Assorted links

by on January 27, 2015 at 12:05 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. “Between 2007 and 2013, the millennial population of Arlington grew by 82 percent — more than anywhere else in the country.”  And are big cities too small?

2. Even at Fox News more employees donate money to the Democrats.

3. Toyota now to pay on the basis of performance rather than seniority.

4. Flows vs. stocks in Greece.  And the Syriza coalition partner isn’t nice, nor does the selection send a good signal.

5. Can online education bend the cost curve?  And UCLA students on global warming.

6. Why do some women prefer submissive men?

7. RortyBomb on unemployment benefits.  Scott Sumner comments too.

8. A short video on the life of Sir Arthur Lewis.

Table 1 shows that adding estimates from the literature suggests that economists have already explained 177% of the rise in average BMI.

That is from this new NBER paper, by Courtemanche, Pinkston, Ruhm, and Wehby, which seems to be one of the most careful studies to date.  They do it right and then offer some more commonsensical conclusions:

A growing literature examines the effects of economic variables on obesity, typically focusing on only one or a few factors at a time. We build a more comprehensive economic model of body weight, combining the 1990-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System with 27 state-level variables related to general economic conditions, labor supply, and the monetary or time costs of calorie intake, physical activity, and cigarette smoking. Controlling for demographic characteristics and state and year fixed effects, changes in these economic variables collectively explain 37% of the rise in BMI, 43% of the rise in obesity, and 59% of the rise in class II/III obesity. Quantile regressions also point to large effects among the heaviest individuals, with half the rise in the 90th percentile of BMI explained by economic factors. Variables related to calorie intake – particularly restaurant and supercenter/warehouse club densities – are the primary drivers of the results.

Here is a much earlier ungated version of the paper, with differing numerical estimates, use with caution.  A few related studies you will find here.

“How can the Spanish or Italian prime minister tell voters that Greece has a lower interest burden than we have, but we still need to give them debt forgiveness?” said Mr Darvas.

That is from Ferdinando Giugliano at the FT, who is referring to the possibility that the Greek debt load might be sustainable.  Don’t focus on the debt to gdp ratio of 175 percent, consider that the interest rates are low and the term structure of the debt is long.  Here is your Greece fact of the day:

Mr Darvas calculates that total interest expenditure in 2014 [for Greece] was 2.6 per cent, only marginally above France’s 2.2 per cent.

Yet I do not find the Greek position to be sustainable.  As has been the case from the beginning, the real problem in the eurozone is in the politics, not the raw numbers of the economics.  It is worth noting that there are Maoist and Trotskyite factions in Syriza, so if we are going to moralize about the National Front in France, or other disreputable groups, let’s be a little more consistent here…

Assorted links

by on January 26, 2015 at 12:59 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Why has this battery lasted for 175 years?  (Didn’t they read Coase?)

2. Scott Sumner movie and book reviews.

3. Ogilvie and Carus, a long essay on institutions and economic growth.

4. Daniel Davies on Greek scenarios.  And Alan Krueger: “But did the fall in wages lead to a fall in export prices?

5. Interview with Peter Boettke.  And how D’Angelo managed Black Messiah.

When I visited Santa Monica in January it struck me how much it reminded me of…Arlington.  Arlington is now essentially a part of Northwest, at least Arlington above Route 50 or so.  Arlington and Santa Monica have never been more alike, or less distinctive.

Parts of east Falls Church will meld into Arlington, and south Arlington will become more like north Arlington.  Real estate prices east/north of a particular line are rising and west of that line are falling.  Fairfax is definitely west of that line.

The Tysons Corner remake will fail, Vienna is not the new Clarendon, and the Silver Line and the monstrously wide Rt.7 will form a new dividing line between parts of Virginia which resemble Santa Monica and parts which do not.

Incumbents aside, no one lives in Fairfax any more to commute into D.C.  Why would you?  The alternatives are getting better and Metro parking became too difficult some time ago.  Fairfax is not being transformed, although some parts are morphing into “the new Shirlington.”  Most of it will stay dumpy on the retail side.  Annandale will stay with Fairfax, whether it likes it or not.

