Monday, December 30, 2013

On the upcoming Winter Classic in the Big House

A helpful writer at annarbor.com explains how to interact with the visiting Canadians.

I will add two additional suggestions:

First, if they say "sorry" (which they will pronounce "sore-ee") ask them what they are sorry for. This will startle them, because they most likely are not actually sorry (and, in general, will not have done anything to be sorry about), and are just saying it as a sort of verbal tic.

Second, if you can find a way to work this in, ask them if they know who the first president of the United States is. Odds are they will. After they have correctly answered that question, ask them the name of the first prime minister of Canada. Odds are, they will either have no idea or will incorrectly answer "Wilfred Laurier", who was the seventh prime minister of Canada. The first prime minister of Canada was the heavy drinking Sir John A. MacDonald. Great fun for everyone.

Hat tip on the first suggestion to a Canadian friend.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

More reasons not to like the pledge of allegiance

The nice folks at portside.org, who sent along this bit from the Huffington Post, apparently view a socialist pedigree as a plus for the pledge. After all, what could go wrong when combining nationalism and socialism?

Personally, I like the fact that pledge is self-denouncing. A real "land of the free" would not require school children to recite pledges to a symbol of the state.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Assorted links

1. Walking around Ann Arbor on game day wearing an Ohio State t-shirt. How did that work out?

2. It's (ahem) hard to find good help, even at Michigan.

3. Beating up on the parking garage pay station: was the young woman impressed?

4. On Scrabble in Germany.

5. The FT on personal libraries.

Hat tip on #2 to Martha Bailey and on #3 to Charlie Brown.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Elizabeth summarizes recent trends in higher education

My six-year-old daughter shared the following ditty this morning, attributed to her friend Violet:
Girls go to college to get more knowledge.
Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.
An alternative version of the second line has:
Boys go to Mars to get more candy bars.
One wonders where Violet got this idea.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

David Neumark on the minimum wage

This is a really nice piece.

David has taken more than his share of knocks for criticizing the party line (of his party, so far as I know) on the minimum wage. He deserves a lot of credit for persisting with the whole science thing rather than moving on to study something else.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Washington hires Chris Petersen away from Boise State

Seems like hiring a coach who has gone 92-12 in the last eight years has got to be good. And one who is 2-0 against Oregon is even better.

Seattle Times coverage here and here and a nice piece by Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! Sports here. Comments from former Husky players here.

I think this is very good news for Husky football fans.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Trouble choosing a Christmas gift?

Then check out Dave Barry's holiday gift guide. Good (bizarre) stuff.

Say it isn't so!

ESPN has Washington coach Steve Sarkisian going to USC.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Hat tip on the evil news: Ken Troske

Joy of slavery

WaPo columnist Dana Milbank pines for the days of involuntary servitude to the state and indirectly illustrates the problem with simplistic before-after comparisons as estimators of causal effects.

Are we really sure that nothing else has changed since the draft was ended in the early 1970s that might have brought about the changes he complains about?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Assorted links

1. Things that surprise people about the United States.

2. I am astounded that Blue Cross, Blue Shield would mock the administration, even this gently.

3. Suggests from the NYT on what to do with your sex toys when you get old.

4. The Dalai Lama on flatulence, among other things.

5. Chicago Maroon interview with columnist David Brooks.

Ohio State 42, Michigan 41

Michigan did much, much better than most anyone imagined they would do, and lost only due to a failed two-point conversion at the end of the game.

Well done, putting aside the player who got ejected, along with two Ohio players, for participating in an on-field skirmish around the end of the first quarter. One hopes that the would-be boxer from Ohio who flipped off the crowd (with both hands!) on his way out of the stadium after being ejected receives some additional sanctions from the university and/or the league and/or the NCAA. 

Washington 27, Washington State 17

Washington wins the Apple Cup and reaches its first eight-win season in more than a decade.

Excellent!

P.J. O'Rourke on baby boomers

Pretty good stuff. This was my favorite line:
There's much tut-tutting about bellicose national political deadlock. But it's an improvement on bellicose national political purpose.
There is, surprise, surprise, a new book on the same theme out next month. Buy why release a book right after the start of the new year?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Atlantic on Rob Ford

This short essay from the Atlantic website does a good job of distinguishing what is different about Toronto and how it relates to Rob Ford's success.

There are a lot of nerds with money out there ...

First Monty Python reunion show sells out in 43.5 seconds.

An alternative interpretation is that they set the price too low.

Movie: Frozen

We saw Frozen with the six-year-old last night. Frozen is better-than-usual Disney fare that is visually stunning and features a bit of a twist on the usual ending - though it is still a happy one.

The NYT review provides a good summary (and chooses the same favorite song that I would have chosen) but also includes some spoilers.

Recommended for those with young children.

Gratitude

Happy (American) Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Assorted links

1. Lives and tax dollars well spent in Afghanistan.

2. Young people and sex in Japan. I think this is probably just a simple economic story about alternatives to sex with a partner becoming relatively more attractive due to technological change.

3. A fine meditation on growing old from novelist Penelope Lively.

4. I had never heard of this historical episode involving a nuclear weapon in North Carolina before. Scary stuff indeed.

5. Some advice on teaching.

Odd doings at the Minneapolis Fed

The portrayal of Narayana Kocherlakota in this article in the Minneapolis StarTribune does not match my memory from graduate school days. I suspect that there is more to the story, as indeed this Wall Street Journal piece suggests.

Hat tip on the WSJ piece: Ken Troske

Monday, November 25, 2013

This would have been my prior about aerobics ...


"The Economics of Aerobics"
Economic Inquiry, Vol. 52, Issue 1, pp. 201-204, 2014

KEMPER MORELAND, Eastern Michigan University
Department of Economics

This study presents a simple model that weighs the benefits and costs of aerobic exercise to the individual. The model assumes that adding years to life serves as the primary benefit of exercise, and that hours of exercise over a lifetime serve as the cost. Given previous estimates of individual rates of time preference this study finds that people act rationally when they choose to watch a track event rather than choose to run themselves.

Gated version here.

Movie: Ender's Game

The movie is good (especially the music and the effects) but not great, but one gets the sense that the book is better and that the movie cut out the character development and psychological aspects of the story in order to focus on the action. And, as is typical of movies based on longish books, it seemed too short.

The NYT review is truly abysmal. How can you review this movie without mentioning the cold war when what it's about is the cold war? Amazing.

Recommended for science fictiony sorts.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Assorted links

1. Just keep repeating "there is no substitution of capital for labor" .... and just keep pushing to raise the minimum wage rather than getting serious about the low end of the skill distribution.

2. Some advice on how not to get arrested.

3. The man behind the 20-pound carp who ran for city council in Ann Arbor.

4. How to pay someone to take your classes for you.

5. Really, just keep repeating "... no substitution of capital for labor ... no substitution of capital for labor ..." When this point has made it to the Atlantic, well ...

Suzanne Bianchi RIP

Suzanne was one of my very favorite sociology colleagues at Maryland, and was instrumental, along with my old friend Seth Sanders, in setting up Maryland's pop center. An academic appreciation here and a more personal, and very moving, one here.

Christmas comes early to nerds everywhere

A live Monty Python reunion show is announced.

Washington 69 [!], Oregon State 27

No one saw this one coming ... and the score makes the game look closer than it was because Oregon State scored a bunch during "garbage time" against Washington's second and third string players. Amazing.

