• Chart of the Week
  • December 28, 2021

2021 in Charts of the Week

The top ten charts of the week of 2021 covered a wide variety of topics.

Tyler Smith

The Chart of the Week series provides snapshots of charts or figures from the latest published articles and includes some context of how the chart relates to the authors' findings. The top ten charts of 2021 cover the gender wage gap, the impact of political corruption on societal norms, how some innovations can backfire, and more. You can view the most popular charts of the week from 2021 below. The rankings are based on overall page views. Check out more on our website.   


1. The long-run benefits of Medicaid

Andrew Goodman-Bacon asserts that Medicaid coverage for children has more than paid for itself in the long run. Goodman-Bacon found that Medicaid eligibility in early childhood reduced mortality and disability and increased employment up to 50 years later. As a result, young children in the 1960s and 1970s, who grew up with Medicaid, became healthier adults who paid more work-related taxes and relied less on welfare. Read more.

Panel B of Figure 6 from Goodman-Bacon (2021)


2. Regressive innovation

The opioid epidemic is a startling example of how a promising medical innovation can have unintended negative consequences. David Cutler and Edward Glaeser look at how this “technological regress” happened and whether it was caused more by the supply of drugs being prescribed or by demand from patients. Read more.

Figure 4 from Cutler and Glaeser (2021)


3. The top 10 percent through the ages

The COVID-19 pandemic may be increasing the gap between the rich and the poor. But how does today’s changing inequality compare to the past? Guido Alfani summarized the efforts of historians whose archival research has greatly increased economists’ knowledge of past wealth holdings. His work helps put today’s wealth polarization in perspective. Read more.

Figure 8 from Guido Alfani (2021)


4. Business incomes at the top

Economists Wojciech Kopczuk and Eric Zwick explored how tax policy shapes the way businesses are organized, which in turn changes how companies distribute economic gains to owners. Read more.

Figure 3 from Kopczuk and Zwick (2021)


5. Relative Income in Households

Many individuals still believe that if a woman earns more than her husband, it will cause problems in the relationship, leading to divorce or the choice to avoid marriage altogether. Past research has suggested that this view may explain a gap to the right of 50 percent in the distribution of the female share of total household earnings. Natalia Zinovyeva and Maryna Tverdostup offer an alternative explanation. Read more.

Figure 9 from Zinovyeva and Tverdostup  (2021)


6. Trickle down corruption

Last year, Mexico was rocked by claims of corruption against three former presidents who were accused of participating in multimillion-dollar bribe schemes, illegal campaign financing, and other crimes. The scandal may have far-reaching consequences for Mexican politics, and the publicity may be changing norms in the rest of society. Read more.

Figure 3 from Nicolás Ajzenman (2021)


7. How COVID-19 exacerbated the gender gap in academia

Researchers Tatyana Deryugina, Olga Shurchkov, and Jenna Stearns investigated the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 disruptions on female scholars. They examined survey data from 19,905 respondents with doctoral degrees, asking them to estimate the average number of hours spent on research and other tasks before and after the pandemic began. Read more.

Figure 2 from Deryugina et al. (2021)


8. Building a family dynasty

It’s no secret that parents have a critical influence over their children’s success later in life. But extended family matters too. Adrian Adermon, Mikael Lindahl, and Mårten Palme document the impact of parents’ siblings and cousins, their spouses, and spouses’ siblings on the educational outcomes for future generations. Read more.

Figure 1 from Adermon et al. (2021)


9. Increasing access to knowledge

Copyright law is intended to spur creativity by ensuring that innovators are compensated for their work. But these protections can hinder overall creative output if they prevent other scientists and artists from accessing and building upon important ideas. Barbara Biasi and Petra Moser investigate how the relaxed copyright protections of a 1942 initiative called the Book Republication Program (BRP) led to a significant increase in scientific advancements. Read more.

Figure 4 from Biasi and Moser (2021)


10. Understanding the child penalty

Women tend to fare significantly worse than men in the labor market after the birth of a child. A common explanation argues that biological factors unique to women, such as childbearing and breastfeeding, could play an important role. But Henrik Kleven, Camille Landais, and Jakob Egholt Søgaard pour cold water on that theory. Read more.

Panel A of Figure 1 from Kleven et al. (2021)



You can check out the rest of the Chart of the Week series on the AEA website. Stay up-to-date with the latest economics research by following @AEAjournals on Facebook and Twitter and by subscribing to our monthly Research Highlights Digest.