Friday, May 31, 2013

Fight the Power!

I have a great colleague (just got tenure), Dr. Bahar Leventoğlu.

 It turns out she has been fighting a landmark court case in Turkey, for the legal right to keep and use her own name (her "maiden" name in patriarchal language) after getting married.

And she won! GoodONya, ma'am!

 (Some background and other details on the case here)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Russ Roberts!

Tomorrow, at long last, Russ and I get to do that voodoo that we do, and record another EconTalk. The subject is a little different from what we have done in the past: Sports rules and equipment.

The claim is that there are three moving parts:  Equipment, formal rules, and informal rules.

If you try to change one thing, such as allowing an equipment change, you get a bunch of unintended and possibly bad consequences.

So, should fighting be allowed?  Well, in some sports ( chess, golf--unless you are Sergio Garcia--, tennis) fights are almost unknown.  In some sports (basketball, soccer, football), a fight means you are ejected.  But in some sports, particularly baseball and hockey, fighting is an important check on other kinds of violence.  In particular, I found this quote from Gordie Howe, one of the best hockey players ever: "If you get rid of fighting, you are going to get more of the dirty play. Let them fight, and get rid of all of the stickwork."   The point is, the threat of retaliation in the form of humiliation, rather than eye-for-an-eye physical damage, makes the game safer.

Of course, the "fighting" can be stylized.  Here is a baseball brawl from a game in South Korea.

This kind of fighting is of course well known in the animal world, in dominance displays:

On the other hand, it is possible for a baseball fight to be an actual fight.  Most famously, Ray Knight v. Eric Davis.  (Full disclosure:  I really, really hated Ray Knight, and thought Eric Davis was not treated fairly here.  The whole thing was that jerk Knight's fault.  Go Reds, Dutch Boy).

At the University of Chicago, it's no longer "sink or swim"

From 1954 til now, you had to be able to swim to graduate from the University of Chicago.

I am not making this up.

At Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT and Notre Dame you still do.

Here's what UC alum Hassan Ali had to say about his experience:

"Entering college is intimidating enough, let alone getting half-naked in front of your peers and trying to prove your physical acumen,"

And here's what the great Christopher Zorn had to say about Mr. Ali's quote:

"For those of us who didn't attend U of C, that was known as the "good part" of college".

Proving that Public Choice is everywhere, the article did find someone in favor of this ridiculous policy:

Fred DeBruyn, aquatics director and assistant physical education director at Cornell, said the swim tests served a valuable purpose: preventing drowning.

Not to mention helping to fund Mr. DeBruyn!

Pow Wow Chow

They want the "Redskins" to lose their name, but Elizabeth Warren, who is not even Native American, can write (actually, plagiarize) a book called "Pow Wow Chow" and that's okay?

Some background, in an email from WH:

Elizabeth Warren, the queen of the notional proposition, wrote a book entitled Pow Wow Chow. 

It was much later pointed out that the book was plagiarized. Basically no one ever read the book and those that did read it at its face value [recipe book]. 

However, when Warren was running for the senate she made a big deal of being of native American ancestry. The claim of native American ancestry lead people to investigate the claim. The investigation spider webbed into all kinds of nooks and crannies once it was determined her claim was dubious and that she had parleyed her claim into obtaining crony type benefits over her career. 

The aggregate investigation by reporters and plain old regular folks lead to the uncovering of Pow Wow Chow as plagiarized. The plagiarizing is old news. But the Amazon book reviews are little known. Huh? Given the above, the book Pow Wow Chow is sold on Amazon. Over the years only a handful of reviews existed. Once the whole native American ancestry deal was exposed and the book having been plagiarized, people started visiting the book's site on Amazon and writing additional comments. Some of the "new" comments [note the proliferation in 2012] are absolutely hysterical! 

 I'm not so sure about the "plagiarism" thing.  After all, these are recipes.  Maybe she should have made a little more effort to change things up, but recipes are rarely original.

The title "Pow Wow Chow," on the other hand:  Wow! She can only get away with that because she's a real Native American.  Oh...wait.

New Codes....LOTS of New Codes

Instead of better policies, it is the nature of bureaucracies to seek ever more complex classification schemes and record-keeping protocols.

No surprise that that is where our medical "care" is going.

My question:  what if a turtle on buring water skis hits a lamppost?  Don't we need a way to distinguish those?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Third Party Scape-goating

Displacing Blame over the Ingroup's Harming of a Disadvantaged Group can Fuel Moral Outrage at a Third-Party Scapegoat 

 Zachary Rothschild et al. 
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming 

Abstract: Integrating research on intergroup emotions and scapegoating, we propose that moral outrage toward an outgroup perceived to be unjustly harming another outgroup can represent a motivated displacement of blame that reduces collective guilt over ingroup harm-doing. We tested this hypothesis by manipulating the purported cause of working-class Americans' suffering (ingroup cause vs. unknown cause vs. outgroup cause) and whether a potential scapegoat target (i.e., illegal immigrants) was portrayed as a viable or nonviable alternative source of this harm. Supporting hypotheses, participants primed with ingroup culpability for working-class harm (versus other sources) reported increased moral outrage and support for retributive action toward immigrants when immigrants were portrayed as a viable source of that harm, but reported increased collective guilt and support for reparative action when immigrants were portrayed as a nonviable source of that harm. Effects on retributive and reparative action were differentially mediated by moral outrage and collective guilt, respectively. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

What Happens when you try to give away money?

