Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book: Mortality, by Christopher Hitchens

Hitchens, Christopher. 2012. Mortality. New York: 12.

This is a short book of Hitchen's musings on death and, even more so, on the process of slowly dying from cancer. Topics range from the reactions of Hitchens' religious opponents, some of whom pronounced the disease judgement and others of whom offered unrequested prayers, to the physical frustrations of bodily decay, to the deluge of largely dodgy medical advice from well-meaning friends and associates. If you like Hitchens more generally, you will like this one too, but, spoiler alert, there is no happy ending.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

College football: Steve Sarkisian fired at USC

From the Seattle Times. It all sounds like a pretty sad business.

Sark did a great job of raising Washington up out of its 0-12 muck. I wish him well.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Nobel Prize

Congratulations to Angus Deaton, who just won the prize.

Addendum:

Thoughts from my colleague Justin Wolfers, from Alex Tabarrok, and from Tyler Cowen. The piece from Chris Blattman is good as well, but neglects to note that many of the criticisms of experiments voiced by Deaton were already around in the labor literature, which had a similar, though arguably more civil, discussion about randomized trials a decade or so prior to the one in the development literature.

Overall, this is an excellent prize in my view. We used the Deaton and Muellbauer book, along with Varian's text, in first year micro when I was at Chicago. It is excellent.  The bits of the household survey book that I have read were really helpful as well.

Going after the economics Nobel

A member of the Swedish Academy calls for a suspension on the economics Nobel prize.

Hat tip: ASAK

Friday, October 2, 2015

Alpha Chi discovers that baseball is, like, totally boring. I agree!


 From the Daily Mail, which oversells a bit. Hat tip to you-know-who.

Update: The women of Alpha Chi Omega paid more attention in their marketing classes than they did at the baseball game.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Treat meat like cigarettes

I suspect that the UK labour party under Jeremy Corbyn and company will provide a wealth of trans-Atlantic entertainment. Today's installment features the shadow minister for farming, who wants to put warning labels on meat like those on cigarettes. Worth noting in the article is that the shadow minister's main concern about this policy is not its imposition on consumer choice but rather its potential effect on agribusiness. Not very lefty that, one might have thought.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Assorted links

1. Where Great Courses come from. I was hoping the article would explain their (to me) bizarre pricing strategies as well, but it does not.

2. Driving through a wildfire.

3. Chasing death around.

4. What to do when law enforcement wants to chat.

5. A hard day at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book: Top Student, Top School

Radford, Alexandria. 2013. Top Student, Top School? How Social Class Shapes Where Valedictorians Go To College. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

I liked this book a lot, and not just because the evidence it presents supports various conclusions in my work on college mismatch with Nora Dillon (e.g. that for some students, distance to college is an important variable, either because they want to save money by living at home, or because they want to be able to return home regularly and easily, and that student application behavior matters more than what college admissions offices do).

The book provides qualitative and quantitative analysis of a cohort of high school valedictorians who vary on a number of relevant dimensions such as sex, high school quality, and parental education. The relative roles of these and other variables are traced through a set of stages - predisposition, preparation, exploration, application, admissions and matriculation - in the process of transitioning from high school to college. The author does a nice job of combining straightforward quantitative analysis with insightful qualitative analysis. Indeed, one might even use this book as an example of integrating the two.

Even the policy section, which often provides a letdown at the end of otherwise sound books by non-economists, is not too bad. We could, and should, do a better job of informing strong students from low income backgrounds and/or who are first generation college-goers how the system works. This is, of course, an active area of research in the economics of education. One potentially instructive comparison would be to places, e.g. Ontario, where the choice problem is substantially easier for all students, due to centralized application and admissions and the absence of private colleges.

Recommended for those interested in the topic.

Monday, September 28, 2015

P.J. O'Rourke on Ann Coulter

This piece is more personal than the usual P.J. piece, and includes some reminiscing about growing up in Toledo.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

On letters of recommendation

A thoughtful post from orgtheory.net on letters of recommendation.

I agree with much of it and was surprised by some of it.

I was surprised by the fact that files are often incomplete due to unsent letters. I always send them, though sometimes right at the margin of the deadline. That is too bad for the students / workers involved.

