Education

We are running a contest for MRU, and the goal is to figure out how economists ought to be put on cereal boxes.  Imagine that a famous economist would in fact be represented by a cereal and a cereal box.  For example there would be:

Thomas Piketty, Special K

Another possibility would be tweaking the cereal name slightly, so you would get:

Hyman Minsky, Captain Liquidity Crunch

Or:

John Bates Clark, Marginal Product 19

You could try:

Eugene Fama, Lucky Charms, though perhaps that is too subtle for some.

The winner of the contest gets…his or her suggestion actually realized.  Please enter your suggestions, and vote on the suggestions of others, here.  Or if you don’t want to enter the contest per se, there is always the MR comments section…

…cetacean brain size, relative to body size, increased substantially about thirty-eight mill years ago when the odontocetes evolved from the ancient archaeocetes…

What drove these changes? It does not seem to have been the transition to an aquatic existence itself as that occurred about fifty-five million years ago and brains stayed at roughly the same relatively small size relative to body weigt as the archaeocetes made their gradual entry into the ocean.  A better hypothesis is that the increased brain size of the odontocetes thirty-eight million years ago was driven by the evolution of echolocation.  The early odontocetes had inner ear bones that were good at picking up high frequency sound, which suggests that they had developed a form of sonar.  Lori Marino thinks “that echolocation came on line and then got co-opted for social communicative purposes.”  In this scenario, the odontocete brains increased in relative size to deal with the acoustic information itself, as well as, perhaps, a new perceptual system based on the data from the returning echoes.  But…the change may have been even more profound: “This may indicate that the large brains of early odontocetes were used, at least partly, for processing this entirely new sensory mode [echolocation] that evolved at the same time as these anatomical changes and perhaps for integrating this new mode into an increasingly complex behavioral ecological system.”

That is from the new and notable The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, previously covered on MR here.  And here is my earlier post on the economics of dolphins.

Human-dolphin fishing cooperatives

by on November 21, 2014 at 2:37 am in Books, Education, Science | Permalink

1. They have been reported to exist in Australia, India, Mauritania, Burma, and the Mediterranean, but the best known are in Brazil.

2. In parts of southern Brazil, human fisherman have been cooperating with dolphins for many generations (of each species).

3. If fishermen clap just the right way, dolphins will herd fish into the desired areas of fishermen, in muddy lagoon areas.

4. The dolphins perform a distinctive kind of dive to signal to the humans it is time to cast the net for the fish.

5. Only some individual dolphins are able (willing?) to do this well, perhaps the others belong to the forty-seven percent.

5b. The dolphins which cooperate with the fisherman are also more social, more socially connected, and more cooperative with other dolphins.

6. The Brazilian fishermen name the star cooperating dolphins after ex-presidents, soccer players, and Hollywood stars.

7. The names aside, it is not clear whether dolphins benefit from offering this assistance; some commentators suggest the dolphins end up with isolated or injured fish from these exercises.

Here is one blog post report on these practices.  Here is one piece of the original research.  I stumbled upon this while reading the new and excellent Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, a new book from University of Chicago Press.

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?

2015 Law and Literature reading list

by on November 18, 2014 at 1:26 am in Books, Education, Film, Law | Permalink

The New English Bible, Oxford Study Edition

The Law Code of Manu, Penguin edition

Njal’s Saga (on-line version is fine)

Lawyer Poets and that World Which We Call Law, edited by James Elkins

Glaspell’s Trifles, available on-line.

The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories, by Franz Kafka, edited and translated by Joachim Neugroschel.

In the Belly of the Beast, by Jack Henry Abbott.

Conrad Black, A Matter of Principle.

Sherlock Holmes, The Complete Novels and Stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, volume 1.

I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov.

Moby Dick, by Hermann Melville, excerpts, chapters 89 and 90, available on-line.

Year’s Best SF 9, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer.

Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman.

The Pledge, Friedrich Durrenmatt.

E.M. Forster, A Passage to India.

Haruki Murakami, Underground.

Honore de Balzac, Colonel Chabert.

Toer, Pramoedya Ananta, House of Glass.

M.E. Thomas, Confessions of a Sociopath.

Films: A Separation, Memories of Murder, other.

Podcast: Serial

If you are eligible (economics graduate students have taken it in the past), do take my class, I am very happy to have you there.

Is the economics job market worth it?

by on November 12, 2014 at 2:41 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

There is a new NBER paper on this topic by McFall, Murray-Close, Willis, and Chen, gated copy here.  Here are some key takeaways from the paper:

1. One-third of the job candidates in the sample were women.

2. More than one quarter of all job candidates on the market come from top ten institutions, which tend to have the largest Ph.d. programs.

