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As the Trump administration considers a rollback of strict Obama-era fuel standards, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, a recent study has provided a new argument in their favor: They might actually save lives. One common way automakers improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles — that is, how much gasoline they consume per mile — is to reduce the weight of the automobile. And the new study, a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in April, suggests that a reduction in the overall average weight of vehicles on the road may actually result in fewer fatalities as a result of car crashes. This means that, even for critics who are not interested in reducing greenhouse gases from cars, there’s still an argument to be made for keeping vehicle fuel standards, said Antonio Bento, an environmental economics expert at the University of Southern California and one of the study’s co-authors. “What the paper shows is that even if those environmental benefits are very, very low, if nothing else, from a safety reason, you have a reason to move forward with the standards,” he said. The federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or “CAFE” standards, were first introduced in the United States in 1975. In 2012, the Obama administration approved a more stringent set of standards, which would steadily increase the efficiency of certain vehicles through 2025. The standards also changed some of the ways efficiency requirements are applied to cars of different sizes. Facing opposition from the automobile manufacturing industry, the administration later conducted a review of the standards but concluded at the end of 2016 that they would remain in place. However, the Trump administration decided in March to reopen this review — meaning it could decide to weaken or remove the Obama administration’s update. [Trump’s review of car fuel standards could lead to fight with California, environmentalists] Pushback against the CAFE standards is hardly new. Over the decades, industry members and other critics have levied a variety of arguments against them, and one of the most common from the beginning has been the idea that fuel standards sacrifice safety. Many critics have suggested that lighter-weight cars — which are typically more fuel efficient — are more likely to produce fatalities in an crash. This may indeed be the case if you’re looking at a weight change in only one car. Say you observe a crash between two SUVs, both around the same size. If you downsize one of those vehicles to a Smart car, the chance of its passengers being injured or killed may increase. On the other hand, if you downsize both vehicles, the overall risk of fatality might actually become smaller than it was to begin with. The researchers argue that, in the past, critics have only examined the effects of reducing an individual vehicle’s weight and not the standards’ overall effects on all vehicles in circulation — an important distinction. “What CAFE actually does is it doesn’t just lower the weight of one vehicle,” said Kevin Roth, an environmental economist at the University of California at Irvine and another co-author of the study. “It changes the entire composition of the fleet.” The researchers (who included Bento, Roth and co-author Kenneth Gillingham of Yale University) focused their study on two effects of the original CAFE standards: a reduction in the average weight of all vehicles on the road and a change in the dispersion of their weight — that is, how much variation there is in the weight of individual cars. Dispersion is what really causes safety problems, the researchers note. If you think about the scenario with the SUV and the Smart car, the problem wasn’t just that the Smart car, by itself, is a lightweight vehicle — it’s that it was pitted against a much heavier one. Automakers’ responses to fuel economy standards tend to produce a reduction in the average weight of vehicles on the road, as well as an increase in their weight dispersion. The relevant safety question, then, is whether an increase in weight dispersion, or a decrease in mean weight, is the more dominant outcome. To investigate, the researchers analyzed data on vehicles sold in the United States between 1954 and 2005 to see how their weight changed after the original CAFE standards were introduced in 1975. Next, they collected police reports on 17 million car crashes across 13 states between 1989 and 2005, noting which ones produced fatalities and the weights of the vehicles involved. Finally, the researchers conducted a series of simulations to see how these crashes might have turned out if the original CAFE standards had not been introduced and the vehicles’ weights had not been adjusted. The simulations suggested that 171 to 439 fewer fatalities occurred each year with the standards in place than without them, depending on factors such as the year and the location of the crashes. “I think one of the findings of this study is that these [safety] concerns have been drummed up as the reason to get rid of this standard,” Roth said. “We’re essentially showing that these concerns are probably overblown.” In fact, some of the changes the Obama administration made to the CAFE standards were designed to address safety concerns, according to Joshua Linn, a senior fellow at environmental research nonprofit Resources for the Future. (Linn was not involved with the new study but has provided comments on the working paper to the authors.) The study suggests that, in reality, this was probably never actually a problem, he said. However, the new study addresses only the effects of the original CAFE standards — not the Obama administration’s update, which may take years to produce noticeable changes in the composition of vehicles on the road, Roth noted. This means that the researchers can’t say for certain that their findings apply to the Obama standards under review. But they may suggest that “there’s no reason to think that removing the standards is going to improve safety on the road,” Roth said. It remains to be seen whether the safety argument will become a major point in the talks about the CAFE standards’ future under the Trump administration. So far, many of these discussions have revolved around the costs and logistics manufacturers face in complying with the current rules. Last week, automakers reportedly met with the heads of the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency to discuss some of these issues. And it may be that the Obama standards are adjusted rather than removed. However, should a rollback begin to appear imminent, “then actually our study could become incredibly influential in the sense that our study looks at a historical perspective on the standards,” Bento said. “You start measuring what would happen if you were to truly remove or to lower the standards, potentially.”