Iowa 24, Michigan 20

Turns out, this year's Michigan team is just not that good, particularly the offense.

The game against Ohio State this coming weekend is going to be an awkward one I suspect.

The value of education

The fact that I liked this (though I would change some of  the emphases and might argue that the cold war was actually a bigger challenge than the current generation will face) may be a sign that I am getting old and sentimental.

Hat tip: Lynne Kiesling on Facebook.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Assorted links

1. Obama is in trouble when he has lost the New Yorker.

2. When the government does not want to be called the government (legal humor).

3. An interview with Nobel economist Lars Peter Hansen (whose class I took many years ago).

4. Signs you're are reading bad criticisms of economics.

5. An entertaining meditation on frequent flyer programs.

#1 and #2 via instapundit. #4 via MR.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Paid maternity leave

As far as I can tell - and I have a good student working on this topic who has gone looking for such things - this is the first serious attempt at a full social cost-benefit analysis of paid maternity leave:

What Is the Case for Paid Maternity Leave?
Gordon B. Dahl, Katrine V. Løken, Magne Mogstad, Kari Vea Salvanes
NBER Working Paper No. 19595

Paid maternity leave has gained greater salience in the past few decades as mothers have increasingly entered the workforce. Indeed, the median number of weeks of paid leave to mothers among OECD countries was 14 in 1980, but had risen to 42 by 2011. We assess the case for paid maternity leave, focusing on parents' responses to a series of policy reforms in Norway which expanded paid leave from 18 to 35 weeks (without changing the length of job protection). Our first empirical result is that none of the reforms seem to crowd out unpaid leave. Each reform increases the amount of time spent at home versus work by roughly the increased number of weeks allowed. Since income replacement was 100% for most women, the reforms caused an increase in mother's time spent at home after birth, without a reduction in family income. Our second set of empirical results reveals the expansions had little effect on a wide variety of outcomes, including children's school outcomes, parental earnings and participation in the labor market in the short or long run, completed fertility, marriage or divorce. Not only is there no evidence that each expansion in isolation had economically significant effects, but this null result holds even if we cumulate our estimates across all expansions from 18 to 35 weeks. Our third finding is that paid maternity leave is regressive in the sense that eligible mothers have higher family incomes compared to ineligible mothers or childless individuals. Within the group of eligibles, the program also pays higher amounts to mothers in wealthier families. Since there was no crowd out of unpaid leave, the extra leave benefits amounted to a pure leisure transfer, primarily to middle and upper income families. Finally, we investigate the financial costs of the extensions in paid maternity leave. We find these reforms had little impact on parents' future tax payments and benefit receipt. As a result, the large increases in public spending on maternity leave imply a considerable increase in taxes, at a cost to economic efficiency. Taken together, our findings suggest the generous extensions to paid leave were costly, had no measurable effect on outcomes and regressive redistribution properties. In a time of harsh budget realities, our findings have important implications for countries that are considering future expansions or contractions in the duration of paid leave.

I hope the authors have their armor on ....

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Assorted links

1. Mission creep (and dodgy law) at the IRS or, what do H & R Block and a dead horse have in common?

2. California encourages firms to substitute capital for labor. Would you like an empty cup with that?

3. The Daily Mail reports on a survey of wedding night behavior. No hint, of course, as to how they found the respondents, what the response rate was, etc.

4. Yet more reasons to miss Bill Clinton.

5. Venezuela continues to be beyond parody.

Hat tip on #1 to Adam Cole and on #3 to #5 to Charlie Brown.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Don James, RIP

Very sad news for Washington Husky football fans: legendary coach Don James has passed on.

Hat tip: Ken Troske

Monday, October 14, 2013

Nobel Prize

Congratulations to Eugene Fama, Lars Hansen and Robert Shiller, winners of the 2013 Nobel prize in Economics!

And some background: questions and answers about the economics prize.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (4OT)

Michigan looked wretched indeed in a quadruple-overtime (!) loss to sanction-hobbled Penn State.

If Michigan had Washington's schedule, they'd be 2-4. They get another easy opponent next week in Indiana, but at some point they are going to have to get their act together (e.g. find a running game and stop turning the ball over) or things won't be pretty.

Oregon 45, Washington 24

The game was closer than the score suggests, as Washington was in it through three quarters, but there is a reason Oregon is #2 in the nation. Sigh.

I am still trying to figure out why ESPN College Gameday was in Seattle when the game was on Fox.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

MIchigan 42, Minnesota 13

This game was closer than the score suggests, though Michigan did improve their performance relative to the game against Akron. I worry that they are in for a rude awakening when they finally play someone good.

Given that Penn State lost to Indiana for the first time in history yesterday, that time is at least two weeks away, and probably three or four weeks away.

Stanford 31, Washington 28

Sigh .. Washington almost beat Stanford on their home turf and was in the game to the final minute or two . The defense was particularly impressive. Unlike the coach, I think the call that ended the Huskies final drive was probably correct. I agree with the Times columnist who says that coming close, while unsatisfying, justifies the hype for this team.

Next week: Oregon at Husky Stadium. I think they have a decent chance to win, which is the first time that's been true in a very long time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Movie: Rush

This film is fun on many levels, and covers a piece of sports history that few Americans will know much, if anything, about.

A fine review from the NYT hits the right notes

Recommended.

The Economist on the perils and pleasures of roundabouts.

Any Economist story ending in "Swindon wasn't built in a day" is surely worth reading.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cool projection-mapping video



Hat tip: Dan Black, who found it on Steve Landsburg's blog.

Count day

I am not sure whether to call this "bureaucrats respond to incentives" or "why spending more doesn't increase achievement." My sense is that these sorts of shenanigans happen everywhere in Michigan, though the Detroit response is probably on the extreme end. Count day itself, of course, represents a response to the fact that standard enrollment numbers are not reliable. That fact, in turn, is itself a bureaucratic response to incentives. Public management is not trivial.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Assorted links

1. Nuriel Roubini, party animal.

2. A cool new job as "Chief Analytics Officer" for my friend and co-author Kermit Daniel.

3. Rebranding Popeyes.

4. How to tell if your dog is involved in a sex scandal.

5. NYC defines the frontier in public management.

Hat tip on #1 to Charlie Brown and on #4 and #5 to Dan Black.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Washington 31, Arizona 13

A great victory in truly miserable weather in Husky Stadium. And another piece on the defense.

Washington is 4-0 for the first time since 2001.

And for those in Ann Arbor who are missing Rich Rodriguez, you can hear his thoughts as well. He has calmed down a lot at this point from how he looked during the game, when the television coverage showed him screaming and cursing at his players.

Bonus 1: the story from last week's blowout of Idaho State, which I never got around to posting.

Bonus 2: Lane Kiffen fired as coach at USC. That's all good fun, but I worry that the first alternative USC will think of is Steve Sarkisian. I hope UW can keep him around.

Charlie Weis at Kansas

An interesting piece about former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis' challenges as head coach at the University of Kansas.

I did not realize that Jake Heaps, who was very heavily recruited by Washington back in the day, had left BYU.

Hat tip: Dan Black

1st Grade Soccer: Shooting Stars 10, Wolfpack 1

I attended my first ever sporting event involving my daughter yesterday. She and some of her compatriots from the Emerson School have a soccer team in a league run by the Ann Arbor parks and recreation department. Their team is called the Shooting Stars and they won big yesterday, in part because one of girls on her team is quite a strong player, being responsible for five of the 10 goals, including three in a two-minute stretch right after halftime.

