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.


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.