3. 28 percent of new job candidates enter the market with some kind of publication.  The average candidate has served as primary instructor for one or two courses, plus as teaching assistant for more than three courses.

4. The five most frequently listed fields are labor economics, macro, IO, applied micro, and econometrics, each listed by 21-23% of the candidates.

5. 72% of the people on the market express a preference for jobs as assistant professor.

6. More than eighty percent of the job candidates “expected to place in the top half of the distribution for their graduate department.”

7. Although there is overoptimism, in terms of relative rank candidates have a decent idea of where they will end up.

8. Job candidates receive three offers on average (noting that only half of the candidates in the total pool responded, so there may be bias.  Three strikes me as a little high on average).

9. Number of publications predicts higher yield in terms of job offers, whereas gender, undergraduate school, having a Ph.d. from the U.S., and teaching experience have only weak predictive power.

10. As a candidate progresses through the process of interview, flyout, and the like, unobservable characteristics matter more and more for predicting outcomes.  This is consistent with the view that the process itself yields information, though whether that information is ultimately accurate as a predictor of success remains an open question.

11. Approximately 92% of candidates ended up with a job (!).

12. More than two-thirds of the candidates are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their final results.

13. The average base salary for accepted jobs is $93,000.  The median base salary is $88,600.

14. The paper has many other results of interest.  As Bryan Caplan has previously observed, being an economist is a great life and a great career — do it!

African immigrant fact of the day

by on November 11, 2014 at 2:33 am in Data Source, Education | Permalink

That’s African immigrants to the United States, here is the fact:

In 2009, 41.7 percent of African-born adults age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 28.1 percent of native-born adults and 26.8 percent of all foreign-born adults.

The source is here, further information about African immigrants is here.  They speak good English at very high rates — close to three-quarters — and they are more likely than other immigrants to be participating in the labor force.  And their importance is rising:

Though African immigrants represented only 0.4 percent of all foreign born in 1960, this share grew to 1.4 percent in 1980, to 1.8 percent in 1990, and to 2.8 percent in 2000…

There is also this:

People born in the U.S. were roughly four times as likely to report engaging in violent behavior than immigrants from Asia and Africa…

The future of immigration to America is likely African, some south Asian, and Chinese, with Latinos continuing to have a presence as well.

Catherine Weinberger of UCSB has a new paper out with that title in the Review of Economics and Statistics, and it echoes some of the themes I discussed in Average is Over.  Here is the abstract:

Data linking 1972 and 1992 adolescent skill endowments to adult outcomes reveal increasing complementarity between cognitive and social skills. In fact, previously noted growth in demand for cognitive skills affected only individuals with strong endowments of both social and cognitive skills. These findings are corroborated using Census and CPS data matched with Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) job task measures; employment in and earnings premiums to occupations requiring high levels of both cognitive and social skill grew substantially compared with occupations that require only one or neither type of skill, and this emerging feature of the labor market has persisted into the new millennium.

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

It is hard to know what to say — Gordon was a colleague of ours for many years and we all were very fond of him.  He was one of the most creative thinkers of his time.  His contributions include not just the seminal chapters of Calculus of Consent, but a wide range of ideas ranging from law and economics to monetary theory to the economics of insect societies.  Many of Gordon’s best ideas remain somewhat unmined, such as his analyses of jury trials, or his question why there is so little money in politics, relative to what is at stake.  Almost everything Gordon wrote was worth reading and he was also a wonderful critic of the work of others.  He knew a remarkable amount about history, including Chinese history, and was one of the quickest people I ever have met.  Just about everyone has his or her favorite Gordon Tullock story.  Gordon, by the way, took only one class in economics in his life, from Henry Simons, he was otherwise entirely self-taught.

Daniel Schneider, Kristen Harknett, and Sara McLanahan have been working on this topic.  The result is not surprising, but nonetheless worthy of note:

In the United States, the Great Recession has been marked by severe negative shocks to market conditions. In this study, we combine longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study with Bureau of Labor Statistics data on local area unemployment rates to examine the relationship between adverse labor market conditions and intimate partner violence between 1999 and 2010. We find that rapidly worsening labor market conditions are associated with the prevalence of violent controlling behavior in marriage. These effects are most pronounced among whites and those with at least some secondary education. [emphasis added]  Worsening economic conditions significantly increase the risk that white mothers and more educated mothers will be in violent/controlling marriages rather than high quality marital unions.

