That is the new article by Michael Rosenwald, here is an excerpt:

From 1976 to 1994, there were about 18 mass shootings per year, according to Fox’s data, which is drawn from  federal statistics. Between 1995 and 2004, a period covering the ban [on assault weapons], there were about 19 incidents per year. And from 2005 to 2011, after the ban expired, the average went up to nearly 21.

Fox makes an important point about what probably happened during the ban: Mass shooters can rather “easily” come up with “alternate means of mass casualty if that were necessary.”

In other words, if they can’t get an AR-15, they get a Glock.

Assault rifles are used in only about 27 percent of mass shootings, see Alex too.

Here is an additional piece worth reading: “common state and federal gun laws that outlaw assault weapons are unrelated to the likelihood of an assault weapon being used during a public shooting event. Moreover, results show that the use of assault weapons is not related to more victims or fatalities than other types of guns.”

There is more here.

A Washington Post review of federal campus safety data for more than 2,200 colleges that offer bachelor’s or advanced degrees found that more than 1,300 of the schools had no reports of rape on campus in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available.

Here is more from Nick Anderson.

Homicide Data by Weapon

by on June 16, 2016 at 12:06 pm in Data Source, Economics, Law | Permalink

Here is FBI homicide data by weapon for 2014:


In 2014, 248 people were killed by rifles. Rifles would include “assault weapons”. Thus, more people are killed by knives than by assault weapons. Indeed, more than twice as many people are killed by “hands, fists, feet, etc.” than by assault weapons. (Some of these numbers could change slightly with “Firearms, type not stated” although most of these are probably handguns).

The data may be uncomfortable to both left and the right. The left because banning “rifles” would obviously not save many lives even if one assumed no substitution effect towards other weapons and banning “assault weapons”, however defined, would do even less. The right because handguns are by far the primary weapon used to kill.

Remember the recent Op-Ed by Larry Summers on the difficulty of repairing bridges rapidly?  Well, this problem has a new angle:

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Staten Island, was named after an Italian explorer. There is just one problem: The man is widely known as Giovanni da Verrazzano, with two z’s.

More than a half-century after the bridge opened, some New Yorkers are calling for the spelling error to be corrected. An online petition taking up the cause has brought renewed attention to the enduring discrepancy.

“By rectifying Verrazzano’s name, we’re really saying to all Italians and Italian-Americans that we respect them and appreciate them,” said Joseph V. Scelsa, the president of the Italian American Museum in Lower Manhattan.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority does not appear eager to tackle the issue. A spokesman for the authority, Christopher McKniff, said adjusting the bridge’s name would be an expensive and labor-intensive undertaking.

“At this time, we are not considering any name change for the Verrazano Bridge,” Mr. McKniff said in a statement that hewed to the one-z spelling.

Here is the full NYT story.

With less than 1% of China’s GDP, it [Wenzhou] has accounted for nearly a tenth of bankruptcy cases nationwide over the past three years. It established one of China’s first courts dedicated to handling such cases. “Other cities hear ‘bankruptcy’ and get scared. Here, we are tasting how sweet it can be,” says Zhou Guang, who heads the Wenzhou Lawyers’ Association.

Here is the full story.

I study the effect that expanding Medicaid eligibility has on labor force participation of childless adults. The Affordable Care Act provided federal funding for states to expand public health insurance to populations that had never before been eligible for the benefit on a large scale, among those are adults without dependent children. A 2012 Supreme Court decision allowed states to choose whether or not they wanted to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility, resulting in a situation where roughly half of the population resided in states that had expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2014 and half did not. I exploit this variation by conducting a series of difference-in-differences and triple differences analyses both at a local level within one labor market, and nationwide to determine the relationship between Medicaid expansion and labor force participation. I find a significant negative relationship between Medicaid expansion and labor force participation, in which expanding Medicaid is associated with 1.5 to 3 percentage point drop in labor force participation.

That is from a Georgetown thesis by Tomas Wind, via Ben Southwood.  Given the possibility of paternalistic judgments in health care policy, the simplest question here is whether this class of individuals is better off as a whole, as a result of some of them choosing this trade-off.  Work is good for most people, and it is even better for their future selves, and their future children too.