Addendum: an alert reader points out that the link leads to the main page of orgtheory.net. This post was composed (incompetently it seems) by my past self some months ago, and some searching just now did not yield the post I remembered (send me an email if you find it), though it did lead to a bunch of other interesting posts on letters of recommendation, such as this one, as well as their review of Dear Committee Member (which you really should read if you have not already). Julie Schumacher, the author of said book, offers some thoughts on letters as well. I particularly liked her remark that "The word “Harvard” counts for several thick and complimentary paragraphs, the crimson shield on the letterhead reducing the need for encomiums by 30-40 percent."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Megan McArdle on Syrian refugees

Megan travels to Greece to meet and write about the refugees. I am largely in sympathy with her views and think she could usefully have added that part of the responsibility for the refugees results from failures of US foreign policy. We should be taking more than we claim we will.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The economist reviews the literature on the effects of pornography

As usual, the economist does a nice job of avoiding the hype.

My favorite line in the article is:
The most common effect of a porn habit, says Geoffrey Miller, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico, is a tendency to watch a bit less television.
The remarks on research funding and methodology are also useful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Structural economics moment of Zen

"We just want to tell a story, like all structural models do. We are like storytellers from the days of yore."

Nirav Mehta

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Second thoughts on Cecil the Lion

I wish the American justice system were as devoted to "innocent until proven guilty" as this fellow thinks it is. I suspect that the people whose mug shots get posted online by the local police when they are arrested, rather than when they are convicted, would disagree. Still, better late than never.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Assorted links

1. The Onion on the pros and cons of legalizing prostitution.

2. Top immigrant jobs by state. I would not have guessed Michigan's.

3. Great moments in Canadian politics.

4. Training gynecologists. I would be curious to know what the wage is for this.

5. A bit of Hillary humor. Legal or not, the private email business seems remarkably inept.

Hat tip on #2 to Dan Black.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Beer humor

This "beer troubleshooting guide" is probably as old as the hills - certainly the cigarette reference indicates at least a couple of decades, as does the existence of numerous small variations - but I had somehow never encountered it until seeing it on a t-shirt in a store in Ottawa's Byward Market this weekend.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Decline of Auctions on Ebay

From the Economist, and with a nod to recent work by Dimitry Masterov.

I will confess that I am one of the people who wandered away from Ebay because of sniping.

I knew that the fraction of auctions had declined, but had no idea that it had declined so much.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Assorted links

1. Converting the skydome from baseball to football.

2. An engaging Atlantic essay on the history of what it means to be an artist.

3. Chalkboards from 1917.

4. Scholarships in wine economics. I'll drink to that.

5. More on the Michigan sex scandal (and Ashley Madison)

6. Sark has a bit too much to drink.

Hat tip on #3 to Jackie Smith.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Camille Paglia interview

I normally do not link to things that marginal revolution also links to, on the theory that everyone who reads this blog also reads that one, but this three-part Camille Paglia interview on Salon (which I actually found on instapundit a few days before it showed up on MR) is provocative and interesting.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

Yet another college quality ranking

This ranking relies on college football player arrests.

Michigan makes the top 20, Washington does not.

Who tops the list: Wazoo! Things get boring over there in the Palouse.

Hat tip: Dr. Brown

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An alternative college quality measure

The research world moves very quickly indeed, so quickly that there is already a (partial) college ranking based on the use of university email addresses at Ashley Madison.

Hat tip: mystery dean

Really good advice for graduate students

From David Weil at Brown via marginal revolution.

I would second in particular the notion of constantly subjecting activities to a "researcher cost-benefit test". Time is the scarce resource. Also, the way to learn how to write is to write, get feedback, and write again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

Jury nullification

Glenn Reynolds of instapundit has a new USA Today column on jury nullification to which I am generally sympathetic.

In addition to being a good idea in many instances, a jury nullification t-shirt is likely a really good way to avoid having to actually serve on a jury.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Musical interlude: Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys



The first album I ever purchased with my own money was Endless Summer by the Beach Boys. Great stuff, plus the studio footage is interesting in its own right.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Book: Writing History by Michael Bliss

Bliss, Michael. 2011. Writing History: A Professor's Life. Toronto: Dundurn.

I read Michael Bliss' collective biography of the Canadian prime ministers, Right Honourable Men, shortly after I arrived at Western Ontario, I think on the recommendation of my then-colleague economic historian Knick Harley. It was a great introduction to Canadian history that I still recommend to my Canadian friends and relatives.

