Economics: That's Life
Byline: Alfred Tella, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Take a look at some of the papers delivered at the annual meeting of the American Economics Association (AEA) held in Chicago earlier this month in conjunction with other social science groups.
Of the hundreds of research papers presented, many were of the usual war-horse variety, albeit on important topics, such as income, employment, productivity, output, inflation, international trade and immigration. Yet others reported on research that illuminated less traditional contemporary issues. A few attention-grabbers summarized:.
(1) A paper by Alan B. Krueger of Princeton University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), "The National Origins of Foreign Fighters in Iraq," analyzed the factors associated with foreigners joining the terrorists and insurgents in the Iraq war. The study used U.S. military data on foreign nationals from 27 countries who were captured in Iraq in 2005. Mr. Krueger's model estimated the relative importance of origin countries' population size, distance, output per capita, percent of the population that is Muslim, U.S. foreign aid received, infant mortality (as an indicator of living conditions), level of civil liberties, literacy rate, whether the country was a member of the multinational coalition in Iraq, and the number of U.S. military troops stationed in the country.
The main findings of the study were "that countries with a large Muslim population, close proximity to Baghdad, low level of civil liberties or political rights, and low infant mortality rates are likely to have more of their citizens join the Iraqi insurgency. A country's literacy rate, GDP per capita, and membership in the multinational coalition were unrelated to the number of foreign fighters in Iraq." U.S. foreign aid was also found to have an insignificant effect. Mr. Krueger's model accurately predicted the number of captured insurgents from most foreign countries.
(2) Another arresting title was "Fast-Food Restaurant Advertising on Television and Its Influence on Childhood Obesity," by Shin-Yi Chou of Lehigh University and the NBER, Inas Rashad of Georgia State University, and Michael Grossman of the City University of New York and the NBER. The authors noted the upward trend in the percent of overweight children in the U.S. and their increased exposure to fast-food advertising on TV, adding that "the Bush administration has argued that no one has proven that advertising causes obesity and did not take action in regulating advertising directed at children, after the World Health Organization proposed that countries be urged to limit advertisements that encourage unhealthy diets, especially those directed at children. …