Data Source

1. “For over a century, incomes across states converged at a rate of 1.8% per year…The convergence rate from 1990 to 2010 was less than half the historic norm, and in the period leading up to the Great Recession there was virtually no convergence at all.”

2. After subtracting housing costs, janitors in NYC now earn less than they do in the Deep South.  This was not the case for most of American history.

3. For NYC janitors, housing costs measure at 52% of their income.

4. Income differences across states are increasingly capitalized into housing prices.

5. “…income convergence declined the most in areas with [land] supply constraints.”

6. “Had [cross-state] convergence continued apace through 2010…the increase in hourly wage inequality from 1980 to 2010 would have been 8% smaller.”

That is from a new NBER working paper, “Why has Regional Income Convergence in the US Declined?”, by Peter Ganong and Daniel W. Shoag.  Here are earlier ungated versions.

Note that this paper contains “…the first national panel measure of land use regulations in the US.”

Notice that if a U.S. corporation earns a profit from affiliate operations abroad, the profit will be added to the numerator of CPATAX/GDP, but the costs will not be added to the denominator, as they should be in a “profit margin” analysis.  Those costs, the compensation that the U.S. corporation pays to the entire foreign value-added chain–the workers, supervisors, suppliers, contractors, advertisers, and so on–are not part of U.S. GDP.  They are a part of the GDP of other countries.  Additionally, the profit that accrues to the U.S. corporation will not be added to the denominator, as it should be–again, it was not earned from operations inside the United States.  In effect, nothing will be added to the denominator, even though profit was added to the numerator.

General Motors (GM) operates numerous plants in China.  Suppose that one of these plants produces and sells one extra car.  The profit will be added to CPATAX–a U.S. resident corporation, through its foreign affiliate, has earned money. But the wages and salaries paid to the workers and supervisors at the plant, and the compensation paid to the domestic suppliers, advertisers, contractors, and so on, will not be added to GDP, because the activities did not take place inside the United States.  They took place in China, and therefore they belong to Chinese GDP.  So, in effect, CPATAX/GDP will increase as if the sale entailed a 100% profit margin–actually, an infinite profit margin.  Positive profit on a revenue of zero.

Here is much more, with many visuals and further details at the link, including a treatment of how to measure corporate profits accurately.

For the pointer, I thank @IronEconomist.

Question  What are the neuropathological and clinical features of a case series of deceased players of American football neuropathologically diagnosed as having chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)?

Findings  In a convenience sample of 202 deceased players of American football from a brain donation program, CTE was neuropathologically diagnosed in 177 players across all levels of play (87%), including 110 of 111 former National Football League players (99%).

Here is the research paper, via Peter Metrinko.  Here is NYT coverage of the result.

1. For the population of the average county, 62.8% of friends live within 100 miles.

2. Over distances of less than 200 miles, the elasticity of friends to distance is about – 2.0, and about – 1.2 for distances greater than 200 miles.

3. Conditional on distance, social connectedness is significantly stronger within state lines.

4. “Counties with a higher social capital index have less geographically concentrated social networks.”

5. Social connectedness predicts trade flows, even after controlling for distance, and it also predicts patent citations.

That is all from a new NBER working paper by Bailey, Cao, Kuchler, Stroebel, and Wong.  Here is an ungated version.

Our World in Data has an excellent writeup of earlier research by Eisensee and Strömberg. 

How many deaths does it take for a natural disaster to be newsworthy? This is a question researchers Thomas Eisensee and David Strömberg asked in a 2007 study. The two authors found that for every person killed by a volcano, nearly 40,000 people have to die of a food shortage to get the same probability of coverage in US televised news. In other words, the type of disaster matters to how newsworthy networks find it to be. The visualizations below show the extent of this observed “news effect”.

In other words, the famine you haven’t heard much about is more important than you think.

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

As outlined by the blog Random Critical Analysis, U.S. health-care expenditures go well beyond what the U.S.’s relatively high per capita GDP might lead us to expect. But viewed through the lens of consumption behavior, American health-care spending is typical of this nation’s habits and mores. Relative to GDP, Americans consume a lot more than Europeans, and our health-care spending is another example of that tendency.

