Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, August 9, 2010

Faculty share expertise with governments, in media, at conferences

La Follette School faculty share their expertise in many ways and in many places throughout the school year and during the summer. Here is a sampling of their activities:

Money spent on leisure boosts people's level of happiness, Thomas DeLeire finds. He and co-author Ariel Kalil of the University of Chicago found that spending vacations, movie theater tickets, sports equipment, and hobbies and other leisure activities improves happiness levels, which are measured by asking survey respondents to describe how they feel about their lives.

"Using data from a study by the National Institute on Aging, Professor DeLeire compared the happiness derived from different levels of spending to the happiness people get from being married. (Studies have shown that marriage increases happiness.)," the New York Times reported. "'A $20,000 increase in spending on leisure was roughly equivalent to the happiness boost one gets from marriage,'" DeLeire told the Times, "adding that spending on leisure activities appeared to make people less lonely and increased their interactions with others."

The study, published in the International Review of Economics, looked at nine areas of consumption. Only leisure bolstered happiness: Consumption of durables, charity, personal care, food, health care, vehicles, and housing are not significantly associated with happiness. U.S. News and World Report also reported on DeLeire's findings.

Menzie Chinn will discuss "Global Economic Crises" at East-West Center/Korean Development Institute conference in Hawaii in August. This talk follows several presentations made in the summer and spring, including three in Italy. In June, he presented "Trade Costs and International Trade Integration" at the Warwick University conference The Evolving Role of China in the Global Economy, then gave the keynote speech, "The U.S., China and the Rebalancing Debate: The Impact of Academic Research," at a CESifo conference in late July, both in Venice. In early July he spoke "The Resilience of the Eurozone in a Time of Turbulence" at a euro50 group and Reinventing Bretton Woods conference in Florence in early July. Also in June, Chinn spoke on the yield curve as a predictor of growth at the Norges Bank conference Recent Advances in the Econometrics of Macroeconomics and Finance. Back in March, Chinn presented at a seminar at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Chinn picked up some press coverage from Reuters on the value of China's currency, the yuan, relative to the U.S. dollar.

"It appeared that Washington and Beijing had at least an implicit agreement earlier this year that China would allow the yuan to rise more rapidly, said Menzie Chinn, a China policy scholar who teaches economics at the University of Wisconsin.

"Europe's worsening debt troubles put that on hold. Europe is China's largest trading partner, so China had no desire to do anything that would further harm demand.

"'The impending G20 meeting required at least some sort of indication of impending action,' Chinn said.

"'Saying that they will allow "flexibility" means they can also try to occasionally depreciate the yuan on a day-to-day basis, here and there, to discourage speculators gambling on predictable day-by-day appreciation.'"

Maria Cancian is spending the summer and fall of 2010 working with policymakers at the Department of Children and Families on a range of activities, including quality service reviews and child death reviews within the child welfare system. She is learning more about how the child welfare, child support and welfare systems interact, and what this says about the logic of public support for children and families. The opportunity is made possible by a Distinguished Fellows award from the William T. Grant Foundation.

Andrew Reschovsky traveled to Beijing, where he made two presentations and collaborated with Chinese economists on a research project on Chinese local government fiscal reform. At a workshop for government officials and academics on Public Finance Reform: International Experience and China's Approach Reschovsky gave a presentation on "Local Government Revenue Diversification: Lessons from the U.S." He also presented a paper on "Measuring the Fiscal Conditions of Urban Governments" at an International Symposium on Urban Development and Land Policy. Both events were sponsored by the Peking University-Lincoln Institute Center for Urban Development and Land Policy.

Carolyn Heinrich spoke at a conference on shaping the future of the European Social Fund in June. She was one of several panelists who discussed learning from the formulation, implementation and evaluation of social welfare programs. She spoke on "Monitoring and Evaluating the Performance and Impact of ESF Interventions." Heinrich returned to South Africa twice this summer to continue her work with the South African Department of Social Development and UNICEF in evaluating the effectiveness of its child support grant program and recommending ways to improve program outcomes. The program was started in the late 1990s to help reduce child poverty and infant mortality, and it has since been expanding both in the ages of children it targets and the coverage of the grant.