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Do Smartphones Really Cause Teen Depression? Also, Important New Inflation Paper

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#PublicHealth #Tech – Are smartphones driving the alarming rise in teen depression we have seen since 2009-ish? The biggest proponent of the “Yes” view has been academic psychologist Jonathan Haidt; his theory has in its favor that Haidt is a serious and independent-thinking scholar (a definite rarity in his field) and he has marshalled impressive amounts of data and studies showing correlations between teen smartphone use and depression. The contrary argument, of course, is that these are only correlations and that the rise in teen mental health problems could be due to any other number of circumstances–or even measurement error. David Wallace-Wells lays out the pros and cons of each views rather well in a column in the New York Times; his piece includes the best argument we’ve seen for the “No” view: Obamacare included a recommended annual screening of teen girls for depression, and HHS also mandated a change in how hospitals code injuries, and this would be the biggest contributor to the post-2009 rise in reported teen mental health problems.

Is this a policy issue? Isn’t this just something for parents to decide for themselves? Maybe, but there is a good argument against it: collective action. Teens need to have smartphones because all of their friends have smartphones and communicate using texting apps and other social apps. At least theoretically, this collective action problem would justify policy intervention.

Speaking anecdotally, your correspondent’s children attend a school which bans smartphones and this policy (no pun intended) has certainly made it easier to keep the preteens on a flip phone.

#EconomicsImportant new paper from economic superstars Ben Bernanke and Olivier Blanchard: the economists tried to produce a model of inflation trying to account for the causes of pandemic-era inflation in 11 countries: the United States and Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, and the UK. The bottomline? “Relative price shocks and sectoral shortages drove the initial surge in inflation, but as these effects have reversed, tight labor markets in most (although not all) countries have become a relatively more important factor.” Of course, the story is more complicated than that, as the authors admit: “the inflation story is not complete as of this writing, however, and the ultimate outcomes remain to be seen.” Important work, and the authors have done it in collaboration with staffs at 11 central banks, whose staffs will adapt the model to each particular country. This represents one of the most significant recent efforts to understand the post-pandemic inflation surge in the West in econometric terms. Also noteworthy: the website for the study includes a direct link to a “replication package.” Nice bit of transparency in this era of rampant fraud in science!

#TaxPolicy – As you know, the TCJA includes expirations which will force Congress to act on tax policy in 2025. The Tax Foundation outlines several tax reform options tailored for that moment.

#EconomicPolicy – The very talented Dr Samuel Gregg received the Bradley Foundation’s Bradley Prize this year. Here is his acceptance speech, titled: “We can, and should, return to our nation’s economic ideals

#PublicHealth #OpenGov – Surprise surprise: “top US public health officials created ‘secret’ back channels for communications on federal business in order to avoid” FOIAs. Brownstone Institute, whose coverage of public health issues has been exemplary, has the story.

#Trans #LGBTQImportant testimony brought to us by the Independent Women’s Forum on how life in a sorority was destroyed by admitting a trans-identifying biological male into the group. Stories like this are brought about by the Biden Administration’s redefinition of civil rights laws to cover gender identity. This stuff has real-world consequences, putting young women in danger.

#Education – Since Covid, homeschooling has become ever more popular. As we know, the left hates homeschooling. This is how increasing attempts to regulate it should be seen. Mises Institute’s Heather Carson has more.

#TaxPolicy – The Tax Foundation makes a good point: at a time when interest rates are rising and deficits ballooning, the IRA’s EV tax credits should be top of the list when looking at spending to cut. They’re projected to cost more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

#Poverty #Entitlements Interesting report from Brookings’ Jack A. Smalligan: “A common proposal to reduce poverty rates among retirees is an enhanced Social Security minimum benefit focused on lifetime low earners. This policy, however, achieves only modest poverty reduction. […] A more effective policy would focus on enhancing SSI benefits.”

#TaxPolicy – Fun content from the Tax Foundation: they calculated the state income taxes for the entire 2024 NFL Draft class. But, of course, it serves a serious point: the importance of state taxes to competitiveness.

Chart of the Day

Labor market tightness since 2019Q1, from the Bernanke & Blanchard paper mentioned above.

Meme of the Day

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