Gary Solon, in a new survey paper, takes issue with the earlier results of Greg Clark, which had suggested social mobility was roughly constant across a wide spectrum of cases.  Solon writes:

…the results reported by Clark do not reflect a universal law of social mobility.  Quite to the contrary, other studies based on group-average data, even surnames data, frequently produce intergenerational coefficient estimates much smaller than Clark’s.

A second testable prediction of Clark’s hypothesis…is that instrumental variables (IV) estimation of the regression of son’s log earnings on father’s log earnings should yield a coefficient estimate in the 0.7-0.8 range if father’s long earnings are instrumented with grandfather’s log earnings.  When Lindahl et al, estimated that regression with their data from Malmo, Sweden, the IV coefficient estimate was 0.15, considerably higher than their ordinary least squares (OLS) estimate of 0.303.  They obtained a remarkably similar comparison of IV and OLS estimates when they used years of education instead of log earnings as the status measure.  The pattern of IV estimates exceeding OLS estimates is consistent with Clark’s general story about measurement error in particular indicators as proxies for social status.  It is equally consistent with all the alternative stories listed in section II for why grandparental status may not be “excludable” from a multigenerational regression.  What the results are not consistent with is a universal law of social mobility in which the intergenerational coefficient is always 0.7 or more…

A third testable prediction…is that using an omnibus index that combines multiple indicators of social status should make the intergenerational coefficient estimate “much closer to that of the underlying latent variable.”  [But]…The resulting estimate was not “much closer” to the 0.7-0.8 range.

In sum, when Clark’s hypothesis is subjected to empirical tests, it does not fare so well.

Here is an ungated version.

Tuesday assorted links

by on March 31, 2015 at 12:03 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. A good review of Ishiguro.

2. Against a 100% value land tax.

3. Top ten largest cruise ships in the world.  And why India’s Flipkart abandoned its mobile website.

4. Faster peer review markets in everything?

5. Median salaries in higher education.

6. Sadly, John Makin has passed away.  And the comments on Bernanke’s blog post.

Colin M. MacLachlan, in his splendid Imperialism and the Origins of Mexican Culture, reports:

1. Corn gruel and tamales were reinforced with fish, seeds of various kinds, fruit, and honey.

2. Beans were supplemented with meat from iguanas, armadillos, and rabbits.

3. The calcium content of corn was (and still is) increased by alkaline cooking with lime (“nixtamalization,” duh).

4. “Pulque” has “substantial food value,” “whether fermented or fresh.”

5. Dried red maguey worms have 71 percent protein.

6. Axayacatl (a species of aquatic insect sometimes called “water boatmen“) have 68.7% protein.

7. Mesquite pods and seeds have high caloric value.

8.”Tecuitlatl (spirulina), the green scum collected from lakes with high saltwater content, was sold in the market to be eaten with chilies and tomatoes and has been shown to be a modern wonder food.”

As you can see, the world of food really could have evolved along very different lines.

I also enjoyed this line from the book:

The fundamental belief that the gods sacrificed themselves to create the Earth and continued to do so to sustain it locked the gods and humans into a circular dependency — a relationship characterized by fearful respect coupled with regulated violence.

Definitely recommended, and oh yes that reminds me, here is the livestream for my chat later today with Peter Thiel.


by on March 30, 2015 at 7:25 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

TEDx GMU has some interesting speakers. Always an excellent show.
TEDxGeorgeMasonU Presents 
The 4th Annual TEDx Conference 
“Gathering STEAM” 
at George Mason University 
Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 10:30 a.m. 
TEDxGeorgeMasonU has showcased Mason professors and local community members on the international TED stage since 2012. Presenters give short, 18 minute, TED-style talks about their research, creative ideas and stories. The 2015 conference will feature eight distinguished speakers. Learn more about this year’s speakers and event at tedx.gmu.edu
Changwoo Ahn – Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, affiliated faculty
member with Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering and Biology at George Mason
David Anderson – Professor and Director for the Center for the Advancement of Public Health,
a part of the School of Recreation, Health and Tourism in the College of Education and Human
Development at George Mason University
Manjula Dissanayake – Executive Director of Educate Lanka
Nadine Kabbani – Assistant Professor of Molecular Neuroscience, Group Leader at the
Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University
Rebecca Kamen – Professor emeritus of Art at Northern Virginia Community College
Linda Apple Monson – Professor of Music, Director of Keyboard Studies, Managing Director
of the School of Music at George Mason University
Kevin Murray – Program Manager and Professor of the School of Theater at George Mason
Paul M. Rogers – Associate Professor of English, Associate Chair of English at George Mason

Here is the abstract of his piece “Air Conditioning, Migration, and Climate-Related Rent Differentials“:

