Education

https://econjwatch.org/issues/volume-14-issue-1-january-2017

Volume 14, Issue 1, January 2017

In Memoriam (.pdf)

Government Propaganda Watch: Three investigations of economic discourse and research issued by governments and government agencies:

Classical liberal economic thought in Italy, since 1860: Alberto Mingardi contributes the 13th article of the “Classical Liberalism in Econ, by Country” series.

Econ 101 Morality: J. R. Clark and Dwight Lee tell teachers to embrace a moral purpose and to teach students where their instincts came from and why instincts often mislead.

Must moral judgment involve sympathy? Thomas Brown’s 1820 critique of Adam Smith.

Mitchell Langbert and coauthors rectify a coverage error in their study of faculty voter registration.

EJW Audio

Alberto Mingardi on Liberalism in Italy

Benny Carlson on Swedish Economists

EJW News

Professor Sir Angus Deaton joins EJW Advisory Council.

The context is the discussion of why Mafia members with college degrees earn more:

Signalling doesn’t really work IMO. Who is he signalling too? Other criminals? Customers? Why do they care? It seems if this is what it is the economy is deeply inefficient. 40% of the population needs 4 years of college to ‘signal’? So if there was some way to pick up this signal without college huge profits would await.

I suspect there’s two aspects that make college valuable:

1. Narrative creation – humans work by creating and sharing fictional narratives. College is a lot of practice at that which is a skill that carries over into business of many types.

2. Burns off immaturity. I suspect a big portion of the benefit of schooling is babysitting. It keeps kids out of the way of adults (which our economy couldn’t function otherwise…imagine if *every* day was take your kid to work day). By keeping immaturity somewhat walled off until kids grow out of it, schools prevent them from damaging their lives.

2.1 This may be somewhat related but workplaces are very, very stable. If you are changing tires at 18 there’s enough tires in the world that you can still be doing it at 59. Perhaps by starting work at a younger age, it is a bit too easy to fall into stability. School forces you to someday break things up. No matter how good you are at school you’re going to have to leave that stability upon graduation which will land you somewhere else which you’ll have to figure out. That flexibility may be more valuable than premature stability.

On this week’s Odd Lots podcast, we speak with Giovanni Mastrobuoni about the relationship between salary and educational attainment in organized crime. He’s the co-author of a paper titled “Returns to Education in Criminal Organizations: Did Going to College Help Michael Corleone?” Based on data sets from the first half of the 20th century, Mastrobuoni and his colleagues were able to show that mafia members who got more education also got paid more in the underworld.

That is from Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal.

The Power of Online Education

by on January 27, 2017 at 2:21 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

One of the best things about teaching at Marginal Revolution University is the emails that Tyler and I receive from our students all over the world. Here’s a recent email we got from Rasim Mollayev, a student in Azerbaijan.

Sir! I’m writing this from Baku, Azerbaijan. I am studying at ADA University in Baku. Due to my personal and health problems I couldn’t attend my lectures properly in previous Fall 2016 semester. I missed most of my “Principles of MicroEconomics” class.

And then I found your videos on YouTube and prepared for all my midterm and final exams with your videos and quizzes. And passed that course successfully. I just wanted to say thanks for your great help.

Cool!

The tweet subtitle they gave my latest Bloomberg column:

Reading articles from other perspectives isn’t enough.  Try writing one.

My final tag line:

We all need to worry about our own growing grumpiness.

That is a request from an MR reader.  Getting past the “because I am weird” answer, I will offer a few observations:

1. I think my view, or broadly speaking some version of it, is in fact pretty popular,though far from dominant.

2. The eating and dining of many people is geared toward socializing and also drinking.  So when I write “go where the diners look grim, not smiling and happy,” or “avoid the beautiful women and the riverfront views,” many people don’t listen.  They like beautiful women, too much perhaps, and they like being surrounded by smiling others.  I have more of a single-minded obsession on the food, at least when I am seeking food.  So you can think of my methods as a form of extreme compartmentalization and unbundling of quests.

Of course there may be other methods related to beautiful women, and yes you should hold a diverse portfolio of methods, so think of me as someone who is suspicious of “method-blending,” as instead I prefer an intertemporal substitution of methods for different goals.  The time for food is a time for food, not for pursuing some weighted average of goals summed into a mediocre total, “…and a time to every purpose under heaven.”  Call it the Ecclesiastes approach.  Ultimately this may involve preferring a certain kind of focus over indiscriminate attention-switching.

NB: This hypothesis also may imply that those who are good at intertemporal substitution may miss out on some of life’s integrative experiences, such as riding a bicycle along a bridge with the wind blowing in your hair; “intertemporal substitution” and “integration” may in some ways stand in tension, and perhaps developing a propensity for one limits our ability to engage in the other.

