Food Price Levels and Food Price Volatility in India

From a longer column by Pramit Bhattacharya published last week in Mint, one of India’s leading financial newspapers:

While many acknowledge the key role of dearer food in destabilizing regimes, right from the time of the French Revolution in the 18th century to the Arab Spring in 2011, there are only a few studies that have sought to study the links between food prices and social unrest empirically. In a recent research paper, the economist Marc Bellemare of the University of Minnesota attempts to fill that gap by establishing a causal link between rising food prices and social unrest. …

Bellemare collates monthly cross-country data on food riots between 1990 and 2011 to show that it is the level of food prices rather than the volatility in food prices that drives food riots across countries. …

In most democracies, policymakers are aware of the links between food inflation and political upheavals. But food policies designed to prevent price volatility can be very different from those designed to prevent food price increases. India is a case in point. As my colleague TCA Sharad Raghavan pointed out in a recent article, while India’s closed door policies have managed to limit volatility in food prices, they have led to an increase in food prices by preventing imports of cheaper food. Perhaps, it is time to embrace more openness and volatility, if it brings with it lower prices on average, and greater political stability.

You can read the whole thing here. Much to his credit, Pramit is the only person to have reported on this who has grasped (and clearly explained) the levels vs. volatility distinction. See the bolded part above for a great example that I wish I would have thought about when writing my paper, as it would have made my life much easier.

ht: Rajib Sutradhar.

Unwritten Rules of Academia: Asking for Teaching Materials

I received the following email last week:

Dear Professor Bellemare,

I noticed that you taught the course “Microeconomics of International Development Policy” while at Duke which I find very appealing. Your course’s content online appears to overlap to some extent with an applied development policy course that I will begin teaching at [university name redacted] as a part-time fellow next academic term. As this is the first time I am teaching this course and thus have no course materials and also have many other time commitments … I wanted to ask you if you may be willing to provide a large favor and possibly share and forward your class presentations that I could use as a point of orientation to prepare the specific content of my class presentations?

I would be extremely grateful if this may be possible as it would help me not to start completely from scratch and I would of course be willing to offer a favour in return (for example, I could share [data sets] if these may be relevant for you, as I have worked with [institution redacted] over the past five years and have most of these data sets …). And I could of course forward you the presentations for this course once they are prepared.

I very much look forward to your response and would be very thankful if we could find a solution.

[Name redacted]

I hesitated before writing this post, but after discussing it with a colleague with whom I was in the field last week, he suggested that it could make for a good “teachable moment.” Besides, there so many unwritten rules in academia that I thought I should at least try to make this one explicit to current graduate students and newly minted PhDs. Maybe this is a rule only to me; if so, I’d like to hear from colleagues about how they view situations such as this one, in the comments section below.

The rule has two parts: Continue reading

Slides for “Why Do Members of Congress Support Agricultural Protection?”


I had promised myself I would resume posting regularly in August after taking the summer off from blogging, but it’s a busy month (as you read this, I am in the Peruvian Altiplano launching a field research project on quinoa), so here are the slides for my presentation of my paper with Nick Carnes titled “Why Do Members of Congress Support Agricultural Protection?” at this year’s annual meetings of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

This paper is now a revise and resubmit at Food Policy, and a revised, improved version is available; email me if you are interested in reading it.

Contributing to Public Goods: How to Publish in Academic Journals

The graduate student section (GSS) of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association had asked my Ohio State colleague Brian Roe, co-editor of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics,  to present on the topic of how to publish in academic journals at a GSS-organized session on academic communication at last week’s annual meetings in Minneapolis.

Because his flight was leaving too early to allow him to do so, Brian asked me to sub for him. Here are my slides for that talk, in .pdf format. Because of my audience, this is agricultural-and-applied-economics-centric, but I think those of you in other fields of economics and in other disciplines can find something useful in there.

Top 5 Agricultural Economics Journals, As Per the New Impact Factors

From the ISI Web of Knowledge Journal Citations Report, here is the new top 5 of agricultural economics journals:

  1. Food Policy 2.331
  2. European Review of Agricultural Economics 1.467
  3. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 1.363
  4. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 1.328
  5. Agricultural Economics 1.085

The number to the right of each journal name is the journal’s impact factor, which has been calculated on the basis of calendar year 2013 citation numbers.

This has been a very good year for agricultural economics journals. I know for one that the impact factors for Food Policy and the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (AJAE) have both increased. I am proud to serve as associate editor at both journals.

That is but one top 5, however. Bear in mind that the rank ordering might differ significantly depending on what other indicators of quality you look at, or whether you consider reputation. In agricultural and applied economics departments, for example, many people still consider the AJAE as the no-contest top journal in the field, no matter what impact factors may say.

ht: Bhavani Shankar.