The strong player was pulled from the game right after that scoring stretch and replaced with my daughter, I assume because the coach wanted to slow down the pace of the scoring. But, bless her heart, my daughter scored her first-ever goal about a minute later.

All in all, much more fun than I expected, with the added bonus that I got to chat with one of my colleagues after the game, as his son's team was playing in the next match on the same field.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New paper on the Workforce Investment Act

Does Federally-Funded Job Training Work? Nonexperimental Estimates of WIA Training Impacts Using Longitudinal Data on Workers and Firms

Fredrik Andersson
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

Harry J. Holzer
Georgetown University and American Institutes for Research

Julia I. Lane
American Institutes for Research, BETA University of Strasbourg,
CNRS University of Melbourne and IZA

David Rosenblum
Moody’s Analytics

Jeffrey Smith
University of Michigan, NBER and IZA

September 10, 2013

ABSTRACT
We study the job training provided under the US Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to adults and dislocated workers in two states. Our substantive contributions center on impacts estimated non-experimentally using administrative data. These impacts compare WIA participants who do and do not receive training. In addition to the usual impacts on earnings and employment, we link our state data to the Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics (LEHD) data at the U.S. Census Bureau, which allows us to estimate impacts on the characteristics of the firms at which participants find employment. We find moderate positive impacts on employment, earnings and desirable firm characteristics for adults, but not for dislocated workers. Our primary methodological contribution consists of assessing the value of the additional conditioning information provided by the LEHD relative to the data available in state Unemployment Insurance (UI) earnings records. We find that value to be zero.

The paper is on my web page.

Cory Booker and the stripper

This is great stuff ... I especially like the spin:
Booker spokesman Kevin Giffis told the Daily Intelligencer, 'I think it's pretty well known that the mayor talks with people from all walks of life on Twitter'
My guess is that the effect of this "scandal" is to improve Booker's performance in the polls.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Economics Moment of Zen #10

"Surveys make the unobservable observable"

Charlie Brown

Rules for the job market

I learned this today:

Shapiro's Third Law of the Job Market: "You are not allowed to have preferences until you have at least two offers."

Indeed.

Addendum: further research yielded the first two laws:

1. Take your best offer

2. You only need one job

Susan Murphy is a genius!

Congratulations to my friend and Michigan colleague Susan Murphy, who has received a MacArthur Foundation genius grant!

Addendum: more on Susan from the MacArthur Foundation.

Hat tips to Jess Goldberg and Sue Dynarski

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Assorted links

1. The decline of great brands from the past.

2. Louis C.K. on smartphones on Conan.

3. Frontiers of applied socialism: toilet paper in Venezuela. Those who don't learn from history blah blah ...

4. CATO decides Canada is not all bad.

5. French ghost town.

Hat tip on #2 to ASAK and on #4 to Charlie Brown.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Assorted links

1. Scary administrators at U. of Oregon. One wonders whether the fact that so many administrators act like power-mad weasels - it happens here too - is selection or treatment effect.

2. "Old" versions of famous websites.

3. It's for the children, really. I failed a drug test related to our adoption due to having had a poppyseed bagel. Fortunately, the people interpreting the test were not idiots in my case.

4. Astoundingly, this NSA job posting is not from the Onion.

5. Interview with science fiction author John Scalzi, who, as I recall, was editor of the Chicago Maroon at some point when I was in gradual school.

#1 and #3 via instapundit. Hat tip on #4 to Dan Black.

Michigan 24, Connecticut 21

Another bullet dodged.

I am glad they have a week off to sort things out before playing Minnesota on Oct. 5.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Interview with the owners of Literati

From the Michigan Daily, a fine interview with the owners of Ann Arbor's new downtown bookstore.

Assorted links

1. Your death has been postponed ... or, priorities in Florida.

2. 10 email commandments from Tim Harford. I particularly agree with (4) and (6). I have not yet given up on filing. Perhaps I should.

3. The mysterious Miss Uzbekistan, who has apparently faked her way into the Miss World pageant. Is nothing sacred anymore?

4. The Onion on wedding websites.

5. Should you ask a question during seminar?

Hat tip on #1 and #3 to Charlie Brown and on #5 to ASAK. Link fixed on #5.

Cranky analyst on sex and wages

My friend and colleague Sue Dynarski thinks that the recent paper claiming that more sex causes higher wages is an intellectual offer she can very happily refuse.

A bonus hat tip to Ken Troske, who forwarded me the same paper. Sue's review is better than mine would have been.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Michigan 28, Akron 24

Dodging a bullet does not even begin to describe this near debacle, with Akron having shots into the end zone on the final four plays!

Local news coverage here.

Game: The Room

My daughter and I have been playing "The Room" for the last couple of weeks. It is more of a puzzle than a game, and we have been doing it cooperatively rather than competitively which makes it even less game-like, but it is great fun. The puzzles are hard enough that you have to think a bit, but not so hard that you don't figure them out in finite time (and, of course, there are walkthroughs to be had all over the interwebs). And the game is visually stunning. Indeed, that may be its strongest feature. The sounds are fun too.

Recommended.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Obama has lost Second City



Ouch!

In praise of payday lenders

From the Atlantic, something I never thought I would see: a thoughtful, empirically grounded defense of payday lenders and other alternative financial service providers for the poor written by a non-economist.

The piece does a very good job of highlighting the strengths of ethnographic work.

Of course, the policy paragraph at the end falls short of the standard set by the remainder of the discussion, but I suppose one can't have everything.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Interdisciplinary Seminar in Quantitative Methods

Local readers will be keenly aware that the most obvious thing that we lack around here is enough seminars to go to each week. After all, there are only two labor seminars, two public finance seminars, two development seminars, two macro seminars, an economic history seminar, an econometric seminar, a Ford School faculty work-in-progress seminar, two international / trade seminars, a health economics seminar, a new energy / environment economics seminar, two applied micro / IO seminars, a high theory seminar, the population center seminar, the survey research center seminars (including the joint program in survey methodology as well as a series specific to the PSID and another series), the quantitative methodology program seminar, the STEIT seminar, the research center on group dynamics seminar and probably some others that I am forgetting.

Given that we live in the center of a "seminar desert", I am delighted to note the arrival of a new seminar that looks to become one of my favorites: the ISQM or Interdisciplinary Seminar on Quantative Methods. You can find the schedule here. The initial meeting today features my friend Susan Murphy from the statistics department on (what I would call) statistical treatment rules. I'll be there.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cheaters welcome at Harvard

This survey of the incoming class, reported in the Harvard Crimson, is a bit troubling.

Of course, this is what folks at Chicago suspected all along.

Hat tip: anonymous insider

Fantasy economics

A proposal (apparently serious) for a REPEC fantasy economist league.

I am speechless.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

Monday, September 9, 2013

Assorted links

1. How to save Microsoft? Sounds like things have come a long way from when they used to mock the corporate culture at IBM (e.g. "the guy with the neuron is in today").

2. Dissecting a year of ESPN SportsCenter.

3. Klaus Zimmerman on how Europeans can learn useful lessons about inequality from the US.

4. Being an "ambassador" for the UM-Notre Dame night game.

5. Advice on applied econometrics from David Giles. I would generalize (1) to "get to know the basic patterns in the data really well before doing anything too sophisticated." I would tone down (7) a bit, but not too much. I would translate (9) as "be a casual Bayesian".

