Research Briefs

 

Boston Needs Cooler Buses

“Boston needs cooler buses,” writes Glimp Professor of Economics Edward Glaeser. “For decades, economists like me—and other budget nerds—have argued that buses are vastly more cost-effective than trains. Yet trains cause hearts to flutter, while buses elicit groans. For buses to take on more of this region’s transportation needs, they must please riders more and bean-counters less.” Unlike their railbound cousins, buses are flexible and customizable, Glaeser argues. Routes, size, and seating configurations can be easily changed. They can be Spartan or luxurious, stop at every corner or transport riders long distances quickly. “For better or worse, the obvious economic benefits of buses won’t win hearts and minds. We need tough medicine on the city streets that reduces stops and competing traffic. But we also need a heavy dose of design—some beauty in our buses. It isn't free, but costs far less than building miles of rail.”

Edward Glaeser
Boston Needs Cooler Buses
The Boston Globe

How We Can Help the Homeless

Over the past decade, the city of Boston has seen a 24 percent decrease in the number of homeless individuals living in shelters or on the streets. That’s owing to smart new programs instituted by agencies serving the homeless and to support from the business community. “But we can and should do more,” writes Mary Jo Bane, Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management. The state’s budget for homeless services has dropped almost 14 percent in the past 14 years, when adjusted for inflation, and recent surveys show a worrying increase in the number of homeless. “Despite the positive 10-year trend, the recent influx of homeless individuals is a real concern and will impact broader systems. Chronically homeless individuals contribute greatly to overall health care and other emergency costs. An increase in the individual homeless population will influence how much the state pays in health care and other costs. It also negatively impacts business and tourism.”

Mary Jo Bane
How We Can Help the Homeless
The Boston Globe

America’s Energy Edge

“The American energy revolution does not just have commercial implications; it also has wide-reaching geopolitical consequences,” write Meghan O'Sullivan, Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, and Robert Blackwill, an American diplomat and a former Kennedy School faculty member. “Most energy-producing states that lack diversified economies, such as Russia and the Gulf monarchies, will lose out, whereas energy consumers, such as China, India, and other Asian states, stand to gain. The biggest benefits, however, will accrue to the United States. Ever since 1971, when U.S. oil production peaked, energy has been construed as a strategic liability for the country, with its ever-growing thirst for reasonably priced fossil fuels sometimes necessitating incongruous alliances and complex obligations abroad. But that logic has been upended, and the newly unlocked energy is set to boost the U.S. economy and grant Washington newfound leverage around the world.”

Meghan O’Sullivan
America’s Energy Edge
Foreign Affairs

Six Keys to Economic Opportunity

President Barack Obama’s declaration, in his State of the Union address, that equal opportunity in America had “stalled”, overlooked new findings by Harvard economists that point in the opposite direction, writes Paul Peterson, Shattuck Professor of Government. “Conservatives and liberals alike should celebrate the actual degree of equal opportunity that nonetheless remains within the United States,” he writes. “The chances are only one in three that someone born into a family in the top 20 percent of the economic distribution will remain there. For two out of three of those seemingly privileged children, their places will be taken by others who came from families with lesser income. Whether that is good or bad is a matter of opinion, but it may be worth reporting that at a dinner party the other night, a group of well-informed, mostly liberal academics and their accomplished spouses thought a privileged child's chances of remaining in the upper 20 percent were twice as good as they actually are.”

Paul Peterson
Six Keys to Economic Opportunity
The Washington Times


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