The Chemical Activity Barometer has four primary components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators. In April, production-related indicators were positive, with U.S. exports and housing permits improving. Equity prices retreated as uncertainty over tax reform and other public policy issues gained footing. Inventory and product prices all remained positive. Overall the barometer suggests accelerating gains in U.S. business activity through the end of the year. The Chemical Activity Barometer is a leading economic indicator derived from a composite index of chemical industry activity. The chemical industry has been found to consistently lead the U.S. economy's business cycle given its early position in the supply chain, and this barometer can be used to determine turning points and likely trends in the wider economy. Month-to-month movements can be volatile so a three-month moving average of the barometer is provided. This provides a more consistent and illustrative picture of national economic trends. Applying the CAB back to 1912, it has been shown to provide a lead of two to fourteen months, with an average lead of eight months at cycle peaks as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The median lead was also eight months. At business cycle troughs, the CAB leads by one to seven months, with an average lead of four months. The median lead was three months. The CAB is rebased to the average lead (in months) of an average 100 in the base year (the year 2012 was used) of a reference time series. The latter is the Federal Reserve's Industrial Production Index. Chemical Activity Barometer for the Latest Six Months and Year-Ago Month* *Percentage changes may not reflect index values due to rounding. The CAB comprises indicators relating to the production of chlorine and other alkalies, pigments, plastic resins and other selected basic industrial chemicals; chemical company stock data; hours worked in chemicals; publicly sourced, chemical price information; end-use (or customer) industry sales-to-inventories; and several broader leading economic measures (building permits and new orders). Each month, ACC provides a barometer number, which reflects activity data for the current month, as well as a three-month moving average. The CAB was developed by the economics department at the American Chemistry Council. The next CAB is currently planned for: 23 May 2017 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time The CAB is designed and prepared in compliance with ACC's Antitrust Guidelines and FTC Safe Harbor Guidelines; does not use company-specific price information as input data; and data is aggregated such that company-specific and product-specific data cannot be determined. Note: Every effort has been made in the preparation of this publication to provide the best available information. However, neither the American Chemistry Council, nor any of its employees, agents or other assigns makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any liability or responsibility for any use, or the results of such use, of any information or data disclosed in this material. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:

Chandra A.,Harvard University | Dalton M.,National Bureau of Economic Research
Health Affairs | Year: 2013

Identifying policies that will cut or constrain US health care spending and spending growth dominates reform efforts, yet little is known about whether the drivers of spending levels and of spending growth are the same. Policies that produce a one-time reduction in the level of spending, for example by making hospitals more efficient, may do little to reduce subsequent annual spending growth. To identify factors causing health care spending to grow the fastest, we focused on three conditions in the Medicare population: heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and hip fractures. We found that spending on postacute care-long-term hospital care, rehabilitation care, and skilled nursing facility care-was the fastest growing major spending category and accounted for a large portion of spending growth in 1994-2009. During that period average spending for postacute care doubled for patients with hip fractures, more than doubled for those with congestive heart failure, and more than tripled for those with heart attacks. We conclude that policies aimed at controlling acute care spending, such as bundled payments for short-term hospital spending and physician services, are likely to be more effective if they include postacute care, as is currently being tested under Medicare's Bundled Payment for Care Improvement Initiative. © 2013 Project HOPE-The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.

Burke M.,Stanford University | Hsiang S.M.,University of California at Berkeley | Hsiang S.M.,National Bureau of Economic Research | Miguel E.,National Bureau of Economic Research | Miguel E.,University of California at Berkeley
Nature | Year: 2015

Growing evidence demonstrates that climatic conditions can have a profound impact on the functioning of modern human societies, but effects on economic activity appear inconsistent. Fundamental productive elements of modern economies, such as workers and crops, exhibit highly non-linear responses to local temperature even in wealthy countries. In contrast, aggregate macroeconomic productivity of entire wealthy countries is reported not to respond to temperature, while poor countries respond only linearly. Resolving this conflict between micro and macro observations is critical to understanding the role of wealth in coupled human-natural systems and to anticipating the global impact of climate change. Here we unify these seemingly contradictory results by accounting for non-linearity at the macro scale. We show that overall economic productivity is non-linear in temperature for all countries, with productivity peaking at an annual average temperature of 13°C and declining strongly at higher temperatures. The relationship is globally generalizable, unchanged since 1960, and apparent for agricultural and non-agricultural activity in both rich and poor countries. These results provide the first evidence that economic activity in all regions is coupled to the global climate and establish a new empirical foundation for modelling economic loss in response to climate change, with important implications. If future adaptation mimics past adaptation, unmitigated warming is expected to reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality, relative to scenarios without climate change. In contrast to prior estimates, expected global losses are approximately linear in global mean temperature, with median losses many times larger than leading models indicate. ©2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

