Data Source

Or is that the infra-marginal value?:

…we have compared lifespan in the Old Order Amish (OOA), a population with historically low use of medical care, with that of Caucasian participants from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), focusing on individuals who have reached at least age 30 years.

Analyses were based on 2,108 OOA individuals from the Lancaster County, PA community born between 1890 and 1921 and 5,079 FHS participants born approximately the same time. Vital status was ascertained on 96.9% of the OOA cohort through 2011 and through systematic follow-up of the FHS cohort. The lifespan part of the study included an enlargement of the Anabaptist Genealogy Database to 539,822 individuals, which will be of use in other studies of the Amish. Mortality comparisons revealed that OOA men experienced better longevity (p<0.001) and OOA women comparable longevity than their FHS counterparts.

That is from a 2012 PLOS paper, by Braxton D. Mitchell,, via Ben Southwood.

This is from a recent paper by Stanford’s Scott Rozelle:

We also seek to explain why parents in rural China appear to be engaging in poor parenting practices. The paper brings together quantitative results from a survey of 1,442 caregivers of 18- to 30-month-old children in children in 11 nationally designated poverty counties as well as analysis of interviews with 20 caregivers in 8 rural villages. The results of the quantitative analysis demonstrate that 42 percent of children in the sample are cognitively impaired and 10.2 percent experience delayed motor development [emphasis added by TC]. According to the quantitative data, the poor cognitive development is not due to the fact that parents do not care for their children, as the majority reported that they enjoyed spending time with their child (88.6%). Nor are the delays due to a lack of a sense of parental responsibility, as almost all caregivers responded that they believed it was their responsibility to help their child learn about the world around them (94.6%). Yet poor parenting practices appear to be in part to blame: quantitative analysis shows a significant positive correlation between singing, reading, and playing with a child and their cognitive and psychomotor development. The empirical data shows, however, that 87.4 percent of parents do not read to their children; 62.5 percent do not sing to their children; and 60.8 percent do not play with their children. In the qualitative section of the paper we provide evidence suggesting that the prevalence of poor parenting practices does not stem from inadequate financial resources or parental indifference to the child’s development. Instead, the three main constraints influencing parental behaviors are (a) not knowing that they should be engaging in these parenting behaviors at this stage in the child’s development, (b) not knowing how to properly interact with the child, and (c) not having time to practice such behaviors.

Like all papers, this one is subject to various cavils and caveats, or perhaps the sample is not truly representative.  Still, it is a useful antidote for assuming that factors of IQ and human capital necessarily give China a big growth advantage in the decades to come.  Chinese test scores are good, but rural China does not always meet the Chinese average, and that is where much of the next wave of growth needs to come from.

Of course for more on these issues you need to read Garett Jones’s forthcoming The Hive Mind.

For the pointer I thank Christopher Balding, here is his new post on how stressed are the major Chinese banks?: “Chinese banks are slush funds to direct capital to preferred companies.”

China revision of the day

by on November 5, 2015 at 2:08 am in Current Affairs, Data Source | Permalink

“Illustrating the scale of the revision, the new figures add about 600 million tons to China’s coal consumption in 2012 — an amount equivalent to more than 70 percent of the total coal used annually by the United States.”

From Angus there is more here.

Eduarto Porter has an excellent column on that topic, here is one bit:

In a report released last week, Martin Carnoy from the Graduate School of Education at Stanford, Emma García from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington and Tatiana Khavenson from the Institute of Education at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, suggest that socioeconomic deficits impose a particularly heavy burden on American schools.

“Once we adjust for social status, we are doing much better than we think,” Professor Carnoy told me. “We underrate our progress.”

The researchers started by comparing test scores in the United States with those in France, Germany, Britain, Canada, Finland, South Korea, Poland and Ireland. On average, students in all those countries do better than American children.