Prof. Newmark provides a nice set of examples and varieties of rent-seeking.  Well linked, sir.

The video version of my own effort:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Markets in ....ick.

Markets in everything, f'real.  Taken from a car window by an aware reader.

How do know...collect it?

How to Close Gitmo

A solution:  How to close Gitmo

Nod to Angry Alex

Utterly Wrong-Headed

Morals and Markets  

Armin Falk & Nora Szech 
 Science, 10 May 2013, Pages 707-711

Abstract: The possibility that market interaction may erode moral values is a long-standing, but controversial, hypothesis in the social sciences, ethics, and philosophy. To date, empirical evidence on decay of moral values through market interaction has been scarce. We present controlled experimental evidence on how market interaction changes how human subjects value harm and damage done to third parties. In the experiment, subjects decide between either saving the life of a mouse or receiving money. We compare individual decisions to those made in a bilateral and a multilateral market. In both markets, the willingness to kill the mouse is substantially higher than in individual decisions. Furthermore, in the multilateral market, prices for life deteriorate tremendously. In contrast, for morally neutral consumption choices, differences between institutions are small.

Even by the low and folksy standards of "Science," this is pretty lame.  Calling it a "market" simply means that responsibility is more widely shared.  Surely any collective body with large numbers would see the same result.  It's just the banality of evil problem, rediscovered and given the ideological twist that "Science" loves to give.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  If you want your wallet / purse returned, stock it with sweet baby pix...

2.  The only way to not to play.

3.  Carbon-free sugar?  That's nice.  Wait...what?

4.  "We were trying to give away huge suitcases of free money, but we ran out."  The Administration is trying to blame "cost overruns," when the problem is that Obamacare is incoherent and unsustainable.  The "risk pools" cannot possibly pay for all the people with pre-existing conditions, which is precisely why they didn't have insurance in the first place.  But when insurance companies couldn't insure them, the regime blamed greed.  Now that the government can't insure them either, the regime is trying to blame unexpected cost overruns.  Nice.

5.  Interesting.  Our leftist brethren are upset about the requirement that folks must have an ID to vote.  But they don't seem to have thought enough about the problem of ACA requiring that everyone has a bank account.  For the "unbankable," this is quite a hardship!

6.  Another reason to admire Elon Musk, of Tesla.

7.  We are captives of the federal prison-industrial complex. "A labor union representing 12,000 federal officers who issue immigration documents will join forces...with the union representing deportation agents to publicly oppose a bill overhauling the immigration system that is making its way through the Senate, arguing that the legislation would weaken public safety." 

8.  "An oversight by Congress two decades ago led to the inclusion of models in the H-1B class."  I don't see why this is a problem.  Women who are physically freakish enough to be models should ALL be given green cards, immediately.

9.  Four people (including the LMM) sent me this Dilbert cartoon about clueless PhDs.  I'm sure it's a good thing.

10.  The Whimsy-conomy in energy...

11.  The EXTRA-ordinary business of life...

12.  Interesting.  Even the French think that French movies suck.  Or so it seems.

13.  You won't find THIS on  Hard to tell if it's simply satire, or satirically true.

14.  Earnest young man with guitar case far more likely to score the digits from young ladies.  Which may explain this, as a response from other men.

15.  Council members abstain from vote on abstention...

16.  Young Obamawalker...nevah underestimate the POWAH...of the demand side!

From my favorite "Headline Meme":

1.  "Pregnant woman dies, gives birth, comes back to life"

2.  "Lake seniors drew penises on cars, disciplined." (UPDATE:  this was the original headline.  Someone thought better of it...)

3.  Police:  "Thong Cape Scooter Man" Not Breaking Law

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Movies of Summer

The LMM and I see a lot of movies.  Thought that we would make highly idiosyncratic judgments of eight movies we have seen that are still in theaters.

42:  M:  Very good.  Solid baseball movie, good acting, actually allows Branch Rickey to be greedy, the real reason he wanted to break the color line.  All that was necessary for desegregation was for people to be optimally self-interested, instead of bent on hurting others.  LMM:  Very good, story works on several levels, relationship between JR and wife was plausible and involving.

Great Gatsby:  M:  Appalling.  As bad a movie as I have ever seen.  LMM:  Bad, but how bad can it be with Leo de Cap?  Would leave M in a minute if LdC invited her to a party, or anything else.

Iron Man 3:  M:  Very good.  Very very good, in fact.  LMM:  Ditto, very good.

Life of PI:  M:  Very good.  Visually stunning.  Story is bizarre, of course, but you have to pay attention.  LMM:  Okay, but not great.  Hard to follow.

Mud:  M:  Very good.  Quirky unexpected violence in an almost "Sling Blade" vein.  LMM:  Ditto, very good.  UPDATE:  LMM gives it more of a "meh."

