• <div class="header-image" style="background-image: url(/live/image/gid/4/2957_V6N10_Header.rev.1542820788.jpg);">​</div><div class="header-background-color"/>

Briefs & Seminars

Penn Wharton PPI publishes Issue Briefs once a month, tackling concerns that are varied but share one common thread: they are central to the economic health of the nation and the American people. These are nonpartisan, knowledge-driven documents written by Wharton and Penn faculty in their specific areas of expertise.

  • October 2018 Regulating Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)
    Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are attracting a great deal of interest—in 2017 alone, an estimated 370 ICOs raised around $6.2 billion—but they are not well understood. ICO transactions are based on “smart contracts”: automated rules, designed by programmers, to govern the functionality of the digital cryptoassets sold in ICOs. In theory, transactions based on smart contracts do not require human oversight, as the computer code embedded in the contracts is supposed to ensure proper governance. But an analysis of the 50 ICOs that raised the most capital in 2017 reveals a troubling trend: for many ICOs, the software code does not deliver what the ICO promises in its investor disclosure documents. ICO code often fails to ensure key investor protections, and sometimes provides founders with significant, undisclosed authority to alter investor rights. Currently, there is no ICO regulatory regime comparable to what the SEC and state securities regulators provide for IPOs. Policymakers would do well to develop a regulatory environment that can help the ICO market mature, particularly in the accurate encoding of smart contracts. But they first will need to understand who is on the buy side of ICO transactions­—and whether they warrant protection.
All Issue Briefs
  • November 2018
    Proponents of robust mortgage finance regulation would do well to look to the states, and specifically to the regulatory effects of state-mandated judicial foreclosure. Judicial foreclosure, which is authorized in almost half of U.S. states, requires that lenders seeking to foreclose on a mortgage file an action in state court. This not only provides borrowers with a forum for holding lenders accountable for their behavior and obligations, but puts the onus on the lender to show that the requirements for foreclosure have been met. It also aids borrowers by delaying the foreclosure process and allowing them to remain in their homes for longer periods while in default. In this brief, Professor Brian Feinstein empirically examines the effects of judicial foreclosure on lender behavior and mortgage costs for consumers. The findings indicate that judicial foreclosure alters lender behavior in ways that are beneficial to borrowers, and that mirror regulatory goals. Lenders exhibit greater caution in loan-approval decisions and offer fewer subprime loans. These results are amplified for lower-income borrowers. Importantly, the costs imposed on lenders by judicial foreclosure do not appear to get passed on to borrowers in the form of higher rates.
  • September 2018
    Modern antitrust policy follows the consumer welfare principle (CWP), the proposition that antitrust policy should encourage markets to produce high output consistent with sustainable competition, and low prices. The market dominance of giant firms such as Amazon, however, is opening the door to a reevaluation of this antitrust standard, particularly from a new antitrust “movement” that has economic goals, such as protecting small businesses and controlling runaway profits, that can be at odds with promoting low prices. Penn Law and Wharton Professor Herbert Hovencamp evaluates the merits of three antitrust frameworks within the context of the law and economic history. While he acknowledges that business can cause harm to the lives of Americans in ways that extend beyond inflating prices—i.e., creating barriers to market entry, stifling innovation, controlling information, or limiting wages—he argues that the CWP remains best positioned to respond to antitrust problems, although it would benefit from technical improvements.
  • July 2018
    Despite the vulnerability of America’s aging infrastructure to costly disruptions from man-made and natural disasters, infrastructure insurance under-utilized. On average, only 30% of catastrophic losses in the past 10 years have been covered by insurance. Most infrastructure project managers have relied instead on taxpayer-funded federal aid when disaster strikes. But it doesn’t need to be this way. In this brief, Gina Tonn, Jeffrey Czajkowski, and Howard Kunreuther use technical reports and input from infrastructure managers to outline steps that policymakers can take to help maximize the use of infrastructure insurance for providing financial protection, encouraging investment in loss mitigation measures, and limiting the current reliance on taxpayer dollars.
  • May 2018
    Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technology promises to dramatically reduce deaths and economic losses from crashes caused by human error, increase mobility for those with disabilities, and revolutionize the auto industry. Yet legislation to facilitate oversight of the development and deployment of AVs is stalling in Congress. Professor John Paul MacDuffie offers a primer on AV technology policy, and discusses strategies for addressing safety and other public concerns while still facilitating AV innovation in the private sector.
  • February 2018