Hat tip on #2 to ASAK.

Florida kills its economics doctoral program

Coverage from the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Florida Alligator (alternative) student newspaper.

How can you be a flagship and not really have an economics department - let alone imagine that you will make it into the upper tier of public universities?

How can you deal with 600-some undergraduate majors with six faculty members and no gradual students?

More broadly, something is very wrong with Florida's accounting process. Economics majors are really cheap to produce: they consume almost entirely large chalk-and-talk lecture classes, along with a bit of computing. There are no expensive labs or other equipment, and not many small classes. The university should see the department as a profit center. That they do not suggests something is amiss with their budget process (probably having to do with accounting across units, in this case the busyness school and the arts and sciences faculty, as hinted at in the article).

Another way to think about this is as a selective salary cut for the remaining economics faculty. Graduate programs are essentially part of faculty compensation along with being an input into undergraduate teaching. Killing the doctoral program is an indirect reduction in faculty compensation, one that Florida can probably get away with given that the few faculty remaining in the department are relatively close to retirement and so unlikely to move.

Crazy.

Hat tips: Sarah Hamersma who, thankfully, has escaped to Syracuse.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ronald Coase, RIP

Sad news about the passing of Ronald Coase, but it is hard to argue with living to 102.

State education expenditures

I quite liked this CATO site that grades states on the transparency of their published numbers on educational expenditures (and not just because the title is a great pun).

Particularly interesting is the evidence on the lack of public knowledge of expenditure levels presented under the "Why Care" tab.

Play: My Name is Asher Lev

My Name is Asher Lev has one more week to go at the Performance Network in Ann Arbor and is well worth the time. All three actors, especially John Seibert who plays several roles, turn in strong performances.

Recommended.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Book: Paying for the Party by Armstrong and Hamilton

Armstrong, Elizabeth and Laura Hamilton. 2013. Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

This book describes the results of a five year study of the residents of one (all-female) floor of one dormitory in one year at a very-thinly disguised Indiana University. It features an impressive amount of interview and observational evidence gathered in part via the extended presence on the dorm floor of members of the research team (one of whom is in the sociology department here at Michigan).

The book divides the students into three tracks: socialite, striver and achiever, and then describes, in two chapters for each path, the students who were more and less successful at the path. Lurking in the background - this is sociology, and usefully so - are the institutional constraints that channel students into particular paths and out of others and that help determine who succeeds and who fails within a chosen path. For the socialite path, for example, it is relevant that the university offers a number of degree programs that reward social skills as much as academic ones.

I found three aspects of the book particularly useful. First, the book is fantastic on the micro-foundations of mismatch. The mismatch emphasized here, unlike that in the economics literature, is social class mismatch, rather than academic preparation mismatch. I think the economics literature (including my papers) misses an important part of the story in that sense. This aspect of the book reminded me of the descriptions of class-based mismatch in Black Ice, which I read a long time ago (and also recommend).

Second, the book illustrates what it looks like when students from families where no one has gone to a four-year university (or maybe even a community college) show up on campus without much information about how things work and without much in the way of resources to help them figure it out. It is a real challenge for researchers in this area, who know how higher education works inside and out, to put themselves in the shoes of students who, not unreasonably given their environment, appear astoundingly clueless at times. This lack of information is important when thinking about dropout rates and about time-to-degree. Paying for the Party provides a good reminder of how it feels not to understand the institution very well.

Third, I found (as I nearly always do) the discussions of research methodology quite interesting. Some of them are relegated to an appendix. If you get the book, you should read them anyway. I thought they were some of the most interesting bits. This sort of ethnography with a group of subjects who all know each other and so talk about each other and talk about the research with each other raises all sorts of interesting questions that I had not thought about before in terms of research design and research ethics.

One always approaches the policy chapter in social science books by non-economists with some trepidation. Perhaps because my expectations were so low, this one was better than I expected. It still has some howlers, such as the pointless suggestion of doing away with the university's semi-pro basketball and football teams. But more broadly what it does (though not always on purpose) is illustrate that Americans expect universities to be lots of different things: finishing school for rich girls, gateway to social mobility for the rural and urban working class (and occasionally the poor), social class replication device for the upper middle class, bastion of the life of the mind, research powerhouse, and so on.

What I took away from the book is not that one of these purposes should predominate but that the university should try to make sure that students can make informed and successful choices about which aspects they want to indulge. It is very clear that the university studied in this book does not do a good job of this. First and foremost, it assigns students who are not party animals to the party dorm and then leaves them there without clear and easy pathways to get out. Moreover, the book is full of tales of hopeless counselors and of students who have no idea how to navigate the university and no idea how to get someone to help them do so. These are customer service basics for a university.

The authors want to draw broader conclusions than simply how to better run a large public university. I was fine with some of what they had to say, but in other cases I thought that they went astray by over-generalizing from one floor in one (party) dorm in one cohort.  Still, Paying for the Party is very much recommended for those interested in the inner workers of academia from the student's viewpoint.

San Francisco Lusty Lady closes

The Atlantic reports on the demise of what is surely the only unionized, worker-owned peep show.

I liked this line: "... to dismiss the idea that vulgarity and uplift can coexist side-by-side is to deny the degenerate magic of San Francisco."

My post about the Seattle Lusty Lady closing a few years ago is here.

Assorted links

1. Michigan dorm cafeterias drop their trays. Does this count as an application of behavioral economics?

2. Seattle Public Library breaks the record for book dominoes.

3. The war on (some) drugs just keeps on giving. Can we stop now?

4. Great stuff from Camille Paglia.

5. Prospective grad student fail. At Western Ontario, we had a job candidate tell us that their adviser said they could be the "next big thing".

Hat tip on #2 to Charlie Brown. #3 and #4 via instapundit.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hooking up with the data

Another moral panic done in by empirical work.

What if all of the moral panics were just ways to sell newspapers (or their more modern equivalents) and to bring money, power, and ill-gotten warm glow to those who exploit them?

Washington 38, Boise State 6

First, the most obvious take-away from watching a game featuring two teams running fast offenses is that it is just a lot more fun to watch because there is less downtime between plays.

Second, wow! The Huskies looked great and Boise State looked, especially in the second half, frustrated and flat.

Seattle Times coverage here.

Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9

Michigan's victory over "will lose for food" Central Michigan was as dominating as it was dull to watch.

annarbor.com coverage here.

Next week against Notre Dame should be more interesting.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Is economics a science?

The NYT has some thoughts on the matter.

Two factual errors right of the bat:
The fact that the discipline of economics hasn’t helped us improve our predictive abilities suggests it is still far from being a science, and may never be. Still, the misperceptions persist. A student who graduates with a degree in economics leaves college with a bachelor of science, but possesses nothing so firm as the student of the real world processes of chemistry or even agriculture.
Trivially, many economics degrees (including mine) are bachelor of arts degrees rather than bachelor of science degrees. This is easy to check, these science-minded authors (and the armies of fact-checkers at the NYT) could not be bothered.

More importantly, how is it a fact that economics has no predictive power? Economists find evidence consistent with their theories all the time. The journals are filled with such evidence. Demand curves sure seem to slope down pretty much always and everywhere. Socialism (the real kind where the government runs the economy) actually did collapse due to the coordination problems outlined in the socialist calculation debate. Even more esoteric bits of economics like signalling models have fine bodies of evidence. This sure seems like predictive power to me.