Oblivion:  M:  Very good.  The premise is complex, but the way it is filmed works.  LMM:  Appalling.  Very confusing, terrible.  Would leave M in a minute, however, if Tom Cruise called on the communicator.

Sapphires:  M:  Very good.  Not sure if the "great white man saves black folks" genre really needs another entry, but this one is well done.  And the connection with Viet Nam, and having the "black folks" be Australian was all very interesting.  The scene with black aboriginals sitting around a fire in the outback watching news of MLK's murder was arresting.  And the songs and the ladies are cute.  LMM:  Ditto, very good, good performances.

Star Trek:  Into Darkness.  M:  Very good .  Several parts are too long, and the implausibilities (Kirk needs to talk to Scotty, but he fired Scotty.  So Kirk calls Scotty on his cell phone device....from another star system....without any delays in communication.  And etc.)  LMM:  Would leave M in a minute if Chris Pine called her on HIS cell phone device.

Only the Lonely

Social Isolation in America: An Artifact 

Anthony Paik & Kenneth Sanchagrin 
American Sociological Review, forthcoming 

Abstract: This article examines whether existing estimates of network size and social isolation, drawn from egocentric name generators across several representative samples, suffer from systematic biases linked to interviewers. Using several analytic approaches, we find that estimates of network size found in the 2004 and 2010 General Social Surveys (GSS), as well as other representative samples, were affected by significant interviewer effects. Across these surveys, we find a negative correlation between interviewer effects and mean network size. In the 2004 GSS, levels of social connectivity are strongly linked to interviewer-level variation and reflect the fact that some interviewers obtained highly improbable levels of social isolation. In the 2010 GSS, we observe larger interviewer effects in two versions of the questionnaire in which training and fatigue effects among interviewers were more likely. Results support the argument that many estimates of social connectivity are biased by interviewer effects. Some interviewers’ failure to elicit network data makes inferences, such as the argument that networks have become smaller, an artifact. Overall, this study highlights the importance of interviewer effects for network data collection and raises questions about other survey items with similar issues

Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women 
Andrew Steptoe et al. 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 9 April 2013, Pages 5797-5801 

Abstract: Both social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased mortality, but it is uncertain whether their effects are independent or whether loneliness represents the emotional pathway through which social isolation impairs health. We therefore assessed the extent to which the association between social isolation and mortality is mediated by loneliness. We assessed social isolation in terms of contact with family and friends and participation in civic organizations in 6,500 men and women aged 52 and older who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing in 2004–2005. A standard questionnaire measure of loneliness was administered also. We monitored all-cause mortality up to March 2012 (mean follow-up 7.25 y) and analyzed results using Cox proportional hazards regression. We found that mortality was higher among more socially isolated and more lonely participants. However, after adjusting statistically for demographic factors and baseline health, social isolation remained significantly associated with mortality (hazard ratio 1.26, 95% confidence interval, 1.08–1.48 for the top quintile of isolation), but loneliness did not (hazard ratio 0.92, 95% confidence interval, 0.78–1.09). The association of social isolation with mortality was unchanged when loneliness was included in the model. Both social isolation and loneliness were associated with increased mortality. However, the effect of loneliness was not independent of demographic characteristics or health problems and did not contribute to the risk associated with social isolation. Although both isolation and loneliness impair quality of life and well-being, efforts to reduce isolation are likely to be more relevant to mortality.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Weird Companies that Work

Four companies with strange but successful marketing plans.

Including "Goose Masters."  Now, Angry Alex, before you go moving here to Raleigh, you have to understand they are talking about big aquatic birds.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Headline Meme!

1.  Florida teen shots off own penis with gun he just bought.  Depending on whether he recovers, this is a Darwin award nominee.  Don't have to die, just to render self unable to reproduce by being an idiot.

2.  Mom has son arrested for stealing her Pop-Tarts.  Nice.

With thanks to Sid-Bro and the LMM.


Gay rights and gun rights linked.

Nearly everyone's head explodes.  Only libertarians recognize that these really ARE essentially the same issue.

One has to be amused at this response.  The writer literally cannot believe that someone might seriously support individual freedoms, as a matter of principle, rather than having memorized a series of contradictory "correct" positions on the left, or on the right.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Price-Gouging Law in OK

So, the intrepid folks of OK state government are out on patrol.  Be warned!  If you try to sell stuff that people need, especially if they REALLY REALLY need it, you will likely be arrested.

OK Gov announces price gouging enforcement.

I wish that the OK legislature could watch this short video:

On the other hand, to be fair, it wouldn't matter.  Price-gouging laws are extremely popular among voters.  To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, voters want price justice, and it is the job of government to give it to 'em, good and hard.

With thanks to Chris Zorn...

UPDATE:  Note that the authorities are careful to muddy the waters, conflating price-gouging and fraud.  Fraud is a problem, fraud is illegal.  It is COMPLETELY different from price-gouging.