And to channel Megan McArdle:

Furthermore, we shouldn’t take the lower health-care spending in many European nations as a sign of better health-care policy. It’s a reflection of a broader cultural difference. If the U.S. someday did move to a single payer system for health care, it probably would be a relatively expensive version of that idea. The U.S., of course, does have a partial single payer system through Medicare, and it is still more expensive per beneficiary than its European equivalents.

Keep in mind that high consumption expenditures also help explain various “anecdotes of outrage,” such as billings for $400 band-aids and the like.  To some extent such charges are fraud, and to some extent they are simply an unusual allocation of fixed costs.  Both practices are more likely in a non-Spartan society keen on spending a lot of money on health care and the very latest.

Now, a team of public health researchers studying neighborhoods in Baltimore has added one more indignity to that list: poorer neighborhoods also have to deal with more serious mosquito infestations.

The researchers, led by Eliza Little of Columbia University, surveyed Asian tiger mosquito populations in five West Baltimore neighborhoods, spanning the gamut from the impoverished (Harlem Park) to the well-heeled (Bolton Hill).

For three years, they surveyed a number of factors known to influence mosquito populations: abandoned buildings, accumulating trash, sources of standing water and surface vegetation among them. They tallied mosquito larvae and pupae where they found them, and put up periodic traps to catch and count adult female mosquitoes (the ones that do the biting).

It turned out, unsurprisingly, that poor neighborhoods have more abandoned buildings and also have more accumulated trash and more standing pools of water, all conducive to mosquitoes.

Here is the Wonkblog piece by Christopher Ingraham, here is the paper itself, in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

There is a new Mercatus study by Eileen Norcross and Olivia Gonzalez, here is the bottom line:

1) Florida
2) North Dakota
3) South Dakota
4) Utah
5) Wyoming

46) Maryland
47) Kentucky
48) Massachusetts
49) Illinois
50) New Jersey

My own state, Virginia, comes in above average at #18.

There is a new NBER working paper by Richard J. Murnane, Marcus R. Waldman, John B. Willett, Maria Soledad Bos, and Emiliana Vegas.  I have not had a chance to read it, but here is the key part of the abstract:

We found that:

1. On average, student test scores increased markedly and income-based gaps in those scores declined by one-third in the five years after the passage of SEP.

2. The combination of increased support of schools and accountability was the critical mechanism through which the implementation of SEP increased student scores, especially in schools serving high concentrations of low-income students. Migration of low-income students from public schools to private voucher schools played a small role.

We interpret these findings as more supportive of improved student performance than other recent research on the Chilean policy reform.

That is not exactly the Milton Friedman story, but it is essentially a positive report for vouchers.

China’s energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade.

These Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal, according to tallies compiled by Urgewald, an environmental group based in Berlin. Many of the plants are in China, but by capacity, roughly a fifth of these new coal power stations are in other countries.

Over all, 1,600 coal plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries, according to Urgewald’s tally, which uses data from the Global Coal Plant Tracker portal. The new plants would expand the world’s coal-fired power capacity by 43 percent.

…Of the world’s 20 biggest coal plant developers, 11 are Chinese, according to a database published by Urgewald.

Here is the full NYT piece by Hiroko Tabuchi. Furthermore, China’s electric cars aren’t actually all that clean.

Keep this all in mind the next time you hear someone tout China as the new leader of the global green energy movement.

I found this intriguing:

According to several years of nationally representative survey data, about two-thirds of Americans believe that elected representatives should “try their hardest to give the people what they want.” Remarkably, however, Republican voters are between 20 and 30 points less likely than their Democratic counterparts to agree. Moreover, people represented by a Republican member of Congress are almost 20 percentage points less likely to perceive their member as behaving that way, regardless of their own party identification.

It’s not as nefarious as it sounds. Republican voters, whether they consciously realize it or not, are more comfortable with what political scientists call “trustee-style representation,” whereby representatives use their own principled judgment when casting votes. In contrast, the “delegate style” binds legislators to constituent demands. Many Republicans — voters and lawmakers alike — cherish their principles more than they do the whims of a mostly uninformed and inattentive mass public.

…members of groups that comprise the Republican base seem especially averse to delegate-style public overtures. Even after taking account of other forces that might shape citizens’ views of lawmakers, we found that traditionalistic Christians are 23 points less likely than seculars to say that representatives should “give the people what they want.” Instead, they should “stick to their principles, no matter what the polls might say.”

