Monday, July 30, 2012

Gmail bleg

We are going Google here in Michigan-land and my university email switched over this weekend.

I will reserve judgement for now, but in the meantime I have a question:

Does anyone know how to delete an attachment from an email without deleting the email itself?

Addendum:

I am informed that Google's view is "don't delete, buy more space". Consistent with this, there is no way to do it in Google.  I have been pointed to two external programs that can do it; you can read about them here and here.

I am also told that there is some way to continue using the outlook interface on top of gmail, but that sounds above my pay grade.

Shame on Google for purveying software lacking critical features. They lost a fan today.

Alfred Hitchcock, the Birds, and Tippi Hedren

Lots of Hollywood history I did not know.

I was sorry to learn that Hitchcock was such a jerk.

Book: Crimea, The Last Crusade by Orlando Figes

I picked up Crimea, The Last Crusade at a used bookstore on Tottenham Court Road in London. The Crimean War was a bit of history that I knew next to nothing about, an omission well remedied by this book.

The book is written as serious popular history. The author has read widely in both the primary and secondary literature, and there are many pages of notes at the end. Still, the style was a bit less academic than I care for, both in the sense of detailed documentation and in the sense of explicit discussion of the literature in the text. I suspect for many readers this is a feature rather than a bug.

As suggested by the title (which is different in the American version I linked to above), the author emphasizes the religious nature of the conflict, which included Muslims, protestants and Catholics on one side and the orthodox on the other. The book is a good reminder that people used to take these differences quite seriously, and that at one time orthodox Christianity seemed just as exotic as Islam to many protestants.

Figes also does a fine job of interweaving political history with social history, both in the sense of discussing broader social trends on the home fronts of the combatants and in the sense of including sources such as sermons (odd and a bit scary to read Anglican ministers in England getting all worked up about the "heathen" orthodox) and letters written by soldiers on the front.  Also interesting was his detailed treatment of English Russophobia, and the shifting relationships between England and France.

I was also glad to finally learn a bit of the history of Florence Nightengale and the Charge of the Light Brigade, terms I think most everyone has heard but for which I had never before had any real context or understanding.

Recommended.

Movie: The Dark Knight Rises

I found that the NYT review got me more stirred up than the movie.  The review has too much about current politics and, I think, a complete misreading of the politics of the movie itself, which is right-populist in much the same way as Law and Order. The line police are always good and noble, while politicians, police upper management (commissioner Gordon excepted and even he is a bit ambiguous here), rich people and lefty populists are all (Batman excepted), bad, or at least ineffectually wimpy. Not a vision that has much empirical plausibility or normative appeal, but people seem to like it.

They should have assigned A.O. Scott to review this one.

Still, putting aside the politics (what!), it is a very enjoyable film.  I assumed, given the length, that I would be bored at times, and conscious not of the movie but of the outside world, but I never was. And can you ever have too much Gary Oldman or Michael Caine?

I do wish they had done more with the catwoman character. Perhaps that bit ended up on the cutting room floor. She was interesting in her conflicted loyalties, but the potential depth was not really exploited in the film.

Still, this is recommended, and is about as good as it gets for summer fluff

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Assorted links

1. The Atlantic on archery in Bhutan. Charlie will like this one.

2. TSA grope and pillage.

3. Tyler Cowen remembers my colleague Miles Kimball in his graduate school days.

4. WSJ on changes in the first class cabin.

5. The American Men's Studies Association comes to Ann Arbor in April, in case you are looking for an excuse to visit.

Hat tip on #2 to a Facebook friend.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Economic ignorance; left and right

Or, the data dissuade Dan Klein from his case of partisan differentiation disorder.

