Paul Walker

Dr Paul Walker is an economist at University of Canterbury. He has expertise in microeconomics, institutional economics and industrial Organization. He blogs for The Dismal Science.

The Sugar Levy: a Briefing - The Dismal Science

Jan 15, 2018

In March 2016, Chancellor George Osborne announced a ‘sugar levy’ on manufacturers of soft drinks. Intended to begin in April 2018, the plan is for a two-tier tax with one rate set for drinks containing more The IEA in London has released a short paper, The Sugar Levy: A Briefing, on the ‘sugar levy’ that was announced in March 2016 by the then Chancellor, George Osborne, in the UK. A summary of the paper’s conclusion reads: In March 2016, George Osborne announced a ‘sugar levy’ on soft drink companies to start in April 2018. Under this policy, companies will be taxed on sales of medium and high sugar drinks (excluding fruit juice and milk-based drinks). As an anti-obesity policy, the sugar levy seems arbitrary. Consumption of both sugar and sugary drinks … Read More

“The Second World Wars” with Victor Davis Hanson - The Dismal Science

Jan 08, 2018

These videos come from Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson at the Hoover Institution. Robinson interviews Victor Davis Hanson about Hanson’s new book, “The Second World Wars“. How were the Axis powers able to instigate the most lethal conflict in human history? Find out in this two part episode of Uncommon Knowledge as military historian, editor of Strategika, and Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow, Victor Davis Hanson, joins Peter Robinson to discuss his latest book, The Second World Wars. Victor Davis Hanson explains how World War II initially began in 1939 as a multitude of isolated border blitzkriegs that Germany continued to win. In 1941, everything changed when Germany invaded their ally, the Soviet Union, and brought Japan into the war. He argues that because of the disparate nature of World … Read More

Are male-dominated tenure committees holding women back in academia? - The Dismal Science

Apr 07, 2017

No. At the AEA website Tim Hyde discusses a paper in the American Economic Review (2017, 107(4): 1207–1238) which asks the question “Does the Gender Composition of Scientific Committees Matter?” The paper is by Manuel Bagues, Mauro Sylos-Labini, and Natalia Zinovyeva. In many countries there are concerns that male-dominated tenure committees that are convened to decide whether young professors should be promoted up the ranks are holding female academics back. These committees are composed of full professors in the top roles and tend to be mostly or exclusively male. Does this put young female professors at a competitive disadvantage at a make-or-break moment in their careers? Hyde writes, Bagues and Zinovyeva were curious how these policies [gender quotas for hiring/tenure committees] – which had clear costs for senior female researchers – would actually affect hiring and … Read More

Marriage, kids, and the wage gap - The Dismal Science

Mar 11, 2017

The career dynamics of the gender gap for graduates of the Chicago Business School, as studied by Bertrand, Goldin, and Katz (2010), illustrate a common pattern. While women and men start their careers with similar earnings, a substantial gap arises over time, and the arrival of children is a major concurrent factor in the rising earnings gap. At least in this highly (and homogeneously) educated population, only a small share of the gender gap is due to premarket factors such as training and coursework; instead, family formation sets the gap in motion. In short, kids are bad for the income of women. The above quote comes from Specialization Then and Now: Marriage, Children, and the Gender Earnings Gap across Cohorts by Chinhui Juhn and Kristin McCue, Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 31, Number 1—Winter 2017—Pages 183–204. The conclusion … Read More

How old is behavioural economics? - The Dismal Science

Feb 01, 2017

I came across an interesting paper the other day that suggests behavioural economics is older than most people think. The paper “The Relations of Recent Psychological Developments to Economic Theory” by Z. Clark Dickinson in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 33, No. 3: 377-421 dates from May 1919! The summary of the paper reads, The purely objective factors in economics, 377. – Psychological principles necessarily used in addition, 381. Social assumptions, 385. – Psychical factors are human motives, 387; their analysis needed for most social problems, 389. – Adequacy of psychology assumed in economic theory in dispute, 390. – Analysis of arguments pro and con, 392. – Hedonistic foundation, 394. – Costless production, 401. – Industrial peace, 404. – Sums of utility, 406. – Social demand, 407. – Institutional economics, 409. – Most accurate psychology needed, of producers’ … Read More