…when Republicans think their representatives are getting soft, they try to hold them accountable. In surveys, we asked respondents to tell us not only what kind of representation they wanted but also the kind they thought they were actually getting. Democrats proved 23 points less supportive of their representatives when they perceived them paying too little attention to public opinion. In contrast, Republicans were up to 50 percentage points less supportive when they saw them paying too much attention.

Fourth, judging from legislative roll-call data since 1985, Republicans in Congress have been considerably less likely than Democrats to follow their constituents’ policy preferences — a tendency that has grown over time. We found that the ideological convergence between voters and legislators is more than three times greater among Democratic legislators than among Republicans.

There is yet more of interest at the link, from Monkey Cage, by David C. Barker and Christopher Jan Carman.

Michael Jubb’s recent report on (UK) Academic Books and their Future (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) — part of the Academic Book of the Future-project — makes for depressing reading.

Matthew Reisz’s piece in Times Higher Education sums it up pretty well: Worst sellers: warning of existential crisis for academic books, as “the number of individual [academic] titles sold rose by 45 per cent, from 43,000 to 63,000” between 2005 and 2014 — but (Nielsen BookScan-tracked sales figures): “show a decline for academic books of 13 per cent between 2005 and 2014, from 4.34 million to 3.76 million annually”. Add it all up, and: “this meant that average sales per title fell from 100 to 60″…

The median is likely lower yet.

That is from Michael Orthofer of Literary Saloon, by the way here is my earlier Conversation with Michael.

Perhaps surprisingly, [U.S.] immigrants from Algeria have higher educational attainment than those from Israel or Japan.

That is from a new paper by Ed Lazear.  More theoretically, there is this:

…average immigrant attainment is inversely related to the number admitted from a source country and positively related to the population of that source country.

Worth a ponder.

From Twitter I see this statistic:

Ratio of mean health care spending in richest quintile to mean health care spending in poorest quintile

For the United States, as reported, that ratio is 0.884 for ages 25-64, and for 65 and up the ratio has two varying estimates, from 0.87 to 0.9.

If I am understanding the numbers and presentation correctly, that indicates more health care spending on the poorest quintile than the wealthiest quintile (for below 25 however the ratio is 1.3, namely more spending on the wealthy).

I believe this comes as a surprise to many people, though it is arguably intuitive, since poor people become sick more often, and furthermore sick people are more likely to lose income.

I tracked down the source paper by Eric French and Elaine Kelly (pdf), and it does seem to be true, noting that the numbers exclude long-term care for the elderly.  By the way, that piece is full of fascinating, under-reported medical expenditure statistics, for other countries too.

A number of points suggest themselves:

1. You still might feel we are neglecting the health care of the poor, but I am not sure the majority of the American public would react that way, upon hearing these numbers.  Usually the poor get less of things, as measured by expenditures, even if they might “need” it more.  Health care is an exception to what is otherwise a pretty general rule.  I believe it should be such an exception, but to what degree?  I see a lot of pretty aggressive intuitions out there, mostly without serious justification or without any presentation of what the stopping point should be.

2. Those numbers don’t prove anything, least of all normatively.  Still, they do point my attention in the direction of wondering — yet again — if public health programs are not better than spending more on health care coverage of the poor.  Let’s stop or at least limit poor people from getting sick so many more times.

3. That poor people get sick more times, how much of this is a) poor environment including higher stress and exposure to crime, b) genes, c) inability to afford proper preventive care, d) bad decision-making, including diet, lifestyle, and exercise, and e) sickness causing poverty, and f) other factors.  I know of plenty of individual papers on these topics, but would it go over well to write an “apportionment” paper doling out the relative responsibilities?

4. How much should our decisions on the best health care policy depend on the answer to #3?  How many people are even willing to talk about this right now?

5. Why does the ratio flip so significantly toward the wealthy for younger people?  Can we use that fact to make any general inferences about the apportionment outlined in #3?  On the surface, it seems to suggest a significant possible role for d) and e), since those might affect children less.

6. What else?

The original pointer was from a retweet by Garett Jones, the tweet from Houston Euler, the Great Firewall is making direct links to them very costly right now.