The working paper is here (pdf).

There is a new NBER paper by Patrick L. Baude, Marcus Casey, Eric A. Hanushek, and Steven G. Rivkin, the abstract is no surprise but it is nice to see common sense intuition confirmed:

Studies of the charter school sector typically focus on head-to-head comparisons of charter and traditional schools at a point in time, but the expansion of parental choice and relaxation of constraints on school operations is unlikely to raise school quality overnight. Rather, the success of the reform depends in large part on whether parental choices induce improvements in the charter sector. We study quality changes among Texas charter schools between 2001 and 2011. Our results suggest that the charter sector was initially characterized by schools whose quality was highly variable and, on average, less effective than traditional public schools. However, exits from the sector, improvement of existing charter schools, and positive selection of charter management organizations that open additional schools raised average charter school effectiveness over time relative to traditional public schools. Moreover, the evidence is consistent with the belief that a reduction in student turnover as the sector matures, expansion of the share of charters that adhere to a No Excuses philosophy, and increasingly positive student selection at the times of both entry and reenrollment all contribute to the improvement of the charter sector.

There are ungated copies here.

A new paper (pdf) by Benjamin A. Brooks, Karla Hoff, Priyanka Pandey runs at least one set of tests suggesting the answer is yes:

In an experiment in India, high-caste and low-caste men repeatedly played the Stag Hunt coordination game. This game has two equilibria, only one of which is efficient. Compared to low-caste men, high-caste men were significantly less likely to coordinate on the efficient equilibrium, and they were also 29 percentage points less likely to keep trying for efficient coordination after getting the “loser’s payoff”—the payoff to a player who attempts efficient coordination when his partner does not. We explain both findings in a model of learning where high-caste, but not low-caste men, see the loser’s payoff as an insult rather than an accident. These findings provide evidence that cultural construals can impede efficient coordination, which is a key component of economic development.

I find the distinction here between “low payoffs as insult” and “low payoffs as accident” to be especially interesting and in the broader literature underexplored.

Sendhil Mullainathan writes:

…we compared the polarization of 19- and 20-year-olds in an election year. Both age groups were eligible to vote, but only the 20-year-olds were able to vote in the previous election — and thus had a chance to formally commit themselves to candidates and ideologies.

We found that the 20-year-olds held stronger and more uniform views than the 19-year-olds. That wasn’t just a result of aging: When we looked at more age groups, we found that 18- and 19-year-olds, both of whom were ineligible to vote in the previous election, were similarly polarized; there were also no polarization differences between 20- and 21-year-olds, both of whom were able to vote previously. This and other evidence led us to conclude that exposure to the voting process more effectively committed people to a candidate or party…

A combination of neutrality and persistent voting would be ideal. But our psychologies are complicated. If they override our narrow self-interest and lead us to vote instead of free-riding, the very act of voting may make us more partisan. Sporadic voters can provide an antidote: Their previous lack of engagement may serve as a counter to partisanship.

There is a line between apathy and neutrality. People who sit out all elections provide little value to a democracy. People who sit out some elections, jumping in at crucial times, serve an important role as a reserve army of the uncommitted.

I once argued to Ashok Rao that public intellectuals and other influential persons should not vote at all for this reason.  By not voting, they will keep the quality of their influence higher.

I remember this question being debated extensively circa 2009-2011, and those who said there was a (limited) role for mismatch unemployment were mocked pretty mercilessly.  Well, Sahin, Song, Topa, and Violante have a piece in the new American Economic Review entitled “Mismatch Unemployment.”  (You can find various versions here.)  It’s pretty thorough and state of the art.  Their conclusion:? “…mismatch, across industries and three-digit occupations, explains at most one-third of the total observed increase in the unemployment rate.”  The people thrown out of work could not be matched as well as the unemployed workers of the past.

Much of the matching problem was for skilled workers, college graduates, and in the Western part of the country.  Geographical mismatch unemployment did not appear to be significant.  Now, “at most one-third” is not the main problem, but it is not small beans either.  That’s a lot of people out of work because of matching problems.

Again, the Great Recession arose from a confluence of supply and demand problems.

1. Vijayawada, India

2. Visakhapatnam, India

3. Chennai, India

4. Hyderabad, India

5. Secunderabad, India

6. Pune, India

7. Teheran, Iran

8. Bangalore, India

9. Kolkata, India

10. Dhaka, Bangladesh

For absolute numbers, Hyderabad is #1.

That is all from the new Brookings report, The Geography of Foreign Students in U.S. Higher Education, by Neil G. Ruiz.