As with other articles of this sort, the authors suffer from two primary confusions. First, they confuse a subset of macroeconomics with all of economics. More importantly, they fail to see that a theory that predicts what we cannot predict is itself interesting, useful and compelling. John Cochrane at Chicago has made this point forcefully on his blog (not the exact post I remember ... couldn't find that one). Indeed, they fail to even mention this possibility.

A secondary confusion is that they talk as though theory were useful for policy without evidence, a view in the spirit of that advanced by some Austrian economists. In my experience, knowing the sign of a relationship, which is what theory typically provides, rarely suffices to make actual policy choices. Usually you need magnitudes as well, as theory often lays out forces operating in opposite directions.

In short, I read this piece as a great big muddle.

Hat tip: Tanya Byker

Friday, August 30, 2013

Movie: I'm So Excited!

I'm So Excited got amazingly half-hearted reviews given that it comes from famous Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. I agree that it is not his best, but it is a pleasant enough bit of fluff in his signature style. I suspect that it is just a bit too 70s for our more serious age.

It is worth noting, too, that both the NYT and the other review I looked at (can't recall just where) interpret the movie outside its Spanish cultural context. Spain is still both getting over the extreme cultural conservatism of the Franco years and trying to distract itself from pretty serious economic challenges.

In any case, recommended, if you don't mind a lot of sex, drugs and disco (including a truly hilarious dance routine to the song in the movie's title).

Foreign policy Shatners

As we appear to be about to embark on another ill-considered war, this list of 20th century US foreign policy mistakes (he calls them Shatners for reasons explained in his post) from Dan Drezner is particularly apposite.

I would drop the one about the League of Nations and replace it with one about entering World War 1. I would replace one of the others, I am not sure which, with the failure of the US to open its doors wide to immigration by European Jews during the 1930s.

Under-representation of STEM majors in popular culture


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Retake Montlake

The Seattle Times on the look and feel of the remodeled Husky Stadium, which premieres this Saturday with Washington's season-opening game against Boise State.

Addendum: you can even get a jigsaw puzzle of the new stadium.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Paper: Higher education structure by Cory Koedel

Koedel, Cory. 2011. "Higher Education Structure and Education Outcomes: Evidence from the USA." Education Economics.

This paper documents substantial differences across states in their higher education (HE) structures and highlights several empirical relationships between these structures and individuals’ HE outcomes. Not surprisingly, individuals who are exposed to more-fractionalized HE structures are more likely to attend small public universities and less likely to attend large public universities. Exposure to more-fractionalized structures is also associated with increased degree attainment and increased exits from the in-state public-university system (to private and out-of-state public universities). These findings highlight potentially important tradeoffs related to state policy on HE structure.

Older (non-gated) version here.

I like this paper not because I find the causal estimation that convincing but because I think it addresses a really interesting and important topic that is rarely studied or even discussed, which is the optimal design of public state university systems. If you read the literature, there is lots of praise for Clark Kerr and the California system, but this largely has to do, I think, with the fact that he was a charismatic and well-known administrator, not because of any particular body of systemic evidence.  This paper provides some descriptive evidence on the variation in fractionalization among states and attempts a causal analysis. Because the only real variation is cross-sectional (as university systems are slow-moving beasts), this is at best suggestive, but it is also all you can do. There is more to be done here along e.g. the quality dimension.

Assorted links

1. A truly awe-inspiring pun, all the better for including the word "penultimate", which is one of my favorites.

2. A history of the bikini from Slate. I had no idea where the name came from but now I know.

3. Some history about the newly renovated law quad at Michigan.

4. Everything is okay now.

5. I really enjoyed this page that MR linked to about things that everyone in an occupation knows that outsiders do not.

Hat tip on #1 to Tanya Byker. #4 via the Honest Courtesan.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

PAC-12 Network on Comcast in Ann Arbor

Hurrah! It is channel 717, as I just verified by watching two minutes of slick Rick - he does get around - talk about WSU's prospects.

Now if I can figure out how to get it on the ipad ...

Movie: Blue Jasmine

Wow. There was a noticeable collective drawing in of breath at the end of the (well-populated) screening of Blue Jasmine last night at the Michigan Theater. It is that good. And Cate Blanchett's performance is really that good.

NYT review here. They like it too.

Highly recommended.

Assorted links

1. What to do when the neighbors are too loud in bed (from the Atlantic!)

2. Piers of the realm. I want to visit one of these piers.

3. A pinball machine museum near Ann Arbor.

4. Signs you might not be a real libertarian, from the Daily Kos (?).

5. Update on Timbuktu from the FT.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Authorial Moment of Zen #1

"Hell is where someone edits your work into the passive voice."

Zoe McLaren on Facebook

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Assorted links

1. Borders resurfaces in Singapore

2. Arbor Hills shopping center opens across the street from the Whole Foods temple.

3, Sue Dynarksi explains Finnish educational success.

4, Does this critique actually apply to more than one famous economist? I don't think so.

5, Ginger Ambition offers post-graduation life advice.

Restaurant: Belly Deli

I tried Belly Deli last week at the suggestion of my teaching assistant for my graduate course this fall. It is in the space that No Thai! vacated when they moved to larger digs in the ground floor of one of the new luxury student apartment buildings.

Belly Deli offers Asian Fusion food, including the tasty pork "Belly Sammy" that I had.

And they surely deserve some bonus points for picking a name that is a pun on a euphemism for diarrhea.

Recommended.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Assorted links

1. NPR on the anniversary of the drive-in theater. I have an especially fond memory of the Fife drive-in.

2. Politics Texas style, with cats. It is indeed a marvel that anything works at all.

3. Is Linda Lovelace a good guide to the adult film industry?

4. The shrinking (relative) role of tenured professors. I am not sure that this is such a bad thing.

Hat tip on #2 to Charlie Brown.

Book: The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot by Bart Ehrman

Ehrman, Bart. 2006. The Lost Gospel of Judas Escariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed. Oxford University Press.

This book tells the tale of a lost gospel found in Egypt late in the last century and ultimately liberated into the public eye by National Geographic. Really, there are two stories here, perhaps three. One story is the history of the manuscript itself, the highlight of which is a 16 year stay in a safe-deposit box in a bank on Long Island. It turns out that this is a bad way to store ancient papyrus manuscripts. Who would have guessed? The other story, or stories, relates the contents of the gospel, and describes their relationship to the gnostic Christianity of the centuries immediately after Jesus' death. This gospel is unique in that it treats Judas as the hero among the disciples. An important part of the second story, then, is why someone might write such a gospel, what it might mean that they did, and how it fits in with various ancient theologies. I found the book fascinating throughout, though it has the feeling of being a tiny bit rushed (perhaps to meet the timetable of the National Geographic special) and it is aimed a little lower in terms of the reader's prior knowledge than the other Ehrman books I have read (though it is still not a book for general readers).

Recommend if you are into such things.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Assorted links

1. Law professors misbehaving.

2. Blimpy Burger: the final hours.

3. Capital-labor substitution in fast food.

4. Fun with statues.

5. Megan is correct about brokers. Avoid them.

Hat tip on #1 to Charlie Brown.