Then the researchers divided students into groups depending on the number of books in their homes, a measure of the academic resources at families’ disposal. This adjustment significantly reduced the American deficit, especially among students on the bottom rungs of the resource ladder.

American students from families with the least educational resources, as it turned out, scored better on the PISA math test than similar children in France and about the same as Britons, Germans and Irish.

Read the whole thing.

Gina Kolata from the NYT reports:

Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.

That finding was reported Monday by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton, who last month won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences, and Anne Case. Analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources, they concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

The original research is here (pdf).

Value-added is also known as “marginal product,” an economic concept of some import.  It is supposed to be what we care about.

I am pleased to see that George Mason comes in at number forty, well ahead of Yale University at number 1270.

For the pointer I thank the estimable Chug.

…the personality trait most strongly correlated with programming ability was not introversion or conscientiousness, but openness: a trait that’s related to being creative and imaginative. What’s more, over time to the present day, openness has become a more important correlate of programming ability, while conscientiousness has become less important. This is speculation, but perhaps more creative people are today drawn to careers in programming because of all the opportunities for imaginative expression in a world of apps, video games, snazzy websites, and social networks. Finally, the traits of agreeableness (essentially how friendly someone is) and neuroticism (how anxious and emotionally unstable) were not correlated with programming ability, pretty much refuting the tired stereotype of the socially awkward programming geek.

A final thought: knowing someone’s personality and mental ability doesn’t actually tell you a great deal about their likely computer programming skills. Personality traits and IQ in fact only accounted for around 12 per cent of the difference between people in their programming abilities, which just goes to show that the very idea that there is such a thing as a computer wiz “personality type” is nonsense anyway.

There is more here, original research here.  I would put more weight on the second excerpted paragraph than the first.

This is the most extensive and careful study of preschool (pdf) I have seen to date, conducted by Lipsey, Farran, and Hofer of Vanderbilt.  The core result is this:

The third question we addressed involved the sustainability of effects on achievement and behavior beyond kindergarten entry. Children in both groups were followed and reassessed in the spring every year with over 90% of the initial sample located tested on each wave. By the end of kindergarten, the control children had caught up to the TN‐VPK [preschool] children and there were no longer significant differences between them on any achievement measures. The same result was obtained at the end of first grade using both composite achievement measures.

In second grade, however, the groups began to diverge with the TN‐VPK children scoring lower than the control children on most of the measures. The differences were significant on both achievement composite measures and on the math subtests.

In other words, after some period of time the children who had preschool actually did worse.  I found this interesting too:

First grade teachers rated the TN‐VPK children as less well prepared for school, having poorer work skills in the classrooms, and feeling more negative about school. It is notable that these ratings preceded the downward achievement trend we found for VPK children in second and third grade.

So does preschool make kids more grumpy?  Immigrant children by the way did well:

…whether or not ESL children experienced TN‐VPK, by the end of third grade, their achievement was greater than either of the native English speaking groups of children.

Arnold Kling offers comment, and for the pointer I thank Peter Metrinko.


What should we infer about how terrible it is to work there?

That is from @JanDawson.

Sentences about China

by on October 20, 2015 at 1:37 am in Current Affairs, Data Source, Economics | Permalink

1. There is no rebalancing. 2. Services only growing from increased new loan volume and real estate revenue growth.

Those are from Christopher Balding, here is his full blog post, and also more here.

China has overtaken the US as home to the most dollar billionaires, according to the latest Hurun Rich List, with Wang Jianlin, the real estate tycoon, overtaking Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, as the mainland’s wealthiest person.

Mr Wang also overtook Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong tycoon, as the richest person in Greater China. Hurun values Mr Wang, 61, at $34.4bn, up 52 per cent from a year earlier, versus $32.7bn for Mr Li and $22.7bn for Mr Ma. Mr Wang topped the mainland list in 2013 but lost the title to Mr Ma last year.

China added 242 dollar billionaires in 2015, bringing its total to 596, against 537 in the US, according to the annual ranking of China’s wealthy. If Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are included, the Greater China total reaches 715.

