Thursday assorted links

by on February 4, 2016 at 12:03 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Why they get naked at LSU: simple economics.

2. Should your tech firm have an economist?

3. “One of my favorite emails said something like “once you create a body of data, it’s subpoenable.””

4. Livestream for my Chicago chat with Randall Kroszner on the future of money, 6 p.m. CST.

5. “Now, Amazon Japan lists a company that offers budget-friendly monk delivery service.”

6. Substantive update on Amazon America’s retail plans.

7. What are the differences in Ivy League reading lists?  And terror plans often leak.

In Launching the Innovation Renaissance I argued that students were not graduating with the degrees that pay (see also my piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education).

In 2009 the U.S. graduated 37,994 students with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science. This is not bad, but we graduated more students with computer science degrees 25 years ago! The story is the same in other technology fields such as chemical engineering and math and statistics.

If students aren’t studying science, technology, engineering and math, what are they studying?

In 2009 the U.S. graduated 89,140 students in the visual and performing arts, more than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined and more than double the number of visual and performing arts graduates in 1985.

So what has happened since 2009? The good news is that enrollment in STEM fields has increased dramatically. The number of graduates with computer science degrees, for example, has increased by 34%, chemical engineering degrees are up by a whopping 49.5% and math and statistics degrees have increased by 32%.

The bad news is that we are still graduating more students in the visual and performing arts than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined. As I said in Launching nothing wrong with the visual and performing arts but those are degrees which are unlikely to generate spillovers to society.

We are also graduating more students in communications and journalism than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined and more students in psychology than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined. Here’s what I said about psychology:

In 2009 we graduated 94,271 students with psychology degrees at a time when there were just 98,330 jobs in clinical, counseling and school psychology in the entire nation. The latter figure isn’t new jobs — it’s total jobs!

Despite these problems, the number of psychology degrees conferred annually has increased since 2008-2009 by an astounding 21.4%! Visual and performing arts degrees have increased by 9.7% and communication and journalism degrees are up 8.1%. Do you think that jobs in these fields have gone up by equal percentages?

Stated differently, in 2012-2013 we graduated 20,418 more students in computer science, chemical engineering and math and statistics than we did in 2008-2009 but we also graduated 20,179 more students in psychology alone! We have a long way to go.

Here is the data:


The Importance of Institutions

by on February 4, 2016 at 7:34 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

So far, in our Principles of Macroeconomics class at MRUniversity we’ve covered GDP (how it is calculated, nominal versus real, GDP as a measure of the standard of living etc.). We have also covered the basic facts about differences in income both across countries and over time, the importance of growth rates, and the presence of growth miracles and growth disasters, among other topics.

In our latest video, Tyler covers the Importance of Institutions. Next up geography and growth and shortly after that on to the Solow model!

As always, these videos are freely available for non-commercial use. They can be used with any textbook but why would you want any but the best?

Bank of Japan should call them willie wonka bonds “YOU GET NOTHING. yOU LOSE!”

Who is advising Japan? Forcing banks to lend all ¥ will not get 2% inflation. It creates loanees market with even lower rates. Dumb move

Negative interest rates in Japan is blowing my mind

Here is his Twitter account, here is the Bloomberg story.  They promised us flying cars, and all we got was…

Jose Canseco

The men who collect dinosaurs

by on February 4, 2016 at 12:17 am in History, Science | Permalink

‘I’m just starting out as a collector,’ Sebastian begins. ‘I only own prehistoric shark teeth and I have a fossil of a prehistoric squid from way before the dinosaurs, and I got a Utahraptor bone shard I think from my kindergarten teacher, she’s an amateur palaeontologist who first got me into dinosaurs, and I have dinosaur poop but I think you should put in the word “coprolite”. That’s the technical term.’ He thinks some more. ‘Oh, I have mosasaur teeth, that’s a very cool prehistoric aquatic reptile. Imagine owning a T rex though! I would like to own any complete dinosaur, I don’t care which one.’

To my surprise, Sebastian doesn’t see an emotional difference between owning dinosaur toys and owning real dinosaurs, and he hints at a dimensionless state he enters using imagination. ‘If I look at a toy giganotosaurus, it feels the same as looking at a real giganotosaurus, which I have only seen once in a museum. I really see the same thing when I’m looking at my toy. I forget that the real dinosaur is way bigger. My toy is just as big in my mind.’

That is from an interesting Laurie Gwen Shapiro Aeon article, hat tip goes to Anecdotal.

