Do parents know best about schooling?

Diether W. Beuermann and C. Kirabo Jackson report:

Recent studies document that, in many cases, sought after schools do not improve student test scores. Three explanations are that (i) existing studies identify local average treatment effects that do not generalize to the average student, (ii) parents cannot discern schools’ causal impacts, and (iii) parents value schools that improve outcomes not well measured by test scores. To shed light on this, we employ administrative and survey data from Barbados. Using discrete choice models, we document that most parents have strong preferences for the same schools. Using a regression-discontinuity design, we estimate the causal impact of attending a preferred school on a broad array of outcomes. As found in other settings, preferred schools have better peers, but do not improve short-run test scores. We implement a new statistical test and find that this null effect is not due to school impacts being different for marginal students than for the average student. Looking at longer-run outcomes, for girls, preferred schools reduce teen motherhood, increase educational attainment, increase earnings, and improve health. In contrast, for boys, the results are mixed. The pattern for girls is consistent with parents valuing school impacts on outcomes not well measured by test scores, while the pattern for boys is consistent with parents being unable to identify schools’ causal impacts. Our results indicate that impacts on test scores may be an incomplete measure of school quality.

A neglected point…Arnold Kling, telephone!

Tuesday assorted links

1. The personal stylists who are training the bots to be personal stylists.

2. Transplanting a face.

3. Man hospitalized after falling in an Anish Kapoor installation.  And a short, weird excerpt from Stubborn Attachments.

4. Greater Los Angeles.

5. Do self-driving cars require better pedestrians?

6. Sweetheart of the Rodeo.  Roger McGuinn must have been the talent spotter in that group, with Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, David Crosby, Gram Parsons, and Clarence White as a pretty good record.

How many spies are there again? (those new service sector jobs)

Hedge funds, especially activist hedge funds, are established users of private-investigation services. Sometimes simply paying an investigator to go through publicly available information can yield valuable leverage in an investment. The hedge-fund investor Daniel Loeb, of Third Point, exposed misrepresentations on the résumé of Scott Thompson, the C.E.O. of Yahoo, who subsequently resigned. But some private-investigation firms or consultants will do much more for a well-paying client. “There are thousands of tiny shops out there, run by former C.I.A. operatives, MI6 guys, former Mossad people, or people on the fringes, who bring the tactics that they learned in the intelligence service to the investigative and corporate world,” the head of a boutique investigation firm told me. “Smaller players who will do whatever it takes.”

Here is the Sheelah Kholkatkar piece (New Yorker), via Hugo Lindgren.

Gender-neutral tenure clock stopping doesn’t work

Using a unique data set on the universe of assistant professor hires at top-50 economics departments from 1980-2005, we show that the adoption of gender-neutral tenure clock stopping policies substantially reduced female tenure rates while substantially increasing male tenure rates.

That is from Heather Antecol, Kelly Bedard, and Jenna Stearns in a forthcoming AER, via Claire Lehmann

Monday assorted links

1. Is water common on exoplanets?

2. Options on health insurance.

3. Goat rental markets in everything.

4. MIE: art museum highbrow lingerie.

5. It matters where a woman is born (NYT), and has a persistent effect on her lifetime earnings: “…the beliefs a woman grows up with can shape her future behavior in a way that affects her career and salary.”

6. Jason Furman book recommendations.

Baku bits, what to see in Baku

The vertigo starts, as upon arrival in the airport there are few direct clues as to which country you might be in.  You will see people from every part of this hemisphere, and furthermore the Azerbaijanis won’t stand out as such.  The facility itself looks like an average of five or six other airports, like how some TV shows film in Canada to get that generically American look.

Matters seem to go downhill as one rides into town — “Dubai, yet without the charm” is how I described it to Yana in an early, premature email.  Yet this petro-city grows on you quickly, and I don’t just mean the cherry jam.  Closer to town center there are interesting buildings in every direction, and of three sorts: the medieval Old City with walls, a blossoming of late 19th century European architecture (and they are still doing contemporary copies of it), and the Brasilia-Dubai like modern buildings.

In 1905 about half of the world’s oil was produced in or near Baku.  In 1942, it was Stalingrad that stopped Hitler from taking the place over and perhaps changing the course of history.  Not long ago, oil and gas were estimated to account for sixty percent of the gdp of Azerbaijan.

And you can see that money being spent, to the benefit of the tourist I might add.  Baku has perhaps the most attractive and walkable seaside promenade.  The walker has views of the Caspian, of spectacular buildings, of the port, and there are multiple paths with beautiful gardens and cactuses and baobab trees, benches everywhere, Eurasians in abundance, and in August the weather is perfect for a long stroll every night.

Baku is reputed to be the world’s lowest capital city, standing about 28 meters below sea level.

It is the first Shiite country I have visited, and it seems less conservative than say the Turkey of ten years ago, for instance in terms of dress and demeanor.  A small percentage of women wear burkhas, most of all by the seaside walk, but the look of their companions suggests most are tourists or expats.

In short, several generations of communist-enforced atheism do have a persistent effect.  One Azerbaijani, with whom I had an extended dialogue through a translator, stressed to me how much universal Soviet education elevated the region (and she was not pro-Soviet or pro-communist by any means).  The Azerbaijanis address me in Russian, as few can converse with ease in English.

The police go to great lengths to limit jaywalking, which is in any case dangerous.  The city roads are wide, and like some parts of central Brasilia have few traffic lights.  Never have I wished so often that I was on the other side of the street as in Baku.

Baku has three working synagogues, and, unlike in almost every other country in the world, they do not require police protection.  It is a remarkably safe city.

