• <div class="header-image" style="background-image: url(/live/image/gid/4/3233_shutterstock_778776601.rev.1571938034.jpg);" data-share-image="/live/image/gid/4/3233_shutterstock_778776601.jpg"/><div class="header-background-color"/>

Briefs & Seminars

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 2019 The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s Incorporation “Incentive”
    Many observers have asserted that the reduced corporate tax rate instituted by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has transformed entity choice for business owners, incentivizing owners of businesses structured as sole proprietorships or passthrough entities to incorporate their businesses and to use these new corporations as pocketbook investment vehicles to invest in and hold portfolio investments, substantially reducing wealthy individuals’ tax obligations and Treasury’s tax collections. This brief offers a different view, and discusses why predictions of widespread conversions to the corporate form at a substantial cost to the fiscal position of the U.S. are overstated. The brief explores the various purported tax advantages to incorporating, both when business owners are looking to invest substantial profits in portfolio assets, as well as when retained earnings are reinvested in the business and produce ordinary income.
All Issue Briefs
  • October 2019
    Many observers have asserted that the reduced corporate tax rate instituted by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has transformed entity choice for business owners, incentivizing owners of businesses structured as sole proprietorships or passthrough entities to incorporate their businesses and to use these new corporations as pocketbook investment vehicles to invest in and hold portfolio investments, substantially reducing wealthy individuals’ tax obligations and Treasury’s tax collections. This brief offers a different view, and discusses why predictions of widespread conversions to the corporate form at a substantial cost to the fiscal position of the U.S. are overstated. The brief explores the various purported tax advantages to incorporating, both when business owners are looking to invest substantial profits in portfolio assets, as well as when retained earnings are reinvested in the business and produce ordinary income.
  • September 2019
    As economists debate the possibility of another recession, it is critical for policymakers to have a full understanding of the dynamics that were at play in the last one. In this brief, the authors offer a new perspective on the behavior of banks during the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the limited success of unconventional monetary policies in stimulating bank credit to the private sector during the subsequent economic recovery.
  • June 2019

    Recent demographic changes—the sharp increase in single-person households, especially among single individuals over the age of 65, as well as racial disparities in homeownership and the increasing cost burden of home rentals—are underscoring the need for a new vision with respect to U.S. housing policy. This Issue Brief lays out several policy prescriptions for improving housing affordability and fairness, both for renters and owners: modifying the federal Housing Choice Voucher program as well as local and state land-use regulations; investing in the maintenance of existing affordable housing stock; making good on HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirements so as to reduce fair housing barriers; and promoting financing programs for retrofitting existing low-income housing, to increase energy efficiency and reduce overall costs. While each of these recommendations would be beneficial in and of themselves, what the U.S. ultimately needs is a broader and more complete national strategy for housing policy.

  • March 2019
    The landmark Supreme Court ruling in Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois (IB), which bars “indirect purchasers” from bringing antitrust suits against upstream product manufacturers, has greatly reduced the legal costs associated with antitrust enforcement. The ruling also might have another, lesser-known result: it has the potential to enable firms upstream in the supply chain to engage in collusion through the use of a particular contract structure—the wholesale price plus fixed fee structure (WPFF). The key component of the WPFF structure is a slotting fee, by which manufacturers agree to pay a fixed fee to retailers, compensating them for stocking fewer, higher cost items than they would under perfect competition. The fee acts as a disincentive for retailers to level antitrust suits against manufacturers. And consumers, whose welfare is reduced by the collusion, are forbidden from bringing antitrust action by the IB ruling. The research suggests that the incentive to collude is greater when demand uncertainty for a product is higher, the number of retailers in the market is higher, and the number of manufacturers is lower. Public enforcers of antitrust law can use this knowledge to focus their monitoring efforts on firms embedded in the type of supply chain structures described here while using WPFF contracts.
  • 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.
  • October 2019
    In this time of market volatility, certain alternative private funds that invest in debt or credit have the potential to play an important role in promoting financial stability, as they are structured to supply the economy with a countercyclical source of credit. Despite the benefits to economic resilience, however, the development of a robust market for nonbank credit has generated concern among some financial stability watchdogs, reflecting long-standing distrust about the shadow banking sector. This brief outlines the rationale for why regulators and legislators should be thinking of ways to allow more—not less—investment to flow into the private credit/debt market, to mitigate future economic downturns. In particular, the brief argues that certain private credit/debt fund investments should be made accessible to retail investors, and recommends possible avenues the SEC could pursue—i.e., amending the definition of an accredited investor and expanding exemptions under Regulation D—to enable that to happen. In addition to fostering a countercyclical source of credit, such a deployment of the SEC’s rulemaking power also stands to have the ancillary benefit of promoting broader financial inclusion.
  • July 2019
    Policymakers concerned about stimulating small business and entrepreneurial growth need to better understand the dynamics of crowdfunding as a vehicle for that growth. The conventional wisdom is that raising cash through crowdfunding always benefits entrepreneurs. But that is not the complete picture. In reality, there are ways in which entrepreneurs, as well as VCs looking for new investments, may actually be left worse off after a successful crowdfunding campaign. This issue brief examines the potential pitfalls of a successful campaign. These include a moral hazard problem that comes into play when entrepreneurs explore both crowdfunding and venture capital investment, which can lead to a breakdown in negotiations between entrepreneurs and VCs, leaving the VC without a potentially lucrative project and the entrepreneur without the VC’s essential financial support, expertise, and guidance. While the brief focuses on reward-based crowdfunding platforms, the pitfalls described herein likely apply as well to peer-to-peer lending, real estate, and equity-crowdfunding platforms too.
  • May 2019

    While policymakers have talked a lot recently about finding a comprehensive fix for escalating health care costs, such as Medicare-for-all, many economists have been exploring the possibility that the answer for excessive health care spending may rest instead in series of smaller adjustments. One such small fix is preferred pharmacy networks. This is a relatively new tool whereby health insurers aim to steer consumers to lower cost “preferred” pharmacies, where insurers are able to negotiate lower drug prices. The research concludes that preferred pharmacy contracting results in a roughly 1 percent decrease in Medicare Part D drug costs among plans utilizing this tool—a fact that should be encouraging to policymakers concerned about reigning in costs, especially in light of other research demonstrating that health care consumers do not shop around for lower priced care. If this practice of “steering” consumers toward lower cost drugs were applied to the entire pharmaceutical industry, the savings could be much greater.

  • February 2019

    Throughout its history, the U.S. Federal Reserve has engaged in international diplomacy, outside the bounds of (and sometimes in conflict with) the priorities of the White House and U.S. State Department. In directing monetary policy, the Fed’s primary concern is to benefit the U.S. economy. In the process, the Fed at times acts in concert with foreign central banks, as was the case in setting new bank regulations after the 2008 financial crisis. At other times, the Fed acts in ways that other countries view as detrimental to their economic interests. Either way, the Fed operates with little public accountability, and can wind up complicating the work of U.S. diplomats. This brief addresses the questions of whether and how greater oversight of the Fed’s international activities should be pursued. The brief recommends not an overhaul of the Fed’s structure or the elimination of its role in international affairs, but instead calls for greater disclosure of its international activities. The authors suggest that the Fed should provide testimony to Congress twice per year on its foreign policies, just as it does for monetary and regulatory policy. This kind of disclosure permits broader discussion of the Fed’s activities without eliminating the benefits of its institutional independence for monetary policy.

  • 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.

WHARTON PPI
RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT:

  • <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>
  • <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>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>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>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>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>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>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>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>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>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>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>