Economics

Facts about bank tellers

by on November 19, 2014 at 3:31 pm in Economics | Permalink

In a survey earlier this year by accounting and consulting firm Crowe Horwath LLP, the average full-time teller with a few years of experience earned $25,738 in total compensation, down 2.9% from the previous year and last among the 28 bank functions analyzed in the survey.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for American workers was $46,440.

Since 2002, the total compensation of an experienced teller has fallen 3.8% after adjusting for inflation, according to data from Crowe Horwath run through the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator. During the same time, a commercial loan officer’s compensation has risen by an inflation-adjusted 9.8%.

There is more here, via the esteemed Samir Varma.  From the UK, via Luke McGrath, the security guard of the future is a glossy Dalek.

That is borrowing a phrase from Arthur Marget, of course I do not mean mph:

A San Francisco-based company is putting yet another spin on the Washington area’s sharing economy, giving travelers flying out of Dulles International Airport free parking and a car wash in exchange for permission to rent their cars to other drivers.

FlightCar launches Wednesday at Dulles and two other U.S. airports. Participating travelers can drop off their cars at a designated lot near Dulles. In exchange for letting FlightCar offer a vehicle for rent, the travelers receive free parking, a Town Car ride to the airport, a car wash and per-mile payment if the vehicle is rented — to a pre-screened driver — while they’re away.

There is more here.

Robin Hanson reports:

My last post got me thinking about the liberal vs. conservative slant of different jobs. Here are two sources of data.

Consider some jobs that lean conservative: police, doctor, religious worker, insurance broker. These seem to be jobs where there are rare big bad things that can go wrong, and you want to trust workers to keep those from happening. That explanation can also makes some sense of these other conservative jobs: graders & sorters, electrical contractors, car dealers, truckers, coal miners, construction workers, gas service station workers, non-professor scientist. Conservatives are more focused on fear of bad things, and protecting against them.

Now consider a set of jobs that lean liberal: professor, journalist, artist, musician, author. From these you might focus on the fact that these jobs have rare but big upsides. So the focus here might be on the small chance that a worker will be come a rare huge success. This plausibly seems the opposite of a conservative focus on rare big losses.

But consider these other liberal jobs: psychiatrist, lawyer, teacher. Here the focus might be just on people who talk well. And that can also make sense of many of the previous list of liberal jobs. It might also makes sense of another big liberal job: civil servant.

I’m not suggesting these are the only factors that influence which jobs are liberal vs. conservative, but they do seem worth exploring.

Which other factors might help explain the distribution of conservative vs. liberal jobs?

In my article for a Cato Symposium I cite foreign policy:

It is possible that we are still living inside the biggest bubble of them all and that is called “the peace bubble.” I’ve also heard this described as the bubble of “Pax Americana,” although that is a more partisan take on the role of America in global peace. You might think the chance of this being a “peace bubble” is say only five or ten percent. Maybe so, but still in expected value terms that is still the most important issue to worry about. The breaking of that peace bubble on a larger scale could endanger all of the progress and accumulated well-being of the human race, including the United States.

Let’s not forget that over the next one hundred years, if the world remains relatively peaceful, it is unlikely that most global innovation will come from the United States. China in particular may assume a major role as a generator of new ideas, just as the United States supplied a wide variety of useful innovations to Great Britain starting in the mid to late 19th century. Even if a “Fortress America” could survive geopolitical turmoil in the broader world, it would be a much poorer place. We rely on the rest of the world for inspiration, for creation, for appreciation, for increasing market size and thus the spurring of American innovations, and of course we rely on the rest of the world for innovations more directly. A future America in a chaotic world is much, much poorer and riskier than a future America in a peaceful world.

I should note that I am indebted to John Nye and Garry Kasparov for this notion of Pax Americana as the biggest bubble of them all.  There are several other arguments in the piece, for instance:

When electing a President or a Congress, foreign policy should be by far our number one concern. That said, I don’t think there is any simple formula for getting foreign policy right. Unlike many libertarians, I do not adhere to a strictly non-interventionist stance on foreign policy. I believe in alliances among the world’s relatively free and (one hopes) peaceful nations. I believe that American intervention has at some critical times led to much greater freedom and prosperity. Without the current and past American security umbrella, for instance, I believe much of Asia would be a far less free place than it is today, starting but not ending with Taiwan and South Korea.