More Debunking of Food Deserts

Foodways of the urban poor 

 Alison Hope Alkon et al. 
Geoforum, August 2013, Pages 126–135 

Abstract: In the past decade, progressive public health advocates and food justice activists have increasingly argued that food deserts, which they define as neighborhoods lacking available healthy foods, are responsible for the diet-related health problems that disproportionately plague low-income communities of color. This well meaning approach is a marked improvement over the victim-blaming that often accompanies popular portrayals of health disparities in that it attempts to shift the emphasis from individual eaters to structural issues of equitable development and the supply of health-inducing opportunities. However, we argue that even these supply-side approaches fail to take into account the foodways – cultural, social and economic food practices, habits and desires – of those who reside in so-called food deserts. In this paper, we present five independently conducted studies from Oakland and Chicago that investigate how low-income people eat, where and how they shop, and what motivates their food choices. Our data reveals that cost, not lack of knowledge or physical distance, is the primary barrier to healthy food access, and that low-income people employ a wide variety of strategies to obtain the foods they prefer at prices they can afford. This paper speaks to academic debates on food systems, food movements and food cultures. We hope that progressive policy makers, planners and food justice activists will also draw on it to ensure that their interventions match the needs, skills and desires of those they seek to serve.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dead Crows: Avian Flew?

Researchers for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority found over 200 dead crows near greater Boston recently, and there was concern that they may have died from Avian Flu.  A Bird Pathologist examined the remains of all the crows, and, to everyone's relief, confirmed the problem was definitely NOT Avian Flu. 

The cause of death appeared to be vehicular impacts.

However, during the detailed analysis it was noted that varying colors of paints appeared on the bird's beaks and claws.  By analyzing these paint residues it was determined that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with trucks, while only 2% were killed by an impact with a car.

MTA then hired an Ornithological Behaviorist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of truck kills versus car kills.

The Ornithological Behaviorist very quickly determined the cause: when crows eat road kill, they always have a look-out crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending dangers.

The conclusion was that while all the lookout crows could say "Cah", none could say "Truck."

That's for Shirley, folks.

Juliet and Rosaline

Gay folk finally achieve full equality in Florida.   18 year old girl/woman charged with statutory rape for consensual relationship with 16 year old girl/woman.

Note that if the age of consent is 17, then this would have been legal 18 months ago, before older woman turned 17.  And now gay people can be classified as sex offenders under this dumb law, exposing them to death, beatings, and harassment. 

A surprising number of people on sex offender lists either (1) urinated in public, perhaps after a concert or frat party, or (2) had sex with a minor when the "offender" was only a year or two older, but technically above the age of consent.  Now, #1 is dumb, but not a sex offense.  (And let's just say that it's possible I may have committed this act, at some point).  And #2?  I'm not going to say anything more, but it's been more than 7 years ago anyway, thank goodness.

Many states (though not enlightened Florida) have "minimum age difference" add-on before statutory rape charges can be brought. (Also called "Romeo and Juliet" laws.)  A Penna judge actually decided this on his own, in a common-law way.

So, perhaps gay folks do still have a ways to go for equality:  if we have "Romeo and Juliet" laws, we should have "Juliet and Rosaline" laws, right?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Robin Hoods....sort of

So, these kids in Keene, NH are going to have to face (at least) civil charges.

For harassing meter persons in the course of their meter duties.

Excerpt from the story: Members of the group place cards under windshield wipers that read, "Your meter expired; however, we saved you from the king's tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward," and includes an address where donations can be sent

An interesting question:  can citizens legally follow law officers and taunt them?  Repeatedly?  To such an extent that the law officers quit, or become ill from the stress?

(Problem:  It's not clear those things will actually happen.  But, suppose, for the sake of argument, that that is what is happening.  It makes the case a more interesting problem.)

I guess I lean towards "no."  This is a protest, yes, I see that.  But are they seriously protesting fees for parking on city streets?  Here is the Keene city parking web site.

A video, from local Boston CBS station.    Call me a cynic, but my suspicion is that this is what is going on.

1.  Some of the RH's have in fact been aggressive and loud.  And it is quite possible that there has been overt "surveillance," as alleged by the meter guy who says the RH's were watching his family. 
2.  The city is "losing" a lot of money.  In fact, the city is losing enough that it has trouble justifying paying the meter persons.
3.  #2 is motivating the city to trump up charges based on #1, to try to harass and intimidate the RH's through the legal system, using lawyers and scare tactics.
4.  In short, and as usual, the state is actually doing something that if private citizens did it would be illegal.  The cute thing about this is example is that the state is actually accusing the private citizens of doing just. that. thing.  The state constantly conducts surveillance, harasses people, takes pictures of public gatherings, and makes threats.  The difference is that the state is not a bunch of skinny teenagers.  The state has guns.
5.  The state's job is not to protect "us," whatever that means.  The state's job is to protect the state.  I expect that the state will do its job.

Nod to Jeremy B.

Storm paths, then and now

Robin & I first moved to Norman shortly after the Moore tornado of 1999 which was a brutal storm. Now we've seen the Moore tornado of 2013, which may prove to be even more devastating. We are fine, but as you've seen, the images and statistics coming out of Moore are horrible.

