Monday, March 31, 2014

Alternative economist minimum wage petition

Signers include three Nobelists, Greg Mankiw and Tyler Cowen, among others.

Given all the possible welfare-enhancing policies out there that would obtain nearly universal approbation from the economics community, it is a real shame to see so much political capital being spent on something that does not. Of course, there is information in that fact regarding the objective function being maximized.

Assorted links

1. Nick Gillespie defends millenials.

2. Tunnels at UM.

3. More pressure on Steve Sarkisian at USC or Chris Peterson at Washington? I would say clearly Steve Sarkisian.

4. Art and politics don't mix.

5. Interesting Atlantic piece on where (chain) restaurant menus come from.

Hat tip on #4 (including the joke) to Charlie Brown.

Paper: Is Twitter actually useful for something?

Using Social Media to Measure Labor Market Flows
Dolan Antenucci, Michael Cafarella, Margaret C. Levenstein, Christopher Ré, Matthew D. Shapiro
NBER Working Paper No. 20010

Social media enable promising new approaches to measuring economic activity and analyzing economic behavior at high frequency and in real time using information independent from standard survey and administrative sources. This paper uses data from Twitter to create indexes of job loss, job search, and job posting. Signals are derived by counting job-related phrases in Tweets such as “lost my job.” The social media indexes are constructed from the principal components of these signals. The University of Michigan Social Media Job Loss Index tracks initial claims for unemployment insurance at medium and high frequencies and predicts 15 to 20 percent of the variance of the prediction error of the consensus forecast for initial claims. The social media indexes provide real-time indicators of events such as Hurricane Sandy and the 2013 government shutdown. Comparing the job loss index with the search and posting indexes indicates that the Beveridge Curve has been shifting inward since 2011.


I saw Maggie Levenstein (who runs Michigan's Census Research Data Center) present the paper a couple of weeks ago. It's a clever idea and likely an exemplar of much that lies in our future.

Play: Venus in Fur

Venus in Fur at Performance Network is great fun as well as a thoughtful meditation on gender and power. The writing is excellent and the acting is strong as well, particularly Maggie Meyer in the female lead.

Recommended (and recently extended for an additional weekend).

Friday, March 28, 2014

Job market papers

Bonnie Kavoussi, a student in our Masters in Applied Economics (MAE) program, draws some good lessons from one of the funnier bits of this year's skit night.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Institute for Human Studies Summer Seminars

It's that time of year again: time to advertise the fine summer seminars on classical liberal / libertarian themes run by the Institute for Humane Studies. I did a couple of these back in the day, had a great time, and learned a great deal about the non-economics parts of the classical liberal intellectual tradition.

I recommend them even if you are not a classical liberal. It is always good to understand your intellectual opponents.

Full disclosure: The IHS gave me a fellowship in grad school. Now I give them donations.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tax fun

I've been asked to advertise the upcoming Let's Get Fiscal (public finance economists are big on puns) symposium in Washington DC on May 15-16.

Looks like fun to me. Flyer / program here.

Hat tip: Adam Cole

Movie: Divergent

Teen romance plus post-apocalypse ruin porn plus science fiction plus pretty people plus cool soundtrack. What's not to like? Well, all the things complained about in the NYT review, which is pretty much on target on the weaknesses.

One more dimension: The theme of both movie and book is individualism. That nets bonus points from me but probably means points off at the NYT.

Recommended if the you give enough bonus points for ruin porn and individualism.

Bonus aside: a key problem facing the director is how to make the "El" (short for "elevated railway") in Chicago look more post-apocalyptic than it already does. This is accomplished by removing most of the seats and adopting a darker color scheme.

Blattman on Crimea

The original post is here and comments plus responses to comments are here.

Good for Chris for speaking up. My own thoughts largely parallel his. A better procedure would have been nice, but the outcome would have been the same. I also agree that spillover effects are likely pretty small.

Big data for undergraduate economics majors

Washington is offering a course that combines "big data" and undergraduate econometrics.

Maybe we should offer something like that here? It would be fun to teach.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Today 2013-2014 became the snowiest winter in recorded Ann Arbor history. Whee!

Assorted links

1. Robocop review (humor)

2. How long can the police detain you after a traffic stop? No one seems to quite know. Seems to me it should not be very long at all.

3. Things cars used to have but no longer do. My 1964 Valiant (inherited from my grandmother) had many of these.

4. Guns on campus - a humorous take with which I do not entirely agree.

5. Lose weight by eating only at McDonald's. Take that, Morgan Spurlock!

Hat tip on #1 to Glenn Simon and on #4 to Charlie Brown.

Virginia Postrel on Barbie

Is Lammily really better than Barbie?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Assorted links

1. Worries about "transient academics" in Evanston.

2. Stereotype confirmation: radio station ratings in Ann Arbor.

3. In praise of Steven Wright.

4. There is no great stagnation - naughty bits cosmetics edition.

5. Niagara falls frozen.

Hat tip on #4 to an anonymous friend and on #5 to Jackie Smith

Monday, March 3, 2014

Joe Namath

After the Seahawk's dominating victory, the highlight of the Superbowl was surely former NY Jets quarterback Joe Namath in fur.

And what better time to recall the commercial that made Joe famous in the first place:

I know it makes me sound old to say this, but it is an endless source of pleasure and fascination to me that essentially any bit of culture or history I remember from earlier in my life is just a few clicks away.

Life lessons

I rather liked this piece on what you learn in your 40s.

In particular, three bits struck me as particularly useful. First,
There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.
I think you actually learn this at whatever age you have children. One day there is that flash of insight that your own parents must have felt just a clueless raising you as you feel raising your own children. At that moment, much becomes clear that was previously unclear.

You will miss out on some near soul mates. This goes for friendships, too. There will be unforgettable people with whom you have shared an excellent evening or a few days. Now they live in Hong Kong, and you will never see them again. That’s just how life is.
This is, I think, one of the saddest bits of life. Being able to travel a lot helps, but does not really solve the problem.

And third,
Forgive your exes, even the awful ones. They were just winging it, too.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

On being an adult film actor at Duke

This piece from the Duke student paper on a female student's failed attempt to keep her part time career in adult films a secret is all over the internet.

I enjoyed Lauren's spirited defense of her own choices.

Thought question 1: How is an adult film star more or less a commodity than an economics professor? I would say "not at all".

Thought question 2: Will this affect the number of male applicants to Duke? What about female applicants?

Hat tip: a dean at another university

Job market advice

It's a bit late for most of our students, but Chris Blattman offers some excellent advice on dealing with job offers.

Addendum: fixed the attribution - thanks to the commenter

Partying with English teachers

The five-minute university with Father Guido Sarducci