    Although cannabis-related businesses have thrived in the localities that have legalized marijuana as a consumer product, the industry has suffered from crippling uncertainty, in the form of limited access to the banking system. The cannabis industry thus has been forced to operate in a cash-intensive “gray market,” which is a problem. An entire industry conducting all of its business in cash cannot be fairly taxed or regulated and, historically, has been associated with lawlessness—everything from security concerns, transportation and currency problems, money laundering, and cash hoarding. This brief reviews and analyzes the issues that surround marijuana banking and offers several policy options for addressing the tension between federal enforcement and state sovereignty as it relates to marijuana banking.
  • October 2018
    Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are attracting a great deal of interest—in 2017 alone, an estimated 370 ICOs raised around $6.2 billion—but they are not well understood. ICO transactions are based on “smart contracts”: automated rules, designed by programmers, to govern the functionality of the digital cryptoassets sold in ICOs. In theory, transactions based on smart contracts do not require human oversight, as the computer code embedded in the contracts is supposed to ensure proper governance. But an analysis of the 50 ICOs that raised the most capital in 2017 reveals a troubling trend: for many ICOs, the software code does not deliver what the ICO promises in its investor disclosure documents. ICO code often fails to ensure key investor protections, and sometimes provides founders with significant, undisclosed authority to alter investor rights. Currently, there is no ICO regulatory regime comparable to what the SEC and state securities regulators provide for IPOs. Policymakers would do well to develop a regulatory environment that can help the ICO market mature, particularly in the accurate encoding of smart contracts. But they first will need to understand who is on the buy side of ICO transactions­—and whether they warrant protection.
  • August 2018
    To the extent that immigration reform is discussed in terms of economics, the debate tends to focus exclusively on labor issues—specifically, how immigrants affect jobs and wages for native citizens. But to understand the economic effects of immigration, and thus develop sounder policies, policymakers need to consider how immigration affects all three core components of economic growth: not just labor, but capital and innovation too. In this brief, Professor Hernandez discusses new research showing that immigration produces gains for the U.S. economy with respect to capital and innovation. Immigrants help to attract investment from foreign firms and significantly increase bilateral trade flows between the U.S. and their home countries. Immigrants also account for roughly a quarter of all U.S. entrepreneurs. They not only generate novel businesses and inventions, but also introduce novel ideas that U.S. natives develop further to create new products and companies of their own. Just as importantly, labor, capital, and innovation are all interrelated. Failing to understand the multipli¬cative relationship between these three elements can result in botched economic policy.
  • June 2018
    Advocates of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin believe that having currency competition will help achieve the economic objective of price stability. This Issue Brief summarizes research that explores whether competition among privately issued fiat currencies can actually produce price stability. The research finds that in most cases, a system of private monies does not deliver price stability. And even when it does, it always is subject to self-fulfilling inflationary episodes, and it supplies a suboptimal amount of money. Although there is no economic reason to curb the use of cryptocurrencies at the moment, it is important to review key regulatory issues that policymakers need to consider now, before the use of cryptocurrencies becomes even more widespread.
  • March 2018
    Labor market concentration can worsen after a merger takes place, and this heightened concentration can negatively affect wages. The focus of antitrust analysis, however, has been on the prices of consumer products, not the wages of laborers. New research indicates that, on average, labor markets are highly concentrated, and that higher concentration is associated with significantly lower posted wages for new jobs. This brief uses existing economic tools to develop a model for evaluating labor market concentration and its effects, to determine if a merger will run the risk of anticompetitively suppressing wages, employment, and output. Regulators can use this model to apply antitrust principles to labor markets, as a basis for antitrust enforcement.
  • January 2018
    One of the key features of the Dodd-Frank Act is that it imposes specific and costly regulatory requirements on banks that cross the threshold of having more than $10 billion in total assets. Anecdotal accounts have suggested that this threshold has led to increased consolidation in the banking industry. This brief provides new statistical evidence of that phenomenon. Banks that approach the $10 billion threshold are significantly more likely to engage in an acquisition, pay more for that acquisition, and acquire bigger target banks than similar banking institutions did prior to Dodd-Frank. To the extent that policymakers are concerned with further consolidation in the banking industry, these findings should be of interest as they continue to evaluate current regulations and develop new ones, which might include the use of bright line asset thresholds.

PENN WHARTON PPI
RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT:

  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links</a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html" target="_blank">http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2" target="_blank">http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>