Why Do Members of Congress Support Agricultural Protection?


My recent article (gated; email me if you’d like a copy) with Nick Carnes is now available on ScienceDirect and will be published in the January 2015 issue of Food Policy. Here is the abstract:

It seems paradoxical that until recently, developed countries have continued subsidizing agriculture even though their agricultural sectors had been declining in relative importance since the middle of the 20th century. What drives support for agricultural protection—the broad array of subsidies to farmers and taxes and quotas imposed on agricultural imports—in developed countries? We answer this question by testing three competing hypotheses about what drives support for agricultural protection in the US: (i) legislator preferences, (ii) electoral incentives, or (iii) lobbying. Using data on the roll call votes of the members of the 106th through the 110th Congresses (1999–2009) and the scores given to each legislator by the Farm Bureau, our findings suggest that electoral incentives explain a great deal of the variation in support for agricultural protection, but that legislator preferences and lobbying might play a role, too. Moreover, legislator preferences and electoral incentives appear to be substitutes for one another. Why does Congress support agricultural protection? Because many members have electoral incentives to—and because many of those who do not still have other personal or strategic interests at stake.


Fair Enough? Food Security and the International Trade of Seafood


My recent article (gated; email me if you’d like a copy) with Frank Asche, Cathy Roheim, Marty Smith, and Sigbjorn Tveteras is now available on ScienceDirect and will be published in the March 2015 issue of World Development. Here is the abstract:

Does international trade make all parties better off? We study the relationship between food security and the international trade of fish and seafood between developing and developed countries. Specifically, we look at and discuss the evolution of trade flows – values, quantities, and prices – between developing and developed countries. The picture that emerges suggests that the quantity of seafood exported from developing countries to developed countries is close to the quantity of seafood imported by developing countries from developed countries. What takes place is a quality exchange: developing countries export high-quality seafood in exchange for lower quality seafood.


Development Bloat, Malnutrition Edition (Updated)

From The Economist‘s Espresso email this morning:

Nutrition is the neglected stepchild of development. Malnutrition—a lack of proper nutrients and vitamins, rather than just too few calories—is responsible for 45% of all deaths of children under five. Odd, then, that only one of the United Nations’ 169 proposed development targets, due to be adopted next year, has anything to do with nutrition. A UN conference in Rome today will try to encourage governments to pay more attention. A review of nutrition prepared for the conference (to be published annually henceforth) argues that every $1 of investment in nutritional programmes produces $16 of benefits, an exceptionally high return. Yet globally there has been little improvement since 2010 in rates of wasting in children under five, or in anaemia among their mothers. Policymakers must also tackle a want of information: only 60% of countries even have basic data on nutrition.

The emphasis is mine. When the most important problems of the developing world get the least attention a small fraction of the attention, most of which is focused instead on what the rich world thinks the developing world needs, it looks like the disease that is development bloat is here to stay.

Update: Global Dashboard’s David Steven pointed out on Twitter that the United Nations’ Open Working Group’s 169 Sustainable Development Goals do include some specific stuff about nutrition, viz. goals 2.1 and 2.2, which read:

2.1 by 2030 end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round

2.2 by 2030 end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025 the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and older persons

Call for Papers: 12th Annual Midwest International Economic Development Conference

The Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will host the 12th Midwest International Economic Development Conference. The conference will be held on April 24-25, 2015, and will accept papers and organized sessions on all topics in economic development. Each presenter will have a 30-minute presentation slot, including a 5-minute commentary by an assigned discussant. Sessions will begin on the morning of April 24 and end at lunch on April 25. No more than three sessions will be held at the same time.

The keynote speaker will be Gordon Hanson, Pacific Economic Cooperation Chair in International Economic Relations at UC San Diego and director of the Center on Emerging and Pacific Economies. We invite you to submit a paper or session to present at the conference. The deadline for submission is January 9, 2015. For more information and to submit a paper, visit: http://www.aae.wisc.edu/mwiedc.

In Defense of the Cookbook Approach to Econometrics

Cranking out LATEs with the best of them.
Cranking out LATEs with the best of them.

Dave Giles, whose Econometrics Beat is one of my favorite economics blogs, is not fond of what he calls the “cookbook” approach to econometrics:

I’ll lay it on the table – I am definitely not a fan of “Cookbook Econometrics.”

Here’s what I’m referring to.

It’s pointless, and frankly dangerous, to simply tell students what to do, without telling them why. And I know that this applies to more than just econometrics. When I’m explaining to students why we go through the proofs of important results, I usually make the following points.

First, depending on the nature and level of the course, I may or may not expect them to be able to reproduce the proof in a test or exam – usually, that’s the least of my concerns. Second, the real benefit in being led through the proof of a standard result in econometrics is that enables you to see exactly where (and how) any underlying assumptions are actually used.

When framed that way, it is certainly difficult to argue that students should be taught the cookbook approach to econometrics. But after teaching a half-semester “cookbook econometrics” course, I think it is considerably more nuanced than Dave explains it in the post quoted above (and in this other post of his). Continue reading