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In the Amazon Jungle or a California Subdivision, Sometimes Less Infrastructure Is More

By | May 2, 2017

The need for more infrastructure is one of the few areas of genuine bipartisan consensus in the United States. But my experiences working in two rapidly urbanizing regions outside this country have led me to wonder whether there may already be too much of it.
Infrastructure is a double-edged sword. For every case in which it is desperately needed, there is another case in which it …

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If You Want Strawberry Fields Forever, You Need Migrant Labor

By | April 28, 2017

Two hundred years ago this year, British economist David Ricardo published his monumental work “On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.” In it he outlined a theory of international trade based on the notion of comparative advantage. The idea is that each country does something, maybe many somethings, relatively well, and they can therefore specialize and trade with each other to their mutual benefit.
Economics …

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How the Internet and E-Commerce Are Hacking Protectionism

By | April 27, 2017

Consider two distinct worlds only a few miles from each other. One world is that of Jennifer and Nicole, recently featured in The New York Times, who have worked all their lives at the Carrier air conditioner factory in Indianapolis and eagerly expect President Trump to impose tariffs on air conditioners to prevent their factory from moving to Mexico. The other world is that of Travis, who …

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Are Trade Shocks to Blame for Our Extremist Politics?

Does economic competition from low-wage manufacturing countries like China make politics in Western countries more polarized?
The short answer is yes. The harder, unanswered question is: How, exactly?
A body of research including our own papers shows overwhelming evidence that, over the last 20 years or so, trade integration with low-wage manufacturing countries like China has had dramatic effects on the manufacturing landscape in rich countries like …

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From the Wreckage of the ’92 Riots, a More Diverse, Civic-Minded Los Angeles Rises

By | April 27, 2017

Luxury condominiums compete with foreign banks on the new skyline of Koreatown. On a Saturday night, 20-somethings crowd the sidewalks, huddling around food trucks, circling in and out of karaoke bars, biryani places, barbecue joints, and a high-rise driving range. This same neighborhood, and other swathes of Los Angeles, seemed doomed 25 years ago when more than 2,000 Korean business were damaged or destroyed during the …

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In the New Global Trade Map, China Commands the Center

By | April 26, 2017

Most maps you see in this country put the Atlantic Ocean at their center, with North America and Europe just off center stage. Asia is on a periphery.
My favorite map looks different. It puts China, not the Atlantic, at the center of the world.
That reflects reality. In 2014, China became the largest economy on the planet, if you calculate Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in …

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Why the Census Must Frame the Right Questions on Race and National Origin

By | April 25, 2017

Like most Americans, I spent most of my life not appreciating the herculean effort the U.S. Census Bureau undertakes every 10 years.
Since its inception in 1790, the U.S. Census has aimed to count every living person in the country, and the stakes are high. The results of the census determine the allocation of hundreds of billions of federal dollars, which affect every slice …

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Could Solving the Mystery of Camus’s The Stranger Help Curb Police Violence?

By | April 24, 2017

Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger contains one of the most famous acts of violence in all literature. A man kills someone he doesn’t know, without immediate provocation, in broad daylight. Though the incident is usually read for its philosophical or literary value, it’s also rich in sociological evidence. As a sociologist, the mystery that most interests me is why, after shooting his antagonist once, does …

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The Radical Paradox of Sweden’s Consensus Culture

By | April 22, 2017

In the 1930s, the American journalist Marquis Childs, after spending time in Sweden, wrote the bestselling book Sweden: The Middle Way. Childs described a country without major social conflicts between the upper and lower classes. He was fascinated by the Swedish economic system, which he described as a perfect compromise between free and controlled markets. In the United States, the book made a great impact …

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Is Terrorism Sweden’s New Export?

By | April 21, 2017

There is a difference between knowing that Islamic terrorism could befall your country, and experiencing it. The April 7 truck attack in central Stockholm was experienced as a shock across the country. Our king even held one of his rare speeches to the nation. Some shock was understandable. But we should not have been surprised.
For many years Sweden’s relative calm has disguised the fact that …