So, when I saw that Bliss has written his memoirs (while skipping out on the Society of Labor Economists meetings at the excellent Paragraphe bookstore in Montreal) I bought it immediately and, indeed, read it immediately. I enjoyed the book a lot. It was fun to read about life in small-town Ontario in the 1950s and to follow the full arc of an academic career. Because most of Bliss' researchers consisted of books, each of which required several years of his time, he thought hard about which projects to pursue and which not to - harder I think than most economists, including me, think about which paper ideas to pursue and which not to. These decisions are described in some detail in the book

I would have liked to learn more about Bliss' actual research process, and about his views of trends in historical research more broadly. I suppose that is a way of saying that I would have liked a bit more of an intellectual memoir in addition to the personal memoir. But still, I raced through the book and really enjoyed it, including in particular all the bits about department and university politics.

Recommended if you are in the mood for an academic memoir.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dean of Sexual Assault

A thoughtful and saddening piece on the transformation of the job of Dean of Students at many colleges into one solely focused on sexual assault accusations by a former Dean of Students writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

I also liked this bit from one of the early comments by "Helen":
"...I think that reasonable people often have a very large blind spot in that we assume, when faced with something obviously unreasonable, that if we just hold tight and push on, everyone will figure it [out] that this is insanity, cooler heads will prevail, and the problem will be solved."
That more or less describes my last two years, over which time insanity is 3-0.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Twins in Twinsburg, Ohio

The Daily Mail follows in the august footsteps of Orley Asheenfelter and Alan Krueger by attending the Twins Day festival in Twinsburg, Ohio.

The article contains some great pictures of people for whom being a twin is not just a biological fact of life but also a hobby. There is even some Canadian content, eh.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

This "new" Jerry Seinfeld project consists of short videos wherein he hangs out with his comedian friends. It is absolutely self-indulgent: he gets to drive around in interesting cars, drink coffee (and often eat lunch) at interesting restaurants in the NY and LA areas, and he gets to hang out (and pay) his comedian friends. But the conversations are fun and often interesting as well, and I enjoy watching someone who seems to enjoy his wealth so thoroughly and with so little drama. I also like Jerry's sense of and interest in the history of comedy.

I have watched the first two seasons. The ones I enjoyed most were Carl Reiner / Mel Brooks and Michael Richards (who played Kramer on Seinfeld) in the first season and Chris Rock and David Letterman in the second.

I would be curious to know how he arranges things with the restaurant owners. Are the other customers, who generally pretend not to notice Jerry and his companions, all plants? Are they all paid?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Employment effects of the minimum wage

Right here at Michigan.

Hat tip (on the link and the subject line): Charlie Brown

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Robert Conquest RIP

The Wall Street Journal offers a fine obituary of sovietologist Robert Conquest. It includes many things I did not know - even a limerick about Lenin.

Diane Whitmore to the Hamilton Project

Congratulations to Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach on taking the helm of the Hamilton Project at Brookings.

Though I still don't understand why anyone would name something after the wretched statist Alexander Hamilton, surely the worst of the American founders.

Monday, August 3, 2015

An Iraq veteran on domestic policing

Some useful thoughts on excessive force and on strategy more generally.

An important theme that is left implicit, but that could usefully have been developed at greater length, is that the actions of every police officer in every department have a public goods aspect. Misbehavior by police in one jurisdiction reduce trust in, and cooperation with, police in other jurisdictions. This suggests that the optimal "tax" on such misbehavior is pretty large.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Renovating the State Theater

The Ann Arbor News details the ongoing plans for the renovation of the State Theater in Ann Arbor.

Lots of nice pictures, including bits customers do not normally get to see.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Mike Mueller-Smith in Quartz

Quartz provides a nice summary of the job market paper of my brand new economics colleague (once he gets done with his post-doc) Mike-Mueller Smith.

Hat tip: Martha Bailey

Thursday, July 30, 2015

T-shirt moment of Zen

Seen on a shirt in Oz:

"A Pair of Shoes Can Change Your Life" - Cinderella

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Movie: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I don't have much to add to A.O.Scott's fine review. The movie is sweet but maybe not too sweet. And the movie parodies by the two boys are pretty funny.

Recommended as light entertainment, if a movie about death can be said to be light.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book: Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity, by James O'Donnell

O'Donnell, James. 2015. Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity. New York: Ecco / Harper Collins.