Paper: Borghans and Schils (2012)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Decomposing achievement test scores into cognitive and noncognitive components
Lex Borghans, Maastricht University
Trudie Schils, Maastricht University
Draft version July 11, 2012
Abstract
Test scores on achievement tests depend on both cognitive and noncognitive skills. The predictive power of achievement tests is therefore potentially due to all components. The question of this paper is whether it is possible to disentangle cognitive and noncognitive factors from the performance on the test. Using data from the international achievement test PISA, we decompose the test scores into two factors. We investigate the development of the performance of students during the test, utilizing the (randomized) difference in the order of the test questions in the various test booklets. We document that performance substantially drops during the test and that this performance drop differs between types of students and countries. The estimated size of the drop is very stable over the years, while correlation between this drop and the test scores is small. This suggests that the decline in test scores during the test picks up something else than just cognition. The size of the decline in test scores during the test is related to personality traits, mainly to agreeableness, and to motivational attitudes towards learning. It also predicts outcomes in later life such as income and smoking in addition to the pure test score. The motivation effect can explain 19 percent of the variation in the average test scores between countries.
I saw this paper at the NBER summer institute last week and thought it was pretty cool.

Are property rights enough?

I thought this was one of the most interesting things I read in reason in recent months. I reminded me of a debate I heard about in graduate school about segregation. The question in that debate was whether getting rid of legal segregation and discrimination would have sufficed to improve the position of African-Americans in the US or whether it would require social change in addition to legal change. I thought the right answer in the debate was that you had to have both, that a strict libertarian ending of only the legal restrictions would have accomplished something, but might not have changed the social equilibrium.

The reason piece addresses the same question but in a less specific context. Another way to think about the reason debate, which is not how the participants frame it, is about the boundary between liberarianism and classical liberalism and which one is better and/or more likely to lead to a truly free society.

Pac 12 Media Day

The media picked Washington to finish 3rd in the PAC-12 north, behind Oregon and Stanford.

Zinn = Barton = rubbish?

The Atlantic on cult pop historians of the left and right.

Rand and Chomsky play the same game to some extent.

I have always found, at least since I clued in to why reading history is interesting (hint: it is not about being able to recite lots of facts) that one of the most useful bits of it is how reluctant historical figures are to fit into the political categories of the moment. They had different ideas, and different concerns. And from that one can learn, or be reminded, how transitory and arbitrary are many current political configurations.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Miracles of technology

On Fox News just now "Alba's company makes chemical-free products".

Good trick, that, making products without chemicals.

Oh, and she was on the show (giggle) promoting a law that would harm her company's competitors (giggle), a fact that went unmentioned.

I have no idea about the law, but shouldn't the conflict of interest at least have come up?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Our architect

The story of David Osler, the fellow who designed our home in Ann Arbor, which we really, really like.

Note that Osler's father-in-law, Emil Lorch, is the same Lorch that Lorch Hall, home of the Michigan economics department, is named after. Our building was originally home to the architecture faculty, now located on north campus.

A modest clicker proposal

One of my pet peeves at seminars and conferences is speakers who zoom back and forth among their slides as they try to figure out what they want to say next. To combat this minor evil, I propose a clicker that delivers a mild electric shock (or emits some obnoxious noise) whenever the speaker moves both forward and backward through his or her slides with a given small time interval.

I offer this idea free of charge to product developers everywhere.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Game design bootcamp

Wow ... I am a bit envious of the students who got to participate in Michigan's game design bootcamp featuring Sid Meier (of Civilization), Brian Reynolds (Alpha Centauri) and others.

Game design (though I was thinking more of board games back then) was one of the handful of careers I thought about, along with architecture and marketing, on the way to becoming an academic economist.

Turns out too that Sid and his three kids are all UM alums. Go Blue!

Assorted links

1. The unused, but quite pretty, City Hall subway station in NYC.

2. Improvements at Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor.

3. The Taj Mahal from many angles.

4. The Daily Mail on the dangers of potty prodigies.

5. Some wistful thoughts from the University of Chicago magazine on the occasion of the move of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore out of the seminary basement. The Co-op is one of the best things - maybe the best thing - about Hyde Park.

Hat tip on #3 to Jackie Smith and on #4 to Charlie Brown.