I am, however, also skeptical of conservative or hawkish claims that we simply need to get tough with the bad guys in the world. A market-oriented economist, as I view myself, should be well aware of the general arguments about the difficulty of government planning and the importance of unforeseen, unintended consequences from government action. Furthermore government policies, once they get underway, are often hijacked by special interest groups or by voters who are uninformed, misinformed, or who react emotionally rather than analytically. We should not be especially optimistic about the ability of our government to pull off successful foreign interventions.

Daniel Larison comments on me here (when I write “For better or worse,” that means I am not judging a possible Syria intervention, contra Larison.  Otherwise the popularity of drones is a good example of American squeamishness, another example being our early withdrawal from Iraq.)  The broader symposium is here, it has many quality contributors.  Here is Eli Dourado on incentive pay for Congress.

Addendum: Arnold Kling comments.

The model also predicts that recessions accelerate the decline in routine occupations—firms prefer to destroy routine jobs during a downturn, when the opportunity cost of restructuring is low. This acceleration can account for recent cyclical changes of the labor market: routine job losses are concentrated in recessions and the ensuing recoveries are jobless.

That is from Miguel Morin, a recent Columbia Ph.d.  The entire paper is of interest.  And here is a relevant blog post by Scott Sumner on “near recessions.”

Defining Diversity Down

by on November 18, 2014 at 7:11 am in Economics, Web/Tech | Permalink

Marc Andreessen make some excellent points about diversity in a wide-ranging interview:

The critique of Silicon Valley is also that it isn’t very diverse. At Twitter, for instance, 90 percent of the tech employees are male and more than 50 percent of them are white.

I think these discussions are totally valid. Now, I disagree with many of the specific points.

What’s your take?

Shall we? Let’s launch right into it. I think the critique that Silicon Valley companies are deliberately, systematically discriminatory is incorrect, and there are two reasons to believe that that’s the case. No. 1, these companies are like the United Nations internally. All the diversity studies say that the engineering population is like 70 percent white and Asian. Let’s dig into that for a second. First, apparently Asian doesn’t count as diverse. And then “white”: When you actually go in these companies, what you find is it’s American people, but it’s also Russians, and Eastern Europeans, and French, and German, and British. And then there are the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Indonesians, and Vietnamese. All these different countries, all these different cultures. To believe in a systematic pattern of discrimination, you’d have to believe that we’re discriminatory toward certain people without being discriminatory at all toward an extremely broad range of ethnicities and religions. Because of Pakistanis, we’re seeing a higher-than-ever proportion of Muslim employees in a lot of our companies.

No. 2, our companies are desperate for talent. Desperate. Our companies are dying for talent. They’re like lying on the beach gasping because they can’t get enough talented people in for these jobs. The motivation to go find talent wherever it is is unbelievably high.

He is also spot on about online education.

Hat tip: Newmark’s Door.

Somsook Boonyabancha

by on November 18, 2014 at 3:13 am in Economics, Law | Permalink

She has a new idea:

Somsook is developing the methodology for “land-sharing”, an urban land use innovation built around a mutually beneficial deal between urban squatters and the owner of the land who wishes to develop for commercial purposes. The slum dwellers get new, better, if more dense housing on a back portion of the plot in dispute, and the owner gets the street-front portion freed for immediate development. Everyone wins. The slum dwellers get more than quality housing at agreed affordable cost and they become legal and secure. They also emerge, in Somsook’s way of orchestrating such deals, organized and able not only to negotiate but to go on and deal with other problems.

The owners and developers rescue most of the value of their investment opportunity, which otherwise very probably would remain mired in a limitless quicksand of politicized conflict. Such conflict produces only costs and is painfully un-Thai. Somsook’s win-win land-sharing deals also helps the cities: ending the stalemate which has been immobilizing important properties facilitates more rational, efficient urban development.

That is from this Ashoka site, there is a video here, there is an interview here.  For the pointer I thank Janet B.