This is a fun read about an interesting period that I did not know much about. The author has two main points in challenging the traditional narrative: First, he argues (along with some other recent literature) that paganism was much more heterogeneous and local than the usual view of a monolithic pagan opposition to the rise of Christianity. Second, he argues that pagan alternatives more faded away than put up any real fight against the Christians, once the latter had the power of empire behind them. Also quite interesting is the discussion of the fading out of blood sacrifice among the traditionalists both before (to some degree) Christianity really shows up on the scene and in a manner that is largely intellectually and socially separate from it.

This is a book by an academic aimed at both academic and non-academic audiences, though I would not have minded if the book were a bit more academic in style than it is. Having said that, some readers on goodreads did not like the slightly snarky tone. I did.

Recommended if you are into such things.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Minimum wages and the big time

Michigan student Isaac Sorkin (on the market this coming year for those on the demand side) and my favorite minimum wage paper (i.e. his) hit the Economist print edition.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Movie: Mr. Holmes

This is a a gentle, warm film about an aging Sherlock Holmes. Beautiful scenery and early- and mid-20th century sets and clothes (as with all historical enterprises with which the BBC is involved). Not sublime, but a very pleasant way to spend 90 minutes. A.O. Scott largely agrees.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

In praise of Harold's

A site called seriouseats.com correctly identifies the best fried chicken to be had.

Harold's in Hyde Park (where the University of Chicago is located) was one of the few local establishments patronized by students, faculty and locals. I recall once watching a small, reasonably well-dressed Indian (as in from India) man, almost certainly a faculty member, walk gently up to the revolving portal made of bullet-proof glass, having already waited 20 or 25 minutes for his order, to ask about how it was coming along. He received in response a very loud "I ain't called you yet" and slunk back into a corner to wait some more.

Back in graduate student days, one of my friends, now a dean at some posh private university, would go with his roommate to a different Harold's in an even dodgier neighborhood just outside Hyde Park on the theory that the chicken was better there. One of them would go in to order the chicken while the other would sit outside in a car with the motor running in case things took an unfortunate turn.

Hat tip: DVM

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

AA

This Atlantic piece on the history and science (or lack thereof) behind Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is interesting a many levels, including in particular how a treatment with very little in the way of real evidence behind it ends up becoming so thoroughly enmeshed in government policy.

Similarly interesting are two critiques. One is from Scientific American's blog. It is incorrect that AA is free; while it has no explicit money price, donations are solicited at meetings and, of course, the time cost is very large for those who take it seriously. Still, the general point of comparing costs and benefits is a good one, and suggests heterogeneous optimal treatment choice depending on factors such as value of time. This critique also offers no comfort for the (common) practice of sentencing people to participate in AA. Changing the Atlantic's conclusion from "no good" to "who knows?" does not justify compulsion.

The other critique is from New York magazine. I wish this one had more detail; it sounds like researchers are using what I would call a randomized encouragement design by randomly assigning people to formal preparation for the 12-step programs. This design, of course, estimates a local average treatment effect, which is then confused in the write-up with the average treatment effect on the treated. Or so I suspect. Also suspect is the apparent mono-focus on abstinence as an outcome. Real success, it seems to me, is leaving people able to drink in moderation, not condemning them to never drink again (not that there is anything wrong with that ...).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Decay

Beautiful ruins from Ozy. Be sure to turn on the captions.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Will facts and figures lead the townies to love us?

UM unveils a slick new web page aimed at local residents who don't think the university pays enough taxes.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Old books for sale

The 37th Annual Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair is today at the Michigan Union, from 11-5. There is a modest admission charge, which supports the university's Bentley Historical Library.

Among the vendors is Motte and Bailey, my favorite among the local used books stores.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Matt Welch reports from the front lines ...

I will confess that my day of being called for jury duty in Montgomery County, Maryland over a decade ago featured a better video and shorter security lines than poor Matt's day in Brooklyn.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Some positive arborial news

The 250-year old tree that UM spent 400K in donor money to move last fall appears to be doing well.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Palm Springs in the FT

... for a Louis Vuitton traveling fashion show at Bob Hope's house. The FT is correct that it is a very cool house, at least as best one can see without an invitation. It is not correct to say, though, that it is "far" above the valley. It is only a short way up the hill really. I like the term "brand narrative" as well but am not sure how to work it into a paper.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The American Association of Wine Economists gets noticed by the Colbert Report


Note the wise remark about the dangers of generalizing from samples of study volunteers.