How computer automation affects occupations: technology, jobs, and skills - The Dismal Science

Sep 22, 2016

A common argument you see with regard to computers and employment is that computer automation leads to major job losses. James Bessen deals with this issue in a new column at A modern version of the Luddite story. Bessen argues that this line of argument, however, ignores the dynamic economic responses that involve both changing demand and inter-occupation substitution. Using US data, he explores the effect of automation on employment growth for detailed occupational categories. Computer-using occupations have had greater job growth to date, while those using few computers suffer greater computer-related losses. The major policy challenge posed by automation is developing a workforce with the skills to use new technologies. Bessen looks at estimates of employment demand growth. Taking these considerations into account, I estimate a simple model of occupational demand across industries that … Read More

Another advantage of legal medical marijuana - The Dismal Science

Sep 08, 2016

Another post at the ProMarket blog highlights the cost advantages of medical marijuana, at least in the institutional framework for healthcare currently in use in the US. A new working paper by University of Georgia researchers shows that medical marijuana leads to sharp drops in the number of prescriptions for branded drugs.The paper estimates savings of up to $1.5 billion per year in Medicaid spending if medical marijuana was legalized in all 50 states. The blog post goes on to argue that the ideas of George Stigler might offer a potential explanation as to why the countrywide legalisation of medical marijuana has not happened yet. One possible reason: Some, including journalist Lee Fang and the Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham, have suggested that this might have something to do with resistance from pharmaceutical companies, longtime rivals of … Read More

Economic benefits from mega-events like the Olympics are often overstated - The Dismal Science

Aug 09, 2016

This title will not come as a great surprise to many people. But its still worth reminding everyone of it. Especially as we have something as stupid as the Olympics going on right now. At the American Economic Association website Tim Hyde writes on about a paper in the recent Spring issue (vol. 30, no. 2, 2016) of the Journal of Economic Perspectives which breaks down the costs and benefits of hosting the Olympic Games and explains why some of the perceived economic blessings of the Olympics are mostly wishful thinking. Hyde opens by saying, In Going for the Gold: The Economics of the Olympics (PDF), authors Robert Baade and Victor Matheson consult estimates from academic, public, and media sources on the costs and benefits of hosting the Games. As with any … Read More

Why is Fat B*stard fat? - The Dismal Science

Jul 13, 2016

Apart from the obvious point that Mike Myers created the character that way. In a recent column at Rachel Griffith and Melanie Lührmann argue that its because he doesn’t exercise as much he used to. Griffith and Lührmann start by arguing that the rise in obesity we see around the world has largely been attributed to an increase in calorie consumption. They then set out to investigate this claim by examining the evolving consumption and lifestyles of English households over the 30 year period between 1980 and 2013. While there has been an increase in calories from restaurants, fast food, soft drinks, and confectionery, there has been an overall decrease in total calories purchased. This decline in calories can be partially rationalised with weight gain by the decline in the strenuousness of work and … Read More

Female/male pay gaps in STEM subjects - The Dismal Science

May 21, 2016

New research suggests that women earn, on average, around 31% less that men in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) subjects within a year of completing a PhD. An obvious question is why. Perhaps surprisingly the answer to this questions can be reduced to just two factors: 1) field of study and 2) kids. But after controlling for differences in academic field, the pay gap between males and females is reduced to around 11% in first-year earnings. There is a tendency for women to graduate in less-lucrative academic fields – such as biology and chemistry than comparatively industry-friendly fields, such as engineering and mathematics. This 11% difference can be explained entirely by the finding that married women with children earned less than men. Note that an unmarried, childless woman earned, on average, the same annual salary after receiving her doctorate … Read More