Grant, a former Auburn University sorority girl, founded Rushbiddies in 2009 after helping see her own daughter through a successful recruitment week at Auburn. She now works with girls, and usually also their moms, in private consultations in person or over the phone (prices start at $100 for a 90 minute session) and through group workshops, covering everything from what to wear to what to say. She’ll also suggest who to ask for recommendations and how to get in if your GPA is under 3.0—essentially preparing girls for every scenario, question, dress code requirement, and trap that will come up.

That is by Alyssa Giacobbe.

Via Ben Schmidt, the term becomes common only in the 1970s:

I’d like to see a detailed look at actual journal practices, but my personal sense is that editorial review was the norm until fairly recently, not review by a team of outside referees.  In 1956, for instance, the American Historical Review asked for only one submission copy, and it seems the same was true as late as 1970.  I doubt they made the photocopies themselves. Schmidt seems to suggest that the practices of government funders nudged the academic professions into more formal peer review with multiple referee reports.

Further research is needed (how about we ask some really old people?), at least if peer review decides it is worthy of publication.  Frankly I suspect such work would stand a better chance under editorial review.

In the meantime, here is a tweet from the I didn’t know she was on Twitter Judy Chevalier:

I have just produced a 28-page “responses to reviewer and editor questions” for a 39-page paper.

I’d rather have another paper from Judy.

By the way, scientific papers are getting less readable.

The education culture that is China

by on September 15, 2017 at 1:46 am in Education, Web/Tech | Permalink

Students at a major university in Beijing are now required to scan their faces upon entering dormitory buildings, a process that may soon make security guards obsolete.

Beijing Normal University has installed 44 facial scanners on its 19 dormitory buildings, for the 18,000 students on campus.

It is the boldest move taken by a Chinese university so far to apply advanced digital technologies in campus management and has drawn attention from administrators at other universities.

The machines have been placed at all entrances to dorm buildings. Students entering the building will have to pause and look at the sensor for a few seconds. They are then required to swipe their campus ID card. If the face and card match, the machine will open the gate and say “welcome home.”

The machines also come with voice recognition. Students who forget to bring their ID cards can scan their face and say the last four digits of their card number, said Yang Hailiang, general manager of Beijing Peace and Joy Technology, which produces the machines.

The system can recognize 26 Chinese dialects and has achieved an accuracy rate of 98 percent, Yang said.

Here is the full article.

Here are the Teaching Company courses that I feel I have benefited most from:

Rufus J. Fears, Famous Greeks

Rufus J. Fears, Famous Romans

Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament

Seth Lerer, The History of the English Language

Andrew C. Fix, The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations

Brad S. Gregory, The History of Christianity in the Reformation Era

Robert Bucholz, The History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts

Dale Hoak, The Age of Henry VIII

Peter C. Mancall, Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution

Thomas L. Pangle, The Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution

Patrick N. Allitt, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire

Patrick N. Allitt, The Conservative Tradition

Frederick Gregory, The Darwinian Revolution

Which do you all recommend?  Here is a Quora forum on the same issue.

There is now another paper on this theme by Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones, John Van Reenen, and Michael Webb, abstract:

In many growth models, economic growth arises from people creating ideas, and the long-run growth rate is the product of two terms: the effective number of researchers and their research productivity. We present a wide range of evidence from various industries, products, and firms showing that research effort is rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply. A good example is Moore’s Law. The number of researchers required today to achieve the famous doubling every two years of the density of computer chips is more than 18 times larger than the number required in the early 1970s. Across a broad range of case studies at various levels of (dis)aggregation, we find that ideas — and in particular the exponential growth they imply — are getting harder and harder to find. Exponential growth results from the large increases in research effort that offset its declining productivity.

Here is the NBER link.

In a new NBER working paper David Card and Abigail Payne have a stunning new explanation of the gender gap in STEM at universities. The conventional wisdom is that the gender gap is about women and the forces–discrimination, sexism, parenting, aptitudes, choices; take your pick–that make women less likely to study in STEM fields. Card and Payne are saying that the great bulk of the gap is actually about men and their problems. At least that is my interpretation of their results, the authors, to my mind, don’t clearly state just how much their results run against the conventional wisdom. (Have I misunderstood their paper? We shall see.)