Miles and Noah on getting an economics doctorate

I am generally in agreement with what Miles and Noah have to say, but would add or alter a few bits:

1. By all means do not just focus on the top five or 10 or 15 programs. The poster child here is probably Amitabh Chandra (now at the Kennedy School), whose doctorate is from Kentucky. On my very first visit to Kentucky back in my assistant professor days, I was assigned to meet with Amitabh and told to talk him out of staying at Kentucky for his doctorate. I failed, but his career seems to have turned out fine anyway. The reason it turned out fine is that the faculty at Kentucky, who already knew Amitabh as a stellar undergraduate, treated him like a colleague throughout his doctoral studies. He got a lot more attention and opportunity than he would have at a top program. Example number two is my colleague Martha Bailey, whose doctorate is from Vanderbilt. What Amitabh and Martha have in common is a lot of internal drive, which you need to make this strategy work because there is less external pressure from peers and faculty outside the top departments.

2. You should take more than just one statistics course. If your college offers an upper econometrics track for undergraduates (many do, and Michigan will soon) take the whole thing. If an upper track is not available, be sure you do what you can and think about taking some courses in the statistics department as well.

3. Learn to program if you do not already know. Pretty much any reasonable programming language will do. Once you have learned one, others (including statistical packages like Stata or Matlab) are much easier to learn.

4. I think there can be more value in doing an MA first than Miles and Noah. This is particularly true if your undergraduate record is a bit weak and/or if you are unsure you really want to do a doctorate. The trick is then picking the correct MA program. Many are aimed at mid-career people adding a credential and not at people thinking about a doctorate. I recommend in particular the programs at UBC and Toronto. They have the added bonus of plugging you into a somewhat different network and letting you experience life in another country (assuming you are not Canadian).

5. It is harder to get someone to hire you as a research assistant, even at a zero money wage, than Miles and Noah suggest. The time cost to the professor is really large of having a research assistant. Paying that time cost for someone who turns out not to produce - it happens! - is something faculty really try hard to avoid. So if you want to do this, it is probably best to first make a good impression in a class, or in someone else's class who is willing to write an email of introduction for you to the person you want to work for.

6. Think about taking, or at least auditing, first-year graduate courses at your undergraduate institution. I did this at Washington, taking Gene Silberberg's excellent first quarter of graduate micro.

7. Getting a doctorate at a biz school with an economics group is at least as good as a straight-up economics program. It is easier to get in and you will likely have more financial aid and a nicer place to work. The same holds for some policy school doctoral programs.

From economist to poet

I did not know about this fellow Vikram Seth until yesterday. I will venture to say that this is a fairly unusual career path.

Hat tip: Caroline Theoharides

Friday, August 16, 2013

Conference on the liberal arts and sciences

You can now watch the videos and look at the slides from a conference on "The Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Research University Today" that was held here in Ann Arbor in the spring.

You can watch Paul Courant and me talk about the labor market effects of college and college major in the Thursday morning session. Watching myself is not as cringe-worthy as I was expecting. Keep in mind that the audience includes zero economists; instead it is mostly deanish types.

The conference was a fascinating cultural experience for me as it was very much not my usual crowd.

And I was surprised to see that what I think of as pretty short hair, relative to my halcyon youth in the late 1970s, actually looks pretty shaggy on the video.

Hot for teacher

The folks at seekingarrangement.com (not safe for particularly puritanical workplaces) got the Daily Mail to bite on their press release about the many teachers on their website looking for financial aid.

Hat tip: anonymous colleague

Note to younger readers: the title of the post refers to this Van Halen song, which has a slightly different spin on the matter.

Monday, August 12, 2013

New working paper

The Determinants of Mismatch Between Students and Colleges
Eleanor Wiske Dillon and Jeffrey Andrew Smith
NBER Working Paper No. 19286
August 2013

ABSTRACT
We use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort to examine mismatch between student ability and college quality. Mismatch has implications for the design of state higher education systems and for student aid policy. The data indicate substantial amounts of both undermatch (high ability students at low quality colleges) and overmatch (low ability students at high quality colleges). Student application and enrollment decisions, rather than college admission decisions, drive most mismatch. Financial constraints, information, and the public college options facing each student all affect the probability of mismatch. More informed students attend higher quality colleges, even when doing so involves overmatching.

At last!

Addendum: Here is the write-up from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Note that the Chronicle treats the release of an NBER "working paper" as publication despite that absence of peer review (of the paper; the researcher has to be peer reviewed to get into NBER). Perhaps the NBER should rename their series to "Self-published papers by NBER affiliates".

Addendum: Here is the write-up from Insider Higher Ed, based on the author's interview with me.

Assorted links

1. When bad things happen to good people at Georgetown.

2. Matt Damon is a public policy hypocrite. Who knew?

3. On the economics of lesbian bars in NYC.

4. WTFWJD? I am with the vicar on this one.

5. The Economist on the history of Gibraltar. These little nationalist flare-ups are always a distraction from a government's domestic failures.

Hat tip on #4 to Charlie Brown.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Markets in everything: wedding elephants

In Toronto, you can rent Limba the elephant for your wedding from the Brownsville Zoo.  She comes complete with a trainer, a handler, food and wedding attire!

And all for only CA$6500 for four hours.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Minimum wages in the short run and the long

Megan McArdle on recent policy talk about the minimum wage.

The problem of confusing short run and long run impacts (or simply forgetting the distinction entirely) is hardly unique to the literature on minimum wages. The literature on "the" elasticity of taxable income has exactly the same problem. I think the underlying problem is the same in both cases (and in many others), which is that it is easier to provide compelling identification for short run effects than long run effects, and applied economics these days is too often willing to trade off policy relevance and the economics of the problem in exchange for clever and compelling identification.

With minimum wages, I think most of the story is about the substitution of capital for labor as in my favorite paper about the minimum wage.

When life gives you a lemon ...

you make lemonade.

But when life gives you a Weiner, you make an adult video, of course.

Via TPM

Monday, August 5, 2013

If Ayn Rand wrote a column in Parade

Some objectively funny Ayn Rand humor.

Hat tip: ASAK

Undergraduate admissions at Berkeley

A participant observer tale from the NYT.

I think more (conditional) randomization would make admissions to top schools both objectively fairer and more obviously fair to the students and parents (and the taxpayers).

And one is reminded of the line "Oh what a tangled web we weave ..."

Assorted links

1. A bit of maternal humor.

2. Lesson #1: diversify your portfolio.

3. Whatever happened to Tawana Brawley?

4. Wise words on inequality from Clive Crook.

5. Deans gone wild at UCLA.

Hat tip on #1 to Lisa Gribowski and on #2 to Charlie Brown. #3 and #5 via instapundit.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

More on Monica

I am surprised I never saw this piece before, which is surely the best thing I have ever read about Monica Lewinsky.

Is a dissertation not delayed ...

... a publication denied?

The NYT details a discussion of this issue in history.

Letting the dissertator choose seems like the best way to go to me, though no embargo should last more than a few years.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

A cool paper about C-sections

Physicians Treating Physicians: Information and Incentives in Childbirth
Erin M. Johnson, M. Marit Rehavi

NBER Working Paper No. 19242
Issued in July 2013

Abstract:
This paper provides new evidence on the interaction between patient information and financial incentives in physician induced demand (PID). Using rich microdata on childbirth, we compare the treatment of physicians when they are patients with that of comparable non-physicians. We exploit a unique institutional feature of California to determine how inducement varies with obstetricians' financial incentives. Consistent with PID, physicians are almost 10 percent less likely to receive a C-section, with only a quarter of this effect attributable to differential sorting of patients to hospitals or obstetricians. Financial incentives have a large effect on C-section probabilities for non-physicians, but physician-patients are relatively unaffected. Physicians also have better health outcomes, suggesting overuse of C-sections adversely impacts patient health.

