Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Separate Cycling Lane?

Money, Status, and the Ovulatory Cycle 
Kristina Durante et al.
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract: Each month, millions of women experience an ovulatory cycle that regulates fertility. Past consumer research has found that the cycle influences women's clothing and food preferences. But we propose that the ovulatory cycle has a much broader effect on women's economic behavior. Drawing on theory in evolutionary psychology, we hypothesize that the week-long period near ovulation should boost women's desire for relative status, which should alter women's economic decisions. Findings from three studies show that near ovulation women sought positional goods to improve their social standing. Additional findings revealed that ovulation led women to seek positional goods when doing so improved relative standing compared to other women, but not compared to other men. When playing the dictator game, for example, ovulating women gave smaller offers to a woman, but not to a man. Overall, women's monthly hormonal fluctuations appear to have a substantial effect on consumer behavior by systematically altering women's positional concerns, which has important implications for marketers, consumers, and researchers.

Menstrual Cycle Effects on Attitudes toward Romantic Kissing 
Rafael Wlodarski & Robin Dunbar
Human Nature, December 2013, Pages 402-413

Abstract: Hormonal changes associated with the human menstrual cycle have been previously found to affect female mate preference, whereby women in the late follicular phase of their cycle (i.e., at higher risk of conception) prefer males displaying putative signals of underlying genetic fitness. Past research also suggests that romantic kissing is utilized in human mating contexts to assess potential mating partners. The current study examined whether women in their late follicular cycle phase place greater value on kissing at times when it might help serve mate assessment functions. Using an international online questionnaire, results showed that women in the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle felt that kissing was more important at initial stages of a relationship than women in the luteal phase of their cycle. Furthermore, it was found that estimated progesterone levels were a significant negative predictor for these ratings.

Nod to the estimable Kevin Lewis

Friday, November 29, 2013

Oklahoma is hiring in Time Series Econometrics!

It has been suggested to me that our ad in Job Openings for Economists is unclear, but we are hiring at the assistant level for Time Series!

Pay will be in the 6 figures (and is negotiable), teaching load is 2/2, start up funds, initial course load and summer support are negotiable, there is travel money available and we have a PhD. program and a funded seminar series.

If you are a time series person please consider applying! Operators are standing by.

If It Bleeds, It Leads

Interesting.  We are not really interested in helping people we could help.  We direct aid based on many people have already died.  Tell me again how government is "rational"?

The Number of Fatalities Drives Disaster Aid: Increasing Sensitivity to People in Need 

Ioannis Evangelidis & Bram Van den Bergh 
Psychological Science, November 2013, Pages 2226-2234 

Abstract: In the studies reported here, an analysis of financial donations in response to natural disasters showed that the amount of money allocated for humanitarian aid depends on the number of fatalities but not on the number of survivors who are affected by the disaster (i.e., the actual beneficiaries of the aid). On the basis of the experimental evidence, we discuss the underlying cause and provide guidelines to increase sensitivity to people in need.

Nod to Kevin Lewis, who is in fact rational.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Collateral Damages are Actually "Extra Savings"

My old article, "Bosses Don't Wear Bunny Slippers" is used in a number of business programs.

Never thought that it would turn out that "Deans Do Wear Bunny Slippers."  But it is true that colleges would be a lot cheaper without all those pesky faculty.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Another one bites the dust

Here's a great holiday themed "headline says it all" article.

Thanks to @tofias!

I got your headline right here (NSFC)*

Mungo's not the only one who appreciates a headline that make any subsequent text superfluous.

Check out this Humdinger!

*= not safe for church.

Headline (NSFW)

As has been noted, I love the sort of headline that one enjoys reading for the sake of the unexpected connections it delivers.

Ideally, there is really no need to read the story at that point, because you pretty much have the picture.  Of course, you DO read the story, because it's fantastic.

This may be the best example of the genre I have ever seen.  It is NSFW, of course, but then it wouldn't be, would it?

