NBER books.

The NBER Digest

All the News That’s Fit to Speculate Upon:
Journalists' Attention to Volatility’s Causes Shifts

Press reports on contributors to market volatility have long emphasized news about GDP, inflation, and other economic aggregates, but policy is increasingly cited as a cause of big swings, analysis of reports in 11 major U.S. newspapers finds. A summary is featured in the current edition of the free, monthly NBER Digest. Other studies in this month’s Digest gauge the effectiveness of Facebook's efforts to rein in misinformation, analyze the capacity of federal tax credits to induce purchases of electric vehicles, investigate the relationship between automation and the labor share, and gauge the effects of investor expectations on portfolio composition, and measure the health impacts on families that include a doctor.

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An NBER Conference Report

Attempting to Set the Agenda for AI Research

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) highlight the potential of this technology to affect productivity, growth, inequality, market power, innovation, and employment. This newly published NBER conference report, edited by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb, seeks to set the agenda for research on AI’s economic impacts. It covers four broad themes: AI as a general purpose technology; the relationships between AI, growth, jobs, and inequality; regulatory responses to changes brought on by AI; and the effects of AI on the way economic research is conducted. It explores the economic influence of machine learning, the branch of computational statistics that has driven much of the recent excitement around AI, as well as the economic impact of robotics and automation and the potential economic consequences of a still-hypothetical artificial general intelligence.

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The NBER Bulletin on Health

Union Army Soldiers Severely Wounded in the Civil War
Didn't Suffer Mortality Effects, but their Daughters Did

The first edition of the free Bulletin on Health features a study of the long-term impacts of civil war injuries on the postwar outcomes of veterans and their children. Researchers found that wounded veterans fared worse economically, but did not die earlier than their unwounded counterparts. The daughters of severely wounded veterans experienced lower socioeconomic status and died at younger ages. Also featured in the spring Bulletin on Health are studies of the effects of air pollution on dementia diagnoses and the effects of Medicare Advantage plans on opioid prescribing.

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New NBER Research

19 June 2019

Are Financial Crises Demand or Supply Shocks?

Felipe Benguria and Alan M. Taylor find that usually after a financial crisis, imports contract, exports hold steady or even rise, and the real exchange rate depreciates — meaning the crises are very clearly negative shocks to demand rather than to supply.

18 June 2019

What Does an Electric Vehicle Replace?

Federal income tax credits resulted in an increase in electric vehicle sales, but 70 percent of the credits were obtained by households that would have bought an EV without the credits, according research by Jianwei Xing, Benjamin Leard, and Shanjun Li.

17 June 2019

Fiscal Space and the Aftermath of Financial Crises

In OECD countries over the period 1980–2017, countries with lower debt-to-GDP ratios responded to financial distress with much more expansionary fiscal policy and suffered much less severe aftermaths, according to new research by Christina D. Romer and David H. Romer.
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How Big Data Techniques Are Being Used
to Measure the Political Risk Facing Firms

Tarek A. Hassan of Boston University and the NBER explains that he and his colleagues are applying textual analysis to some 30 million pages of transcripts of conversations between firms and analysts to measure the risk businesses face from political developments such as Brexit and mundane concerns such as the effects of government regulation.

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NBER in the News

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On the News

Trade War Impacts Rattle Markets, Hit Consumers

With tension ratcheting up in U.S.-China trade relations The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and many other national media outlets are full of reports on the trade war between the world’s biggest economies. The impacts of the conflict have been extensively researched by NBER affiliates in studies such as:

Trade Blocs and Trade Wars during the Interwar Period
The Return to Protectionism
The Impact of the 2018 Trade War on U.S. Prices and Welfare
The Production Relocation and Price Effects of U.S. Trade Policy: The Case of Washing Machines.

A non-technical summary of trade war impact studies appears in the May edition of the NBER’s free monthly Digest.

The NBER Reporter

Best-Intended Efforts to Foster Innovation Don’t Always
Achieve Desired Effects, and Can Reduce Development

The patent system supposedly incentivizes research investments into new technologies by allowing investors to capture a large share of the returns from successful investments. But research featured in the current issue of the NBER Reporter finds that in some cases scientific research and product development are reduced by private ownership of intellectual property. Also in this edition of the free quarterly Reporter are articles on charitable-giving behaviors, the NBER Education program, financial misconduct, and survey expectations.

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NBER Names 14 New Research Associates
and 47 New Faculty Research Fellows

The NBER Board of Directors appointed 14 research associates at its April 2019 meeting. New research associates, who must be tenured faculty members at North American colleges or universities, are recommended to the board by the directors of the NBER's 20 research programs, typically after consultation with a steering committee of leading scholars in the program area. Two of the new research associates were previously faculty research fellows.

Faculty research fellows, who are appointed by the NBER president, must hold primary academic appointments in North America. They also are recommended by program directors and their steering committees in the culmination of a highly competitive process that begins with a call for nominations in January. Candidates are evaluated based on their research records and their capacity to contribute to the NBER's activities. This year, 246 researchers were nominated for faculty research fellowships; 47 were appointed.



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