J. P. Patches, RIP

The Seattle Times has a fine obituary. I like this bit:
Former Sonics guard Slick Watts once said, "In most big cities, the famous people are the sports stars, but in Seattle, J.P. was the man."
And some memorabilia:


Addendum: there is some social history in the check list.  Can you imagine a similar television personality in the present day advocating either praying or milk drinking (what about the lactose intolerant!) or eating all your food (on the way to being an obese adult!) like this?

Hat tips: Julie Anne Kempf and Jeff Simon, on Facebook

Movie: Safety Not Guaranteed

We saw Safety Not Guaranteed last week at the State Theater in Ann Arbor along with a surprisingly full house.

This is a sweet little indie with a fun story, some pretty good acting, and lots of beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery (though my sense from the credits is that much of it was filmed in the Seattle suburbs, rather than near the ocean as is suggested in the movie).

The NYT liked it too.

Recommended.

Made-in-China uniforms fiasco

Another teachable moment. Unfortunately the lesson learned is one pretty much everyone already knows, which is that our political class consists largely short-sighted, ignorant, opportunistic, jingoistic nitwits.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

More on Bloomberg

Will Wilkinson writes the post on the Bloomberg sugary soda ban I wish I had written.

This is a response to only one JW.

On gun control

Americans honor those who die in mass shootings via the strange ritual of repeating their (usually not very well thought out) opinions about gun control. In that spirit, I thought I would share mine.

First, I do not think that individuals, in general, have a right to bear arms. I think the fundamental right is to self-defense. This is a right that those on the left really ought to like, as it is all about allowing the vulnerable to protect themselves from thugs of various sorts.

I know that, at this point, I have already lost some Europeans. The sorry spectacle of Tony Martin, the fellow in England who shot the 10th person to rob his farm being sent to prison was actually defended by some. If you think the weak should just take it and take it and take it until such time as some government officials arrive, even if they never do, then we part ways right here.

Returning to my original stream of thought, in my view, the right to self-defense is limited in several senses. First, the response should be proportionate to the rights violation. If someone walks on your lawn, you do not get to shoot them, or even hit them, even though they have violated your rights. Second, you must make reasonable efforts to call in the proper authorities, and you must hand over the situation to them when they appear, assuming they actually do arrive and manage to do more than just shoot your dog and seize your cell phone for having the audacity to record them (your employees, doing their jobs) when they do appear. Third, your right to do harm ends when the rights violation ends. You are not allowed to shoot someone in the back while they run away, even if they just tried to kill you.

In addition, I think people have the right to use technology to aid them in exercising their right to self-defense. The right to self-defense would not be very useful for the weak if they were not allowed to use technology to assist their efforts. This right, too, is limited in my view. The key limit is that ex ante restrictions may be imposed to prevent the technology doing more harm than good. I think we can all agree that, for example, individuals may not possess nuclear or (more serious than mace or pepper spray) chemical weapons. They would have a fine deterrent effect, and end many rights violations, but those benefits surely do not exceed the likely expected costs of misuse. I think that many of the thoughtful subset of those who advocate gun control of various sorts think that guns fall into the same category as nuclear weapons.  I think their implicit claim about how a well-done empirically-based cost-benefit analysis would come out is incorrect, but that is an empirical question.

My framework would allow, and I would support, a law that gun owners be required to take a non-trivial course in how to use a gun, and pass a test of some sort indicating that they do indeed know how to safely own, maintain and use a gun. In this sense, I think that guns are like cars. People can use them, but because of the danger of misuse - cars are very effective weapons too - we restrict their use to individuals who have demonstrated the ability to drive, some knowledge of the rules of the road, and who do not misuse the car, for example by driving drunk. In a similar spirit, I have no problem with lifetime bans on gun ownership for individuals who use a gun to commit a crime.

That's what I think. My sense is that my view is quite different from both the common blue team view and the common red team view. I also think that focusing the discussion on what constitutes legitimate self-defense, and on empirical cost-benefit analyses, is useful to advance the discussion beyond the bumper sticker level.

