Friday, July 17, 2020

Gary Leff peers into his pandemic crystal ball

A thoughtful take from someone who seems to have read pretty widely and cautiously.

I particularly like, and agree with, the emphasis on a more or less slow, steady, and smooth path "back to normal" in contrast to the binary model that many people, and many governments, seem to have in mind.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A college football update from a major program

Dear Season Ticket Holder,

If the [football school] is able to have a 2020 football season, the capacity of [our stadium] will be reduced, or games could be held without fans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A final decision on capacity will be made at a later date in consultation with medical experts, University leadership, [our] Conference, and government officials/agencies.

"We have been working closely with a wide variety of leaders to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our student-athletes, coaches, fans and support staff associated with a game at [our stadium]. We will follow the direction that all of these agencies and experts continue to  provide during this challenging time." - [football school athletic director]

As a result, the following policies will be in effect for the 2020 football season:

There will be no football season tickets. Your status as a season ticket holder remains unchanged, and your season ticket location will be retained for the 2021 season.

If we are able to have fans at [our stadium], all home games will be sold on an individual game basis, with sales limited to current season ticket holders and students. There will be NO ticket sales to the general public.

If you elected to adjust your season ticket location/quantity during the June upgrade period, that new location/quantity will be retained for the 2021 season.

Details regarding a potential individual game sale will be communicated once a decision on playing with or without fans is finalized.

In the event that [football school] is able to have fans at any sporting event this season, all forms of ticketing will move to a mobile platform.

Season ticket holders will have three options to choose from regarding their previous payments for Preferred Seat Contributions (PSC) and season tickets: convert the previous payment to a tax-deductible athletic gift, apply payments toward the 2021 season or requesting a refund. Once a final decision is made, the athletic ticket office will follow up with additional details on how to request the option for your PSC and season tickets. Season ticket holders do not need to take any action at this time.

Additional communication regarding all ticketing scenarios will be distributed at a later date.

[hurrah for our team]!
[football school athletic department]


I have yet to hear from Washington about my own season tickets - other than some vague statements about how they are working on it - but my sense is that there is lots of coordination among university athletic departments going on behind the scenes, so I will probably hear soon and expect it to be similar news.

I'll be curious to see how schools end up pricing the individual game tickets, and how they will divide them among the season ticket holders and the students. The students cheer more but one might conjecture that they are less likely to obey rules around social distancing and such. I will also be interested to see how they manage the process of getting whatever fans they allow into and out of the stadium (and of selling them food and drink).

Hat tip: football fan at football school

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

New working paper with Marios Michaelides and Peter Mueser

"Do Reemployment Programs for the Unemployed Work for Youth? Evidence from the Great Recession in the United States"

We present experimental evidence on the effects of four U.S. reemployment programs for youth Unemployment Insurance (UI) recipients during the Great Recession. The three programs that emphasized monitoring and service referrals reduced UI receipt but had minimal effects on employment and earnings; these programs mainly induced the early exit of participants. The fourth program, which combined mandatory job counseling with monitoring, caused the largest reductions in UI receipt and clearly increased employment and earnings. Both early participant exits and effective job counseling underlie these impacts. We conclude that policymakers should require job counseling for youth UI recipients during recessions.

IZA Discussion Paper No. 13324.


Marios did his doctorate in economics at Maryland - I would likely have served on his committee had I stayed in 2005 rather than going to Michigan.

The paper is already accepted at Economic Inquiry as we did their "accept or reject" option as one of us is coming up for tenure soon. Even though we do not have to under that option, we are still responding to some of the reviewer comments.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Book: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Collins, Suzanne. 2020. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Scholastic Press.

This book is a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy that details a crucial period in the life of Coriolanus Snow, who is president of Panem during the trilogy. In this book, the reader learns about his senior year of high school - the author knows her audience - and the following summer, which manage to fill 517 pages of (not particularly dense) text.

The key event in the book is the 10th running of the Hunger Games. I found one of the most interesting aspects of the book the author's telling of the early history of the games. The 10th games are the first with betting and with the ability for audience members to send gifts by drone to their favorite tributes. Crucially to the plot, for the 10th games the powers-that-be assign Academy students as mentors to the tributes for the first time. Though Coriolanus gets assigned to a seemingly hopeless District 12 tribute he manages to make some lemonade out of the lemons in ways that serve to illustrate his character and provide insight into why he rules Panem the way he does in the later trilogy.