Here's a chart from the National Weather Service comparing the two storms' paths:

You can see that Norman is at the bottom right of the map.

Thanks to everyone who's been contacting us with concern and good wishes.

People Are Getting Dumber! You are Right! Well, Everyone EXCEPT You is Getting Dumber.

Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time 

Michael Woodley, Jan te Nijenhuis & Raegan Murphy I
ntelligence, forthcoming 

Abstract: The Victorian era was marked by an explosion of innovation and genius, per capita rates of which appear to have declined subsequently. The presence of dysgenic fertility for IQ amongst Western nations, starting in the 19th century, suggests that these trends might be related to declining IQ. This is because high-IQ people are more productive and more creative. We tested the hypothesis that the Victorians were cleverer than modern populations, using high-quality instruments, namely measures of simple visual reaction time in a meta-analytic study. Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence (g) and are considered elementary measures of cognition. In this study we used the data on the secular slowing of simple reaction time described in a meta-analysis of 14 age-matched studies from Western countries conducted between 1884 and 2004 to estimate the decline in g that may have resulted from the presence of dysgenic fertility. Using psychometric meta-analysis we computed the true correlation between simple reaction time and g, yielding a decline of − 1.23 IQ points per decade or fourteen IQ points since Victorian times. These findings strongly indicate that with respect to g the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  What a silly slippery slope argument!  That whole, "if we regulate cigarettes, then we'll be regulating chain restaurants, and eventually even family-owned restaurants."  That could never happen.  Whoops.  New flash:  some Mexican food meals have quite a few calories.  (UPDATE:  As WH points out, Dr. Roberts is saying that people want more choices.  And what she means by "want" is that SHE, Dr.. Roberts, wants it.  And what she means by "choice" is to to be forced to do something by the government.  You have a choice NOW, Dr. Roberts.  Stay home and have a salad, go to a different restaurant, etc.)

2.  Nauseatingly sweet prom story.  Just the way I like it.  I'm a sucker for chickflix, on any scale.
Some background. All together....AWWWWWWWW.....

3.  Germany is concerned that the U.S. might actually mean what it said.  After all, Pres. O said chemical weapons would be a "red line."   I think we can reassure our German friends.  This goofball of a President just talks and talks.  He never actually does anything.  And in this case that may be just as well.

4.  One of the reasons that poor people and minorities think the Republicans don't care about them is that most Republicans just straight up do NOT care about them.  That may be okay, from some perspectives, if your program really is "we'll leave you alone."  But it isn't.  The Republicans pledge to cut benefits and ALSO harass, arrest, and abuse Latinos, blacks, and the poor.  The Repubs need to choose:  either do the "we care" thing and actually care, or else stop pretending.  An argument for the "we care" side, which makes sense to me.

5.  I'm not unemployed! I'm....retired!  Yeah, that's the ticket. Retired!

6.  Finger-lickin' good!  After you wash your hands, which got all dirty going through the tunnel.

7.  No evidence--none--that helmets reduce injuries.  Just faith-based medicine and a pathetic desire to order people around.

8.  No evidence--none--that reducing salt intake helps normal people achieve better health outcomes.  Just faith-based.. (see above).  (MORE AFTER THE JUMP...)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spelling Test

A spelling test with a high predictive power for career choice for men.

Rearrange the letters P-N-E-S-I to spell out the part of the human body that is most useful when erect.

1.  Those who think these kinds of "tests" are silly are destined for gainful employment and useful lives.
2.  Those who think all answers are equally valid and it depends on the reaction of the reader should become literature profs.
3.  Those of you who think the answer is "PINES" will be outside going on hikes and working in your gardens.
4..  Those who think the answer is "SPINE" should be doctors.
5.  Those who think the answer is "SNIPE" must have been Boy Scouts at some point.
6.  The rest of you are headed to some kind of political career.

Breaking down the higher ed wage premium

The wage premium for higher education is high and growing. This is well known. Perhaps less appreciated though is that the average premium can vary greatly by college major and by whether or not the person gets an advanced degree.

Luckily for us, there is a very nice piece from the Cleveland Fed on these questions.

Here's a graph from the paper of the overall premium (clic the pic for an even more educational image):

Median wages for BA/BS and higher have gone from 140% of high school only wages to 180% of high school only wages from 1977 to 2010. Note that the premium for "some college" has stayed fairly flat over the same time period.

So, "go to college, young person", right? Well there is the big issue of whether higher education creates human capital or just serves as a signal of innate ability (phone call for Robin Hanson).

And there's also the issues of "what major" and "what degree".

Here's another graph from that Cleveland Fed piece (clic the pic for an even more self-serving image):

English majors get a wage premium of a bit below 1.5 and if they get an advanced degree, it's around 1.75.  Economics majors get a wage premium of a bit below 2 and if they get an advanced degree, it's around 3.00

Yet the thickness of the bars tells us that there are more english majors than economics majors (of course this could have something to do with labor demand, but I somehow doubt it)!

Electrical engineering is the most remunerative major with an average premium of 2.5. Elementary Education is the least with a average premium well below 1.3.