This paper explores whether the spread of air conditioning in the United States from 1960 to 1990 affected quality of life in warmer areas enough to influence decisions about where to live, or to change North-South wage and rent differentials. Using measures designed to identify climates in which air conditioning would have made the biggest difference, I found little evidence that the flow of elderly migrants to MSAs with such climates increased over the period. Following Roback (1982), I analyzed data on MSA wages, rents, and climates from 1960 to 1990, and find that the implicit price of these hot summer climates did not change significantly from 1960 to 1980, then became significantly negative in 1990. This contrary to what one would expect if air conditioning made hot summers more bearable. I presented evidence that hot summers are an inferior good, which would explain part of the negative movement in the implicit price of a hot summer, and evidence consistent with the hypothesis that the marginal person migrating from colder to hotter MSAs dislikes summer heat more than does the average resident of a hot MSA, which would also exert downward pressure on the implicit price of a hot summer.

The pointer is from Ross Emmett in the MR comments section, very useful comments overall.  Biddle has two other pieces on the history of air conditioning, and Biddle has other interesting pieces as well, he is apparently an underappreciated economist.

Here Scott Sumner details the import of state income taxes.  In my view not the “main” factor, but a significant factor nonetheless, excerpt: “On the west coast, all states grew faster than the national average. Yes, its climate is nicer that the south central region.  But look at the more detailed data and you’ll see that hot and sunny Washington state and Alaska grew the fastest of five bordering the Pacific.  And oh by the way, Washington and Alaska are the only two with no state income tax.”  I’ll add this point: to the extent income inequality is rising, a relatively small number of cross-state migrants can lead to a noticeable difference in cross-state growth and job creation rates.  And the high earners are precisely those who are most able and most likely to leave a high-tax state for a low-tax state.


That is from Dianne Theodora Kenny, via Ted Gioia.  Kenny notes:

For male musicians across all genres, accidental death (including all vehicular incidents and accidental overdose) accounted for almost 20% of all deaths. But accidental death for rock musicians was higher than this (24.4%) and for metal musicians higher still (36.2%).

Suicide accounted for almost 7% of all deaths in the total sample. However, for punk musicians, suicide accounted for 11% of deaths; for metal musicians, a staggering 19.3%. At just 0.9%, gospel musicians had the lowest suicide rate of all the genres studied.

Murder accounted for 6.0% of deaths across the sample, but was the cause of 51% of deaths in rap musicians and 51.5% of deaths for hip hop musicians, to date.

Beware selection, because of course most rap musicians aren’t dead yet.  This problem will be more extreme, the younger is the genre.  Another selection effect may be that getting killed, or dying in an unusual way, contributes to your fame.

Assorted links

by on March 29, 2015 at 12:34 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers (music video).

2. How much does time spent with your kids matter, ages 3-11 edition?

3. The myth of Europe’s little ice age.

4. The intangible corporation.  And competition and working conditions, a rebuttal to me from Stumbling and Mumbling.

5. There is no great stagnation.

6. Yuval Levin on what conservatives and libertarians share.

Assorted links

by on March 28, 2015 at 1:14 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Michael Spence on whether equities are overvalued.

2. Does a year of NYU now cost $71,000?

3. 422 free art books from the Met.

4. Richard E. Wagner on Gordon Tullock, and more here.  And are most occupational licensing boards now illegal?

5. What is the Chinese view of TPP?

6. Switzerland and the history of liberty.

7. Leavened bread repurchase agreements.

Assorted links

by on March 27, 2015 at 12:09 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. There is no great stagnation, Jell-O edition.

2. Plans for a new Egyptian capital.

3. Physics in 100 years (pdf, recommended)

4. When is the best night to see a playWhy are the new comedies choosing plot over jokes?

5. The Straussian take on Kimmy Schmidt, Plato, and the cave.  Plus a cult survivor comments on Kimmy.

Here is one excerpt from his very interesting post:

I get and very much like the skeptical, anti-theoretical thrust of Strauss. I like his deep wariness of ideal theorizing, his exhortations to pay attention to the political life we are always already living. He’s right to see reasoning with others about about how to live as an inherently political activity. He’s right to insist on honoring the distinctive excellences of those sensitive to the texture of real political life and expert in its ceaseless negotations. He’s right that social scientific theories about politics are less politically valuable then good political judgment, and that people who think they’re going to govern “scientifically” are dangerously stupid. (Paraphrasing, here.) And, yes, when philosophy is merely a handmaiden to the dogmas of our age, pursued under the “ecumenical supervision” of the universities, it is profoundly compromised. To be a philosopher is not to have a job you clock in and out of. To be a philosopher is simply to be, philosophically, always. Right! But the Socratic life is the one very best life? The naturally right, life? Nope. Nope. I’ve read and read and never quite follow how we end up there. I mean, I think this is a great life, beyond wonderful. But nope.

