Timothy Taylor has a superb blog post on that topic, here is one choice passage out of many:
A final example looks at mental models that development experts have of the poor. What do development experts think that the poor believe, and how does it compare to what the poor actually believe? For example, development experts were asked if they thought individuals in low-income countries would agree with the statement: “What happens to me in the future mostly depends on me.” The development experts thought that maybe 20% of the poorest third would agree with this statement, but about 80% actually did. In fact, the share of those agreeing with the statement in the bottom third of the income distribution was much the same as for the upper two-thirds–and higher than the answer the development experts gave for themselves!
Do read the whole thing, which offers many points of interest. By the way, here is a good blog post on a first visit to Haiti.
Many economists like to dump on their fellow social scientists, and personally I find that reading anthropology is often quite uninspiring. That said, I would like to say a small bit on the superiority of anthropologists. I view the “products” of anthropology as the experiences, world views, and conversations of the anthropologists themselves. Those products translate poorly into the medium of print, and so from a distance the anthropologists appear to be inferior and lackluster (I wonder to what extent the anthropologists realize this themselves?).
Yet anthropologists have some of the most profound understandings of the human condition. They have witnessed, absorbed, and processed some of the most interesting data, especially those anthropologists who do fieldwork of the traditional kind.
The rest of us are simply (usually) too blind to see this. It even can be argued that anthropology is the queen and most general of the social sciences, and that economics, as a social science, is simply playing around in one of the larger anthropologically-motivated sandboxes, namely the economy.
We so often confuse “what can be translated into print well” with “what is important and interesting.” In classical music there have been performers, such as Jorge Bolet, who are incredible but whose genius didn’t translate well in the recording studio. That does mean anthropology is very often not a highly leveraged means of status and influence.
I believe that travel — when done intelligently — is the most fundamental method of learning. And yet most travel books are a crashing bore. Don’t confuse what you — as an outsider — can consume well with what is good and important from an inside perspective.
There is a new 538 article on this, by Zubin Jelveh, Bruce Kogut and Suresh Naidu, here is one excerpt:
We first found that an economist’s research area is correlated with his or her political leanings. For example, macroeconomists and financial economists are more right-leaning on average while labor economists tend to be left-leaning. Economists at business schools, no matter their specialty, lean conservative. Apparently, there is “political sorting” in the academic labor market.
A word analysis indicates the most left-leaning phrase is “post Keynesian,” followed by “credit union.” The most right-leaning phrase is “free banking,” and then “bank note” and “hedge fund.” Here is some good news:
There’s no evidence that publication decisions are determined by editor ideology.
…a left-leaning economist is more likely to report numerical results aligned with liberal ideology (and the same is true for right-leaning economists and conservative ideology)
This won’t be a popular paragraph with everyone:
Policymakers may need to “re-center” economists’ findings by adjusting for ideology. Take the area of tax rates for high earners. The average optimal tax rate reported by economists in our data is 41 percent. Using our model, we can also estimate that these economists as a group are slightly left of center. We can then figure out what optimal top tax rate a hypothetical centrist economist would report: 33 percent.
Here is the authors’ lengthy research paper on all of this (pdf).
For the pointer I thank Bruce Bartlett.
The mainland – which has long been criticised by international human rights groups for using organs harvested from executed prisoners as its main source of organ transplants – will completely ban the practice from next year.
All organs used in future transplants must be from donors, the Southern Metropolis News quoted Dr Huang Jiefu as saying. Huang is former deputy director of the health ministry and director of the China Organ Donation and Transplant Committee.
Major transplant centres had already stopped using executed prisoners’ organs, said Huang, who chaired an industry forum in Kunming on Wednesday.
There is more here, via Mark Thorson. The article notes China has one of the lowest voluntary organ donation rates in the world. 0.6 individuals out of a million sign up to donate their organs after they die, and that means the number of actual donors is lower yet. If you google around, you will find some ambiguity as to whether the donation rate or the “register to donate rate” is that low, but as far as I can tell (try this Chinese source) it is the actual register to donate rate, in part because they just aren’t many ways to register right now. Please let us know if you have additional information on this point.
Wikipedia by the way reports:
The wait times for organ transplants for organ recipients in China are much lower than elsewhere in the world, and there is evidence that the execution of prisoners for their organs is “timed for the convenience of the waiting recipient.
Here are some of Alex’s earlier posts on a market for transplanted organs.
There may be a nascent movement towards reappropriating roadkill as ethical meat, but sustainable fur couture? Paquin was in uncharted territory. No matter: In short order she located a taxidermist in Vermont who schooled her in the nitty-gritty of skinning and — oof — scraping an animal pelt ahead of the tanning process. Her induction came in the form of a deceased raccoon: “We both had a shot of whiskey, I put some peppermint oil under my nose, and we found a branch in the woods to hang this thing from. It was super intense.”
There is more here, from Meaghan Agnew. I found these estimates interesting though perhaps speculative:
So, how many animals do you think get killed on the streets of this country every year? Whatever your guesstimate, go higher: according to Culture Change, it’s approximately 1 million a day, or 365 million a year. By comparison, Born Free USA reports that approximately 50 million animals are killed every year for their fur.