Wilson M.,Brigham and Women's Hospital | Cutler D.,National Bureau of Economic Research
Health Affairs | Year: 2014

To better understand the financial viability of hospital emergency departments (EDs), we created national estimates of the cost to hospitals of providing ED care and the associated hospital revenue using hospital financial reports and patient claims data from 2009. We then estimated the effect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have on the future profitability of providing ED care. We estimated that hospital revenue from ED care exceeded costs for that care by $6.1 billion in 2009, representing a profit margin of 7.8 percent (net revenue expressed as a percentage of total revenue). However, this is primarily because hospitals make enough profit on the privately insured ($17 billion) to cover underpayment from all other payer groups, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and unreimbursed care. Assuming current payer reimbursement rates, ACA reforms could result in an additional 4.4-percentage-point increase in profit margins for hospital-based EDs compared to what could be the case without the reforms. © 2014 Project HOPE-The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.

Lobell D.B.,Stanford University | Schlenker W.,Columbia University | Schlenker W.,National Bureau of Economic Research | Costa-Roberts J.,Stanford University
Science | Year: 2011

Efforts to anticipate how climate change will affect future food availability can benefit from understanding the impacts of changes to date. We found that in the cropping regions and growing seasons of most countries, with the important exception of the United States, temperature trends from 1980 to 2008 exceeded one standard deviation of historic year-to-year variability. Models that link yields of the four largest commodity crops to weather indicate that global maize and wheat production declined by 3.8 and 5.5%, respectively, relative to a counterfactual without climate trends. For soybeans and rice, winners and losers largely balanced out. Climate trends were large enough in some countries to offset a significant portion of the increases in average yields that arose from technology, carbon dioxide fertilization, and other factors.

Li D.,Harvard University | Agha L.,Boston University | Agha L.,National Bureau of Economic Research
Science | Year: 2015

This paper examines the success of peer-review panels in predicting the future quality of proposed research.We construct new data to track publication, citation, and patenting outcomes associated with more than 130,000 research project (R01) grants funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health from1980 to 2008.We find that better peer-review scores are consistently associated with better research outcomes and that this relationship persists even when we include detailed controls for an investigator's publication history, grant history, institutional affiliations, career stage, and degree types. A one-standard deviation worse peer-review score among awarded grants is associated with 15% fewer citations, 7% fewer publications, 19% fewer high-impact publications, and 14%fewer follow-on patents. © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved.

Aizer A.,Brown University | Aizer A.,National Bureau of Economic Research | Currie J.,National Bureau of Economic Research | Currie J.,Princeton University
Science | Year: 2014

Health at birth is an important predictor of long-term outcomes, including education, income, and disability. Recent evidence suggests that maternal disadvantage leads to worse health at birth through poor health behaviors; exposure to harmful environmental factors; worse access to medical care, including family planning; and worse underlying maternal health. With increasing inequality, those at the bottom of the distribution now face relatively worse economic conditions, but newborn health among the most disadvantaged has actually improved. The most likely explanation is increasing knowledge about determinants of infant health and how to protect it along with public policies that put this knowledge into practice.

Ravallion M.,Georgetown University | Ravallion M.,National Bureau of Economic Research
Science | Year: 2014

Should income inequality be of concern in developing countries? New data reveal less income inequality in the developing world than 30 years ago. However, this is due to falling inequality between countries. Average inequality within developing countries has been slowly rising, though staying fairly flat since 2000. As a rule, higher rates of growth in average incomes have not put upward pressure on inequality within countries. Growth has generally helped reduce the incidence of absolute poverty, but less so in more unequal countries. High inequality also threatens to stall future progress against poverty by attenuating growth prospects. Perceptions of rising absolute gaps in living standards between the rich and the poor in growing economies are also consistent with the evidence.

Dominici F.,Harvard University | Greenstone M.,Massachusetts Institute of Technology | Greenstone M.,National Bureau of Economic Research | Sunstein C.R.,Harvard University
Science | Year: 2014

Quasi-experimental evidence is needed on the relations between human health and airborne particulate matter.

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