Anyway, Strausseans are strangely obsessed with this idea that the philosophical life, so construed, is the best human life, full stop, and are therefore obsessed with the tension between the best life, which is in the business of exposing bullshit, and the political life, which is built on it.

I am very happy to order this book in advance, I hope Will lets me know when that is possible.

Assorted links

by on March 26, 2015 at 1:33 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. How poor are the poor?

2. Are hospitals the villain?

3. The Prospect survey of favorite thinkers (I am pleased to be on the list).

4. Russian troll markets in everything.

5. It seems lottery winners may be happier after all.

File under The Culture that is Germany.  Here is the rest of the abstract:

In this article, we investigate cosmopolitan attitudes among the people often considered the most cosmopolitan – the elite. Studying the typical class of frequent travellers provides a particularly good opportunity to study the relationship between transnational activities and cosmopolitanism. We also comprehensively investigate the link between postmaterialist values and cosmopolitan attitudes. We test our arguments using an original dataset that includes a relatively large sample of the German positional top elite in the years 2011 and 2012. A comparison between these data and data from a general population survey shows that while transnational activities affect the attitudes of ordinary citizens, increased travelling does not make elites more cosmopolitan. We discuss several reasons why this might be the case. We also observe that postmaterialist values and the ideological environment of the elite play a key role. Finally, we tentatively suggest that cosmopolitan elites do not endanger national social cohesion, as some fear they might. We show that cosmopolitanism and localism are not mutually exclusive and that members of the German elite feel even more attached to their nation than ordinary Germans.

Like my source the excellent Kevin Lewis, I wonder how much this applies to other nations as well.

1. I enjoyed my page browse through Becoming Steve Jobs, which seems fun, readable, and informative, but it’s not what I feel like reading right now.  But if you think you might want to read it, you probably should.

2. Charles C.W. Cooke’s The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Future is all the rage right now.  Books which attempt to redefine or carve up the political spectrum aren’t exactly my thing, but this one is well-written and vital.  Here is a Reason interview with Cooke.  Here is a NYT interview with Cooke.

3. The new edition of David Boaz’s The Libertarian Mind is out.

4. The best piece so far on Lee Kwan Yew; how much and how rapidly will it matter that the focal point has passed away?

5. Hopes grow for climate-proof beans.

6. John Nash shares the Abel Prize in mathematics.

You will find a Qanta primer here.  Here is an excerpt:

In the same month, separate teams of scientists at Harvard University and the Broad Institute reported similar success with the gene-editing tool. A scientific stampede commenced, and in just the past two years, researchers have performed hundreds of experiments on CRISPR. Their results hint that the technique may fundamentally change both medicine and agriculture.

Some scientists have repaired defective DNA in mice, for example, curing them of genetic disorders. Plant scientists have used CRISPR to edit genes in crops, raising hopes that they can engineer a better food supply. Some researchers are trying to rewrite the genomes of elephants, with the ultimate goal of re-creating a woolly mammoth. Writing last year in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, Motoko Araki and Tetsuya Ishii of Hokkaido University in Japan predicted that doctors will be able to use CRISPR to alter the genes of human embryos “in the immediate future.”

Thanks to the speed of CRISPR research, the accolades have come quickly. Last year MIT Technology Review called CRISPR “the biggest biotech discovery of the century.” The Breakthrough Prize is just one of several prominent awards Doudna has won in recent months for her work on CRISPR; National Public Radio recently reported whispers of a possible Nobel in her future.

Even the pharmaceutical industry, which is often slow to embrace new scientific advances, is rushing to get in on the act. New companies developing CRISPR-based medicine are opening their doors. In January, the pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced that it would be using Doudna’s CRISPR technology for its research into cancer treatments. It plans to edit the genes of immune cells so that they will attack tumors.

How immediately will this come for ordinary use?  Here is the big package of articles from Science.  The Chinese already have done it with monkeys.

Here are my earlier remarks on eugenics.  Here is a group of scientists calling for a moratorium on the technique, at least until rules can be established.  Here are further articles on CRISPR.  There are further comments here.

I believe the implications of all this — and its nearness to actual realization — have not yet hit either economics or the world of ideas more generally.  This is probably big, big news.

Assorted links

by on March 24, 2015 at 10:58 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. What is the relationship between the economics blogosphere and academic economics?, Alex on Quora.

2. There is no great glue stagnation.

3. For fiscal consolidations, tax boosts hurt consumer confidence but spending cuts are more positive (pdf).

4. The Chinese cement comparison.

5. Thais pay tribute to Mexican gangs.