There is strong sentiment here that Nagorno-Karabakh, technically a part of Azerbaijan but not controlled by the government in over twenty years, is ruled by “Armenian terrorists,” backed by Putin. This issue, largely neglected outside the region, is likely to flare up again.  When I applied for a visa, I had to answer whether I come from Armenian blood (no).  It seems like a much less friendly conflict than say between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Baku was the easternmost part of the Roman Empire — does that make it European?

“Relatives may eat your flesh but they won’t throw away your bones” is an old Azerbaijani saying.

Newborns are washed in salt water, to make them truthful and bold.

As a vacation spot, I recommend three to four days here for anyone looking for something off the beaten path, but without logistical difficulties.  Here is Wikipedia on Baku.

The trade war: liquid resale markets react first

The prices at the Manheim auto auction have been better than usual lately, especially since President Donald Trump started pushing for new tariffs on imported vehicles, parts as well as the steel and aluminum used to make cars, said Jonathan Smoke, the chief economist of Cox Automotive. Cox runs the auction, which draws dealers from around the country to bid online or in person at the auction house.

Smoke tracks three-year old vehicles as an indicator of pricing for used cars, since that’s when a lot of leases are turned in and that vintage is the most common pre-owned vehicle for sale at any given time. A three-year-old Nissan Altima costs about $100 more now than it did just last month. A three-year-old Toyota Camry costs $400 more than it did a year ago.

“The fact this happened almost exactly two weeks after Trump announced he was going to enact tariffs can’t be ignored,” Smoke said, referring to tariffs Donald Trump has proposed on new vehicles imported to the United States…

While the tariffs on new car sales haven’t been enacted yet, the mere threat appears to be driving up prices on new cars. Auto dealers at the Manheim auction Aug. 10 theorized that consumers who might be in the market for a car in the next six to nine months are buying now to hedge against possible rising prices.

Here is the full story, via Michael Rosenwald and here is his history podcast.

The Economics behind the Math Gender Gap

Juan Sebastián Muñoz (the economist, not the golfer) has a new paper on this topic, focusing on Colombia:

The literature that has previously shown that boys outperform girls in math tests has failed to explain the underlying causes of the phenomenon. This math gender gap has been documented to vary across countries, and shown to grow as students advance through school. In this paper I suggest that these patterns may be explained by sample selection caused by gender differences in schooling’s opportunity costs, which lead lower-achieving males to drop out. I present and test the implications of a labor supply model that examines the opportunity cost of school attendance and, thereby, the observed math gender gap. Using an exogenous policy change, the launch of a conditional cash transfers program in Colombia,
I estimate that sample selection explains between 50 percent and 60 percent of the gap. Estimates of non-parametric bounds show that selection in the lower quantiles of the male distribution explains a significant portion of the gap.

A dialogue in Seherli Tandir restaurant, this evening

There are three tables, all close enough to chat, and at them there was TC, a Saudi family with a husband, two kids and a woman in full burkha, and a woman from a fine New York City neighborhood, perhaps 65 years old.  Suddenly, the NYC woman paused from her chat with me:

NYC woman, to Saudi table: (With a strong NYC accent) So where are you all from?

Saudi Man: Saudi Arabia.

NYC woman: Is that your wife in there?

Saudi Man: Yes.

NYC woman: Is she driving yet?

Saudi Man: No

NYC woman: Why not?

Saudi Man: She does not need to.

NYC woman: I was just wondering, because they made such a big deal out of it on TV.  And I was thinking maybe they aren’t all driving yet.

Saudi Man: She does not need to.

NYC woman: But why not?

Saudi Man: Madam, you live in New York City.  Are you driving yet?

Sunday assorted links

1. The Profanity Embroidery Group.

2. What is the African word you use most frequently?

3. Rail energy storage?

4. The culture and polity that is Swiss.

5. How are the prospects for Irish unification looking these days?  What is the correct underlying model here?

6. “People’s recollections after driving a familiar road were very poor, with most memories involving the bad behavior of other motorists.”  Link here.

7. Witchcraft in the #MeToo era (NYT, satire).

Which ten restaurants would you most want to live next door to?

Seherli Tandir, in Baku, Azerbaijan is now on my list, but let me first explain the criteria.  This is not about the best restaurants, it is about the ones that give you the most consumer surplus.  For most of the “next door restaurants,” as I shall call them, you want them to be inexpensive, to offer some healthy options, to satisfy some of your cravings, to offer unique dishes, and not to take too long serving you.

It is not a mistake, if you are visiting Baku, to simply have each and every one of your meals at Seherli Tandir — the other restaurants in town are dominated assets.

The menu allows you to order three different types of cherry jam.  Get the one in the middle, the sour one (don’t let them tell you that you should not be ordering a jam, and don’t put it on anything, just eat it).

Have I had better yogurts and rices?  Order the little dumplings with sumac (gurza), asking for yogurt sauce on the side.  The qutabs — thin breads stuffed with either pumpkin or meat — are the surprise knock-outs.  The soups, the stews, the dolmeh.  Did I mention the pilaf with the chestnuts?  The “tandir” bread-baking oven in the middle of the restaurant?

The typical entree costs about $4-6.  And the staff is friendly and helpful.

The restaurant is located in the old city, on the “restaurant street,” near four or five other excellent but nonetheless inferior options (when in doubt in those order dishes with pomegranate seeds).  Go to the tower, and start walking up to the right, maybe 5-7 minutes.  No taxi can take you there, as it is in a pedestrian zone.  Simply ask when you get lost, as the restaurant is quite famous.  You can’t make a reservation and may need to wait out in the sun, thus another reason why it should be next to my home

In general, Azerbaijani food lies in the space between Persian and Georgian cuisines, a double yum.

Which other restaurants should be in the top ten you want right next to your home? And why aren’t those restaurants simply the best period?

p.s. watermelon jam tastes better than you think.