The final quarter of the book or so concerns the summer following the 10th games. I will avoid spoilers but say that I did not find this part as compelling, particularly the last 30 pages or so that serve to resolve all the uncertainty. It seemed to me that Coriolanus falls a bit out of character at the end. Had I been the editor, I would have pressed the author for a few more iterations on this bit prior to signing off on publication.

I do like it that the book quite consciously engages with deeper issues around nature versus nurture and related questions of political philosophy without preaching about them. Is life in the state of nature really solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and sort? Collins wants her readers to think about that.

As an aside, I remain puzzled by the fact that no one in any of the four books seems at all interested in history prior to the bigger war that led to a world consisting of districts and a capitol. Some of the characters in this book encounter some ruins from that time (i.e. our time) but display no interest in them whatsoever. I find that reaction implausible.

Recommended if you're really into the Hunger Games world. Being a YA book it makes for fine bedtime reading.

Seminary Coop book page (which is where I ordered it).

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Book: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Jean Craighead George. 2004 [1959]. My Side of the Mountain. Puffin Modern Classics.

This was one of my favorite books in my tween years, which were a while ago now. It concerns a boy in his tween years who runs away from his overcrowded home in NYC to his family's unused property on a mountainside (in the east coast sense of mountain) in rural upstate New York. He spends a year there on his own, living in a hollowed-out tree, hunting and fishing and gathering with the help of a pet falcon he tames.

The New York Review of Books, as quoted in on the first page, opined back in the day that My Side of the Mountain "[s]hould appeal to all rugged individualists who dream of escape to the forest."

Alas, the book did not appeal to my dear daughter, for whom I purchased a copy a few years ago. She found it dull and did not finish it.

I thought I would reread it to see how the intervening 45 years changed my own view. There is not much plot here - in that sense it is more like a fictional memoir than a novel. There is lots of detail about how to actually get along and survive in the woods, which was interesting to my city boy younger self and remained interesting to me now. The thought of all that loner time continues to appeal.

I was surprised how much of the book came back to me once I got back into it. I was moved too by the lost social world it described, before the overblown (and empirically groundless) freak-out about child abductions in the 1970s and before the rise of helicopter parents. As an example, in the book the young man visits the local town a couple of times and goes to the library. The librarian, rather than calling the news media or the cops, gives our hero a haircut and helps him find books with the information he seeks. Imagine.

I bought this at the Barnes and Noble store in Madison.
Amazon book page.
Barnes and Noble book page.

Well, I declare.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

I tend to celebrate the ideas, rather than the government that does such a persistently mediocre job of embodying them.

And I read men (and even Men) = people, which some (many? most?) of the men who signed would surely not have done.

Happy 4th.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Interview with Jerry Seinfeld

The interview is from the Harvard Business Review in 2017 but it only crossed my radar screen in the last few days.

I was sort of a late adopter of both Seinfeld the stand-up comedian and Seinfeld the show but have become a big fan of both.

My favorite bit from the interview:
Being funny is one of the ultimate weapons a person can have in human society. It might even compete with being really good-looking.
My sense is that it helps on too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Carl Reiner, R.I.P.

This made me sad, while at the same time, he had a long, fruitful and enjoyable life.

I enjoyed this story about Reiner, which is making the rounds.

The episode of Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks - it is Season 1, Episode 9 - is well worth watching if you have Netflix.

Dillon and Smith published at last!

The Consequences of Academic Match between Students and Colleges
Eleanor Wiske Dillon and Jeffrey Andrew Smith

We consider the effects of student ability, college quality, and the interaction between the two on academic outcomes and earnings, using data on two cohorts of college enrollees. Student ability and college quality strongly improve degree completion and earnings for all students. We find evidence of meaningful complementarity between student ability and college quality in degree completion at four years and in long-term earnings, but not in degree completion at six years or STEM degree completion. This complementarity implies some trade-off between equity and efficiency for policies that move lower-ability students to higher-quality colleges.

Find it at the Journal of Human Regressions here.

We spent a bunch of my start-up money to make it free to download for everyone, so have at it.

Hat tip: Lois Miller

Addendum: In particular, you want to click on "Full Text (PDF)" in the center column on the web page.

Happy Canada Day!

In honor of the national holiday of our neighbor to the north, I recall once again one of my very favorite Onion stories.

One novel way to celebrate: have a seance in honor of former Prime Minister Mackenzie King.