Asaf Zussman has a 2013 Economic Journal paper on this topic (pdf, gated), here is the abstract:

Using a combination of randomised field experiments, follow-up telephone surveys and other data collection efforts, this article studies the extent and the sources of ethnic discrimination in the Israeli online market for used cars.  We find robust evidence of discrimination against Arab buyers and sellers which, the analysis suggests, is motivated by “statistical” rather than “taste” considerations.  We additionall find the Arab sellers manipulate their identity in the market by leaving the name field in their advertisements blank.

That abstract could be more informative, here are some concrete results from the paper, noting that market participants do not wish to start a transaction which will then later end up cancelled:

1. Both questionnaire answers and market behavior show discrimination towards Arabs.

2. “The overall [seller] response rate to emails is 22% higher for the Jewish than for the Arab buyer.”

3. An Arab buyer offering a car’s posted price receives the same amount of response as a Jewish buyer requesting a 5-10% discount off the posted price.

4. Based on questionnaires, unfavorable attitudes towards Arabs are positively correlated with Jewish religiosity and negatively correlated with education.

5. Jewish questionnaire responses are correlated with actual marketplace discrimination against Arab transactors.  This concordance of words and action is by no means always the case in other studies of discrimination.

6. Arab buyers discriminate against sellers from their own ethnic group, although not as much as Jews discriminate against Arab sellers.

7. The share of used car advertisements without seller name is 10.8% for Jewish sellers, 29.5% for Arab sellers, and 16.7% for sellers with “shared” names.

You will find ungated versions here, and for the pointer I thank Ben Southwood.

Assorted links

by on November 16, 2014 at 5:03 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Heat your house with someone else’s computer.

2. The depression of George Scialabba.

3. Japanese mag lev trains hit near airplane speeds.

4. I, too, am enjoying Serial.

5. When was the greatest Finnish Great Depression?

6. “Already, we are in the midst of what could be the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficits in more than 50 years.”  The link is here, I bet against us being anywhere close to peak chocolate.

We’ve now seen a good twenty-five years of autocrats backing down, ceding power, and refusing to escalate, starting  around 1989 if not earlier.  Arguably North Korea and Saddam Hussein have been partial exceptions, but even there North Korea has stayed in its shell and Saddam had in fact largely disarmed his WMD.  We also see many autocrats — most notably those of China — who pursue remarkably sophisticated courses of action.  Just think how much more deftly they handled Occupy Hong Kong than the Ferguson police dealt with their situation.  Even the Iranian leaders seem quite sophisticated, even though most of us do not share their goals or endorse their means.

I call it The Great Autocrat Moderation.

If we look back in history, are autocrats generally this rational and conciliatory?  I am struck reading the new Andrew Roberts biography of Napoleon how he grew drunk with success and overreached and of course eventually failed (twice).  Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are some additional obvious examples of autocrats who, in terms of procedural rationality, simply collapsed at some point and very dramatically overreached.

Of course these are tricky examples.  The most famous autocrats are arguably going to be more subject to overreach, which in part drives their fame (infamy), and so if we consult our historical memories we may be selecting for overreach.  Your typical earlier autocrat may have been more rational than this list of ambitious tyrants might imply.  Was the typical dictator of Paraguay, historically speaking, really so irrational?  Still, it does seem that autocrats have been relatively benign as of late.

So how about Putin?  Is he like the autocrats of the last twenty-five years, or he is more like Napoleon and Mussolini with regard to his long-term procedural rationality?

I do not myself expect The Great Autocrat Moderation to continue for much longer. Let us not forget that some autocratic “tournaments” select for overreach, namely the autocrat had to think he could, against long odds, rise to the top and stay there.

I am indebted to a conversation with John Nye about the topics of this blog post.

D.C. police have made plans for millions of dollars in anticipated proceeds from future civil seizures of cash and property, even though federal guidelines say “agencies may not commit” to such spending in advance, documents show.

The city’s proposed budget and financial plan for fiscal 2015 includes about $2.7 million for the District police department’s “special purpose fund” through 2018. The fund covers payments for informants and rewards.

As to how the underlying incentives work, this will refresh your memory:

Civil forfeiture laws permit local and state police to take cash, cars, homes and other property from people suspected of involvement in drug trafficking or other wrongdoing without proving a crime has occurred. Police can make seizures under state or federal laws.

Since 2009, D.C. officers have made more than 12,000 seizures under city and federal laws, according to records and data obtained from the city by The Washington Post through the District’s open records law. Half of the more than $5.5 million in cash seizures were for $141 or less, with more than a thousand for less than $20. D.C. police have seized more than 1,000 cars, some for minor offenses allegedly committed by the children or friends of the vehicle owners, documents show.

When D.C. police seize cash or property under District law, the proceeds go into the city’s general fund. But proceeds of seizures made under federal law go directly to the police department through the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which allows local departments to join with federal agencies in forfeitures and keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds.

That is all from Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Steve Rich, another installment in their pathbreaking series, scroll down to the bottom of the page for links to the rest.

Losing to Win

by on November 16, 2014 at 1:27 am in Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

That is the title of a paper from Kai Steverson, who is on the job market from Princeton this year:

Abstract: We study an infinite horizon model of political competition where parties face a trade-off between winning today and winning tomorrow. Parties choose between nominating moderates, who are more viable, or partisans, who can energize the base and draw in new voters which helps win future elections. Only moderates can win in equilibrium and so the winning party fails to invest in its base and has a weaker future. Hence the longer a party is in power the more likely they are to lose, a pattern that finds strong support in the data. This dynamic also creates an electoral cycle where parties regularly take turns in power.