Here is one version of the latest report, here is another.  People, don’t be surprised by this bad news.  Unemployment in Japan already had fallen to about three and a half percent.  So how much of a miracle could Abenomics accomplish in the first place?  Not much, not even for committed Keynesians.  Commentators have grown to expect so much of the Phillips curve these days, but still a mechanism for the output boost is required and the Phillips curve (at best) holds only in some contexts.  Japan simply hasn’t had that many laborers to put back to work.  Getting more women in the workforce, as Abe has tried to do, is a positive development, but that is not mainly about macro policy nor is it mainly about the short run.

Some of you might be thinking “well, won’t inflation cause some kind of output rise, if only by stimulating demand?”  People, there is still no mechanism specified in that sentence.  And you may recall, the 1970s and early 80s saw the rise of a bunch of “monetary misperceptions” theories, often stemming from the work of Bob Lucas, postulating something to that effect.  It was the Keynesians who slapped them down on both empirical and theoretical grounds, as intertemporal elasticities of substitution are simply not high enough to support this as a major channel of output determination.  There has been no reason since then to think those theories deserve to make a major comeback.

Here is Scott Sumner on Japan, here is Megan McArdle on Japan, and here is Edward Hugh on Japan.

I noticed a comment by Alen Mattich on Twitter:

If a mere 3 percentage point increase in taxes kills Japan’s economy, got to wonder about how that 230% of GDP debt will ever be resolved.

I’m not sure 230% is the best number there, but still that is the question of the day.  With the continuing circulation of what I call “the Venceremos mentality,” the limits of economic policy remain underappreciated, and the recent news from Japan should provide a sobering lesson for us all.

Asaf Zussman has a 2013 Economic Journal paper on this topic (pdf, gated), here is the abstract:

Using a combination of randomised field experiments, follow-up telephone surveys and other data collection efforts, this article studies the extent and the sources of ethnic discrimination in the Israeli online market for used cars.  We find robust evidence of discrimination against Arab buyers and sellers which, the analysis suggests, is motivated by “statistical” rather than “taste” considerations.  We additionall find the Arab sellers manipulate their identity in the market by leaving the name field in their advertisements blank.

That abstract could be more informative, here are some concrete results from the paper, noting that market participants do not wish to start a transaction which will then later end up cancelled:

1. Both questionnaire answers and market behavior show discrimination towards Arabs.

2. “The overall [seller] response rate to emails is 22% higher for the Jewish than for the Arab buyer.”

3. An Arab buyer offering a car’s posted price receives the same amount of response as a Jewish buyer requesting a 5-10% discount off the posted price.

4. Based on questionnaires, unfavorable attitudes towards Arabs are positively correlated with Jewish religiosity and negatively correlated with education.

5. Jewish questionnaire responses are correlated with actual marketplace discrimination against Arab transactors.  This concordance of words and action is by no means always the case in other studies of discrimination.

6. Arab buyers discriminate against sellers from their own ethnic group, although not as much as Jews discriminate against Arab sellers.

7. The share of used car advertisements without seller name is 10.8% for Jewish sellers, 29.5% for Arab sellers, and 16.7% for sellers with “shared” names.

You will find ungated versions here, and for the pointer I thank Ben Southwood.

D.C. police have made plans for millions of dollars in anticipated proceeds from future civil seizures of cash and property, even though federal guidelines say “agencies may not commit” to such spending in advance, documents show.

The city’s proposed budget and financial plan for fiscal 2015 includes about $2.7 million for the District police department’s “special purpose fund” through 2018. The fund covers payments for informants and rewards.

As to how the underlying incentives work, this will refresh your memory:

Civil forfeiture laws permit local and state police to take cash, cars, homes and other property from people suspected of involvement in drug trafficking or other wrongdoing without proving a crime has occurred. Police can make seizures under state or federal laws.

Since 2009, D.C. officers have made more than 12,000 seizures under city and federal laws, according to records and data obtained from the city by The Washington Post through the District’s open records law. Half of the more than $5.5 million in cash seizures were for $141 or less, with more than a thousand for less than $20. D.C. police have seized more than 1,000 cars, some for minor offenses allegedly committed by the children or friends of the vehicle owners, documents show.

When D.C. police seize cash or property under District law, the proceeds go into the city’s general fund. But proceeds of seizures made under federal law go directly to the police department through the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which allows local departments to join with federal agencies in forfeitures and keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds.

