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The Economic Benefits of Education for the Reduction of Crime  

Joel Carr, Olivier Marie, and Sunčica Vujić

Historically, social observers have repeatedly noted a correlation between education and crime, observing that individuals with lower levels of education are more likely to commit crime. However, the relationship between education and crime is complex, and it is important to clearly establish causality to determine if investing in education can effectively reduce crime. Merely observing persistent educational-attainment inequalities between offenders and non-offenders is not sufficient to make any causal claims about the underlying relationship between education and crime. Many other factors can influence an individual’s decision to stay in school or commit a crime, and these factors need to be accounted for when estimating the relationship between education and crime. Economists theoretically predicted in the late 1960s that education, via its positive effect on future earnings, would reduce the probability of criminal participation. Empirical studies have since used various econometric methods to establish that, on average, education has a strong causal crime-reducing effect. One strand of this literature has established in various contexts that individuals from cohorts forced by law to stay longer in school were much less likely to end up in court or prison. There is, however, still much to be discovered about the effect of education on crime, such as the underlying mechanisms related to income or non-cognitive effects, and heterogeneities by context, education level and quality, and individual characteristics. Overall, economists widely agree that investing in education is an efficient public-spending strategy to effectively reduce crime.

Article

Economic History of the Middle East, 622–1914  

Timur Kuran

In the Middle Ages, the Middle East was an economically advanced region. Driving its successes were an essentially uniform legal system that supported intra- and interregional commerce, partnership rules that supported commerce among nonrelatives, and a form of trust known as waqf, which served as both a wealth shelter and a vehicle for endowing social services with protections against state predation. These same institutions disincentivized the institutional advances needed to generate the modern economy’s infrastructure indigenously. Home-grown innovations, such as the tradable equity known as gedik and a form of waqf used for moneylending (cash waqf), were ill-suited to large-scale and perpetual enterprises. Partnerships used to form small and ephemeral enterprises did not spawn organizational forms conducive to pooling resources on a large scale and perpetually. The waqf’s rigidities led to increasingly serious capital misallocation and misuse with changes in relative prices and the emergence of new technologies. Thus, the Middle East reached the Industrial Era institutionally unprepared. Sensing an existential threat from the West, its ruling elites launched massive economic reforms in the 1800s. These reforms involved transplanting Western economic institutions to the West in a hurry. Although the Middle East’s economic performance improved greatly in absolute terms, it remained underdeveloped in 1914, and the catch-up process has continued. Until the 1700s, the economic fortunes of the Middle East’s religious minorities generally tracked those of its Muslims. Thereafter, non-Muslims pulled ahead. As the global economy modernized, they benefited from a right that, from the early years of Islam, was denied to Muslims: choice of law. With the development of modern economic institutions by Europeans, choice of law enabled non-Muslims to increase the efficiency of their business operations. In the century preceding the Industrial Revolution, non-Muslims benefited also from international treaties that strengthened their property rights vis-à-vis those of Muslims.

Article

Governance by Persuasion: Hedge Fund Activism and Market-Based Shareholder Influence  

Alon Brav, Wei Jiang, and Rongchen Li

Hedge fund activism refers to the phenomenon where hedge fund investors acquire a strict minority block of shares in a target firm and then attempt to pressure management for changes in corporate policies and governance with the aim to improve firm performance. This study provides an updated empirical analysis as well as a comprehensive survey of the academic finance research on hedge fund activism. Beginning in the early 1990s, shareholder engagement by activist hedge funds has evolved to become both an investment strategy and a remedy for poor corporate governance. Hedge funds represent a group of highly incentivized, value-driven investors who are relatively free from regulatory and structural barriers that have constrained the monitoring by other external investors. While traditional institutional investors have taken actions ex-post to preserve value or contain observed damage (such as taking the “Wall Street Walk”), hedge fund activists target underperforming firms in order to unlock value and profit from the improvement. Activist hedge funds also differ from corporate raiders that operated in the 1980s, as they tend to accumulate minority equity stakes and do not seek direct control. As a result, activists must win support from fellow shareholders via persuasion and influence, representing a hybrid internal-external role in a middle-ground form of corporate governance. Research on hedge fund activism centers on how it impacts the target company, its shareholders, other stakeholders, and the capital market as a whole. Opponents of hedge fund activism argue that activists focus narrowly on short-term financial performance, and such “short-termism” may be detrimental to the long-run value of target companies. The empirical evidence, however, supports the conclusion that interventions by activist hedge funds lead to improvements in target firms, on average, in terms of both short-term metrics, such as stock value appreciation, and long-term performance, including productivity, innovation, and governance. Overall, the evidence from the full body of the literature generally supports the view that hedge fund activism constitutes an important venue of corporate governance that is both influence-based and market-driven, placing activist hedge funds in a unique position to reduce the agency costs associated with the separation of ownership and control.

