Economics - General

American Economic Journal: Best Paper Awards

The American Economic Journal (AEJ) recently came out with its awards for best papers of the year. These are listed below along with their abstracts.

Atalay et al. 2020 “The Evolution of Work in the United States, “

Using the text from job ads, we introduce a new dataset to describe the evolution of work from 1950 to 2000. We show that the transformation of the US labor market away from routine cognitive and manual tasks and toward nonroutine interactive and analytic tasks has been larger than prior research has found, with a substantial fraction of total changes occurring within narrowly defined job titles. We provide narrative and systematic evidence on changes in task content within job titles and on the emergence and disappearance of individual job titles.

Okunogbe et al. 2022 “Technology, Taxation, and Corruption: Evidence from the Introduction of Electronic Tax Filing,”

Many e-government initiatives introduce technology to improve efficiency and avoid potential human bias. Using experimental variation, we examine the impact of electronic tax filing (to replace in-person submission to tax officials) using data from Tajikistan firms. E-filing reduces the time firms spend on taxes by 40 percent. Further, among firms previously more likely to evade, e-filing doubles taxes paid. Conversely, evidence suggests that e-filing reduces tax payments among firms previously less likely to evade. These firms also pay fewer bribes, as e-filing reduces extortion opportunities. These patterns are consistent with differential treatment of firms by tax officials prior to e-filing.

Hémous et al. 2022 “The Rise of the Machines: Automation, Horizontal Innovation, and Income Inequality,”

We build an endogenous growth model with automation (the replacement of low-skill workers with machines) and horizontal innovation (the creation of new products). Over time, the share of automation innovations endogenously increases through an increase in low-skill wages, leading to an increase in the skill premium and a decline in the labor share. We calibrate the model to the US economy and show that it quantitatively replicates the paths of the skill premium, the labor share, and labor productivity. Our model offers a new perspective on recent trends in the income distribution by showing that they can be explained endogenously.

Backus et al. 2021 “Common Ownership in America: 1980–2017,”

We empirically assess the implications of the common ownership hypothesis from a historical perspective using the set of S&P 500 firms from 1980 to 2017. We show that the dramatic rise in common ownership in the time series is driven primarily by the rise of indexing and diversification and, in the cross section, by investor concentration, which the theory presumes to drive a wedge between cash flow rights and control. We also show that the theory predicts incentives for expropriation of undiversified shareholders via tunneling, even in the Berle and Means (1932) world of the widely held firm.