Data points

Published July 12, 2021
A CUSTOMER looks on as she gets a microchip, containing personal data, attached to one of her nails at Lanour Beauty Lounge in Dubai.— Reuters / File photo
A CUSTOMER looks on as she gets a microchip, containing personal data, attached to one of her nails at Lanour Beauty Lounge in Dubai.— Reuters / File photo

The cost of owning a car

Private cars are valued not just for their functionality but also for the freedom, autonomy or status they offer. New research quantifies the value individuals assign to car ownership and shows that more than half of it derives from non-use value.

Private cars lead to air and noise pollution, contribute to climate change, and occupy space that could otherwise be used for recreation and active travel modes. Cars additionally pose a safety threat; road injuries are a leading cause of death worldwide1. Yet, high car dependence makes reducing vehicle ownership difficult. It has been argued that individuals would be more willing to give up their car if they were aware of the full costs of owning it.

In recent years, many solutions have been considered and implemented across cities to reduce car ownership and use, such as improving infrastructure for alternative modes or car restrictions. Still, passenger transport around the world is far from sustainable. Car ownership levels remain high in the Global North, and continue to rise in the Global South.

Adapted from an article by Sonja Haustein published in 2021 in the journal Nature Sustainability

Cheaper options for drug abusers

In the past 20 years, fatalities due to drug overdoses have tripled in the United States, reducing American life expectancy. Most of those deaths have come from opioid abuse. 

While this problem has elicited calls for expanded treatment, it is not clear what the best treatment option is. Data about the effectiveness of particular treatments are hard to come by because of privacy concerns and the stigma surrounding substance abuse.

To examine these issues, Adriana Corredor-Waldron and Janet Currie construct their own database of more than 800 treatment facilities in New Jersey and study the relationship between the opening and closing of such facilities and emergency room visits involving substance abuse. In research paper ‘Tackling the substance abuse crisis: the role of access to treatment facilities’, they find that when a new clinic opens in an area that has no substance abuse treatment facility, local visits to the emergency room for substance abuse fall 9.5 per cent and when a treatment facility closes, drug-related visits to the ER rise 16.6pc11.

Adapted from The digest number seven, July 2021 of National Bureau of Economic Research

Containment policies and high mortality

Shelter-in-place policies were one of the widely used policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries, and most US states, adopted such policies for at least some time. The policies varied in their stringency and duration. How did all-cause excess mortality evolve after these policies were adopted? In a new research paper, NBER Research Associate Neeraj Sood of the University of Southern California (USC), Virat Agrawal of USC, and Jonathan H. Cantor and Christopher M. Whaley of the RAND Corporation compile data on mortality patterns before and after the implementation of the shelter-in-place policies. They find that despite the expectation that these policies would reduce mortality, in most places mortality increased modestly after their adoption. The researchers offer several potential explanations for this finding, including changes in the use of medical care for non-COVID-19 conditions, changes in the transmissibility or virulence of the COVID-19 virus after shelter-in-place policies took effect, and the effects of social isolation.

Adapted from Covid-19 related research spotlights series at National bureau of Economic Research

The China puzzle

Many people have wrongly assumed that political freedom would follow new economic freedoms in China and that its economic growth would have to be built on the same foundations as in the West. The authors suggest that those assumptions are rooted in three essentially false beliefs about modern China: (1) Economics and democracy are two sides of the same coin; (2) authoritarian political systems can’t be legitimate; and (3) the Chinese live, work, and invest like Westerners. But at every point since 1949 the Chinese Communist Party — central to the institutions, society, and daily experiences that shape all Chinese people — has stressed the importance of Chinese history and of Marxist-Leninist doctrine. Until Western companies and politicians understand this and revise their views, they will continue to get China wrong.

Adapted from an article ‘What the West gets wrong about China’ published by Rana Mitter and Elsbeth Johnson in Harward Business Review issue of May-June 2021

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, July 12th, 2021

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