Article

The Costs of Bankruptcy Restructuring  

Wei Wang

Financially distressed and insolvent firms file for bankruptcy to either reorganize or liquidate under court supervision. Fundamentally, bankruptcy law is designed to resolve creditor coordination and holdout problems. It not only sets up rules and guidelines to allow firms to restructure their debt claims but also provides means for firms to reallocate their assets to other users. Although an efficient bankruptcy system can help mitigate bargaining frictions and maximize asset value and thus creditor recovery by avoiding inefficient liquidation or excess continuation, the bankruptcy process itself can be costly. Understanding and quantifying the costs of bankruptcy restructuring are important not only to financially distressed firms but also to the capital structure decisions and the pricing of securities of healthy firms. More broadly, efficient bankruptcy mechanisms are important for economic growth, the productivity of firms in an economy, and the resiliency of the economy to adverse shocks. From the 1990s through the 2020s, the literature has flourished, with a growing number of empirical studies investigating the efficiency of the bankruptcy system and different aspects of bankruptcy costs. Bankruptcy costs are typically classified as either direct or indirect costs. The former refers to out-of-pocket expenses associated with the retention of professionals, while the latter refers to opportunity costs incurred as a result of the adverse effect of a bankruptcy filing on business operations, human capital, and investments. Indirect costs are typically larger and more difficult to measure and quantify than direct costs, which studies show to be a small fraction of a bankrupt firm’s assets. Because of significant economic frictions such as conflicts of interest, information asymmetry, and judicial biases presented in the system, bankruptcy can be a lengthy process. Since delay allows both direct and indirect costs to accumulate, a number of studies show that shortening the bargaining process can effectively help preserve firm value. Besides delay, bankruptcy costs can be manifested in inefficient liquidation, excess continuation, fire sales, loss of human capital, and managerial turnover, which impose real costs on bankrupt firms. How to mitigate frictions and minimize costs has been the central theme of bankruptcy research from the 1990s through the 2020s, a time that has also witnessed several notable changes to the U.S. bankruptcy system, including the rise of specialized distressed investors, the strengthening of secured creditor control rights, and the increasing intensity of asset sales. These changes have important implications for the restructuring landscape.

Article

Tax Audits, Economics, and Racism  

Francine J. Lipman

Since 2010, Congress has significantly cut the annual budget of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) while requiring the IRS to manage more responsibilities, including last-minute comprehensive tax reform, health care, broad-based antipoverty relief, and a variety of economic stimulus provisions. As a result, the IRS has sustained across-the-board decreases in staffing, with the most significant decreases in tax enforcement personnel. The IRS has fewer auditors than at any time since World War II, despite an explosion of concentrated income and wealth. Predictably, the tax gap, the difference between what taxpayers owe and what taxpayers pay, has skyrocketed to almost $1 trillion a year. Economists have estimated that funding the IRS will pay for itself severalfold, raising more than a trillion dollars of uncollected tax revenues over a decade. Despite evidence that funding will remedy budget shortfalls severalfold, Congress continues to defund the IRS. While the bulk of the tax gap is due to unreported income by high-income individuals, the audit rate of these households has dropped precipitously. By comparison, the lowest income wage earners are being audited five times more often than all other taxpayers. Given centuries of racist policies in the United States, households of color are disproportionately impoverished and white households are disproportionately wealthy. Accordingly, lower income working families of color, especially in the South, are audited at rates higher than their white northern counterparts. Moreover, because these households and the IRS have limited resources, many of these audits result in taxpayers losing antipoverty benefits that they have properly claimed. This discriminatory treatment is counter to Congressional intent to support these families and exacerbates existing racial income and wealth gaps. With President Biden’s 2021 executive order on advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government, the U.S. Treasury, IRS, and Congress have been charged to “recognize and work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity.” Properly funding the IRS is a necessary step to advancing racial equity.