The authors are using a large data set on Canadian high school students that includes data on grade 12 (level 4) high school classes and grades and initial university program. Using this data, the authors find that females are STEM ready:

…At the end of high school, females have nearly the same overall rate of STEM readiness as males, and
slightly higher average grades in the prerequisite math and science courses.  The mix of STEM related courses taken by men and women is different, however, with a higher concentration of women in biology and chemistry and a lower concentration in physics and calculus.

Since females are STEM-ready when leaving high school you are probably thinking that the gender gap must be a result either of different entry choices conditional on STEM-readiness or different attrition rates. No. Card and Payne say that entry rates and attrition rates are similar for males and females. So what explains why males are more likely to take a STEM degree than females?

The main driver of the gender gap is the fact that many more females (44%) than males (32%) enter university.  Simply assuming that non‐STEM ready females had the same university entry rate as non‐STEM ready males would
narrow the gender gap in the fraction of university entrants who are STEM ready from 14
percentage points to less than 2 percentage points.


On average, females have about the same average grades in UP (“University Preparation”, AT) math and sciences courses as males, but higher grades in English/French and other qualifying courses that count toward the top 6 scores that determine their university rankings. This comparative advantage explains a substantial share of the gender difference in the probability of pursing a STEM major, conditional on being STEM ready at the end of high school.

Put (too) simply the only men who are good enough to get into university are men who are good at STEM. Women are good enough to get into non-STEM and STEM fields. Thus, among university students, women dominate in the non-STEM fields and men survive in the STEM fields. (The former is mathematically certain while the latter is true only given current absolute numbers of male students. If fewer men went to college, women would dominate both fields). I don’t know whether this story will hold up but one attractive feature, as a theory, is that it is consistent with the worrying exit from the labor market of men at the bottom.

If we accept these results, the gender gap industry is focused on the wrong thing. The real gender gap is that men are having trouble competing everywhere except in STEM.

Hat tip: Scott Cunningham.

Parenting by Panopticon?

by on September 11, 2017 at 11:29 am in Education, Web/Tech | Permalink

The cameras record the families’ lives — conversations, arguments, every interaction. If something is amiss, Cognition Builders can provide instant direction on how to remedy the situation, either verbally through a microphone in the camera or by sending a text to the parent.

Jessica Yuppa, Cognition Builders’ director of curricula and assistant clinical director, said the Nest Cams give CB an “unfiltered look” at what goes on inside the home. “Families think they know about themselves, but they don’t. Cameras give us a beat-for-beat of interactions. If a parent is struggling to communicate with a child, for example, we can watch a conversation and say, ‘Okay, why do you think he looked away when you said this?’” Yuppa said it doesn’t take long for families to adapt to the scrutiny. “My experience is the self-consciousness goes away very quickly,” she said. “People live their lives and forget we’re there.”

…A new rule was thus established. When an adult comes into the room and says hello to one of the children, the child stops what he or she is doing, looks the adult in the eye, shakes his or her hand, returns the greeting, and asks the adult how he or she is doing. This became the new expectation. If any member of the household failed to meet this expectation, he would receive a strike.

…At the end of each day, Elizabeth and Jason would receive a detailed, many-paged report on everything the family architects had observed.

Here is the article by Kim Brooks.  Yikes!  Read the last paragraph.

Designing electronic marketplaces will be the focus of a new degree to be offered jointly by MIT’s economics and computer science departments.

“This area is super-hot commercially,” says David Autor, the Ford Professor of Economics and associate head of the Department of Economics. “Hiring economists has become really prominent at tech companies because they’re filling market-design positions.”

Because these companies need analysts who can decide which objectives to maximize, what information and choices to offer, what rules to set, and so on, “companies are really looking for this skill set,” he says.

UBER, Airbnb and Amazon are familiar marketplaces that need computer scientist cum economist designers and online worlds like EveOnline join multiple marketplaces into entire economies.

I’d also note that an increasing number of marketplaces will need to be designed not for people but for non-human traders–this will create entirely new challenges.