In sum, a BA/BS is not a guarantee of an 80% wage premium. Not all majors may be "worth it" economically, given the accounting costs and opportunity costs of getting the degree.  

Trying to get a degree and failing can also be costly if multiple years are burned up in the attempt. Dropping out without a degree after 5 years of going to college is on average, an economic disaster.

So, "get a degree in the most remunerative major that you can get through, subject to the constraint that you can do it quickly and cheaply enough to make it worthwhile".

Note that these graphs are equally consistent with both the signaling and capital formation views of higher ed.

Aggressiveness for the Prez

The Biological Bases for Aggressiveness and Nonaggressiveness in Presidents 

 Rose McDermott
Foreign Policy Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract: Leaders remain subject to the same biological determinants and pressures that affect other humans. Yet, they also differ in their ability to regulate and marshal their emotions just as they diverge in their other skills, talents, limitations, and abilities. In particular, some are better at channeling their emotions to help shape foreign policy more efficiently than others. One of the most potent and powerful emotions with which leaders have to contend, particularly under conditions of provocation, is anger. Anger can influence judgment and decision making in systematic and predictable ways. Individual heritable differences can influence the conditions under which anger leads to aggressive action. Such differences can influence not only the environments into which leaders select, but also the ways they process and interpret information; these determinations can decisively influence the outcome of significant public policies, including decisions on conflict and war. As a result, emotion regulation can play a strategic role in leadership. Examples from several recent presidencies illustrate how such individual differences play out on the world stage.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Bad Penny

Mouthpiece meets Codpiece.  John Edwards ready to ruin more lives

Edwards said last year he hoped to someday open an advocacy law firm to serve indigent clients and that he hoped to find a way to contribute to society. 

Wade Smith, a Raleigh defense lawyer who served as Edwards' mentor early in his legal career, said he saw Edwards recently and he looked great. "He looks so much better, more relaxed," Smith said. 

Smith said Edwards hadn't told him he had reactivated his law license, but Smith was not surprised. "He's got so much ability and talent," said Smith, who represented Edwards in the criminal case. "Lawyers who saw him in front of a jury will tell you they never saw anything like him, his ability to connect. That talent is still in there and I think he will find a space to use it."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Experiment Of The Day

What happens if you wring a wet wash cloth in space?  Not what I expected.

Nod to WH

The Problem With the IRS

The problem is not really the IRS.  The problem is enormous power and discretion in the hands of ANYONE.  There is no bigger inequality than that between ruler and ruled.

What In the World? "Political Foundations"?

What is "political," exactly? It is NOT true that African-American parents don't care about their children's education. So the "political" problem must be that politicians do not validate that desire? Am I missing something?
The Political Foundations of the Black–White Education Achievement Gap 

Michael Hartney & Patrick Flavin
American Politics Research, forthcoming

 Abstract: More than 50 years after Brown v. Board, African American students continue to trail their White peers on a variety of important educational indicators. In this article, we investigate the political foundations of the racial “achievement gap” in American education. Using variation in high school graduation rates across the states, we first assess whether state policymakers are attentive to the educational needs of struggling African American students. We find evidence that state policymaking attention to teacher quality — an issue education research shows is essential to improving schooling outcomes for racial minority students — is highly responsive to low graduation rates among White students, but bears no relationship to low graduation rates among African American students. We then probe a possible mechanism behind this unequal responsiveness by examining the factors that motivate White public opinion about education reform and find racial influences there as well. Taken together, we uncover evidence that the persisting achievement gap between White and African American students has distinctively political foundations.

Nod to Kevin Lewis.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

People: I just found Mungowitz' favorite radio program

My favorite, favorite Liberian radio show is on: What for Lunch. First caller is a woman names Mercy who is having Palm Butter for lunch.

Jon Stewart Makes Some Observations

Headline Meme: Retires the Trophy

Man dies after having sex with hornet's nest.

8 words of perfection.  There's really nothing more to say.

With much gratitude and love for Tommy the Tenured Brit, who notes that, after reading this, his own little fetishes seem quite normal.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Turning Japanese

This is cross-posted from Cherokee Gothic:

In a widely praised speech, Christina Romer referred to the "regime change" at the Central Bank of Japan as, "one of the most exciting developments in monetary policymaking since the 1930s." She compares recent Japanese policy favorably to recent Fed policy, saying that based on the lesson of 1933, a regime change that raises inflation expectations is needed to break out of the zero-bound / liquidity trap.

Could a Japanese style regime change happen in the USA? Should it? It's important to note (as Romer does),  that the change in Japan was political and electoral.

Shinzo Abe ran on a platform of getting Japan growing and getting out of deflation. He threatened the Bank of Japan. The Head of the Bank ultimately resigned and Abe got his guy, Kuroda, in there with an aggressively expansionary policy brief.

 So the answer to could this happen in the USA I think is no.

 Can you imagine the reaction if a Presidential candidate threatened the Fed Chair (phone call for Rick Perry)? Can you imagine the reaction if Presidential pressure forced Bernanke to resign? Can you imagine the Senate confirmation hearings on Paul Krugman's candidacy for Fed Chair? Can you imagine what the FOMC meetings and votes would be like when Richard Fisher and Charles Plosser butted heads with Chairman Krugman?