The paper is here (pdf), Kai’s job market paper on Tiebout competition and minorities is here (pdf), it covers how mobility can lead to a race to the bottom when it comes to protecting the rights of minority workers.

Smart phones and child injuries

by on November 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm in Economics, Web/Tech | Permalink

Looking at your smart phone may in fact be more interesting than watching your small child, at the margin at least.  It seems that some child injuries may be going up for this reason.  Here is a new paper (pdf) by Craig Palsson at Yale:

From 2005 to 2012, injuries to children under fi ve increased by 10%. Using the expansion of ATT’s 3G network, I find that smartphone adoption has a causal impact on child injuries. This eff ect is strongest amongst children ages 0-5, but not children ages 6-10, and in activities where parental supervision matters. I put this forward as indirect evidence that this increase is due to parents being distracted while supervising.

Here is Palsson’s other work, I hope he sends me a copy of his Haiti research once it is available.

Assorted links

by on November 15, 2014 at 12:12 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Five year old passes Microsoft exam.

2. Mind-controlled device switches on gene expression.

3. Last year, was Tyrone right about the Republicans?

4. Do the Chinese need insulation?

5. Why are there so few new blockbuster drugs?

6. Michael Mandel on Title II.

7. Sylvia Nasar lawsuit ruled to have no standing.

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.

Solo dining markets in everything

by on November 15, 2014 at 1:44 am in Food and Drink | Permalink

A new pop-up restaurant in Amsterdam, which bills itself as the world’s first for solo eaters, aims to remove the social stigma of forking dinner without a companion. In fact, there isn’t a two-top in the joint.

…“The taste of persons eating alone seems different, and even more intense, according to our guests,” says Marina van Goor, owner of the temporary eatery, which is called Eenmaal. As such, the chef takes care to serve four-course meals (at a moderate €35, or roughly $48, including drink) prepared from quality local and organic ingredients. Even the interior is left intentionally raw and no-frills, to emphasize the simple pleasure of unapologetically eating alone.

Nor do they offer Wi-Fi, there is more here., via Sendhil Mullainathan.

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.

Assorted links

by on November 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Daniel Davies on the foreign exchange scandals.

2. Should having a toilet be a prerequisite for running for public office?

3. Hermit crabs solve a matching problem and swap shells.

4. The wrong way to steal a chainsaw.

5. Tax incidence theory: “…up to 74 percent of the variation in adoption costs is explained by child characteristics.”

6. How do Harvard faculty complain about their health care benefits?: “What I don’t have time to do is find $1,500 in my back pocket.”

Over the more than four centuries from the time of Ivan the Terrible, Russia expanded an average of fifty square miles per day.

That is from the extraordinary new Stephen Kotkin biography of Stalin, titled Stalin.  The first volume of 949 pp. brings the reader up only until 1928.  A lot still happened after that.

Since its adolescence more than four decades ago, the New York Philharmonic’s home at Lincoln Center has been known as Avery Fisher Hall. Now, as the orchestra prepares for a major renovation expected to cost more than $500 million, the Fisher family has agreed to relinquish the name, so the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center can lure a large donor with the promise of rechristening the building.

…Lincoln Center is essentially paying the family $15 million for permission to drop the name and has included several other inducements, like a promise to feature prominent tributes to Avery Fisher in the lobby of the renovated concert hall.

While the ability to raise money through naming opportunities has become a staple tool for arts organizations, perhaps no event speaks louder to its utility as a fund-raising mechanism than Lincoln Center’s willingness to pay a veteran donor to step away so it can court a new benefactor in his stead.

The full story is here.

We have some new results, from Maria Victoria Anauati, Sebastian Galiani, and Ramiro H. Gálvez, all consistent with my prior intuitions:

Does the life cycle of economic papers differ across fields of economic research? By constructing and analyzing a large dataset that combines information on 9,672 articles published in the top five economic journals from 1970 to 2000 with detailed yearly citation data obtained from Google Scholar, we find that published articles do have a life cycle that differs across fields of economic research (which we divide into the categories of applied research, applied theory, econometrics methods and theory). Applied research and applied theory papers are the clear winners in terms of citation counts. For the first years after their publication, they receive higher numbers of citations per year than papers in other fields of research do. They also reach a higher peak number of citations per year and apparently sustain those peak levels for longer, in addition to being cited over longer periods of time (i.e., they have a longer lifespan). Citation patterns are much less favorable for theoretical papers, which are the object of fewer citations per annum in the first years following publication, have lower peak numbers and a shorter lifespan. Econometric method papers are a special case; the pattern for most of these papers is similar to the pattern for theory papers, but the most successful papers (as measured by the number of citations) on econometric methods are also the most successful papers in the entire discipline of economics.

The SSRN paper is here.  And via Ben Southwood, here is an interesting new paper on how citation success usually pops up early in the life of a paper: “…citations in the first two years after publication explain more than half of the variation in cumulative citations received over a longer period.”

How can Scandinavians tax so much?

by on November 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm in Economics, Law | Permalink

Henrik Jacobsen Kleven has a new JEP piece on that question., here is one short excerpt:

…these countries also spend relatively large amounts on the public provision and subsidization of goods that are complementary to working, including child care, elderly care, and transportation. Such policies represent subsidies to the costs of market work, which encourage labor supply and make taxes less distortionary…Furthermore, Scandinavian countries spend heavily on education, which is complementary to long-run labor supply and potentially offsets some of the distortionary effects of taxation…

The paper makes numerous other good points.

By Besley and Persson, here is a related JEP piece on why developing economies tax so little.  And here is a recent piece on whether Sweden can become a fully cashless society.  By the way, the full issue of JEP is here.