Eric Crampton

Dr Eric Crampton joined the New Zealand Initiative as Head of Research in August, 2014. He served as Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Department of Economics & Finance at the University of Canterbury from November 2003 until July 2014. The Dismal Science syndicates some of his blog posts from Offsetting Behaviour. Eric is on Twitter @ericcrampton

Bag Ban: read the appendix - The Dismal Science

Aug 13, 2018

The Ministry for the Environment’s consultation document on banning plastic bags is out. The key table, or at least the most interesting table, is in the appendix. It shows, from a Danish study, the number of times a reusable shopping bag would have to be reused to have less environmental impact than current disposable bags. Source: Ministry for the Environment. 2018. Proposed mandatory phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags: Consultation document.  The consultation document provides no cost-benefit assessment, but Question 8 asks those making submissions to assess whether the benefits might outweigh the costs. I can only speak for our own household, but I doubt we’re that we’re that atypical. We have a few reusable bags at home. The ones we have get reused a lot, because we use them on planned trips to the store. But most … Read More

Alcohol in pregnancy stats - The Dismal Science

Aug 01, 2018

Radio New Zealand reports on a new iteration of the Growing Up in New Zealand study looking at maternal alcohol use during pregnancy. I have been unable to find the cited study, so we’ll go with RNZ’s reporting for now: The lead researcher of a new study that has found nearly a quarter of women drink alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy says the findings prove more needs to be done. The findings were part of the Growing Up in New Zealand study following nearly 7000 children from birth until they are aged 21. The study found while 71 percent of women drank alcohol before becoming pregnant, 23 percent continued through the first trimester and 13 percent continued to drink further into pregnancy. It concluded drinking was common in New Zealand women, particularly among Pākehā and Māori, … Read More

Tobacco harm reduction - The Dismal Science

Jul 24, 2018

It’s great that the Ministry of Health’s latest Health and Independence Report points to the benefits of vaping. But there’s still work to do here.  The report notes that smoking is most prevalent in poorer communities and that while smoking rates have been declining, there’s no way that current trends get the government to its preferred <5% smoking rates by 2025. And the report points to how e-cigarettes might help: E-cigarettes: an option to help smokers to quit Although the best thing smokers can do for their health is to quit smoking completely, the Ministry of Health considers that e-cigarettes have the potential to contribute to the Smokefree 2025 goal and could disrupt the significant inequities that are present. How much e-cigarettes can help improve public health depends on the extent to which they are a route out of … Read More

Alcohol harms and the NZ reforms - The Dismal Science

Jun 12, 2018

Man, I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. The Science Media Centre pointed me to reporting on some new work look at what’s happened consequent to National’s Sale & Supply of Alcohol Act 2012. It always felt like a spot where some really good work could be done. Different locales implemented different district licensing plans at different times, so you could run a panel study looking at how different measures worked in different places. But that isn’t what this is. And what it is… well, let’s go through it. So the Science Media Centre points to this Newsroom piece by Farah Hancock. It doesn’t start well. Alcohol industry appeals have “muted” potential benefits of legislation aimed at reducing the estimated $14.5 million a day cost of alcohol harm, a new study finds. Massey University research shows the only … Read More

Regulatory Catch-22? - The Dismal Science

May 25, 2018

Last month’s court decision, and subsequent MoH position statement, mean that heat-not-burn tobacco products are legal to sell in New Zealand.  But the MoH position statement said that other tobacco control regulations will apply to reduced-risk tobacco and tobacco-derived products, barring the ban on indoor use in workplaces. Therefore, the same SFEA regulatory controls apply to smoked tobacco, heated tobacco and vaping products that are manufactured from tobacco. This includes the ban on sales to minors and restrictions on advertising. The ban on smoking in indoor workplaces, early childhood centres and schools only applies to smoking. It does not apply to vaping or products that are not smoked, such as heated tobacco products. Individual employers and business owners decide whether or not to include vaping in their smokefree policies. This could be reasonably read as meaning that MoH intends … Read More

Otago and disagreement - The Dismal Science

May 11, 2018

Every time I think that the University of Otago’s Public Health people can’t get any worse, they go and surprise me. Today, the Initiative launched Jenesa Jeram’s excellent report on vaping and reduced-harm alternatives to smoking. It walks through the evidence on the risks of vaping, heat-not-burn products, and snus, and makes some recommendations around liberalising access so that smokers might be able to choose ways of getting nicotine that don’t involve breathing in smoke. The report has drawn some reasonable support. Here’s Action on Smoking and Health: The report is well informed and accurate. ASH has followed and will continue to follow the evidence in relation to all those alternatives. Great article @JenesaJeram and @nzinitiative — ASH New Zealand (@ASHNZ2025) May 11, 2018 And here’s Massey University’s Prof of Public Health, Marewa … Read More

Crowding out - The Dismal Science

May 10, 2018

You should always worry at least a bit about whether a government programme crowds out some other private sector initiative. A state-provided daycare centre could crowd out existing private providers. A welfare programme could crowd out existing charitable programmes. And government house-building schemes could crowd out private development. The mechanism for crowding out is simple if you spend a few minutes thinking about it, but often isn’t obvious to people unless it is pointed out. If there are only so many construction workers currently available in New Zealand and if they’re all already employed, the government’s Kiwibuild programme will have to crowd out some existing private construction simply by bidding construction workers away from other house-building activities. But I never expected it to be this transparent! The Government wants to buy private housing developers’ existing plans to add homes … Read More

Publication Bias - The Dismal Science

May 03, 2018

We’ve known about the problems of publication bias at least since 1992. If it’s easier to get statistically significant results published than insignificant results, then there are whole literatures that become untrustworthy. Andrea Menclova at Canterbury is doing something about it. This has been a while in the making – we were talking about it when I was still at Canterbury. Good things take time, and now it’s live. Suppose your paper has been rejected from an EconLit-indexed journal, with the only important issues raised by the referees being that the results are unsurprising or insignificant. Submit your paper along with the referee reports and the letter from the rejecting journal, and it will be considered at SURE Journal: Series of Unsurprising Results in Economics Aim and Scope The Series of Unsurprising Results in Economics (SURE) is an e-journal of … Read More

Electoral lists – a simple recommendation - The Dismal Science

Apr 30, 2018

The Electoral Commission is worried that its published electoral lists – the list of each voter and that voter’s address – could be misused. From Bryce Edwards’ summary: Currently there is almost a “free for all” in the use of printed electoral roll data. All sorts of companies, such as debt collectors and marketers make use of the printed electoral roll in order to carry out their commercial activities. There are huge privacy issues involved, which the law appears to be ignorant of, and there are people who therefore choose not to enroll to vote precisely because they don’t want their residential addresses to be made public. There are also increasing concerns about analytical manipulation of personal data, and cyber incursions, which is made more possible by advances in technology. So, if the electoral roll data gets into the … Read More

Opinion: Precious arable land - The Dismal Science

Apr 23, 2018

I just don’t get the fixation with making sure that nobody builds a house on agricultural land. The government plans to make it harder for councils to approve new homes and lifestyle blocks on productive land near urban areas. A report out today, called Our Land 2018, shows New Zealand’s urban sprawl is eating up some of the country’s most versatile land. It highlights that between 1990 and 2008, 29 percent of new urban areas were built on some of the country’s most versatile land. Lifestyle blocks were also having an impact – in 2013 those blocks covered 10 percent of New Zealand’s best land. Environment Minister David Parker said one area that was at particular risk was Pukekohe, known as Auckland’s food basket. “We obviously need more housing around Auckland, but we also need to protect our … Read More