Friday, June 21, 2013

You can call me Al

There's an old joke, what do you call someone who graduated last in his class at Med School?.....Doctor!

Now we can add, what do you call someone who graduated in the middle of his PhD. class in Econ at Harvard 6 years ago?.......I don't know, but it's not Associate Professor.

Interesting short paper from Vanderbilt on class ranking and publishing productivity at top grad schools.

Here's the abstract:

We study the research productivity of top Ph.D. programs in economics. We find that class rank is as important as departmental rank as predictors of future research productivity. For example, the best graduate from UIUC or Toronto in a given year will have roughly the same number of American Economic Review (AER) equivalent publications at year six after graduation as the number three graduate from Berkeley, U. Penn or Yale. We also find that research productivity of graduates drops off very quickly with class rank at all departments. For example, even at Harvard, the median graduate has only 0.04 AER paper at year six, an untenurable record at almost any department. These results provide guidance on how much weight to give to place of graduation relative to class standing when hiring new assistant professors. They also suggest that even the top departments are not doing a very good job of training students to be successful research economists for any not in the top of their class.

That's right, the median Harvard Grad has 0.04 AER equivalent papers at tenure time! Ouch.

Do departments concentrate all their resources on the top few students?

Is the talent pool in economics very shallow and schools are taking students who shouldn't be there just to fill up their TA slots?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My summer class (thoroughly modern Angus edition)

I'm teaching principles of micro this summer. 8:00 - 10:00 am daily. I know.

My text is Cowen & Tabarrok, which I like a lot, but I'm using a lot of other stuff as well.

The day before a topic, students watch a couple videos from the excellent Khan Academy series on microeconomics. I try to keep the total amount of video time here at 20 minutes or less. Then they take an online quiz over the material.

In class, I start with a mini-presentation introducing the topic and dealing with comprehension issues that the quiz may have revealed.

During the class period, we take breaks in the presentation for the class to answer, multiple choice, short answer, graphing, or essay questions that I deliver to them via their phones or tablets or laptops. The software I'm using here is called Learning Catalytics.

This way, students get instant feedback on what they are understanding and not understanding, and I get a chance to see right away how to shape the class time towards what is causing them trouble.

I really love this approach.

The Cowen & Tabarrok book comes with extensive online resources that I use a lot. Plus they get right to the point and don't mess around with a lot of extraneous stuff that principles students don't need or that isn't quite right.

The students like the Khan Academy videos, and they free me up from having to do a lot of numerical examples of where demand and supply and cost curves come from in class.

But the star I think is the Learning Catalytics software. When I have the right question prepared, it can really crack open the problem students are having and lead to a greatly improved level of understanding of the material.

This has happened both yesterday on the topic of externalities and today on the topic of economic vs. accounting profit. It just lets me see what they are thinking and how to better re-address the issue. I've also found students are more willing to speak up after we've done a question, displayed the results and discussed the answers.

Even with the 8:00 am start, I am having a blast and feel good about what we are learning.

The Minkey Didn't Have a Lishanz....

Pelsmin has found the perfect cinematic metaphor for Obamacare.  From Pink Panther.

Atlantic: Why Do People Have to Make Stuff Up?

I have found it interesting how many people have truly strange conspiracy theories about big money and libertarianism.

The other day I got a very angry letter from a colleague, claiming that the Koch Foundation was trying to take over NC politics.  I checked (by googling) the source.  And it was a fund-raising letter from Sen. Kay Hagan.  The point being that fund-raising letters by their nature are designed to use scare tactics, and have no obligation to be truthful.  I asked for evidence that the CGKF was trying to "buy" NC politics, and my colleague sent back something about Art Pope.  Ma'am, those are different people, and Art Pope lives in NC.  Lots of rich people (including my colleague who was sending these notes, by the way) had made contributions to NC politicos.

Now, the Atlantic has a piece wondering why people need to make up these bizarre stories.  The answer appears to be that folks on the left need, actually psychologically NEED, to think they speak for "the people."  They have never met the people, and they actually think the people are morons who need protection designed by smart leftists, but okay.  So when a leftist encounters someone they disagree with, their first instinct is to believe that the disagreer can't possibly ACTUALLY believe those things.  S/he must be getting paid.  And they must be getting paid by...the KOCHS.  Because the Kochs are everywhere.   (What about Soros?  Well, that money goes to leftists, and they are telling the truth.  So that money is not the same as the Koch money, which is for EVIL).

This argument gives two useful things:  1.  A bogeyman, a single enemy; and 2.  An explanation why someone might disagree (they don't REALLY disagree, but they are being bribed to pretend to disagree, with the claims of the left).  Since no smart, reasonable person could POSSIBLY disagree with a leftist, who cares so much about the people, and who knows the truth with scientific certainty.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Partly Empty, Partly Narrow

Following up the discussion over on Cato Unbound....

Garbage inspectors!  Who can count the human cost...

Happy Birthday to the LMM!!

Today is the LMM's birthday.  So of course she gets "happy birthday!" messages from all of the increasingly large number of doctors a woman her age (she's over 30) has contact with.  Not necessarily a happy things.

But, since her bithday is (and has always been) the same as Garfield's there is a always a Garfield cartoon waiting to cheer us up.  In this case, it only cheered ME up, though.

Click for an even more bifocalable image....

WTF? The NYT is en fuego

Why in the world has happened to the NYTimes?  They have started publishing subversive, crackpot stuff that I actually agree with.   The world turned upside down.

San Francisco's housing market.