 We don't have a parliamentary system of government, we do have a now quite strong norm of no overt, heavy handed political pressure on the Fed, and the Fed chair is not a monetary policy dictator. In principle, the Chair has one vote on a 12 person voting committee.

 Now the question of should this happen in the USA is trickier.

 On the affirmative side, we still have a big output gap, an unacceptably high unemployment rate, too few people in the labor force, and some theoretical evidence that the "expectations channel" could work.

 On the negative side, there isn't much empirical evidence that such a regime change actually will work. The jury hasn't even been selected yet in the Japanese case, so we have one case, the US in 1933, which is not uncontroversial. I mean, the US economy was in terrible shape well after 1933. Unemployment in 1938 was 19% (yes I know about the "mistake of 1937"and all but the point is that the monetary regime change was not decisive in sustainably fixing the US economy).

 Roosevelt took us off gold. That was bold. What would be a comparable present day analog? What if we adopted the Venezuelan Strong Bolivar as our currency. That might work!

Banning Competition

Hayek had this right, and people forget how often the point is illustrated by those we call "conservatives":

There is some justification at least in the taunt that many of the pretending defenders of “free enterprise” are in fact defenders of privileges and advocates of government activity in their favor rather than opponents of all privileges. In principle the industrial protectionism and government-supported cartels and agricultural policies of the conservative groups are not different from the proposals for a more far-reaching direction of economic life sponsored by the socialists. - F.A. Hayek, page 107 , Individualism and Economic Order 

A beautiful example, just beautiful:  good ol' North Carolina may outlaw car companies that try to sell cars directly to customers.  The whole "support your local (car) dealer" thing is interesting.  But this takes it to a whole new level.  Russ and I talked about some of these issues a while back.

Nod to Marc B, who is going to lose his lefty label if he's not careful.
UPDATE:  Marc B., demonstrating he has gone round the bend, sends this photo:

Dr. Evil exists.  In the heart of every Democrat and Republican ever elected anywhere to any legislature.  It just makes so much sense, doesn't it?  Charging all those low prices for high quality stuff?  It's MEAN, that's what it is.  And it must be stopped, before it costs us more jobs.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I had never heard of these substances.  Now I want some.

What's the WORST thing that can happen with a pressure cooker?

Dioxygen diflouride: foof!

The sand next time.

Looks like rain

Was it flooding in Chicago last night?

Hey D-Wade: Thurston Howell the III called. He wants his blazer back!

Labor Force

See what I did with that title.  To have babies, women go into "labor."  You're welcome.

Opting Out among Women with Elite Education 

Joni Hersch 
Vanderbilt University Working Paper, March 2013 

 Abstract: Whether highly educated women are exiting the labor force to care for their children has generated a great deal of media attention, even though academic studies find little evidence of opting out. This paper shows that female graduates of elite institutions have lower labor market involvement than their counterparts from less selective institutions. Although elite graduates are more likely to earn advanced degrees, marry at later ages, and have higher expected earnings, there is little difference in labor market activity by college selectivity among women without children and women who are not married. But the presence of children is associated with far lower labor market activity among married elite graduates. Most women eventually marry and have children, and the net effect is that labor market activity is on average lower among elite graduates than among those from less selective institutions. The largest gap in labor market activity between graduates of elite institutions and less selective institutions is among MBAs, with married mothers who are graduates of elite institutions 30 percentage points less likely to be employed full-time than graduates of less selective institutions.

Why Do So Few Women Work in New York (and So Many in Minneapolis)? Labor Supply of Married Women across U.S. Cities 

 Dan Black, Natalia Kolesnikova & Lowell Taylor 
Journal of Urban Economics, forthcoming 

Abstract: This paper documents a little-noticed feature of U.S. labor markets — very large variation in the labor supply of married women across cities. We focus on cross-city differences in commuting times as a potential explanation for this variation. We start with a model in which commuting times introduce non-convexities into the budget set. Empirical evidence is consistent with the model’s predictions: Labor force participation rates of married women are negatively correlated with the metropolitan area commuting time. Also, metropolitan areas with larger increases in average commuting time in 1980-2000 had slower growth in the labor force participation of married women. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Headline Meme

Headline that pretty much says it all:

Naked women cause traffic jam in Charlotte.

I bet so.  Nod to the LMM.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  Food trucks in Manhattan...

2.  Imports work for America!  (I'm a little skeptical of these "job creation" studies, even if I agree with the direction they take).

3.  Buzz Aldrin:  Mars in 20.

4.  This obit reminds me of Alexandra Cooper's mother (who is very much not dead).  But these descriptions are along the same lines...

5.  "Reject" people who disagree with you?  Really?  Not persuade them, or talk to them?  Reject, without even considering their arguments?