WTF™ Citibank?

by on June 14, 2016 at 11:28 am in Economics, Law | Permalink

I had to verify this on several websites because it seemed like an April Fool’s joke but it checks out:

Citigroup Inc sued AT&T Inc on Friday, saying the phone company’s use of “thanks” and “AT&T thanks” in a new customer loyalty program infringed its trademark rights to the phrase “thankyou.”

Yes, Citi trademarked thankyou. No space! What an innovation! Now they are suing because AT&T has a similar customer loyalty program using “thanks” and “AT&T thanks”.

The IP system is out of control.

Hat tip: Mark Thorson.

This is a lengthy email from an MR reader who wishes to remain anonymous.  These are his words, not mine, everything which follows:

Back in December I asked you knew of any naive measures of  “gun murders / # of civilian guns” per country, and seeing where the US falls in this distribution.

Some time after I found this WaPo data set compiled in 2012 from the UN, Small Arms Survey, and others. (There is a “data caveat” I’ll point out after the plots below.)

Here’s what I did: dropped all data into a spreadsheet and calculated the number of homicides per 100,000 guns — simply (homicide by gun) / (total guns) * 100000. Call this “H” for simplicity.

This produces numbers in a ~0-20 range for “western countries. So “H = 2.5” –> 2.5 gun-caused homicides per 100,000 guns for the year in question (2005 I believe), by country.

Here are three very quick, ugly kernel density plots from R.

The raw data plots is pasted in the end of the email (apologies for messyness!)

The vertical lines are:  mean=green,  median=blue,  USA=red.

Total world, as a limiting case:


US is below mean and median:  US = 3.7,  mean = 91.0,   median = 6.0

EU countries (density excludes US): 

image (1)

US is just above mean, above median:  US = 3.7,  mean = 3.1,   median = 1.9

“Post-WWII westernized” countries:

image (2)

US is just above mean, above median:    US = 3.7,  mean = 3.1,   median = 1.5

The “westernized” countries were somewhat arbitrarily those with a long “westernizing” history post-WWII. Chosen quite ad-hoc and off-the-cuff; largely it means Eastern European countries were replaced by Canada, Australia, Japan, etc.

Immediate data caveat: My earlier spot-checking against the cited sources turned up a number of discrepancies, which I couldn’t quickly figure out — mostly small, some large. Eg. I recall that some EU countries saw order-of-magnitude differences when I put in “direct from source” numbers, which is worrisome. Unfortunately I never had time to examine these further (hence the delay in reply), but perhaps some enterprising undergraduate student would be interested!

The broad strokes are still interesting. Here are some quick ‘surprises’ for me:

– The US is no longer a massive outlier, although still above average for “westernized” plots.

– Japan’s H-score is much higher I expected, ~10x the number in Norway (and higher than England, Northern Ireland, Czech Republic – the later has much less strict control and lower H).

– The Netherlands came out ~6-7x higher than median (of EU/”westernized”); ~3x the US

– Taiwan seems quite high:  ~11x median of “westernized,” ~5x US.   Was not expecting this (but not sure why).

– Ireland is ~4.5x higher than Northern Ireland

– Belgium is closest to the US in the EU states, Belgium=3.9 vs US=3.7

– All surprises, perhaps all data size related:  Denmark, Netherlands, Japan, Taiwan, Ireland, Italy (higher than US, was not expecting that), Belgium, Luxembourg

There are many possible data concerns. Sample size is very important (the few data I spot-checked varied significantly over time). Measurement is almost certainly an issue, and I dread looking into differences in the definition of “homicide” for these countries. I suspect, however, that clever methods and data collection could still provide useful information about ranges of these values (an enterprising undergrad could probably make quite the impact with careful data examination/collection and some Bayesian “Locomotive Problem“-style work).

Because of data issues, I don’t think of this as “the final word” but rather an interesting first pass.

WSJ: In the 1960s the future of aviation seemed bright. In 1958 Boeing had built its first jetliner, the 707, which cruised at speeds of up to 600 mph. The Concorde came along in 1969, flying at Mach 2—more than 1,500 mph. An age of affordable supersonic flight seemed inevitable, promising U.S. coast-to-coast travel in just 90 minutes.

Today, neither the Concorde nor any other supersonic passenger jet operates. And the 707, still in limited use, remains one of the fastest commercial jets operating in the world. What happened?

Regulation happened. In 1973, shortly after Boeing abandoned the 2707, its Mach 3 government-funded competitor to the British- and French-made Concorde, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a rule banning supersonic transport over the U.S.