I end with some remarks about the evidence and about the implicit cost-benefit analysis that underlies my view (and which reflects only a passing, rather than a deep, knowledge of some of the relevant literature). First, I think simple comparisons to Canada are not very useful. Canada is full of Canadians. They are different in their social capital and in their history in ways the challenge the meaningfulness of comparisons. There are also more  guns around in Canada than a lot of Americans think. Second, the socially optimal number of mass shootings (like the socially optimal number of most bad things) is non-zero. Third, the number of mass shootings with even very strict gun control will be non-zero. This affects the cost-benefit calculation associated with gun control of various sorts. Fourth, my sense is that we do not have very good evidence on the deterrent effects of guns. There is a literature, and some data, on this, but my sense is that the data are not that good and that both for that reason and because of the partisan nature of the issue, the estimates vary widely. Estimates based on the number of actual instances  where an individual scares away a criminal by brandishing (or more) a gun, which is what we mostly have, are, moreover, a lower bound on the extent of actual deterrence, which includes those crimes not attempted in a world without gun control but attempted in the world where it exists. Finally, the thermostat model does not apply here, as usual. What matters is not the amount of control in some naive sense but its design.

I welcome pointers to the (serious) literature (i.e. not your favorite partisan website, not the NYT editorial page, etc.) in the comments.

JW and JW can think of this as my response to their facebook post and tweet, respectively.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Policy seriousness

NPR (!) provides a list of six really smart policies that almost all economists would agree on.  A good way to test the seriousness of your favorite politician or debating partner is to test their views on these six questions.

Most politicians, as the title of the article suggests, will fail on all six. That's a problem; in particular it is a problem in the design of our mechanisms of social choice.

Via Fabian Lange on FB.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Movie: The Adventures of Spider-Man

I liked the Spiderman reboot better than my memory of the last time.

The NYT reviewer is ambivalent in reasonable ways. She is right that it is the characters that make it go. It gets a bit tedious in the (surprisingly limited) fighting sequences.

Recommended as summer fluff.

Cities, big and small

Praise for Ann Arbor at Atlantic Cities by a writer who grew up here longing to leave, experienced the experience goods of NYC and Chicago, and happily returned.

Bonus unique experience: see Zingerman's praised for its low prices.

More seriously, not all small cities are created equal. Ann Arbor has a lot going on intellectually and culturally that even a lot of other college towns do not, because it draws in visitors from the Detroit suburbs.

Oh, and I once went from sitting at the desk in my office at the university to sitting in a chair at my gate at DTW in 45 minutes. Not bad (though it usually takes a bit longer).

Beam me up (to Hyde Park)

The University of Chicago magazine profiles Austan Goolsbee's return to the Booth School at Chicago, and provides some advice on how to make the general transition from politics back to academia.

Math humor

Via Jason Kerwin on Facebook

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Senior recruiting news

Justin and Betsey are comin' to Michigan.

This will be fun.

Monday, July 16, 2012

NJS Full Baseline Survey - on my web page

This is pretty inside baseball, but I just posted a scan of the Full Baseline Survey instrument from the National Job Training Partnership Act Study on my web page. The data themselves are available from the Upjohn Institute.

I should also note that the "papers" part of my web page only works with Google Chrome for reasons I am not clear on.  I will fix this by the end of the summer.

More ZITS college choice

Dedicated to ASAK

Assorted links

1. The Economist on charter schools. If charter schools are no longer scary, vouchers should not be either.

2. It always seems to be government employees, and not researchers, who lose or abuse the confidential data.

3. The CESifo education group: the video. See Rick! And Lance! And Katja!

4. Mysterious misbehavior in Michigan's psychology department.

5. What's the Spanish phrase for "doing dopey unsafe stuff?"

Hat tip on #5 to Jackie Smith

Book: Tales from Spandau

Spandau is the Berlin prison in which the seven "top" Nazi war criminals were kept. Tales from Spandau details the history of this somewhat bizarre institution, which for many years existed solely to keep tabs on Rudolf Hess, the one prisoner of the seven given a life sentence at the Nuremberg trials. I found the book quite engaging. I knew a fair amount about Albert Speer - Hitler's architect, among other things - from reading his books in high school, but I knew very little about others such as Doenitz and Hess. Though focused on the prison, the book also gives a sense of the Nuremberg trials, of broader world events such as the Berlin crisis of the early 1960s, and of the heterogeneous domestic responses within Germany to Spandau and its inmates.