The City by the Bay is going through one of its worst housing shortages in memory. With typical high demand intensified by a regional boom in tech jobs, apartment open houses are mob scenes of desperate applicants clutching their credit reports. The citywide median rental price for a one-bedroom is $2,764 a month, but jumps to $3,500 in trendy areas.

One reason for the shortage? Me. I’ve recently joined the ranks of San Francisco landlords who have decided that it’s better to keep an apartment empty than to lease it to tenants. Together, we have left vacant about 10,600 rental units. That’s about five percent of the city’s total — or enough space to house up to 30,000 people in a city that barely tops 800,000. I feel a twinge of guilt for those who want to settle in this glorious city but can’t find a flat. 

But after renting out a one-bedroom apartment in my home for several years, I will never do it again. San Francisco’s anti-landlord housing laws and political climate make it untenable.

The City by the Bay!  The City where there is NOWHERE to Sleep!

If you want to rock it old school, check out the famed Friedman-Stigler pamphlet on price controls.  Nearly 70 years old now, and caused a big kerfuffle at FEE when it was published.  (Thanks to WH for this last link!)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Books of Summer

The LMM and I are really, really boring. We go to the beach  Have been here at Wrightsville Dunes for 8 nights now, and have gone out to dinner exactly once (though it was fun, visiting with Aaron and Laurie King, and went to Bluewater)

That means I get some reading done.  With Kindle, you can read old stuff, new stuff, all sorts of things.

The good:

1.  The Code:  Baseball  Ross Bernstein.  Solid, interesting, but mostly stuff I knew.

2.  The Code:  Hockey  Ross Bernstein.  Fascinating, partly because I don't know much about hockey, but also because there is a lot going on behind the scenes.  Some of the chapters are good enough, in terms of institutions, to be used in the sort of class where you talk about Olson, Ostrom, Leeson, and Skarbek.  Really, really great.

3.  Three Nights in August  Buzz Bissinger.  The story of a series between the SL Cards and the Chi Cubs, in 2005.  Probably more, and deeper, stuff about how baseball works and how pitchers protect their teams than the Bernstein book.  But then maybe I just like it because it is a story of how the Cards beat the Cubs, back before the Cubs starting sucking so bad that this outcome is a near certainty.

4.  Havana Nocturne  TJ English.  How the Mob tried to run Cuba, and how Castro ran out the Mob.  As interesting and vivid a history as I have ever read, and gives one sympathy for poor Cuba.  Recommended by T. Pino; thanks!

5.  The Economics of Beer  Edited by Johan Swinnen.  A bit academicish, but some great stuff on beer's history and economics.  The chapters on beer in China, the largest beer consumer (total, not per capita) alone are worth the book.  And John Nye's chapter on beer and wine in England is a classic.

The Bad

1.  The Code:  Football  Ross Bernstein.  Can't blame Bernstein, and football is useful as the missing case in the instiutional story in his triloogy of "The Code" books.  Query:  What happens when there is no code, because players are allowed to cheat and take cheap shots, because they are wearing protective equipment that covers their entire bodies, especially their heads and faces?  Answer:  Football.  Hockey and baseball have codes to prevent violence.  Football just promotes violence, and that's all there is to it.  Boring, repetitive account of injuries and mayhem without form or control.

The Next

1.  Just got The Story of Spanish JB Nadeau and J Barlow.  Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language on earth, after Mandarin.  Why?

Monday's Child

1.  A Schumer in the White House?  A note:  I have myself never thought Chuckie Schumer is DUMB.  The problem is that he is evil incarnate  I'd like him MORE if he were dumb.

2.  Why does Prof. Angus get such excellent evaluations?  Now...we know.   Touchatouch-atouchaTOUCH me.  I want to be smarty.

3.  Why a lot of "educated" folks won't get hired.  Boiled down:  because expensive colleges offer a lot of fraudulent "Indignation Studies" majors that (1) serve faculty ideological hobbies, and (2) are essentially content-free, in terms of social value or analytical skills.

4. An interesting article.  This guy, publishing in DEMOCRACY, recognizes that Ayn Rand would hate a lot of the guys who claim that they love Ayn Rand, as a protection for their blatant rent-seeking.  He gets a LOT of things right.

5.  If it's true, it's pretty bad.  Not sure it's true, but....

6.  They hated it when GWB did it (and rightly so, let me add).  The difference is that the left trusts Obama when he abuses the power of the Presidency.  And apparently they assume (as every regime assumes) that they will be in power forever.  The Thousand Year Psych.

7.  Information Asymmetry problem solved!

8.  Tattoo-Gate ring available on Ebay!

9.  Happy "Father's" Day.  Gosh, that kid looks different. And this site...really?

10.  Affordable housing shortages are not solved by government action, they are for the most part caused by government action. You can see this documented on an almost daily basis by our friends at Market Urbanism.

SO much more after the jump...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

For Dads: Past, Present, and Future

Okie ego trippin'

1.  Can't resist the opportunity to brag that my JME article with Gordon Tullock has hit 1000 citations on Google Scholar.

2. On the either end of my citation list, one of the funnest and least cited papers I've ever written (and the best-titled paper I've ever written), "Arbitrage in a Basketball Economy", was featured in the WAPO Wonkblog this past week. Co-authored with the estimable Bob Tollison.

3. My paper with Aaron Smallwood on exchange rate volatility and trade was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of International Money and Finance.

4. Finally, my student and co-author, Norman Maynard, has accepted a tenure track job at the College of Charleston!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.