3. My dining methods are in fact wonderful for socializing, but only if you are with either a) the oblivious, b) those who lexically prefer food quality, or c) those who enjoy talking analytically about food.  Most of my friends fall into one of these categories, but that is not the case for most people.

San Francisco, population 865,000, has roughly the same number of dogs as children: 120,000. In many areas of the city, pet grooming shops seem more common than schools.

There is also this:

San Francisco’s public school system has around 53,000 students, a sharp drop from 90,000 in 1970.

The decline is a reflection both of families leaving the city and wealthier parents sending their children to private schools. Around 30 percent of San Francisco children attend private school, the highest rate among large American cities.

More than 10 private schools have opened in San Francisco since 2009, according to a tally by Elizabeth Weise, a journalist who writes a blog on the subject.

What percentage of those people also support the idea of further experimentation with school vouchers?  And do they require proof that private schools will raise their children’s test scores, before becoming emotionally committed to sending them there?

That is from Thomas Fuller at the NYT.  You will note that some angles in that article may require revision, here is a good comment from Medium.

TrumpSingles.com is a matchmaking site where supporters of President-elect Donald Trump can connect and possibly find love.

During an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” the site’s founder said TrumpSingles helps supporters navigate a divisive year.

“Sometimes it’s tough to date when you’re a Trump supporter, so we’re making it easier to find each other, who are like-minded and have the same political views,” said David Goss, the 35-year-old Californian who launched the site in June.

TrumpSingles, which costs $19.95 per month, had 24,000 members as of Wednesday afternoon.

Here is the link, via Brent.

From Garrett S. Christensen and Edward Miguel, from their survey of methodological problems in economic research:

Another potentially useful tool is post-publication peer review.  Formalizing post-publication peer review puts us in relatively uncharted waters.  Yet it is worth noting that all four of the AEA’s American Economic Journals allow for comments to appear on every article’s official webpage post-publication (anonymous comments are not allowed).  The feature does not appear to be widely used, but in one case…comments placed on the website have actually resulted in changes to the article between its initial online pre-publication and the final published version.

One of the biggest problems with “economics as a science” is that economists themselves cannot usually admit how irrelevant so much of the work — even the quality work — turns out to be.  I’m all for worrying about reproducibility, transparency, and the like, but sometimes I feel those micro-debates distract our attention from this bigger and broader problem and indeed help to obscure that problem.

Addendum: This website, JournalTalk, does the same thing.

That is the new and truly excellent biography of Paul Samuelson, by Roger E. Backhouse, volume I alone, which covers only up to 1948, is over 700 pp.  So far I find it gripping, here is one bit:

…he ascribed his intelligence to genetics: “I began as an out-and-out believer in heredity.  My brothers and I were smart kids.  My cousins all weighed in above the average.  He was congenitally smart and made no secret of it, at one point noting in the early 1950s he was prescribed some medication that dulled his mind, giving him for the first time insight into “how the other half lives.”

Are you up for a 14 pp. discussion of what Samuelson learned from Gottfried Haberler?  I sure am…and if you are wondering, Lawrence Klein was the first student to complete a PhD in economics at MIT.

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

At a further margin, government’s contribution to the health care, retirement and education sectors will also seem inadequate, because at such high prices a government really cannot pay for everything. A heated political debate will ensue. Progressives will argue that significant human needs are being neglected, and they will be able to point to numerous supportive anecdotes. Conservatives will argue that the fiscal path behind such policies is unsustainable, and they will be right, too. Because it will feel to voters that government isn’t doing a good job in these high-cost areas, the conservative view will get further traction. Libertarians may promote radical spending cuts, hoping for much higher productivity growth, but the government interventions are built in so thickly that that strategy could take a long time to pay off, and in the meantime it won’t look like a political winner.

All of the various sides may be correct in their major claims, but none will have a workable solution. This actually isn’t so far from where the health-care debate stands now, and where the retirement and nursing home debate is headed as America ages.

Do read the whole thing.

As a simple rule, reject any argument that asserts “my opponent X is leaving a health care need unfilled” because indeed that is always the case.  Within Obamacare, for instance, do you favor expanding the scope of the mandate at every margin?  Probably not.  The trick is to have a good argument for why yours is the Goldilocks position, not to note that those who subsidize health care less are…doing less.  There is always someone who wants to subsidize more than you do, so fight Parfit’s “war on two fronts.”

From a recent UCLA email:

Dear Colleagues:

As indicated in the attached letter from UCOP, Governor Brown signed into law AB 1887 which prohibits state-funded travel to a state that has passed a law that (1) authorizes discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, or (2) voids or repeals existing state or local protections against such discrimination. The law expressly identifies the University of California as an entity covered by the law.