Recommended.

Felonious sufferage

I have to say that I am a bit puzzled by the great enthusiasm on the left for having felons vote. Via those portside.org emails that some gentle red soul signed me up for, comes this piece in the Guardian that echoes the theme. I have three main thoughts on this:

First, the whole argument ignores general equilibrium effects. When women got the vote, party platforms changed. The system is designed to push the parties to the "center". When you change the electorate, you change the center, but you do not change the incentives.

Second, I am irritated by this line of reasoning,
"Ex-felons (that is, former offenders who are out of prison and who have served parole and probation) in 12 states lose the right to vote permanently despite paying their "debt to society"."
A different, and correct, way to say this is that 12 states have defined "paying their `debt to society'" to include not voting.

Finally, when I ponder felons voting, staunch opposition to requiring voters to show ID, and eliminating secret ballots in union elections ("card check") I have to wonder: is this really the best the minds of the left can come up with? All three initiatives seem both politically tone deaf and unlikely to do much good, other than for democrat politicians. How about advocating for something that would actually help the poor, like marijuana legalization?  A lot of those felons are felons solely because the saints among us cannot abide the thought of the evil weed. How about a negative income tax? How about school vouchers? How about fewer wars? Yikes.

Tenure!

Congratulations to Julio Cacares-Delpiano on getting tenure at Carlos III in Madrid.  I was on Julio's committee at Maryland.

Movie: To Rome With Love

To Rome With Love is the latest from Woody Allen. Great fun all around. I especially liked Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz and Mr. Pisanello.

A.O. Scott liked it too.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Origins of Rob McKenna

The Seattle Times on the life story of Rob McKenna, the red team candidate for governor of Washington State. I did not know a lot of the details of Rob's story from the years before I got to know him in college.

I was interviewed for the piece but in terms of the published version, I can only take credit for pointing Jim Brunnell to Ken Troske, who is quoted.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Marcin, Dingell and gay marriage

The folks at annarbor.com have figured out that UM grad student and congressional candidate Dan Marcin is a source of good copy. He may also be the source of a strangely quiet change of heart by the Dingler on gay marriage. Score one for Dan.

Young versus old

Nick Gillespie (born one year after yours truly) rallies the younger generation against the boomers.

Includes a shout-out to former star Michigan undergraduate economics major Stephanie Rennane, who is now on the way to even better things via the Maryland economics doctoral program.

Athletic scandal at Cal Tech

Really, Cal Tech!

Glad to see the NCAA has its priorities in order.

Next up for the crack NCAA investigative team: Reed College and the University of Phoenix.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Obamacare potpourri

I like this piece by columnist Steve Chapman. I think the Obamacare decision was both correct under existing law (which, of course, has little to do with the constitution as written, but that is a different point) and a good one for those who hope (imagine ....) for reasonable health policy and the rule of law.

Richard Epstein peers into the sausage factory behind Roberts' opinion.

My colleagues Helen Levy and Jill Horwitz (sadly moving to UCLA, but why?) present an optimistic view of cost-cutting under Obamacare. I would have pushed harder on getting rid of the tax preference for health care and getting rid of first dollar coverage of health care and prescriptions for all but the very poor. Just doing those two (not unrelated) things would change the game.

Michigan's PR apparatus provides faculty reactions to the supremes. Too many for my taste frame the question about policy rather than law. That is, in my ideal world, everyone would talk about supreme court decisions in terms of victories and defeats for the rule of law, not for particular policies. In the long run, the rule of law is a public good from which we all benefit. On a different matter, I would say that the bioethicist who thinks that without Obamacare, policy involved letting people "die on the streets" is confused about the (ahem) preexisting condition. In fact, we long ago socialized the cost of care for the indigent (not already covered by Medicaid or Medicare) via laws requiring hospitals to require uncompensated care and via the bankruptcy courts. Obamacare is about how to pay for such care, not whether or not to do so.  Lots of conservatives and libertarians are confused on this point as well. Oh, and I agree with Richard Hirth.