Article

Administrative Law: Governing Economic and Social Governance  

Cary Coglianese

Administrative law refers to the body of legal doctrines, procedures, and practices that govern the operation of the myriad regulatory bodies and other administrative agencies that interact directly with individuals and businesses to shape economic and social outcomes. This law takes many forms in different legal systems around the world, but even different systems of administrative law share a focus on three major issues: the formal structures of administrative agencies; the procedures that these agencies must follow to make regulations, grant licenses, or pursue other actions; and the doctrines governing judicial review of administrative decisions. In addressing these issues, administrative law is intended to combat conditions of interest group capture and help ensure agencies make decisions that promote the public welfare by making government fair, accurate, and rational.

Article

Economic Studies on the Opioid Crisis: Costs, Causes, and Policy Responses  

Johanna Catherine Maclean, Justine Mallatt, Christopher J. Ruhm, and Kosali Simon

The United States has experienced an unprecedented crisis related to the misuse of and addiction to opioids. As of 2018, 128 Americans die each day of an opioid overdose, and total economic costs associated with opioid misuse are estimated to be more than $500 billion annually. The crisis evolved in three phases, starting in the 1990s and continuing through 2010 with a massive increase in use of prescribed opioids associated with lax prescribing regulations and aggressive marketing efforts by the pharmaceutical industry. A second phase included tightening restrictions on prescribed opioids, reformulation of some commonly misused prescription medications, and a shift to heroin consumption over the period 2010 to 2013. Since 2013, the third phase of the crisis has included a movement toward synthetic opioids, especially fentanyl, and a continued tightening of opioid prescribing regulations, along with the growth of both harm reduction and addiction treatment access policies, including a possible 2021 relaxation of buprenorphine prescribing regulations. Economic research, using innovative frameworks, causal methods, and rich data, has added to our understanding of the causes and consequences of the crisis. This body of research identifies intended and unintended impacts of policies designed to address the crisis. Although there is general agreement that the causes of the crisis include a combination of supply- and demand-side factors, and interactions between them, there is less consensus regarding the relative importance of each. Studies show that regulations can reduce opioid prescribing but may have less impact on root causes of the crisis and, in some cases, have spillover effects resulting in greater use of more harmful substances obtained in illicit markets, where regulation is less possible. There are effective opioid use disorder treatments available, but access, stigma, and cost hurdles have stifled utilization, resulting in a large degree of under-treatment in the United States. How challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic may intersect with the opioid crisis is unclear. Emerging areas for future research include understanding how societal and health care systems disruptions affect opioid use, as well as which regulations and policies most effectively reduce potentially inappropriate prescription opioid use and illicit opioid sources without unintended negative consequences.

Article

Corporate Takeovers and Non-Financial Stakeholders  

Daniel Greene, Omesh Kini, Mo Shen, and Jaideep Shenoy

A large body of work has examined the impact of corporate takeovers on the financial stakeholders (shareholders and bondholders) of the merging firms. Since the late 2000s, empirical research has increasingly highlighted the crucial role played by the non-financial stakeholders (labor, suppliers, customers, government, and communities) in these transactions. It is, therefore, important to understand the interplay between corporate takeovers and the non-financial stakeholders of the firm. Financial economists have long viewed the firm as a nexus of contracts between various stakeholders connected to the firm. Corporate takeovers not only play an important role in redefining the broad boundaries of the firm but also result in major changes to corporate ownership and structure. In the process, takeovers can significantly alter the contractual relationships with non-financial stakeholders. Because the firm’s relationships with these stakeholders are governed by implicit and explicit contracts, circumstances can arise that allow acquiring firms to fully or partially abrogate these contracts and extract rents from non-financial stakeholders after deal completion. In contrast, non-financial stakeholders can also potentially benefit from a takeover if they get to share in any efficiency gains that are generated in the deal. Given this framework, the ex-ante importance of these contractual relationships can have a bearing on the efficacy of takeovers. The ability to alter contractual relationships ex post can affect the propensity of a takeover and merging firms’ shareholders and, in turn, impact non-financial stakeholders. Non-financial stakeholders will be more vested in post-takeover success if they can trust the acquiring firm to not take actions that are detrimental to them. The big picture that emerges from the surveyed literature is that non-financial stakeholder considerations affect takeover decisions and post-takeover outcomes. Moreover, takeovers also have an impact on non-financial stakeholders. The directions of all these effects, however, depend on the economic environment in which the merging firms operate.