For the pointer I thank Hugo Lindgren.
Merkel, in her early thirties, was looking forward to 2014—when she would turn sixty, collect her state pension, and be allowed to travel to California.
That is from the George Packer profile of Angela Merkel, which I will recommend to you all once again, do note it starts a bit slowly but picks up.
…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.
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?
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.
There are many good bits, here is one of them:
…I have a slightly different cut on the Snowden revelations. I think it shows the NSA more as the Keystone Cops than as Big Brother. What is striking to me is how little James Bond-like stuff was going on and how little they did with all this information. That’s why I think, in some ways, the NSA is more in this anti-technological zone where they don’t know what to do with the data they find. So they just hoover up all the data, all over the world. I think it was news to Obama that he was tapping into [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel’s cell phone.
One way to think about this is that if the NSA bureaucracy actually knew what they were doing, they would probably need way less information. What’s shocking about Snowden is how much information they had and how little they did with it.
Read the whole thing.
Because they sound mighty interesting:
Bousso is not interested in what goes on outside the causal diamond, where infinitely variable, endlessly recursive events are unknowable, in the same way that information about what goes on outside a black hole cannot be accessed by the poor soul trapped inside. If one accepts that the finite diamond, “being all anyone can ever measure, is also all there is,” Bousso said, “then there is indeed no longer a measure problem.”
In 2006, Bousso realized that his causal-diamond measure lent itself to an evenhanded way of predicting the expected value of the cosmological constant. Causal diamonds with smaller values of Λ would produce more entropy — a quantity related to disorder, or degradation of energy — and Bousso postulated that entropy could serve as a proxy for complexity and thus for the presence of observers. Unlike other ways of counting observers, entropy can be calculated using trusted thermodynamic equations. With this approach, Bousso said, “comparing universes is no more exotic than comparing pools of water to roomfuls of air.”
The article, by Natalie Wolchover and Peter Byrne, is interesting throughout. I do sort of understand this sentence:
But as attempts to paint our universe as an inevitable, self-contained structure falter, the multiverse camp is growing.
The pointer is from the esteemed David Levey.
Here is the new paper by Michael Reay in Social Forces:
Analyses of the multiple cognitive structures and social effects of humor seldom look at why these tend to center on particular topics. The puzzle of how humor can be highly varied yet somehow constrained by its source “material” is explored using a corpus of over 600 incidents, not of deliberate jokes, but of the “wilder,” unplanned laughter that occurred during a set of interviews with economists—professionals who at the time (1999–2000) enjoyed an unprecedented degree of status and influence. The analysis finds that the source material for this laughter typically involved three kinds of socially structured contradiction: between ideals and reality, between different socially situated viewpoints, and between experiences occurring at different times. This illustrates how particular kinds of content can have a special laughter-inducing potential, and it suggests that wild laughter may at root be an interactional mechanism for dealing with social incongruity—even for members of relatively powerful groups. It is argued that this could not only help solve the larger puzzle of simultaneous variety and constraint in deliberate comedy, but also explain why the characteristic structures of humor are associated with a particular range of social effects in the first place.
Reading that abstract caused me to engage in some unplanned (silent) laughter.
For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.
Religion in China. That was the topic of a recent excellent Economist article. Here is one good excerpt:
It is hard even to guess at the number of Christians in China. Official surveys seek to play down the figures, ignoring the large number who worship in house churches. By contrast, overseas Christian groups often inflate them. There were perhaps 3m Catholics and 1m Protestants when the party came to power in 1949. Officials now say there are between 23m and 40m, all told. In 2010 the Pew Research Centre, an American polling organisation, estimated there were 58m Protestants and 9m Catholics. Many experts, foreign and Chinese, now accept that there are probably more Christians than there are members of the 87m-strong Communist Party. Most are evangelical Protestants.
Predicting Christianity’s growth is even harder. Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire.
In the 1980s the faith grew most quickly in the countryside, stimulated by the collapse of local health care and a belief that Christianity could heal instead. In recent years it has been burgeoning in cities.
Read the whole thing. You will note that when individuals engage in a “portfolio” approach to religion, social evolution can occur much more rapidly. Not everyone has to fully convert to Christianity, or to embrace Confucianism wholeheartedly, for those approaches to suddenly acquire much more influence.
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.
It is time for Taylor Swift to drop the mic and take a bow because she has just accomplished the unthinkable. Swift hit number one on the Canadian iTunes chart this week with eight seconds of pure static.
A glitch in the Canadian version of iTunes released a track called “Track 3,” that looked like it could be a new track from her upcoming album 1989 but was actually just white noise. Nevertheless, the song soared to the top, beating out her new songs that are actually new music, including “Shake It Off,” “Welcome to New York” and “Out of the Woods.”
Haters might hate, but once a singer scores a chart-topping hit comprised solely of white noise, it’s hard to deny she’s an unstoppable musical force.
There is more here, via the excellent Mark Thorson.