When Do Food Prices Cause Social Unrest?


When they are high, not when they are volatile. That is, increases in the mean of the world food price distribution appear to cause increases in social unrest, whereas increases in the variance of the world food price distribution seem to have no impact on social unrest. At best, food price volatility is associated with decreases in social unrest.

Those are the core findings in my most recent published article titled “Rising Food Prices, Food Price Volatility, and Social Unrest.” The article is published in the January 2015 issue of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Here is the abstract:

Can food prices cause social unrest? Throughout history, riots have frequently broken out, ostensibly as a consequence of high food prices. Using monthly data at the international level, this article studies the impact of food prices – food price levels as well as food price volatility – on social unrest. Because food prices and social unrest are jointly determined, data on natural disasters are used to identify the causal relationship flowing from food price levels to social unrest. Results indicate that for the period 1990–2011, food price increases have led to increases in social unrest, whereas food price volatility has not been associated with increases in social unrest. These results are robust to alternative definitions of social unrest, to using real or nominal prices, to using commodity-specific price indices instead of aggregated price indices, to alternative definitions of the instrumental variable, to alternative definitions of volatility, and to controlling for non-food-related social unrest.

[Repost] Advice for Job Market Candidates: Interviewing at the Annual Meetings

It’s that time of the year again, when graduate students who are about to enter their final year in economics and related disciplines are getting ready to go on the job market.

Going on the job market is a harrowing experience, however, so I thought I should help job-market candidates by sharing my advice.

The next installment will be posted in early 2015 and will cover on-campus interviews. Continue reading

I Know What I’m Getting Myself for Christmas…

Josh Angrist and Steve Pischke have a new book coming out in a few weeks titled Mastering ‘Metrics. From Dave Giles’ blog, which is one of my three* favorite econ blogs:

Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path From Cause to Effect, by Joshua Angrist and Jörn-Steffen Pischke, is to be published by Princeton University Press later this month. This new book from the authors of Mostly Harmless Econometrics is bound to be well received by students and researchers involved in applied empirical economics. My guess is that the biggest accolades will come from those whose interest is in empirical microeconomics.
Apparently the book focuses on:

The five most valuable econometric methods, or what the authors call the Furious Five – random assignment, regression, instrumental variables, regression discontinuity designs, and differences in differences.

I know what I’m getting myself for Christmas–and I suspect this new book will rapidly become one of the core texts in my cookbook econometrics class, alongside Angrist and Pischke’s earlier book Mostly Harmless Econometrics.

* The other two being Development Impact (development economics) and Jayson Lusk’s blog (agricultural economics and food policy).