LOTS more after the jump...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Employee Award Programs

The Dirty Laundry of Employee Award Programs: Evidence from the Field 

Timothy Gubler, Ian Larkin & Lamar Pierce
Harvard Working Paper, February 2013

 Abstract: Many scholars and practitioners have recently argued that corporate awards are a "free" way to motivate employees. We use field data from an attendance award program implemented at one of five industrial laundry plants to show that awards can carry significant spillover costs and may be less effective at motivating employees than the literature suggests. Our quasi-experimental setting shows that two types of unintended consequences limit gains from the reward program. First, employees strategically game the program, improving timeliness only when eligible for the award, and call in sick to retain eligibility. Second, employees with perfect pre-program attendance or high productivity suffered a 6-8% productivity decrease after program introduction, suggesting they were demotivated by awards for good behavior they already exhibited. Overall, our results suggest the award program decreased plant productivity by 1.4%, and that positive effects from awards are accompanied by more complex employee responses that limit program effectiveness.

That's Not Entrepreneurship

A remarkable claim, a remarkably naive, dangerous claim, by Mr. Obama and Co.

"New health law encourages entrepreneurship."  To the extent that people are able to work for themselves, that may even be true.

But the law itself encourages rent-seeking, the pursuit of artificial gains without creating any actual value. An example:  Physician-owned hospitals will make out like bandits.  Because the new law actually encourages them to behave like bandits.

I knew entrepreneurship.  Entrepreneurship was a great concept.  Entrepreneurship was a friend of mine.  Mr. Obama, you are NO entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurship is a virtue.

Nod to Kevin Lewis for the links, not the interpretation, which is no one's fault but mine.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

I feel like Treebeard...

On guns and gun rights, I feel like Treebeard.  I am not entirely on anyone's side, because no one is entirely on my side.

An interesting post, linking to a piece I had not seen

The 2nd AmendmentA well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

So, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" says clearly that there is in fact an individual right to own guns, not just that states can have militias that are "well-regulated."

But that whole "well-regulated" part means something.  So registration, background checks, responsible storage, and required training...why not?  I'd say the closest analogy is a driver's license.  You can't be told "no, no driver's license for you!"  It's a "shall issue" situation.  But if you misuse, behave dangerously, etc., you lose the license.  And you have to register your car, and have training, and so on.  The state can impose substantial regulations on purchase, ownership, and use of guns.

I'm pretty sure that exactly no one agrees with me.  The NRA-ites want to be able to fight the 82nd Airborne (seriously?), and the anti-gun-ites want to pretend the 2nd Amendment doesn't exist.  (Problem, my lefty friends:  as Sandy Levinson sensibly admits, if you can ignore the 2nd Amendment, you can ignore the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments.  They come as a package.)

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Good advice for young researchers

Andrew Oswald gives us, "Things I would have found it useful to have been told when I was a young researcher".

Well worth reading the whole thing, but here is a good bit:

"The main difference between world-class researchers and sound researchers is not intellect; it is energy, single-mindedness, more energy, and the ability to withstand what will sometimes feel like never-ending disappointment, tiredness and psychological pain. Tenacity is almost everything."

I have found this, along with much of the rest of Andrew's piece, all too true.

Grade Inflation? Some data

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

My Bromance with Eric Mazur

People, it's all come out in the open now. I've been publicly outed. You can see the spicy details right here.


Estimating Benefits from University-Level Diversity

Barbara Wolfe & Jason Fletcher
NBER Working Paper, February 2013

Abstract: One of the continuing areas of controversy surrounding higher education is affirmative action. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Fisher v. Texas, and their ruling may well influence universities’ diversity initiatives, especially if they overturn Grutter v. Bollinger and rule that diversity is no longer a “compelling state interest.” But what lies behind a compelling state’s interest? One issue that continues to require more information is estimating and understanding the gains for those attending colleges and universities with greater diversity. Most existing studies are either based on evidence from one institution, which has issues of both selectivity and limited “treatments,” or focus on selective institutions, which also face issues of selection bias from college choice behaviors. In this research we use Wave 3 of Add Health, collected in 2001–02 of those then attending college. Add Health collected the IPEDS number of each college and matched these to the racial/ethnic composition of the student body. We convert these data into an index of diversity and then ask whether attending a college/university with a more diverse student body influences a variety of outcomes at Wave 4 (2007–08), including years of schooling completed, earnings, family income, composition of friends, and probability of voting. Our results provide evidence of a positive link between attending a college with greater diversity and higher earnings and family income, but not with more schooling or the probability of voting.


Do Racial Preferences Affect Minority Learning in Law Schools?

Doug Williams
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, June 2013, Pages 171–195

Abstract: An analysis of the The Bar Passage Study (BPS) reveals that minorities are both less likely to graduate from law school and less likely to pass the bar compared to whites even after adjustments are made for group differences in academic credentials. To account for these adjusted racial gaps in performance, some researchers put forward the “mismatch hypothesis,” which proposes that students learn less when placed in learning environments where their academic skills are much lower than the typical student. This article presents new results from the BPS that account for both measurement-error bias and selection-on-unobservables bias that makes it more difficult to find a mismatch effect if in fact one exists. I find much more evidence for mismatch effects than previous research and report magnitudes from mismatch effects more than sufficient to explain racial gaps in performance.

Nod to Kevin Lewis