Hat tip: Orley Ashenfelter (at a conference in honor of Bob LaLonde)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Economics moment of Zen #12

"There is no late paper prison."

Robert LaLonde

Friday, May 1, 2015

Michigan on the role of free speech in academic life

I am with Miles Kimball that our university has done a good job of taking the high road on this, after some faltering around the showing of American Sniper.

The point of university is not to provide a greenhouse for delicate intellectual orchids. It is instead to prepare students to participate effectively in the life of the mind in both their personal and professional lives. Such participation implies the ability to effectively confront, engage with, and learn from ideas that differ from one's own.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What associate deans do ...

Michigan's new policy on drones .... I mean "unmanned aircraft systems".

But are we allowed to use the word "unmanned"? I would not have thought so.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

Correction: An alert reader (who holds the title "deputy dean") writes me to note that, in fact, Michigan's policy on unpiloted (thanks don!) aircraft systems was conceived not by associate deans but rather by vice presidents. Upon reflection, I realize that I was using "associate dean" in the generic sense to mean any overpaid university administrator of non-obvious value (regular econjeff readers excluded, of course, as their value is clear).

Monday, March 30, 2015

Assorted links

1. The excitement of applied public finance.

2. Life inside the beltway. The red team does this stuff too. Yawn.

3. Ann Arbor makes list of top hipster cities.

4. Photos of old Seattle restaurants. I miss the Dog House.

5. Shopping malls not actually dying. At least not all of them.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Atlantic on alcohol treatment

The title of this Atlantic piece does not really match the contents, but the contents are pretty interesting. Science in the US has real trouble when moral issues get involved (over and above its usual troubles), whether it is alcohol, drugs or food.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

What would Thomas Jefferson think ....

... about the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Commission Police?

I think this instapundit post sums it up pretty well.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Assorted links

1. Why I love America: DUI lawyer edition.

2. History of the train station / Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor. I hope it stays a restaurant.

3. David Friedman wants a better shower controller. I agree. Isn't this the 21st century after all?

4. It's hard to find good help.

5.On the absence local warming in Ann Arbor.

Hat tip on #1 to the Honest Courtesan and on #4 to Charlie Brown.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Business school art


From the Aarhus Biz School.

Photo credit: Jess Goldberg

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hyper-active labor market policy

A labor market scheme for immigrants goes off the rails in Sweden.

Hat tip (on the article and the title): Charlie Brown

Monday, February 23, 2015

Frontiers of urban planning

Conor Freidersdorf at the Atlantic on the scourge of Little Free Libraries and the terrible sociopaths who run them.

So far the ones in Ann Arbor are, to my knowledge, operating entirely without the benefit of regulation! How can that even be possible in this day and age?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The 70s were an odd time indeed



One of my girlfriends in high school was into KISS. I tried my best to empathize but never really understood.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Active labor market program flavor of the month

The Atlantic, who should really know better, profiles a program called Platform to Employment. The subtitle of the article says that it is "successful" but in fact the article does not even attempt to provide plausible evidence of causal effects on labor market outcomes, presumably because there is no such evidence, even though some states are now providing the program at, in Connecticut, about $7,000 per participant.

What the article does provide is the information that there is an 80 percent placement rate. That sounds good, especially if you miss the one mention of the fact that the program serves "a selected group" of the long-term unemployed. Presumably, they are selected for employer appeal, which makes the placement rate even more meaningless as a measure of program success than it otherwise would be.

In addition to the lack of any causal evidence on the program's effectiveness, the Atlantic writer also seems woefully ignorant of the policy environment in which the program operates. The services provided by the program are not that different from what the Workforce Investment Act (WIA, soon to have the exciting new acronym WIOA) provides to someone who receives "intensive" job search assistance followed by subsidized on-the-job training. (OJT). WIA's caseworkers perform the same sort of selection when recommending clients to employers for subsidized OJT as PtE's caseworkers do. More broadly, the community college system offers vocational training for free (yes, already, someone please tell our beloved leader) via Pell Grants and/or WIA to those with low incomes and at a highly subsidized price to those without low incomes.

