nep-cul New Economics Papers
on Cultural Economics
Issue of 2016‒08‒14
two papers chosen by
Roberto Zanola
Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale

  1. Media, Demonstrations, and Public Good Delivery: Evidence from World Bank Projects during Natural Disasters By Nicola Limodio
  2. Measuring Polarization in High-Dimensional Data: Method and Application to Congressional Speech By Matthew Gentzkow; Jesse M. Shapiro; Matt Taddy

  1. By: Nicola Limodio
    Abstract: Media can affect governments and public policy by promoting anti-government demonstrations. Under media pressure, a multitasking government might reallocate effort across tasks, rather than increase the total aggregate, resulting in ambiguous welfare effects. In this paper, I test such a hypothesis using a database of World Bank project indicators, which measures government performance in implementing capital projects. Disasters offer an ideal case study because citizens and the government can differ particularly in their preferences between public capital (reconstruction) and consumption (relief). Therefore, at times of disasters, media might be especially effective in shaping public policy by promoting anti-government demonstrations. Joining capital project indicators with data on disasters, media, and demonstrations,I present the following: (1) within-state variation in floods and media activity for Indian states; (2) within-country variation in disasters and media freedom for 135 countries; (3) a case study using anecdotal and archival evidence on flood response in Ghana, Togo, and Ivory Coast in 2007/2008. In all cases, media activity during disasters is associated with lower capital project performance, higher relief/anti-poverty efforts, and more anti-government demonstrations.
    Keywords: Disaster aid, government policy, media, natural disasters
    JEL: H84 I38 L82 Q54
    Date: 2016–08
  2. By: Matthew Gentzkow; Jesse M. Shapiro; Matt Taddy
    Abstract: We study trends in the partisanship of Congressional speech from 1873 to 2009. We define partisanship to be the ease with which an observer could infer a congressperson’s party from a fixed amount of speech, and we estimate it using a structural choice model and methods from machine learning. The estimates reveal that partisanship is far greater today than at any point in the past. Partisanship was low and roughly constant from 1873 to the early 1990s, then increased dramatically in subsequent years. Evidence suggests innovation in political persuasion beginning with the Contract with America, possibly reinforced by changes in the media environment, as a likely cause. Naive estimates of partisanship are subject to a severe finite-sample bias and imply substantially different conclusions.
    JEL: D72
    Date: 2016–07

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