Monday, October 23, 2017

Some new research on the importance of caseworkers for the unemployed

Amelie Schiprowski:

The Role of Caseworkers in Unemployment Insurance: Evidence from Unplanned Absences

Caseworkers are the main human resource used to provide social services. This paper asks if, and how much, caseworkers matter for the outcomes of unemployed individuals. Using large-scale administrative data, I exploit exogenous variation in unplanned absences among Swiss UI caseworkers. I find that individuals who lose an early meeting with their caseworker stay on average 10 days longer in unemployment (5% relative to the mean). Results show large heterogeneity in the economic value of caseworkers: the effect of a foregone meeting doubles for caseworkers in the highest productivity tercile, while it is zero for caseworkers in the lowest tercile. Finally, absences induce negative spillover effects on the performance of present colleagues, who have to cover additional workload.

You can find the paper here.

I have seen this presented a couple of times at conferences and quite like it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Book: "K Blows Top" by Peter Carlson

Carlson, Peter. 2009. K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude, Starring Nikita Khruschev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist. PublicAffairs.

I bought this when I was in Moscow as some light travel reading. The book actually covers three trips: then-Vice President Nixon's trip to Moscow in 1959, Kruschev's grand American tour later in 1959, and Kruschev's subsequent visit to New York in 1960 to speak at the United Nations. The last of these featured the famous shoe-pounding episode. The book has the light and often humorous tone suggested by the title, but indirectly provides some serious history as well. I was reminded how seriously the public used to take the major mainstream media (and by contrast how far they have fallen in public esteem since that time). Indeed, the author makes a good argument that Kruschev's first visit was the first true modern media circus. For those too young to have experienced the cold war first hand, the book provides some sense of how it differs from our current fears.

Recommend if you are interested in the history of the cold war.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On jerks at work

I thought this article had some good advice on dealing with jerky colleagues.

I particularly like this bit:
What if you have to sit near the sleaze?
There are mind tricks to protect your soul — ways for the situation to be less upsetting to you even though you can’t change it. My favorite is a guy at Stanford who pretends that he’s a doctor who studies “a-hole-ism.” When he sees these people in meetings, he pretends that it’s a privilege to be able to see such a rare specimen. It’s a sort of detachment — pretending you’re a doctor, just observing.
and plan to give it a go at my next meeting.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

NPR on the economics job market

Planet Money follows my student Julian Hsu around during this past economics job market.

The piece does a nice job of capturing both Julian's personality and the rush of the interviews at the Allied Social Science Association meetings.

I do think they could have worked in some additional substantive information about the market without compromising the relaxed feel of the piece.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Assorted links

1. On Donald Trump's financial acumen.

2. Some useful thoughts on saying "no", one of the very most important skills for professorial success.

3. I really enjoyed this old piece by Donald (now Deirdre) McCloskey that marginal revolution linked to a few days ago.

4. Economic Journal Watch on the (quite interesting) history of classical liberalism in China.

5. Dilbert on the economics Nobel.

Hat tip on #1 to the deputy dean and on #5 to Herr Bachmann.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Movie: Battle of the Sexes

This movie was not quite what I expected. In particular, it is much less preachy and much more focused on sexual preference, and much less focused on feminism, than I was imagining. Indeed, as the NYT review hints, the movie manages to make Bobby Riggs out as a sort of warm-hearted American huckster type who plays the "male chauvinist pig" character not because he really believes it but because of the big financial payoff it provides. And I think feminism plays a somewhat reduced role relative to sexual preference both because in retrospect it is so clear the feminist side was destined to win out and because sexual preference is more topical in the present day.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Jerry Pournelle, R.I.P.

Pournelle was one of my favorite science fiction writers during my heavy science fiction reading phase in junior high and high school. I recall reading some of his columns in Byte as well, as my dad had a subscription for many years.

I got different bits out of the NYT obituary and this warm recollection from science fiction writer Sarah Hoyt.

Monday, October 2, 2017