In honor of football season being only a month away ...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Assorted links

1. A reminder of the good old days. Is Monica Lewinsky really 40?

2. Weiner campaign intern meltdown.

3. Private security in Detroit.

4. Dan Drezner on honest book acknowledgements.

5. Ann Arbor comes in second (!!!!) in a ranking of college towns from livability.com.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Jason Richwine

This piece from thinkprogress goes into some depths on the Kennedy School dissertation that led Jason Richwine to get fired from the Heritage Foundation.

It includes quotes from several people I know. I can certainly repeat what they and some of the others quoted in the article have said about the quality and seriousness of Richwine's dissertation committee.

The author is a bit more surprised than he should be that some dissertations are better than others, even at Harvard, but otherwise does a pretty nice job as a non-specialist dealing with a complicated topic and the somewhat arcane process by which dissertations get produced.

Hat tip: ASAK, on a roll with interesting things to read

Buying a car


We had to buy a new car last week, something I had managed to avoid since my Western Ontario days. My main memory from that purchase, which was in 1999 (!) was the joy of having the salesperson at the Honda dealership in London, Ontario lie to my face. Fortunately, I had followed the then-current advice about getting other offers via fax, plus I had read Consumer Reports so, though the experience was quite unpleasant, I did not get taken to the cleaners too seriously.

It struck me at the time, and it still strikes me now. that making the experience so unpleasant probably leads people to buy cars less often, and so may, on net, make the car industry worse off, relative to an equilibrium of posted prices and honest dealing. I suspect though that it is not in the interest of any individual dealer, and perhaps any individual brand, to go it alone in that regard. Saturn did not persist, despite its posted prices. I am told that now Mini occupies the posted price niche, though there are many ways to take advantage other than via the base sales price for the car.

What struck me about this round of car-buying is that the information environment is much richer. The document above is something I got via American Express. I believe that the same underlying firm also provides information via Consumer Reports. Our salesperson also provided a similar, but less informative (just the mean, not the distribution) document from Edmunds. The document above shows the distribution of purchase prices for the particular model of CR-V that we ended up buying over some time period in my local area. We stopped going back and forth with the dealer when we got down to about the 20th percentile of that distribution. As you would expect, each additional reduction in the negotiated price became more time consuming and less pleasant to accomplish. The 20th percentile is about where MC = MB given our time costs and tolerance for aggressive interaction.

We had a relatively (and relatively is a very important modifier here) unobjectionable salesperson. What struck me in standing around the dealership and also in our one conversation with the manager is that most of the staff other than our salesperson almost seem to deliberately dress and act like carnival hucksters. Is this really profit maximizing?  Our guy had a different approach. He was a bit chubby and rumpled and not as slick as the others; for that reason, he came off as more honest and sincere. The night we went to pick up our car he had several other customers and no one else in the dealership had any, so apparently his approach is working.

In any case, we like the car. I hope it lasts at least as long as my sadly departed Civic so that I don't have to go through the buying process again any time soon.

Oh, and a free paper idea. It seems to me that the much richer informational environment should have led to a reduced variance in sale prices. If you write the paper, please send me a copy.

Assorted links

1. What Bill Gates reads (short answer: lots of pop social science).

2. Someone should tell this reporter at the Seattle Times, and the mayoral candidates she writes about, that treating unconditional earnings differences between subgroups as if they mean something serves only to demonstrate ignorance of the relevant literature.

3. Literacy test for voters (not all voters, of course) in Louisiana before the civil rights era. How did the people who wrote and administered such things sleep at night? Or sit through a church service?

4. Avoiding budget hotels in China.

5. Cool space shuttle booster video.

Hat tip on #2 to Ken Troske.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Movie: The Way, Way Back

The Way, Way Back is a mighty mountain of sugar, but it is charming and well-done sugar.

A.O. Scott has a fine review at the NYT; there is no politics in the movie to throw him off. I particularly like this bit: "the older actors provide a vivid omnibus of the varieties of adult awfulness."

Recommended.

The labor market for teachers in North Carolina

Consider this teacher in North Carolina, who seeks a raise via moral suasion.

If we suppose that her husband makes as much as she does, so that they have a household income of $62,000, that puts them in the 62nd percentile of the US household income distribution and the 96th percentile of the world income distribution, according to this calculator. Even if we suppose that her husband makes only $20,000 per year (2000 hours at $10 per hour), which seems unlikely given positive sorting in the marriage market on education and income, the percentiles are 57 and 95.

There are several issues here, more than one can address in a single post. But one important one often negotiated in discussions of teacher pay is compensating differences. Many people like to teach. That drives teaching wages down, as implicitly part of the compensation is doing a job that one wants to do, and receives praise for doing from others, rather than, say, selling used cars. Teachers should make less in dollar terms than other jobs that require the same skills / investments but lack the non-pecuniary payoff. Formally, the margin teacher should be indifferent not between the money wages of their two best labor market options, but the utility levels associated with their two best options. Also, teachers in government schools, once they have taught for a while, essentially face zero employment risk. The labor market should (and likely does) price this aspect of the job as well, and it too will lead to lower teacher money pay.

I hope she finds a teaching job she likes better in another state.

Hat tip: ASAK

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Economics moment of zen #9

"The estimates are tantalizing but the standard errors are annoying."

Sue Dynarski at the NBER summer institute

Craig Ferguson and the snake cup



In honor of the Craig Ferguson book review ...

Me on Larry Summers in the Boston Globe

I tried very hard to get the nice Boston Globe reporter to talk with my colleague Justin Wolfers instead of me but was ultimately unsuccessful. As a result, I am quoted in her piece on Larry Summer's Feldstein lecture at the NBER Summer Institute yesterday, saying things that were plainly obvious to everyone in the audience.

Hat tip: Steve Woodbury

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book: American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson

Ferguson, Craig. 2009. American On Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot. New York: HarperCollins.

Craig Ferguson is my favorite (by a fair distance) among the late night hosts. This book is his autobiography. It is pretty up front about his travails with drugs and alcohol and how he overcame them. It is pretty funny too. It also does a nice job of illustrating the combination of hard work, luck, and help from your friends that underlie career success. At the same time, my sense is that Craig understates both his ambition - the book portrays him sort of wandering from success to success, but my model says you can't get where he got without more drive and focus than he admits to - and the burdens he imposes on his romantic partners. Still, I found it well worth reading.

Recommended, if you like Craig's brand of humor and/or enjoy recovery narratives.

More on hookups

The NYT article on hookups that I blogged about the other day generated a lot of activity on the interwebs, including this piece from Slate, another piece from Slate, and this piece from the Atlantic.

Advice for the tenure track

This piece has some pretty good advice. Some comments on individual items:

1. Quotas. There are a good idea, especially for female faculty who often get showered with invitations for things because organizers want diversity (demographic diversity, that is; there are other kinds of diversity, though you might not know it if you spend all your time in academia) on whatever committee or panel or whatever they are organizing. It is important to adjust the quotas to reflect your likes and dislikes and strengths and weaknesses. Do more of what you like and less of what you don't like. For example, I could never get by on five trips a year. The one thing to avoid, though, is setting the quotas so low that you irritate your colleagues by not doing your "share" of the scut work. Of course, in a well-functioning department, assistant professors should be mostly shielded from this anyway.