That is the question behind my latest Bloomberg column, and basically the answer is yes.  Schools could scale up, using legacy admissions as a further source of finance.  But why don’t they?:

So why don’t top schools do more to expand their reach? No one doubts that they could find many more qualified students to admit. But there are two problems, both of which we should be willing to live with. First, expanding the size of top schools would lower faculty standards on the research side. That said, teaching quality is unlikely to suffer, as Harvard doesn’t select for the very best teachers. In any case, Harvard’s best researchers could continue their highly productive efforts without missing a beat. Second, administrators would face headaches and potential reputational liabilities from the new initiatives. But that is true in any kind of startup endeavor, and it isn’t a reason to remain stuck in the past.

The actual constraint on how big top schools could grow is how many eligible donors they can find and cultivate, if only through admitting their children. One question is how many such donors there are period, but in an age of high income inequality it seems America’s top schools have hardly tapped out this pool. Legacies make up a sixth of undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania. A more unfortunate reality is that some donors might limit their support if say Princeton offered them and their children a less tony and exclusive experience. If that attitude can be overcome, America’s top schools could grow a great deal larger and more diverse.

Do read the whole thing.

The untapped math skills of working children in India: Evidence, possible explanations, and implications (with A. V. Banerjee, S. Bhattacharjee & R. Chattopadhyay)

It has been widely documented that many children in India lack basic arithmetic skills, as measured by their capacity to solve subtraction and division problems. We surveyed children working in informal markets in Kolkata, West Bengal, and confirmed that most were unable to solve arithmetic problems as typically presented in school. However, we also found that they were able to perform similar operations when framed as market transactions. This discrepancy was not explained by children’s ability to memorize prices and quantities in market transactions, assistance from others at their shops, reliance on calculation aids, or reading and writing skills. In fact, many children could solve hypothetical transactions of goods that they did not sell. Our results suggest that these children have arithmetic skills that are untapped by the school system.

Latest manuscript

Online appendix

Sourced here.

And then, [James] Buchanan offers a brief comment on his views on education and school vouchers. Critically, he voices reservations about the introduction of vouchers. Why? Because, as he writes, he is concerned “somehow, to avoid the evils of race-class-cultural segregation that an unregulated voucher scheme might introduce.” Buchanan then goes on to express support for introducing competition in the provision of education, but notes that this should be done in a way that serves “at the same time, to secure the potential benefits of commonly shared experiences, including exposure to other races, classes, and cultures.” In short, though brief, Buchanan’s letter eloquently expresses a vision of education that champions the value of diversity, explicitly condemns “the evils of race-class-cultural segregation,” and notes his reservations about school vouchers if they threaten these values.

That is from Georg Vanberg, and this is fully consistent with the twenty or so years I had of frank conversations with the man.  Here is the letter itself (pdf).

I suspect most of you have followed (to varying degrees) the recent controversies over gender hostility in economics.  What I find striking is that hardly anyone has mentioned the movement known as “Feminist economics.”  And yes that is a formal thing, here is Wikipedia on “Feminist economics”:

Feminist economics is the critical study of economics including its methodology, epistemology, history and empirical research, attempting to overcome androcentric (male and patriarchal) biases. It focuses on topics of particular relevance to women, such as care work or occupational segregation (exclusion of women and minorities from certain fields); deficiencies of economic models, such as disregarding intra-household bargaining; new forms of data collection and measurement such as the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), and more gender-aware theories such as the capabilities approach.[1] Feminist economics ultimately seeks to produce a more gender inclusive economics.

There is much more to a very long, thoughtful, and well-documented entry, and feminist economics has been a recognized field or subfield since at least the early 1990s.  There is an entire refereed journal called…Feminist Economics.  There is a significant International Association for Feminist Economics.

Obviously “feminist economics” is a diverse area, but frequently I have seen the claim made that the very nature of economics keeps out women.  It is claimed there is too much emphasis on male modes of production, and sometimes also “male ways of thinking,” and thus economics must itself first reform before it has any chance at achieving gender parity.  There is also a common tendency to criticize Becker’s and other neoclassical theories of the family for reflecting so many implicit, underlying “male” assumptions about how families work or are supposed to work.