Some of these difficulties appear to arise because the author relies solely on the program itself, program participants, and advocacy organizations as sources. The Atlantic can, and should, do better.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book: On the Run by Alice Goffman

Goffman, Alice. 2014. On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

This may be the best ethnography I have ever read, and I have read a bunch of them starting when I was in college. It studies the home front of mass incarceration via the lives of young men in a poor African-American neighborhood in Philadelphia.

Why do I like it so much? First, it is brutally honest. There is no sugar coating here and no romanticizing of the poor or of the police or of social workers or of academics. Second, there are no overt politics (not even the heretofore seemingly obligatory bad policy chapter at the end). There are lots of clear policy messages in the book, but they are all implicit in the descriptions of institutions and events. Third, the material does not require obtuse theoretical structures for its value. Goffman recognizes that and just lets the agents and events speak. As a result, she avoids the situation in some ethnographies, such as Drylongso by John Langston Gwaltny, where the observed seemed to be saying one thing and the observer quite another. Fourth, the author really seems to just want to understand how the individuals she studies see themselves and their actions. That, to me, is both what good history and good ethnography should do: allow you to see how other people see themselves and make sense of their world. Fifth, and finally, the book also functions as a sort of academic coming of age story of the author, one that I found quite moving and memorable. Oh, and be sure to read the methodological note at the end. It contains some of the best material in the book.

Highly recommended.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Assorted links

1. Yummy art deco cinemas in California.

2. But I thought it was duct tape, not duck tape. Still, pretty cool.

3. The lost art of minding your own business.

4. Apostrophe Protection Society.

5. Government is just another name for the things we do together: paperwork edition.

Addendum: I am informed by Charlie Brown that "duct tape" is a product category and "Duck tape" is a brand within that category. Good to know.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Go to hell ....

... and buy some real estate. Hell, Michigan that is.

Seriously though, Hell is a fun little driving excursion from Ann Arbor, especially with kids. If they do sell, I hope the new owners maintain the character of the place.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cochrane on the minimum wage

I ran across this fine post from John while looking for something else.

There is no question that it is tough to find econometric evidence of capital-labor substitution in response to minimum wages. Some interpret that to mean that it does not occur, others that it occurs with long and variable lags that make it tough for our usual design-based strategies to sort out. I tend to favor the latter, based in part on my experience of going to China, where labor is very inexpensive and where, as a result, you are often out-numbered by the staff when you go to a store. Sometimes having more variation in the independent variable helps to clarify the sign and magnitude of the coefficient.

And, really, what we should be having a policy discussion about is not the minimum wage but about how to reduce the number of workers whose marginal product is of such a low value that the minimum wage can easily exceed it.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Enrollment and pricing trends at Michigan

The Ann Arbor News reports on the increase in out-of-state students at Michigan.

I would have separated out the numbers for undergraduates and graduates, and relied less on students as experts, but the story gets the gist of it.

I think the story is correct, too, that the Great Recession is over in terms of the senior faculty labor market. In particular, economics salaries at the senior level seem to have jumped up again.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Defending Pete Carroll

My colleague with the funny accent defends Pete Carroll, the applied game theorist.

I agree. More broadly, people calling for him to be fired based on one play are just silly. Get a grip people.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Edgar Froese, RIP



I was into electronic music, and Froese / Tangerine Dream in particular, in high school and college.

The BBC obituary is here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Assorted links

1. Starbucks versus Dunkin' Donuts

2. Ginger Ambition gets a massage.

3. Clearing the fish out of the shopping mall.

4. Bookshop porn. Shop now before they're all gone!

5. Disney attractions lost to history. For more, head to Yesterland.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

On academic standards in university athletics

This piece both illustrates the tension between athletic success and academic standards as well as the challenges associated with operating courses online.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What a waste ...

Who knew that crime rates in Washington DC had gotten so low that it would be reasonable use of police resources to harass sportscasters who want a bit of paid fun?

Time for some police department budget cuts, I would say. And for some sense of perspective at CBS Sports.

And, more broadly, why are some people's completely voluntary sexual preferences illegal while others, not obviously superior (or inferior), merit legal protection? I'm confused.

Via: Honest Courtesan

TSA technology follies

Having external evaluation of TSA hardware and procedures seems like a very good idea in light of articles like this one.

And then there is this first-hand report from a former TSA agent.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Assorted links

1. Record-breaking parallel parking. Everyone is good at something, my parents used to say.

2. The joy of tax law. Joel et Jim always seem to be in pretty good moods; perhaps this finding extends to being tax economists as well.