Obama's accomplishments

David Boaz summarizes the great things accomplished in the last 3.5 years.

Missing here, of course, is the counterfactual. I suspect that McCain would have accomplished most or all of these things as well.

Sigh.

Regina or Medicine Hat?

The Victoria, BC Province covers work by my colleague David Albouy on where to live in Canada, eh.

ZITS on finding the right college match


Friday, July 6, 2012

Hold your (virtual) nose

Atlantic Cities tours the Water Pollution Control Plant in Arlington, Virginia.

Hollande not off to a good start

You know, there is an almost admirable insanity to raising the minimum wage into the teeth of a high unemployment rate. But if you are going to sell your soul to the devil, really, you should get a better price.

More practically, what sort of advisers are so inept that they did not foresee this reaction?

Cato's new boss ...

... is a Randroid, according the New Yorker.

Sigh.

Independence Day

A fine piece from Nick Gillespie of reason that hits just the right tone regarding independence day and its meaning.

Heterogeneity in dating markets

From Atlantic Cities, some thoughts on differences in dating markets across cities.

The point that using the equilibrium number of singles - the result of the intersection of supply and demand - as the sole indicator of market quality is problematic is a good one.

I think the article neglects the role of sex-ratio differences. Particularly in regard to Washington, DC, where educated single women outnumber educated single men, I think this factor is important in explaining how the market works.

Stupidity test


Hat tip: Arthur Robson - where does he find this stuff? - on Facebook

Assorted links

1. Yet more evidence that everything is on youtube: a video of Justin Bieber sleeping. Of course, some nattering nabobs of negativism might argue that sleeping is preferable to singing.

2. Naughty school superintendent in Des Moines, Iowa.  That's what your gmail account is for, not your school district email account.

3. Soft drink sizes over time.

4. William Shatner, prostitution, and a small British town.

5. When religion goes bad.

Hat tip on #1 to Elizabeth Smith (bonus points if you get the historical reference).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Family Guy: Bag of Weed



I saw this episode in London a couple of weeks ago.  It's a great song and a great reminder on the 4th of July that Americans still lack some pretty basic freedoms (and that Family Guy is a pretty funny show).

Ann Arbor History: Drake's

Drake's was a sandwich shop in the space that is now Bruegger's Bagels.  It would have still been around the first time I came to Ann Arbor for a conference as a graduate student, but I don't remember it. Bruegger's is fine but Drake's sounds like a lot more fun.

Old menus contain a lot of implicit social history. The Drake's menu proudly lists, in separate sections, the flavors of Heinz soup and Campbell's soup they offer. Those were different days.

The Saga of Biorn


This is cute and funny. It also makes a good point about popular notions of the afterlife.

Hat tip: Dan Black

Zingerman's Pop-In

Yet another way to experience Zinger-joy in Ann Arbor.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Emi Nakamura et al. on the importance of good data

My friend Emi Nakamura and two co-conspirators make the case for not getting rid of the American Community Survey and the Economic Census, as some in Congress want to do.

We should be trying to close the data gap with advanced countries like Norway and Denmark, rather than trying to shoot ourselves in the policy foot while deliberately falling farther behind.

Data are a public good. Governments exist to provide public goods. And really, congress people, there are so many, many, many other things to cut.  Give me a budget and a pen and I'll give you a giant surplus in an hour, while not cutting any of the data and improving both welfare (in the economic sense) and economic growth.  It isn't hard.

This post is also part of the "why I am not a republican" series.

Full disclosure: we tried to hire Emi and Mr. Emi (one of the co-authors) when they were first on the market but they chose to go to Columbia instead in one of those misguided choices that young people sometimes make.

Via Greg Mankiw

Taubes on new evidence in the carbohydrate debate

From the NYT. Taubes is the favored nutritional science guru of the paleo diet crowd, or so I am told.