So yes, there is plenty awareness of overt discrimination, but writers coming from this approach see a lot of the problems as quite structural, and embedded in how economics is done.  It’s not only the attitudes of some of the male jerks.

Now you may or may not agree, or also you might feel uncomfortable with some of the levels of generalization you find in talk of “male ways of [xxxx].”  Still, many of those in Feminist economics see the structural point as very important.

It is striking to me that most of the major contributors to Feminist economics are women.  And from what I can tell, virtually all of you are ignoring them, even though we have been debating their main issue for weeks now, and they have been at this for decades.

Perhaps you are unaware of them.  The only very recent coverage I have seen is this Edwin Hadas piece, but still it doesn’t mention “Feminist economics” by name.  Here is a short, good Economist piece by S.K. (Soumaya Keynes?)  from March 2016.

The biases run deeper than you think, and they’re not just about gender discrimination.  We’ve set up a profession with super-high entry barriers for clearing the “this deserves my attention” hurdle (“top journals,” “top schools,” you can go on down the list), and then we’re befuddled when there is so much other collateral damage along the way.

Jakob B. Madsen and Fabrice Murtin have a newly published paper on this topic:

This paper constructs an original database on physical capital, labor, education, GDP, innovations, technology spillovers, and institutions to analyze the proximate determinants of British economic growth since 1270. Several approaches are taken in the paper to tackle endogeneity. We show that education has been the most important driver of income growth during the period 1270–2010, followed by knowledge stock and fixed capital, while institutions have not been robust determinants of growth. The contribution of education has been equally important before and after the first Industrial Revolution. Overall, the results give strong support to the predictions of Unified Growth Theories.

I would note two things.  First, the growth equations do at some points rely on long and (possibly arbitrary?) lags.  Second, often literacy is proxying for education, so this is more a paper about the origins of growth and the role of science, and less a study of whether formal education is about signaling or actual learning.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

This is from the 28 August 2017 Bloomberg Businessweek:

Salaries and wages: $1.8 billion

Services purchased (catering, security, etc.): $583 million

Benefits: $530 million, roughly equal to the revenue from graduate programs

Depreciation: $338 million

Real estate (leases, utilities, etc.): $345 million

Other (subcontractors, publishing): $323 million

Supplies and equipment run $257m, scholarships $142m, and interest on the debt $235m, with travel expenses, advertising, and postage at smaller amounts.

Total operating costs are $4.7 billion, with undergraduate tuition covering 6.4 percent of that, graduate tuition covering 11.2 percent.

That is from Kyle Stock, I cannot find it on-line.  (I am a biased source, but do note that the new, gated version of Bloomberg Businessweek is consistently excellent.)  One of the difficulties with scaling up, of course, is that Harvard cannot always so easily scale the quality and resources of its donors.  “Harvard as we know it” may be as large as the current set of donors can support.  And “Harvard as we know it” likes…”Harvard as we know it,” not some other Harvard.

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

If you could directly alter your kids’ genetic profile, what would you want? It’s hard to know how the social debate would turn out after years of back and forth, but I was dismayed to read one recent research paper by psychologists Rachel M. Latham and Sophie von Stumm. The descriptive title of that work, based on survey evidence, is “Mothers want extraversion over conscientiousness or intelligence for their children.” Upon reflection, maybe that isn’t so surprising, because parents presumably want children who are fun to spend time with.

Would a more extroverted human race be desirable, all things considered? I genuinely don’t know, but at the very least I am concerned. The current mix of human personalities and institutions is a delicate balance which, for all of its flaws, has allowed society to survive and progress. I’m not looking to make a big roll of the dice on this one.

It’s also not difficult to imagine parents wanting children who are relatively well-behaved. The same research paper found that mothers, after extroversion, preferred the trait of “agreeableness” in their children, again over both intelligence and conscientiousness.

I was struck by a recent Chinese report that some parents are asking for children who are able to drink socially, for business purposes, and thus trying to avoid some genes that make it difficult to process alcohol. Caveat emptor.

Best sentence: “I don’t trust people to take so much control over the future of human nature.”