And why did we ban supersonic transport? It seems almost like a joke–because we were worried about noise. What would Chuck Yeager say? (He’s still alive and re-enacted his 1947 supersonic flight in 2012 at the age of 89).

Moreover, the noise scare was overblown. Incredibly, it was only after the FAA banned supersonic transport over the US that a careful study was done at Heathrow airport and that study found that the Concorde taking off and landing was only modestly louder than a regular jet. Moreover, as the study reported:

Whenever there was a Concorde departure from Heathrow, subsonic jets recorded a higher or equal noise level at the relevant fixed monitoring sites on 2 days out of 3.

The technology to produce quieter supersonic aircraft exists today but we won’t see really big investment in the industry until the outright ban on supersonic aircraft is lifted. As Dourado and Hammond write:

If the original ban was an overreaction, today it’s an outright absurdity—and remains in place due more to regulatory inertia and the FAA’s deeply precautionary culture than a sober accounting of costs and benefits.

I suspect that we will eventually lift the ban and get quieter and faster supersonic aircraft. But when we do so don’t make the mistake of thinking that it was wise to wait. As I pointed out in my earlier piece on Uber of the Sky, technological development is endogenous. If you ban supersonic aircraft, the money, experience and learning by doing needed to develop quieter supersonic aircraft won’t exist. A ban will make technological developments in the industry much slower and dependent upon exogeneous progress in other industries.

When we ban a new technology we have to think not just about the costs and benefits of a ban today but about the costs and benefits on the entire glide path of the technology.

Many of you have been asking me about this NYT article on the pressures for rent control in Silicon Valley.  If no (or few) new apartment blocks will be built anyway, what is wrong with rent control in that setting?

One effect is that rent control will limit the incentive for prospective builders to fight to overturn current building restrictions.

A second effect of rent control is that it will lower the quality of the apartment stock.  This outcome has some second best properties, since a lower-quality, lower-price selection of apartments is probably what the market would have delivered under freer conditions.  Still, quality will fall in inefficient ways.  For instance sizes of apartments already are given, so landlords will cut back on maintenance.  Rather than well-maintained but smaller apartments, we will see overly large but run-down abodes.

At rent-controlled prices there will be excess demand for apartments.  The “plums” will go to those who bribe, those who are well-connected, those who are skilled at breaking the law, and, to some extent, those who have low search costs.  The latter category may include well-off people who hire others to search for them.

So overall I still don’t think this is a good idea.  Even if the current housing stock is fixed, rent control probably will create costs in excess of its benefits, and without significantly desirable distributional consequences.

Addendum: In the comments, Kommenterlein adds: “The rental housing stock isn’t fixed – it will decline rapidly with rent control as rental apartments are converted into Condos and sold at market prices.”

And David Henderson comments.

The support for Brexit from chefs and curry house owners, predominantly from Bangladesh, has come as a surprise voice in the debate, as the Leave campaign is widely perceived as anti-immigration.

Their argument centers around “freedom of movement,” one of the pillars of the European Union — meaning that citizens from across the community can essentially turn up in the country of their choice and try their luck at finding a job.

“It’s not that we think Europeans shouldn’t have a chance in Britain, it’s just that we feel the country should choose who it needs, what kind of skills they need, so that industries like ours are not short handed,” Khan told CNN.

Freedom of movement has put pressure on Britain’s migrant intake from outside the EU, prompting the government to almost double the minimum salary required for non-EU immigrants, from £18,700 ($26,610) to £35,000 ($50,000).

“This just doesn’t suit the industry. The average salary for a chef in the country is £25,000, so why should we have to pay a junior chef £35,000 to make curry? It’s just not affordable,” Khan said.

Call it the cheap channa argument, though note if this chain of reasoning were better known, it might help the prospects for Remain.  The story is here, and here are my previous posts on Brexit (which I nonetheless oppose, cheap channa or not).

For the pointer I thank Brennan McDavid.

…at least one insurer seems to sense an opportunity where others fear to tread. In what appears to be an unprecedented move, a British insurance company has begun offering a special policy designed for autonomous and partly automated vehicles. In theory, you could use this on your Google driverless car or your Tesla that’s equipped with autopilot.

Unfortunately, it’s only available in Britain. But the policy protects against all of the usual things you would find in your typical car insurance — damage, fire, theft. And it also goes further, covering accidents caused by malfunctions in the car’s driverless systems even if the passenger has failed to use a manual override. It covers any havoc that hackers may wreak on a car’s operating system. It applies to cars even if they haven’t been updated to the latest software. And it even covers mishaps that may occur if your car loses satellite or other crucial connectivity.

