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Posts tagged with research

Research focuses on real wages—wages that are adjusted for inflation. Getting data on wages is tricky. But accounting for inflation is even harder. (For example, workers often paid rent informally, meaning that there are few records around).

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And so it is unsurprising that researchers differ in their estimations of real wages. Some, such as Peter Lindert and Jeffrey Williamson, suggest that full-time earnings for British common labourers, adjusted for inflation, more than doubled in the seventy years after 1780. But Charles Feinstein argued that over the same period, British real wages only increased by around 30%. It’s a bit of a … mess.

Most people agree that after about 1840, real wages did better. Nicholas Crafts and Terence Mills shows that from 1840 to 1910, real wages more than doubled. Their findings are mirrored by other researchers ….

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in almost all British cities, mortality conditions in the 1860s were no better—and were often worse—than in the 1850s. In Liverpool in the 1860s, the life expectancy fell to an astonishing 25 years. It was not until the two subsequent decades that rises in life expectancy were found

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Random thought. If end-of-life health care costs eat up 33% of US health care spending = $850 billion, then that means that if you could make people less afraid of dying and more willing to accept it, you would save = make a colossal amount of money. (In fact $850bn = roughly ten years of revenues of US President Obama’s optimistic projection if he raises taxes on the richest Americans.)

In other words, changing people’s attitudes could add 10% to the GDP of the biggest economy in the world.

Random thought #2. If we’re interested in maximising utility across the economy rather than increasing production levels, then perhaps the most important field of research is not bioengineering but the psychology of satisfaction. If you could figure out how to make people appreciate the things they have and not covet the things others have, then gross utility would shoot way up. How much? Billions? Maybe even on the order of the entire economy itself?