Larry Summers reviews Robert Gordon

by on February 3, 2016 at 9:50 pm in Books, Economics, History | Permalink

Many rightly wonder about mis-measurement of productivity as new products become available and quality improves. Gordon is compelling in arguing that productivity growth is indeed significantly underestimated. He is also more persuasive than I expected in arguing that, if anything, this understatement was greater decades ago than it has been recently. In part this is because there were more of these transformational changes that are inherently hard to assimilate in standard frameworks. In part it is because the statisticians do a much better job than they once did of taking account of quality change.


The question of how to square developments that are large enough to have a major impact on wage and employment patterns with the paucity of measured productivity growth looms for future research.

Do read the whole thing, again my review of Gordon is here.

*There IS Life After College*

by on February 3, 2016 at 2:34 pm in Books, Economics, Education | Permalink

That is the new book by Jeffrey J. Selingo, and the subtitle is the highly practical What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow.

If you want one book which delivers what this subtitle promises, this is it.

Due out in April.

From Peter A. Petri and Michael G. Plummer (pdf):

This Working Paper estimates the effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) using a comprehensive, quantitative trade model, updating results reported in Petri, Plummer, and Zhai (2012) with recent data and information from the agreement. The new estimates suggest that the TPP will increase annual real incomes in the United States by $131 billion, or 0.5 percent of GDP, and annual exports by $357 billion, or 9.1 percent of exports, over baseline projections by 2030, when the agreement is nearly fully implemented. Annual income gains by 2030 will be $492 billion for the world. While the United States will be the largest beneficiary of the TPP in absolute terms, the agreement will generate substantial gains for Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam as well, and solid benefits for other members. The agreement will raise US wages but is not projected to change US employment levels; it will slightly increase “job churn” (movements of jobs between firms) and mpose adjustment costs on some workers.

I know plenty of people who don’t like parts of this deal, but not any who have produced a better net estimate of what it will do.

Hat tip goes to the ever-energetic Brad DeLong.

*Unequal Gains*

by on February 3, 2016 at 9:27 am in Books, Data Source, Economics, History | Permalink

That is the forthcoming book by Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson, and the subtitle is American Growth and Inequality since 1700.  The sections on recent America, while unobjectionable, are ordinary, but the early coverage of American history is very interesting indeed.  Here is one excerpt:

Why the Old South reversal of fortune?  A benign part of the story seems to have been that the colonial South was still a labor-scarce frontier region with high returns to coastal land producing export crops, like indigo, rice, and tobacco. Its decline after 1774 was echoed in two other frontier cases many decades later.  One was the dramatic relative decline of the West South Central income per capita between 1840 and 1860 — from 60 percent of the U.S. average to just 9.5 percent above it…The other was the loss of the Pacific region’s gold-discovery-generated super-incomes after the 1850s and early 1860s (the Pacific states were 213.3 percent above the US average in 1860, and the mountain states were 30.5 percent above).

I hope to report on other interesting sections of the book soon; it is due out in April.  Again, most business cycles in history have been real business cycles.

Wednesday assorted links

by on February 3, 2016 at 2:54 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Should we have laxer conviction standards for tougher punishments?  No, but a good brain twister.

2. “Does this mean inflation isn’t transitive?”  Correct, inflation measures are not transitive.  Larry Temkin should be happy.

3. Musk personally made sure the guy’s order was cancelled.

4. “Ravens do spy on each other, it turns out, and they can infer when other birds are snooping on them.

5. “Between 1993 and 2015, cattle killed 13 people who were out for walks in the United Kingdom. Dozens more walkers received broken bones or other injuries from the animals…Murderous cattle are an understudied phenomenon…”  Link here.

6. Haiti since the earthquake.

I very much liked this Jonathan Kay piece, which has so many good, interesting, and separate points, here is one of them:

“One of the most important elements of the Shutterstock quality-control process is to ensure there are no logos or other brand identifiers,” she told me. “Nor can the photos contain identifiable people or locations which haven’t released their legal rights.” The blackouts here can be extremely broad, and include some of the most famous landmarks on the planet. You can’t include the Eiffel Tower in most forms of stock photography, for instance. Nor can you include anyone wearing the iconic beige-and-blue Burberry pattern. Even a tiny patch of it in the background renders an image completely unusable.

And this:

Click through the Shutterstock database, and you find that professionally shot and curated stock photos invariably exhibit what might be called calculated soullessness. The subjects project human emotions—happy, sad, confused, angry—but in a simple, one-dimensional way. There should be nothing bespeaking a complex inner life. Real human interest always will distract the audience from the intended product or idea.