From Brian Fund here is the full story.

That is the title of a new and interesting paper by Enrique Garcia and Juan Merlo, here is the (to me) rather surprising summary:

The Nordic countries are the most gender equal nations in the world, but at the same time, they also have a disproportionately high rate of intimate partner violence against women. This is perplexing because logically violence against women would be expected to drop as women gained equal status in a society. A new study explores this contradictory situation, which has been labeled the ‘Nordic paradox.’

Denmark clocks in at about 32%, Finland at 30%, and Sweden at 28%; Denmark and Finland by the way should disabuse you from blaming this phenomenon on immigrants.

My first response was to think this must be a data reporting issue.  Perhaps Nordic women are more willing to step forward, or somehow those systems are more efficient in recording such complaints.  But the paper does not support that interpretation:

…the same FRA survey provides data suggesting lower levels of disclosure of IPV [intimate partner violence] to the police by women in Nordic countries as compared to other EU countries.  For example the average percentage for the EU of women indicating that the most serious incident of IPV came to the attention of the police is 20%, whereas for Denmark and Finland is 10% and 17% for Sweden.  In any case, the ‘higher disclosure’ explanation, however, would not solve the Nordic paradox, as these more ‘reliable’ levels of disclosure would rather reinforce the paradox posited by very high levels of IPV prevalence (prevalence rates around 30% is by all means disproportionate) in countries with high levels of gender equality.

So this remains a puzzle.  Here is an earlier post on a very different form of the Nordic gender equality paradox.  And here is a recent post on (non-Nordic) brutishness.

For the pointer I thank Eric Barker.

“We’re living through an historic glut of stolen data,” explains Brian Krebs, who writes the blog Krebs on Security. “More supply drives the price way down, and there’s so much data for sale, we’re sort of having a shortage of buyers at this point.”

…But cybercriminals’ most crucial adaptation in recent years has little to do with their technical tools and everything to do with their business model: They have started selling stolen data back to its original owners. To keep cybercrime profitable, criminals needed to find a new cohort of potential buyers, and they did: all of us. At the heart of this new business model for cybercrime is the fact that individuals and businesses, not retailers and banks, are the ones footing the bill for data breaches.

Here is the full Josephine Wolff piece.

Uber is not only fast and convenient it spreads the capital cost of an automobile over a large group of people, thereby increasing efficiency. A typical general aviation aircraft costs ten times or more the price of an automobile so the case for an Uber of the sky is strong. Indeed, shortly after the Wright Brothers flew, informal ride-sharing bulletin jetsonsboards and word of mouth connected pilots with passengers who wanted to hitch a ride and were willing to share the cost.

Flytenow created an app to more easily connect pilots to “passengers” who would pay a share of the “cost” (the reason for the quotes will become clear) but was shut down by the FAA. Flytenow argued that they were simply modernizing the bulletin board system but the FAA worried that they were doing an end run around regulation. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 requires pilots who are being compensated for their services to have a commercial license. Flytenow was shut down.

Jared Meyer interviewed the founders:

Jared Meyer: …from what I understand, it is still completely legal to find people to share flights (and their costs) by using old-fashioned tools such as bulletin boards or telephone calls. Why does the FAA not allow people to use peer-to-peer online interaction to make the process much more efficient and inclusive?

Alan Guichard: You’re exactly right. Pilots have always been allowed to share flights as long as the pilot and the passenger share a common purpose, which they clearly have on an online bulletin board such as Flytenow. The FAA’s concern is that online interaction will lead to sharing beyond what they refer to as “friends and acquaintances.”

For example, the FAA explained that advertising a shared flight on Facebook would be permissible if a person only had a few friends, but that the same flight would transform the pilot into Delta or American Airlines if he or she had “thousands” of friends.

An Uber of the sky would increase the number of private flights and put pressure on the airlines. It would also create some safety issues. Right now only the rich regularly risk their life in a small airplane. Do we want more people to have access? It’s debatable but there is certainly some level of safety where we would want more passenger-carrying small-aircraft. But which is chicken and which is egg? Safety doesn’t just happen–safety is in part an endogenous consequence of investment and demand. How will we get flying cars if we restrict investment?