With thanks to @muttface , from MuttBlog

Monday, November 25, 2013

Basic Income

Tyler Cowen on basic income ("guaranteed income", as he calls it):

Must a guaranteed income truly be unconditional?  Might there be circumstances when we would want to pay some individuals more than others?  Many critics for instance worry that a guaranteed income would excessively reduce the incentive to work.  

So it might be proposed that the payment be somewhat higher if low income individuals go get a job.  That also will make the system more financially sustainable.  But wait — that’s the Earned Income Tax Credit, albeit with modifications.

Might we also wish to pay more to some individuals with disabilities, perhaps say to help them afford expensive wheelchairs?  Maybe so.  But wait — that’s called disability insurance (modified, again) and it is run through the Social Security Administration.

As long as we are moving toward more cash transfers, why don’t we substitute cash transfers for some or all of Medicare and Medicaid health insurance coverage benefits, especially for lower-value ailments?  But then we are paying more cash to the sick individuals.  That doesn’t have to be a mistake, but it does mean that an initially simple, “dogmatic” payment scheme now has multiplied into a rather complex form of social welfare assistance, contingent on just about every relevant factor one might care to cite.

You can see the issue.  Whether on grounds of justice, practicality, or just public choice considerations (“you can keep your current welfare payments if you like them”), we should not expect everyone to be paid the same under a guaranteed annual income.  And with enough tweaks, this version of the guaranteed income suddenly starts resembling…the welfare state, albeit the welfare state plus.  Unemployment insurance benefits wouldn’t end.  More people could get on disability, and without those pesky judges asking so many questions.

He's right, as far as this goes.  The Basic Income idea is a bit like the Fair Tax idea:  both try to smuggle in reforms that would actually solve lots of problems, but only if we can assume that the "clean" proposal is implemented.  Fair Tax-ers assume that the Congress really, really will accept getting rid of the Income Tax.  (Implausible).  Basic Incomers assume that the Congress really, really will accept losing all discretion over who gets extra cash and benefits.  (Very Implausible).

But there are other advantages of consolidation and transparency.  If the system were equal, and unconditional, it would get rid of a lot of incentive problems.  Sure, Congress might not pass that, probably wouldn't.  That's a problem, but it's also a problem with the current system.  Any large-scale reform would at least break up the existing coalitional structure.  That's not bad.

Monday's Child

1.  Why worry about fracking?  Ethanol policies have been far more destructive, and no one complains about THOSE.

2.  This is interesting, I suppose.  But neither Heinlein nor Calhoun were libertarians.  Not even close.  (Though The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is plausibly a libertarian novel).  As for

3.  Dr. Warren has a new idea:  Give away more money.  Wait, that's actually not a new idea.  Never mind.

4.  Mean girls.  It's biological.

5.  Never punt, and never kick off.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Economics is Hard, When You Draw Inferences From Residuals

Matt Iglesias showing once again that economics is hard.  At least, it seems hard for him.  Because he has been saying some remarkably ill-informed stuff lately. Here, he argues that "corporations" should pay more.  And in fact,  Matt (being smarter than anyone in business) recognizes that if they paid more, they'd make more money.  Presumably, Matt could take this insight and start his own business, and grossly overpay workers.  If he's right, he could make a FORTUNE, I'm telling you.

Problem:  Far from falling, total cost of employment has been rising, sharply.  Corporations have NOT been saving money by squeezing labor.  The "productivity wedge" that everybody whines about (see below) is real enough.  But it is due to our inability to come up with a sensible health care policy, and regulatory accounting rules that give substantial disincentives for hiring full time.

chart productivity hourly compensation

What is squeezing labor is enormous costs for medical care, pensions for older workers, and regulations that make hiring workers prohibitively expensive. You say workers are not getting pay increases? That's true. But those evil corporations are getting labor cost improvements, either.

For some reason, people ignore the second graph.  It is expensive, and getting more expensive, to hire workers.  The first graph simply assumes that all the "extra" profit from productivity gains is going to corporations.  But it's not true.  You can look it up.