Article

The Fundamentals of Arbitration  

Susan Franck

Used for hundreds of years and adapted to a variety of contexts, arbitration is a form of adjudicative dispute settlement where parties consent to selecting third-party neutrals that resolve a specific dispute by applying the applicable law to the facts. Part of arbitration’s success involves its flexibility in adapting procedures and selecting applicable law to meet parties’ unique needs, including having some control over the appointment of an arbitrator who may have unique substantive expertise. Parties may agree to arbitration hoping to avoid the time-consuming, expensive, and complex process of litigation by streamlining or tailoring dispute mechanics. Yet, it is not empirically verifiable that arbitration always saves time and costs, as assessing relative savings requires comparison to a national court and there are over 190 national judiciaries to which arbitration could be compared, as well as nonadjudicative forms of dispute resolution like direct negotiation and mediation. As parties inevitably negotiate in the “shadow of the law,” arbitration aids the assessment of conflict management options; and, particularly internationally, arbitration remains a powerful tool that incentivizes voluntary compliance with awards and streamlines enforcement. Despite the availability of many types of arbitration with different policy considerations, the parties’ consent to it and their agreement to arbitrate (including the applicable law) is the backbone of this form of dispute settlement. Arbitration agreements require parties to make core choices, such as deciding on the scope of agreements submitted to arbitration, the legal place of arbitration, and applicable rules. Such an agreement then provides the framework for fundamental elements of the proceedings, namely, the basis of the tribunal’s jurisdiction and power over the dispute, the standards for appointing arbitrators, the structure and rules of the proceedings, and the content and form of derivative awards. Having a valid arbitration agreement (and an arbitration proceeding conducted in accordance with those legal obligations) also influences whether courts at the place of arbitration will set the award aside and whether courts at a place of enforcement will recognize and enforce an arbitration award. In the modern era, arbitration will continue evolving to address concerns about local policy considerations (particularly in national arbitration), confidentiality and ethics, technology and cybersecurity, diversity and inclusion, and to ensure arbitration is an ongoing value proposition.

Article

The Protection of Intellectual Property in the Global Economy  

Kamal Saggi and Olena Ivus

Longstanding international frictions over uneven levels of protection granted to intellectual property rights (IPR) in different parts of the world culminated in 1995 in the form of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)—a multilateral trade agreement that all member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are obligated to follow. This landmark agreement was controversial from the start since it required countries with dramatically different economic and technological capabilities to abide by essentially the same rules and regulations with respect to IPRs, with some temporary leeway granted to developing and least developed countries. As one might expect, developing countries objected to the agreement on philosophical and practical grounds while developed countries, especially the United States, championed it strongly. Over the years, a vast and rich economics literature has emerged that helps understand this international divide. More specifically, several fundamental issues related to the protection of IPRs in the global economy have been addressed: are IPRs trade-related? Do the incentives for patent protection of an open economy differ from those of a closed one and, if so, why? What is the rationale for international coordination over national patent policies? Why do developed and developing countries have such radically different views regarding the protection of IPRs? What is the level of empirical support underlying the major arguments for and against the TRIPS-mandated strengthening of IPRs in the world economy? Can the core obligations of the TRIPS Agreement as well as the flexibilities it contains be justified on the basis of economic logic? We discuss the key conclusions that can be drawn from decades of rigorous theoretical and empirical research and also offer some suggestions for future work.