For ten years now I have been predicting various Fairfax restaurants will close — casualties of too-high rents — and mostly I have been wrong.  The good Annandale restaurants are running strong too.  Annandale won’t look much better anytime soon, thank goodness for that.

“Northern Virginia” is becoming two different places, albeit slowly.

Assorted links

by on January 25, 2015 at 2:08 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. “A small number of humans have virtually no constraints on their decision-making, and Reid is one of them.”  The post includes sixteen lessons learned, mostly I agree.

2. Why labor force participation is still so low.

3. Have we reached peak economist?  Here is a pouty (but interesting) response from a sociologist.

4. Naipaul and Theroux bury the hatchetSir Vidia’s Shadow is another of my all-time favorite books.

5. Why is India so crazy for world records?

6. Infrastructure quality and the subsidy trap (pdf), important piece, gated AER version hereCentral Park now and then, photos.

7. “Some of them are Sufi mystics.”  Are we back to having two Yemens?

Assorted links

by on January 24, 2015 at 2:36 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Baby name markets in everything.  And kippa made out of hair.  For Europe.

2. Will the Coase theorem apply to Greece?  And prominent economists send the FT a letter on Greece.

3. The strangest, yet still credible ranking of the greatest albums ever, except it is not credible.  Or is it?

4. How scalable is the block chain?

5. Some of the Borjas results are maybe not so robust.  And “After a deal, British chocolates won’t cross the pond.”

6. Memoirs of a germaphobe: “Why do I have to touch the screen to choose a payment method?”  This short article is also a lesson in behavioral economics and nudge.

“Let’s Play Two”

by on January 24, 2015 at 11:07 am in Film, Food and Drink, Sports, Uncategorized | Permalink

Very sadly Ernie Banks — the baseball player for you foreigners out there — has passed away.

Oddly, I have taken to quoting him lately.  If you are going out to eat with a small group, I recommend two stops.  No, don’t eat any more food than usual, but distribute your meal across two restaurants.  Have a few appetizers in one, and then leave and move on to another.  (This is easiest to do in Eden Center, with its wide selection of small-dish Vietnamese eateries, but other methods will work.)  Of course you must sequence your meals properly, the Greek eggplant must become before the Sichuan noodles, not vice versa.

This approach will improve the conversation at your table, if only by breaking up the original seating plan.  It also makes you more aware and more appreciative of what you are eating.

If you are going out to a movie, see two.  There is a fixed cost of attending, whether in terms of the traffic, the babysitter, or simply the will to spend time away from Facebook.  “Let’s Play Two.”

I have the impression that consumers “do fewer doubleheaders” than when I was growing up, I am not sure why.  Perhaps we have grown too impatient.

Banks’s obituary described him as “an unconquerable optimist whose sunny disposition never dimmed in 19 seasons with the perennially stumbling Chicago Cubs…”

Here are other quotations from Ernie Banks.  He said “The only way to prove you are a good sport is to lose.”

Here is some media coverage of a recent Facebook study of its economic impact in terms of revenue and jobs.  Facebook claims it added $227 billion to the global economy, but they approached the question the wrong way.

The correct method is to treat jobs as a cost of Facebook, not a benefit, admittedly that is not how politics works nor is it how corporate PR works.  We should measure the benefits directly by consumer time use studies, much as Austan Goolsbee and Peter J. Klenow did in their paper on the internet (pdf).

My question today is this: what is the most accurate one line back-of-the-envelope estimate you can come up with for the gross benefits of Facebook, not bothering to subtract for the costs of running the site?  Here is one (hypothetical and illustrative) example, for America only:

100 million regular users, one hour a day, time valued at $10 an hour, and multiply for $365 billion a year.

You will notice this method implicitly captures the value and disvalue of the ads on Facebook.  The better and more useful the ads are, the more time people will spend on the site.

