As consumer outlook surveys chart plunging numbers, some experts are noticing that the trend coincides with President Bush's declining approval ratings. Could it be that the public's view of the economy is more closely linked to the political climate than researchers thought? This powerful crosscurrent of economic, sociological and political thinking presents a new challenge. Economists must now determine whether the confidence numbers are a short-term blip or the signal of the beginning of a downward trend.

As more jobs move offshore, outsourcing appears to be one of the leading strategies used by companies to gain competitive advantage. But a new research study has determined that while outsourcing may be widespread, most companies have to failed to optimize its value through strategic planning. A research study jointly sponsored by A.T. Kearney Inc. and CAPS: Center for Strategic Supply Research at the W. P. Carey School of Business looked at outsourcing practices and developed guidelines for improvement. Companies should plan on three phases for successful outsourcing: planning and analysis, contracting and relationship development and implementation.

The availability of health data has implications for individual patients, health-care systems and policymakers, yet despite advances in information management, patient health records to a large extent are still scattered and difficult to retrieve. A research team at the W. P. Carey School of Business created a database of patient information that aggregates information about disease and treatment from physicians, clinics and hospitals without compromising confidentiality. The database has been useful to health-care planners and public health researchers — and is a model of local innovation as the nation moves toward the regional health information sources.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule next month whether Grokster, a Napster-like file-sharing network for downloading music and other digital entertainment, can be held liable for facilitating copyright infringement. But even if the music industry wins the case, two marketing professors at the W. P. Carey School of Business argue that it will ultimately lose if it keeps fighting consumers. Their research suggests that trying to stem music downloads through legal action and technology is likely to cost the industry more business than it preserves.

The solution to the increasingly expensive U.S. health-care system is to abandon insurance plans and government programs — and throw the beast into the open marketplace, according to 2004 Nobel Laureate Edward C. Prescott, professor of economics at the W. P. Carey School of Business. Prescott outlined the economic logic of his economic hypothesis at a recent Phoenix symposium on the future of health care.