That is from Gabriel Wildau at the FT.  As with the United States, much of this is paper wealth, although for China that may matter more, at least if you believe the Chinese government props up various asset prices more than the American government does.

I haven’t read through this new paper yet (pdf), but the authors and title make it self-recommending.  Here is one bit taken from a quick perusal:

Figure 8 presents the distribution of the return on invested capital (ROIC) for publicly traded non-financial U.S. firms from 1965 through 2014, excluding good will (an intangible asset reflecting the excess of the price paid to acquire a company over the value of its net assets). This analysis excludes financial firms, where ROIC data is considerably more scarce. As the chart shows, the 90th percentile of the return on invested capital across firms has grown markedly since around the early 1990s. The 90/50 ratio—that is, the ratio of the 90th percentile of the distribution of capital returns to the median—has risen from under 3 to approximately 10. In addition, the dramatic returns on invested capital of roughly 100 percent apparent at the 90th percentile, and even 30 percent apparent at the 75th percentile, at the very least raise the question of whether they reflect economic rents.

Do read the whole thing, as will I.  Here is a related Peter Orszag Bloomberg piece.

Here is a new and very clear Diane Coyle piece about whether gdp and CPI statistics are failing us.  Perhaps we are overestimating the rate of inflation and thus underestimating real wage growth, as many of the economic optimists suggest.  Yet I do not find that “the q’s” support this case made for “the p’s.”   For instance the employment-population ratio remains quite low, though with some small recent upticks.  If real wages were up so much, you might expect a larger adjustment from the q’s, namely the quantities of labor supplied.

Similarly, there is net Mexican migration out of the United States.  You might not expect that if recent innovations were creating significant unmeasured real wage gains.

Investment performance, while hard to measure, also seems sluggish.

Again, a closer look at the q’s makes it harder to be very optimistic about the p’s.

That is a new NBER paper by Ran Abramitzky, the abstract is here:

I reflect on the role of modern economic history in economics. I document a substantial increase in the percentage of papers devoted to economic history in the top-5 economic journals over the last few decades. I discuss how the study of the past has contributed to economics by providing ground to test economic theory, improve economic policy, understand economic mechanisms, and answer big economic questions. Recent graduates in economic history appear to have roughly similar prospects to those of other economists in the economics job market. I speculate how the increase in availability of high quality micro level historical data, the decline in costs of digitizing data, and the use of computationally intensive methods to convert large-scale qualitative information into quantitative data might transform economic history in the future.

I have for a while been pleased that GMU has one of the largest collections of economic historians (I would say four,) of any department around, UC Davis being another major presence in that area.

Should there not be more research on this apparently simple yet elusive question?  Here is a new paper by Acezel, Palfi, and Kekecs:

This paper argues that studying why and when people call certain actions stupid should be the interest of psychological investigations not just because it is a frequent everyday behavior, but also because it is a robust behavioral reflection of the rationalistic expectations to which people adjust their own behavior and expect others to. The relationship of intelligence and intelligent behavior has been the topic of recent debates, yet understanding why we call certain actions stupid irrespective of their cognitive abilities requires the understanding of what people mean when they call an action stupid. To study these questions empirically, we analyzed real-life examples where people called an action stupid. A collection of such stories was categorized by raters along a list of psychological concepts to explore what the causes are that people attribute to the stupid actions observed. We found that people use the label stupid for three separate types of situation: (1) violations of maintaining a balance between confidence and abilities; (2) failures of attention; and (3) lack of control. The level of observed stupidity was always amplified by higher responsibility being attributed to the actor and by the severity of the consequences of the action. These results bring us closer to understanding people’s conception of unintelligent behavior while emphasizing the broader psychological perspectives of studying the attribute of stupid in everyday life.

What do you think people, a smart paper or a stupid paper?

For the pointer I thank Michelle Dawson.