Thursday, March 15, 2012

Language and savings

I’ve just read a new paper from a Yale researcher called M. Keith Chen which is extraordinary. This paper states that there is a statistical significant relation between languages and saving rates, health quality and retirement assets. In his own words:
"In this paper I test the hypothesis that languages which do not grammatically distinguish between present and future events (what linguists call weak-FTR languages) lead their speakers to take more future-oriented actions".
In other words, if your native language distinguishes between future and present, as it is in English, Spanish or French…, you are more likely to separate present actions from future consequences. That is a problem because:
"speakers of weak-FTR languages save more, hold more retirement wealth, smoke less, are less likely to be obese, and enjoy better long-run health. This is true in every major region of the world and holds even when comparing only demographically similar individuals born and living in the same country".
"my findings are largely consistent with the hypothesis that languages with obligatory future-time reference lead their speakers to engage in less future-oriented behavior"
This is astonishing, and even more astonishing is the fact that these effects are only caused by language itself and not culture:
"while both language and cultural values appear to drive savings behavior, these measured effects do not appear to interact with each other in a way you would expect if they were both markers of some common causal factor…". "…the effect of language that I measure occurs through a channel that is independent of either cultural or cognitive differences between linguistic groups".
It seems that due to language differences only, people behave differently, but Mr. Chen himself do not rule-out other possibilities.
"Nevertheless, the possibility that language acts only as a powerful marker of some deeper driver of intertemporal preferences cannot be completely ruled out. This possibility is intriguing in itself, as the variation across languages in FTR which identify my regressions is very old".
The author pay special attention to the relation between savings and language which appear to be pretty consistent:
"On savings, the evidence is consistent on multiple levels: at an individual’s propensity to save, to long-run effects on retirement wealth, and in the aggregate with national savings rates".
A bunch of regressions are applied using international surveys and national accounts data to link both variables and get rid of other possible indirect relations. As it can be seen FTR is always a significant covariate:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blogging impact on academic papers

This paper linked from this post from World Bank Development Impact blog has been around for a while and it was spread through the blogosphere pretty quick. David Mckenzie and Berk Ozler analysed the effects of blogs on paper’s downloading and results showed that when the blog is widely followed, mentioned papers’ popularity increase dramatically. Even the model used to measure blog’s impact on papers is simple and nice, in their own words:
“To formally test for the impact of different blogs on abstract views and downloads we put together a database of 94 papers linked to on 6 blogs: Aid Watch (before it ended), Chris Blattman, Economix (New York Times), Marginal Revolution, Freakonomics, and Paul Krugman. We define t=0 in the month in which the blog entry occurred, t=-1 in the month before, t=+1 in the month after, etc. Then we estimate the impact of blog s linking to a paper i via the following regression:
This controls for paper-specific fixed effects, and looks for a spike in views in the month the paper is blogged about, tests whether this continues into the next month, and also includes a lead term to rule out reverse causation whereby a paper gets a lot of downloads for some other reason, leading people to blog about it. For robustness we also include paper-specific linear time trends.”
They summarized their findings as:
• Blogging about a paper causes a large increase in the number of abstract views and downloads in the same month: an average impact of an extra 70-95 abstract views in the case of Aid Watch and Blattman, 135 for Economix, 300 for Marginal Revolution, and 450-470 for Freakonomics and Krugman. [see regression table here] • These increases are massive compared to the typical abstract views and downloads these papers get- one blog post in Freakonomics is equivalent to 3 years of abstract views! However, only a minority of readers click through –we estimate 1-2% of readers of the more popular blogs click on the links to view the abstracts, and 4% on a blog like Chris Blattman that likely has a more specialized (research-focused) readership. • There is some spillover of reads into the next month (not everyone reads a blog post the day it is produced), and no evidence that abstract views and downloads lead blog posts.
Graphically, some of the most important economics blogs and its effects on several papers:
So, I link here my last paper, just in case...