As of the date of this notice, the States of Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee are on the prohibited travel list. The list of states may be updated on the Attorney General’s website found here: https://oag.ca.gov/ab1887.

Please note that the law does not prohibit travel that is paid for or reimbursed using non-state funds.

File under “Blue state overreach,” a growing dossier.  How about not discriminating against people — co-authors, conference organizers, etc. — on the basis of the states they live in and the polities which rule over them?

For the pointer I thank E.

Most estimates of the impact of parental leave entitlement on female labor market outcomes range from negligible to weakly positive. There is stronger evidence that spending on early education and childcare increases labor force participation of women and reduces gender gaps.

That is from a new NBER paper by Claudia Olivetti and Barbara Petrongolo.  A different new paper, by Hope Corman, Dhaval Dave, Ariel Kalil, and Nancy E. Reichman, offers these results:

We find that welfare reform led to reduced youth arrests for minor crimes, by 7-9 %, with similar estimates for males and females, but that it did not affect youth arrests for serious crimes. The results from this study add to the scant literature on the effects of maternal employment on adolescent behavior by exploiting a large-scale social experiment that is still in effect to this day, and provide some support for the widely-embraced argument that welfare reform would discourage undesirable social behavior, not only of mothers, but also of the next generation.

Overall I still consider Clinton-era welfare reform to be underrated.

A philosophically-minded MR reader writes to me:

Tenure ought to be an occasion to explore radically new intellectual paths, ones not pre-approved by one’s field and ones that could, perhaps, do something to bridge the chasm between academic and non-academic intellectual life–and yet as a matter of fact what seems to happen is that people either stop working altogether or continue barreling down the groove they wore themselves into to get tenure.  (You mentioned this issue in a post last year: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/06/does-tenure-encourage-risk-taking.html)  But I want to hear more.

So: why does this happen, how can we prevent it at the University/ departmental level, and, most of all, how can we prevent it at the personal level?  (Keeping in mind that most of us are not cognitively capable of processing information at the speed to go your route!)   The idea that we are incentivized to keep working by the prospect of being promoted to full Professor seems silly, given the increased administrative responsibilities.

Related problem: as one moves up the tenure hierarchy, the administrative responsibilities tend to fall disproportionately on fewer and fewer people,  b/c there are lots of deadbeats. I repeatedly see the few responsible people overwhelmed with administrative tasks which they refuse to delegate to those they know will not take them seriously.  (And I observe these responsible people are disproportionately women, even in a field–like mine–that is disproportionately male.)

I have a few suggestions, all feasible but only a few are practical:

1. All schools should copy the committee obligations policy of the school, within their quality tier, that has the fewest committee assignments for faculty.  Yes this can be done.

2. I don’t know how to operationalize this one, but on average give women half the committee assignments that men have.  That still won’t equalize the total work burden (women on average work harder per committee assignment), but it is a start.

3. Study your lecture preparation, and experiment with cutting parts of it out.  See if that matters.

4. Each year take at least one trip to a place you didn’t think you wanted to visit.

5. Go to some Liberty Fund conferences.

6. Refuse to have colleague lunches based around local politics, politics, small talk, sports (unless of the analytic variety), and campus gossip.  Just don’t do it.  Also avoid lunches with too many people attending.

7. Of the five or so smartest people you hang out with (family aside), try to ensure that no more than half of them are in your department.

8. Change the ratio of foreign-to-domestic TV shows you watch, in favor of the foreign.

9. Hang at least one piece of non-cheery art on your wall that will remind yourself of an ever-pending death.  Change its angle every now and then, or better yet change the picture, so you don’t get too used to it and stop noticing it altogether.  If need be, supplement this with Brahms’s German Requiem.

10. Write a periodic blog post, if only a secret and non-published one.  If you don’t find this process is going well, ask yourself what is wrong.

11. Worry if no one thinks you are crazy.  Supplement this with actually being crazy.

12. What else?

Bruce Caldwell emails me:

The Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University will be hosting another Summer Institute on the History of Economics this summer from June 4 – 16, 2017. The program is designed for students in graduate programs in economics, though students in graduate school in other fields as well as newly minted PhD’s will also be considered. Students will be competitively selected and successful applicants will receive free housing and reading materials. The deadline for applying is March 3. Travel stipends for those coming from afar will be considered on a case by case basis.

We are very excited about this year’s two week program, which has a somewhat different format from other years. The first week Bruce Caldwell will be the sole lecturer, and will present a mini-history of economic thought class, providing both content and tips on how to set up such a course. The second week is thematic. Steve Medema will present a history of the concept of market failure, and Kevin Hoover will present a history of macroeconomics. Applicants may sigh up for either week, or both. More information on the Summer Institute is available at our website, http://hope.econ.duke.edu/