2. The "feel good" email folder is a really great idea. I have two of these, one of which consists only of praise from my dissertation adviser.

3. I agree that it is important to have some fun now. Taking breaks and doing something different can improve morale and clear your mind. Both enhance productivity as well as raising overall utility.

4. I would add that it is important to work smart as well as working hard. Take a very hard look at your work process and be sure that the things you do and the way you do them all pass cost-benefit tests. I observe in myself and in others an occasional tendency to confuse doing something related to work with actually getting work done. These are not the same.

Hat tip: ASAK

Monday, July 22, 2013

Paper: Performance Gender Gap: Does Competition Matter

Performance Gender Gap: Does Competition Matter?
Evren Ors, Frédéric Palomino, and Eloïc Peyrache
Journal of Labor Economics
Vol. 31, No. 3 (July 2013) (pp. 443-499)

Abstract:
Using data for students undertaking a series of real-world academic examinations with high future payoffs, we examine whether the differences in these evaluations’ competitive nature generate a performance gender gap. In the univariate setting we find that women’s performance is first-order stochastically dominated by that of men when the competition is higher, whereas the reverse holds true in the less competitive or noncompetitive tests. These results are confirmed in the multivariate setting. Our findings, from a real-world setting with important payoffs at stake, are in line with the evidence from experimental research that finds that females tend to perform worse in more competitive contexts.

This is one of my favorites among the papers that I handled as an editor at JoLE. It is cooler than the abstract makes it sound because the abstract does not give a clear sense of the unusual but compelling institutions that provide the foundation for the findings.

Movie: Monsters University

Monsters University is what you get when put Monsters Inc and Revenge of the Nerds into a blender. The animation is gorgeous and Billy Crystal is always good fun. And it is always of interest to see how higher education is portrayed in popular culture. And, of course, lessons are learned and we all become better people.

The NYT reviewer agrees about the animation but wishes they had made a different movie by putting Brave into the blender instead of Revenge of the Nerds. Well, perhaps.

Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours with your kid. If you do not have a kid, then take a pass.

Assorted links

1. Only in Ann Arbor: the saga of the "violin monster" at Art Fair.

2. Markets in everything: transgender shoes in Ypsilanti.

3. Rotating skyscraper.

4. Prof. or hobo? Test your knowledge.

5. Will Wilkinson on DC and the living wage. I really like the phrase "moral outsourcing".

Hat tip #2 to Charlie Brown, on #3 to Jackie Smith and on #4 to Anne Fitzpatrick.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book: The Simpsons

Ortved, John. 2009. The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History. New York: Faber and Faber.

I quite like the Simpsons, and this book is a pretty good introduction to various backstories about how the show got going, changes in the animation shop in the early years, the inevitable creative battles and so on. I particularly enjoyed the material about the mechanics of the process of how the show gets created each week.

The format consists of rearranged bits of interviews done by the author (or occasionally from published sources) interspersed with explanatory bits of authorial narrative. I suspect I would have preferred a book that was all narrative, but it is the author's book, not mine.

Recommended if you are into the Simpsons.

Nothing to cut: bikini barista edition



Sigh.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sptizer on Colbert

Champion hypocrite and persecutor of the innocent Eliot Spitzer wants that comptrollers office so badly, and wants those book sales so badly, that he is willing to endure a pretty serious hazing on the Colbert Report.

I am not usually a big Colbert fan but the writing on this one soars above his norm. The line about Charlie Rose is my favorite.

Via TPM

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Assorted links

1. Drunken island monkeys.

2. Free speech versus occupational licensing in Kentucky.

3. Virginia Postrel on how to save Barnes and Noble. I agree with the diagnosis but am not sure that the cure is fully worked out yet ...

4. Expressing your views about the IRS via performance art.

5. Markets in everything: Portland's vegan strip club.

Hat tip on #1 to Jackie Smith. #4 via instapundit.

Another prize for Dan Hamermesh

Dan is this year's winner of the IZA Prize in labor economics.

Congratulations Dan!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beta hat

Get it?

Modeled (another pun!) by recent UM doctorate Italo Gutierrez, now at Rand.

Something reasonable about Martin / Zimmerman

I did not follow this particular media circus very closely, but this Slate piece by William Saletan seems to me to provide a compelling summary of the enterprise.

Assorted links

1. The NYT on heterogeneous treatment effects and statistical treatment rules in medicine. The author's knowledge sort of runs out before the end of the article, but it is still pretty interesting.

2. Cool old cars in Minnesota. Ann Arbor had its (very) mini version of this last Friday.

3. Economics and video games.

4. What Amanda Knox reads.

5. Don't go driving in Russia.

Hat tip on #1 to portside.org. Hat tip on #2 and #5 to Jackie Smith.

Requiring diversity at U-dub

The University of Washington, my undergraduate alma mater, has instituted a "diversity" course requirement on top of the regular "distribution" requirements designed to provide some breadth to undergraduate course-taking.

I think the key bit in the Seattle Times article is:
[Dean] Gregory, though, characterized the final policy as “a very modest curriculum requirement.”
“It doesn’t complicate the curriculum,” he said. “We were careful not to do that.”
Charlie Brown likes to talk about a mythical software package called "PC Deanspeak" whose function is to translate the language of deans (deanish? rubbish?) into ordinary English. Running this bit through my mental version of PC Deanspeak leads to "We made the requirement so small, and the number of courses that count so large, that it will not actually change anyone's course-taking behavior, but it will make those annoying activist kids go away."

Hat tip: (Dean) Ken Troske

Monday, July 15, 2013

College kids do the darndest things

The NYT has made the startling discovery that college students sometimes fool around, even when they are not in a relationship, and often after consuming alcohol.

Now that's news! Move over National Enquirer!

And I am sure that nothing like that ever happened back when I was in college. No sir. Not one bit.

Perhaps equally entertaining is the author's attempt to instill in parents an odd combination of fear for their innocent children and regret that their own college lives did not feature as many drunken late night booty calls as some students enjoy today.

The careful reader might also note that the universities covered in the story are elite schools where many students are unlikely to stick around in the local area after graduation. I bet the story is different at a school like Western Michigan, where most students will stick around or, at most, move to Chicago. Lack of expected geographic mobility changes the benefit-cost calculus on relationships started in college, as does less exclusively career-focused life ambitions.

And it almost goes without saying, as it is the Times, that there is no random sample to be found, so the results of the writer's survey cannot be generalized in any meaningful way beyond the individuals at hand. Of course, I am sure that students willing to have extended conversations with a reporter about their drunken hookups are pretty close to a random sample. Aren't you?

In fact, if you read along farther, you discover that a large fraction of college students are not leading wild lives at college at all.  Though who knows how good these numbers are either, for the author makes no effort to document whether they come from a scientific survey or not. Still, 40 percent having intercourse with zero or one person during college (that's five years at risk for many students, in a target rich environment) is hardly the orgy the first part of the article makes college life out to be.

The newspaper of record, indeed.

Note to younger readers: the subject of the post is a play on this book by Art Linkletter.

Via instapundit.