In closing:

How does a photographer achieve authenticity in an age where authentic culture increasingly is built around irony? More broadly: Is the project of organizing human experience into databases of generic happy faces and sad faces still relevant to us in 2016?

Alas, I can no longer remember to whom I owe the pointer, my apologies.

File under Those New Service Sector Jobs.  And if that doesn’t suit you, here is “Calling all ‘bulky’ Alec Baldwin lookalikes”.

The Seattle company plans as many as 400 bookstores, Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of large mall operator General Growth Properties Inc., said on an earnings call with analysts Tuesday.

“You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400,” said Mr. Mathrani in response to a question about mall traffic.

That compares to the 640 stores Barnes & Noble Inc. operates and the 255 locations Books-A-Million Inc. said it had as of last summer.

The WSJ story is here, here are others.  What is the underlying business plan?  To make these iconic locations like Apple stores?  To treat all future business, in all sectors, as depending on the focality of the company behind it?  To start with books, move on to other items, and eventually steal middle-class and upper-middle class consumers away from Walmart?  Somehow use these stores to lock people in Amazon Prime?  Do you have other hypotheses?  Is this overconfident folly, or is it the “for good” return of brick and mortar bookstores to our lives?

Tuesday assorted links

by on February 2, 2016 at 1:31 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. “Streaming, brought to you by jets.

2. The Welfare Trait: “Over the past five years, he has accumulated a mass of evidence about the personalities of welfare claimants and concluded that individuals with aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social tendencies — what he calls the ‘employment–resistant personality profile’ — are over-represented among benefit recipients.”

3. The Animal Soul project (photos).

4. Those new service sector jobs: “Yukigassen is professional snowball fighting…

5. Editing Wikipedia for pay.

6. “Can Wisconsin make a sex offender who’s completed his sentence wear a GPS monitor on his ankle for the rest of his life?”  Posner says yes.

7. Why pawn shop prices differ.

Here is the video, the podcast, and the transcript.  Kareem really opened up.  Here is the summary:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on segregation, Islam, Harlem vs. LA, Earl Manigault, jazz, fighting Bruce Lee, Kareem’s conservatism, dancing with Thelonious Monk, and why no one today can shoot a skyhook.

Maybe you think of Kareem as a basketball player, but here is my introduction:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of America’s leading public intellectuals. I would describe him as an offshoot of the Harlem Renaissance, and what he and I share in common is a fascination with the character of Mycroft Holmes, the subject of Kareem’s latest book — and that of course, is Sherlock Holmes’s brother.

Here is Kareem:

I did know Amiri [Baraka]. I think the difference is I believe in what happened in Europe during what they call the Enlightenment. That needs to happen to black Americans, absolutely a type of enlightenment where they get a grasp of what is afflicting them and what the cures are.

I think that the American model is the best in the world but in order to get everybody involved in it we have to have it open to everyone. That hasn’t always been the case.

The most under-appreciated Miles Davis album?

For me [Kareem], the most under-appreciated one is Seven Steps to Heaven. And that shows, I think, Miles’ best group. There’s a big argument, what was Miles’ best group, the one that had Cannonball Adderley, Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Philly Joe Jones and Red Garland or Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and Wayne Shorter?…number two is Porgy and Bess.

He cites Chester Himes as the underappreciated figure of the Harlem Renaissance.  And Kareem thinks like an economist:

It [my instruction] was going well with Andrew Bynum, but Andrew finally got to sign his contract for $50 million, and then at that point Andrew thought that I didn’t know anything and that he didn’t have to listen to me, and we don’t know where Andrew is right now.

Read or hear also his very interesting remarks on Islam, and where its next Enlightenment is likely to come from, not to mention Kareem on the resource curse and of course his new book (and my Straussian read of it).  And Kareem on his favorite movies, starting with The Maltese Falcon.  Self-recommending!


A majority of the top dividend-paying stocks on the Straits Times Index are government-linked…

This Andy Mukherjee piece makes numerous good points about the current problems faced by Singapore, more than just the usual and focusing on the internal, and the difficulties of maintaining an adequate level of competition in the economy.

As I’ve said before, when you examine flows — such as government spending as a percentage of gdp — Singapore looks and indeed is quite free market.  When you consider stocks and wealth…well, that is a very different story.  Singapore has a strong market-oriented component, but it is not a free market miracle.