I am not a corner solution guy (at least when it comes to what I eat) but I have been moving my interior solution (now there's a pun to write home about) in the direction of the paleo diet thanks to the prompting of some of my economist friends who have pursued it more seriously and lost, and then kept off, a lot of weight.  My personal experience is that it leads to slow and fairly effortless weight loss.

Hat tip: the dean of libraries

Monday, July 2, 2012

Paper: Dahl, Loken and Mogstad (2011)

I saw this paper at a conference last week:
Gordon B. Dahl Katrine V. Løken Magne Mogstad
Abstract: The influence of peers could play an important role in the take up of social programs. However, estimating peer effects has proven challenging given the problems of reflection, correlated unobservables, and endogenous group membership. We overcome these identification issues in the context of paid paternity leave in Norway using a regression discontinuity design. Our approach differs from existing literature which attempts to measure peer effects by exploiting random assignment to peer groups; in contrast, we study peer effects in naturally occurring peer groups, but exploit random variation in the “price” of a social program for a subset of individuals. Fathers of children born after April 1, 1993 in Norway were eligible for one month of governmental paid paternity leave, while fathers of children born before this cutoff were not. There is a sharp increase in fathers taking paternity leave immediately after the reform, with take up rising from 3% to 35%. While this quasi-random variation changed the cost of paternity leave for some fathers and not others, it did not directly affect the cost for the father’s coworkers or brothers. Therefore, any effect on the brother or the coworker can be attributed to the influence of the peer father in their network. Our key findings on peer effects are four-fold. First, we find strong evidence for substantial peer effects of program participation in both workplace and family networks. Coworkers and brothers are 11 and 15 percentage points, respectively, more likely to take paternity leave if their peer father was induced to take up leave by the reform. Second, the most likely mechanism is information transmission about costs and benefits, including increased knowledge of how an employer will react. Third, there is essential heterogeneity in the size of the peer effect depending on the strength of ties between peers, highlighting the importance of duration, intensity, and frequency of social interactions. Fourth, the estimated peer effect gets amplified over time, with each subsequent birth exhibiting a snowball effect as the original peer father’s influence cascades through a firm. Our findings demonstrate that peer effects can lead to long-run equilibrium participation rates which are substantially higher than would otherwise be expected.
Compelling evidence of peer effects of any sort, let alone learning about a policy (or, more to the point, learning about your supervisor's reactions to a policy) is tough to come by.

This paper also illustrates, yet one more time, what you can do with really great data administrative. Too bad we don't have that in the US.

FT lunch with Cornel West

I have come to quite like these FT lunch pieces. This time around is Cornel West.

I was entertained to learn that he thinks Obama is a corporate tool and disappointed that he does not see the important difference between worrying about inequality and worrying about poverty. It seems to me that the left's current preoccupation with the one percent, with unionized (and over-compensated) government workers and with university students are all drawing effort and attention away from helping actual poor people. Someone also needs to tell West that "deregulation of markets" is often a boon to the poor and a bane to the corporations.  Perhaps he has flown in an airplane recently? Still, it is always useful and interesting to learn how intelligent people with different priors and information sets think about things.

I did not know that West was leaving Princeton. Interesting, that. It makes him seem more serious somehow.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day!

To celebrate Canada Day, the National Post interprets some polling results about Canadian identity.

Nothing. Is. Private. Any. More.

Making a fool of yourself on the plane with a live twitter audience.

Ouch.

Via Cheap Talk

Anna Schwartz, RIP

Some thoughts and some history from David Warsh.

More on the University of Virginia

If you want some rather desperate spin on the whole Teresa Sullivan debacle, look here, for the governor's statement upon reappointing - there truly is no limit to the institutional craziness - Helen Dragas to the Board of Visitors. She is the one who led the charge to fire the now-reinstated president.

It remains a mystery to me why Sullivan was willing to take her job back.

More on CATO, Koch and Ed Crane

brietbart.com offers up a three part (one, two, three) series providing additional background on dispute between the Koch brothers and the CATO institute. 

Probably this all somehow relates to why I have always (i.e. since my college days) connected with reason more than CATO, and why it is reason that gets my donations.