I don’t devote time to Facebook (I can thank MR for that), so surely you can do better than I in building a plausible one-line estimate.  Please leave your answer in the comments.

Assorted links

by on January 23, 2015 at 12:47 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Scott Sumner on Keynesian excuses.

2. Alan Krueger working for Uber.  And dating average is over.  And rendering Tyler Cowen obsolete.

3. Newspapers are still deep in a financial hole.

4. Divorce machine gun markets in everything.  And Croatia wants to peg to the Swiss franc (!) for mortgage protection.

5. Department of Uh-Oh: more competition leads to higher antibiotic prescription rates.

6. Matthew Slaughter is now Dean of Dartmouth business school.

7. The legal system that is German.  They got the ruling right, I say.

8. Paul Krugman’s estimate: “So, Draghi’s big announcement seems to have raised expected European inflation by one-fifth of a percentage point.”  Alternatively, Daniel Davies on why QE might prove effective.

9. “If everything is clean, then he will be impressed.”

1. Toilet paper is shrinking, the size of the individual sheets that is.  (That is probably the closest we will get to hyperinflation.)  Does the average American really use 46 sheets a day?  That sounds like an overstatement.

In contrast to this commodity, I usually want for food portion sizes — especially ice cream — to be downsized.

2. I say both men and women are understating their number of sexual partners.  Contrary to what is portrayed in this chart, I postulate an American male average of about four.  I do not agree with the common claim that American men will overstate their number of partners.

The pointer is via Rayman.

Assorted links

by on January 22, 2015 at 2:01 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. In praise of The Upshot.  And profile of Pearson (the textbook and testing company).

2. A good OECD report on which policy changes actually would help overcome “secular stagnation.”

3. Japanese owl cafes.

4. How to induce people to like surrealistic art more.  Remind them of death.

5. The crowded cemeteries of Hong Kong.


Assorted links

by on January 21, 2015 at 2:00 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. My 2006 post on how to read fast.

2. Henry Manne biography and appreciation.

3. How L.A. became a powerhouse for Chinese food.

4. Previous MR posts on Yemen.

5. Arnold Kling is right: few people understand the non-dictatorship axiom either, or the portfolio separation theorem.  And political philosopher markets in everything.

6. An Obamacare update.

7. Development is hard.

Derek Scissors reports:

Broad money M2 breached $20tn at the end of December, a staggering 70 per cent larger than in the US, where monetary policy has hardly been tight.

There’s a tremendous amount of liquidity, the problem is no one is using it. Growth in narrow money M1 has collapsed. It was a dangerously excessive 32.4 per cent in 2009. It was a dangerously anemic 3.2 per cent in 2014.

M1 is money being held ready for use in anticipated transactions. It should correlate very well with GDP, which is a sum of transaction values. But while M1 flies around over time, GDP growth barely budges in comparison. It strains credulity that the amount of money held for use could grow at one-tenth the speed in 2014 as it did in 2009, yet growth in uses of that money (GDP) drops less than 2 points.

The FT post is of more interest generally on Chinese economic statistics.

Here is the new paper by Akerman, Gaarder, and Mogstad on how Norwegian broadband access has helped the higher earners and largely hurt unskilled labor:

Does adoption of broadband internet in firms enhance labor productivity and increase wages? And is this technological change skill biased or factor neutral? We exploit rich Norwegian data to answer these questions. A public program with limited funding rolled out broadband access points, and provides plausibly exogenous variation in the availability and adoption of broadband internet in firms. Our results suggest that broadband internet improves (worsens) the labor outcomes and productivity of skilled (unskilled) workers. We explore several possible explanations for the skill complementarity of broadband internet. We find suggestive evidence that broadband adoption in firms complements skilled workers in executing nonroutine abstract tasks, and substitutes for unskilled workers in performing routine tasks. Taken together, our findings have important implications for the ongoing policy debate over government investment in broadband infrastructure to encourage productivity and wage growth.

The emphasis is added by this blogger, not from the authors.