3. If only Monica had one of these.

4. Toy sets you should not have sold at the garage sale. I wish I had not agreed to the selling of my three big tubs of Legos. They are proving expensive to replace.

5. Teaching life lessons through youth athletics.

#1 and #3 via instapundit. #5 merits a hat to Charlie Brown.

Bonus points if you get the film reference.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Movie: Wild

This entertaining review from the British Spectator is a bit more negative than I would be but does a nice job of capturing the gist of the thing.

Recommended only if you like Oprah's cable channel and/or Reese Witherspoon.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

On the rules governing the dating of students

An interesting discussion at a law prof blog.

My favorite comment is this one:
A colleague used to be a professor at UC Berkeley. A curmudgeon at heart. He once told me that many of his female students used to approach him and tell him "I'll do anything to pass this class. ANYTHING."
He bent over close and asked "Anything?", to which they would reply "Anything!"
He would then ask, in a very quiet voice, "Would you ... STUDY?"
My own view is that what really matters is having clear rules that are carefully written and precise. Lots of trouble can be avoided if everyone understands what the rules are and they are enforced as written.

If I were picking the rules, I would probably say no dating of undergrads at all until they graduate, mainly because I think this is the product that parents want to buy, and they are usually the ones paying. For graduate students, who are generally older and usually paying their own way, I would just forbid dating with faculty with a direct influence over the student (e.g. who teach them classes or are on their dissertation committee) until degree completion.

Regardless of the rules, in the current kangaroo court environment on most campuses, this is behavior to avoid.

Via instapundit.

Addendum: Harvard adopts a clear policy. We should do that at Michigan too, even if it is not the same policy as at Harvard.

Hat tip: ASAK

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

U of Virginia apology?

When I first read this piece about people calling for the University of Virginia to apologize for collectively punishing the students in its fraternities and sororities based on unverified (and now apparently untrue) claims of misbehavior at one fraternity in Rolling Stone, I thought the university would be in full apology mode in order to avoid a lawsuit.

Thinking about it more, I think Virginia has decided that the probability of a lawsuit (or, more likely, many lawsuits) equals one, and so they already rehearsing the strategy they will take in the courtroom of framing the punishment as a "pause". Seems like a dubious strategy to me, but I am not a lawyer. Presumably they think it is the best one they've got, which suggests that they should be getting out their checkbook.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Book: Dear Committee Members

Schumacher, Julie. Dear Committee Members. Doubleday.

This book, an epistolary novel composed entirely of letters of recommendation written by a jaded but sincere English professor a good bit past his prime, is absolutely brilliant.

Not only (what would already be enough) did I laugh out loud more often than any book since reading Tom Sharpe's The Throwback over 20 years ago, but the book has a gently serious side as well, along with plenty of tasty verbal treats for those who enjoy puns and other wordplay.

The author, a professor of English at the University of Minnesota, clearly knows her topic.

Highly recommended.

A very enthusiastic hat tip to Helen Levy for recommending the book.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What is Becky up to?

People who have known me for a while sometimes ask me what is up with Becky Roselius (now Haney), my student (at the Harris School), co-author (on Heckman, Roselius and Smith, 1994) and good friend.

I just learned the other day that one thing she has been doing is writing a book, which is very cool indeed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Women in economics

A fine column from my colleague Miles Kimball and a (necessarily) anonymous co-author on the challenges associated with being a woman in economics. My own estimate of the empirical importance of these issues for current cohorts has increased a lot over the past couple of years.

I do think the article omits one possible action item, which is that female economists in some cases could be a lot more supportive of each other than they are at present.

Finally, I would add that I have huge respect for the women who were early movers into economics, e.g. Judy Thornton, from whom I took courses as an undergraduate at Washington, and Marjorie McElroy at Duke, whom I have gotten to know at conferences and seminar visits over the years. To the extent that women in current cohorts have smaller, but not necessarily small, challenges to face, it is in good part due to the hard work of predecessors like these.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A restaurant I would like to visit ...

... is the Heart Attack Grill.

There is even spanking!

Via: Food Network

College football national championship

So the arch-rivals of my two schools - Oregon for Washington and Ohio State for Michigan - are playing in the national championship of college football.

I am not sure who to cheer for, but I am sure who is going to win: Oregon by 21 is my prediction.