That is all from Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Steve Rich, another installment in their pathbreaking series, scroll down to the bottom of the page for links to the rest.

Smart phones and child injuries

by on November 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm in Economics, Web/Tech | Permalink

Looking at your smart phone may in fact be more interesting than watching your small child, at the margin at least.  It seems that some child injuries may be going up for this reason.  Here is a new paper (pdf) by Craig Palsson at Yale:

From 2005 to 2012, injuries to children under fi ve increased by 10%. Using the expansion of ATT’s 3G network, I find that smartphone adoption has a causal impact on child injuries. This eff ect is strongest amongst children ages 0-5, but not children ages 6-10, and in activities where parental supervision matters. I put this forward as indirect evidence that this increase is due to parents being distracted while supervising.

Here is Palsson’s other work, I hope he sends me a copy of his Haiti research once it is available.

An old piece of mine from the early 1990s now seems to have come on line, the introduction to the piece is this:

Although non-Paretian approaches to welfare economics receive considerable attention outside of mainstream economics, they have not received much critical scrutiny. Non-Paretian welfare frameworks, while not necessarily wrong in their present form, are seriously incomplete. I will discuss whether a non-Paretian welfare economics can avoid collapsing into Paretianism, and still serve as a promising model for policy analysis. I warn the reader in advance that no definitive conclusions will be offered.

The pointer is from Adam Gurri, who also thanks Eric Crampton.

Since its adolescence more than four decades ago, the New York Philharmonic’s home at Lincoln Center has been known as Avery Fisher Hall. Now, as the orchestra prepares for a major renovation expected to cost more than $500 million, the Fisher family has agreed to relinquish the name, so the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center can lure a large donor with the promise of rechristening the building.

…Lincoln Center is essentially paying the family $15 million for permission to drop the name and has included several other inducements, like a promise to feature prominent tributes to Avery Fisher in the lobby of the renovated concert hall.

While the ability to raise money through naming opportunities has become a staple tool for arts organizations, perhaps no event speaks louder to its utility as a fund-raising mechanism than Lincoln Center’s willingness to pay a veteran donor to step away so it can court a new benefactor in his stead.

The full story is here.

We have some new results, from Maria Victoria Anauati, Sebastian Galiani, and Ramiro H. Gálvez, all consistent with my prior intuitions:

Does the life cycle of economic papers differ across fields of economic research? By constructing and analyzing a large dataset that combines information on 9,672 articles published in the top five economic journals from 1970 to 2000 with detailed yearly citation data obtained from Google Scholar, we find that published articles do have a life cycle that differs across fields of economic research (which we divide into the categories of applied research, applied theory, econometrics methods and theory). Applied research and applied theory papers are the clear winners in terms of citation counts. For the first years after their publication, they receive higher numbers of citations per year than papers in other fields of research do. They also reach a higher peak number of citations per year and apparently sustain those peak levels for longer, in addition to being cited over longer periods of time (i.e., they have a longer lifespan). Citation patterns are much less favorable for theoretical papers, which are the object of fewer citations per annum in the first years following publication, have lower peak numbers and a shorter lifespan. Econometric method papers are a special case; the pattern for most of these papers is similar to the pattern for theory papers, but the most successful papers (as measured by the number of citations) on econometric methods are also the most successful papers in the entire discipline of economics.

The SSRN paper is here.  And via Ben Southwood, here is an interesting new paper on how citation success usually pops up early in the life of a paper: “…citations in the first two years after publication explain more than half of the variation in cumulative citations received over a longer period.”

How can Scandinavians tax so much?

by on November 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm in Economics, Law | Permalink

Henrik Jacobsen Kleven has a new JEP piece on that question., here is one short excerpt:

…these countries also spend relatively large amounts on the public provision and subsidization of goods that are complementary to working, including child care, elderly care, and transportation. Such policies represent subsidies to the costs of market work, which encourage labor supply and make taxes less distortionary…Furthermore, Scandinavian countries spend heavily on education, which is complementary to long-run labor supply and potentially offsets some of the distortionary effects of taxation…

The paper makes numerous other good points.

By Besley and Persson, here is a related JEP piece on why developing economies tax so little.  And here is a recent piece on whether Sweden can become a fully cashless society.  By the way, the full issue of JEP is here.