The Labor Market Returns of Being An Artist

The labor market penalty to choosing the arts seems to be rising:

Using individual-level data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) between 2006 and 2021, I study the labor market experiences of artists. First, I find a decline in the relative earnings of artists to non-artists from zero to a 15% disadvantage. After controlling for demographic differences, the decline is sharper, declining from a 15% earnings disadvantage to 30%. That the inclusion of demographic controls raises the earnings gap suggests there is positive selection into the arts. Second, these differences decline in magnitude to 4.4%, but remain statistically significant, after exploiting variation among artists and non-artists in the same industry-year and major occupation. Third, when restricting the set of individuals to those with at least a college degree, those with a fine arts degree also incur an earnings and employment penalty even if they work in the arts. These results highlight the increasing financial precariousness of artists over the past decade.

That is a new paper by Christos Makridis, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.  Overall this result makes sense to me.  Success in the arts requires extreme talent of some kind in most (not all) cases.  Those individuals can earn increasingly more in other endeavors.  But if the arts are trapped in a “Malthusian equilibrium,” with intense entry competing down returns because it is fun, artistic earnings may not keep pace.

Will misinformation be an electoral problem?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit:

…consider the story that former President Barack Obama was not born in the US. It did not take off because someone forged a copy of an Indonesian birth certificate. Instead, many people approached the issue wanting to believe that Obama was not “a real American,” some dangerous tidbits were thrown their way, and off they went. The release of Obama’s US birth certificate did not convince them they were wrong.

Lies, misunderstandings, instances of self-deception: They have long been in excess supply. Blame China, Russia, social media, regular media, whomever. A potentially gullible person is already flooded with more lies in a single day than he or she can possibly evaluate.

A greater number of falsehoods just won’t matter that much — because the scarce resources are attention and focality on the demand side. How much is someone looking to believe they have been wronged? How much do they resent “the establishment”? What kinds of grudges do they hold, and against whom or what? And how well can they coordinate with others of like mind, thereby forming a kind of misinformation affinity group?

There is much more at the link.

From the comments, on the new Meta smart glasses

There is clearly a lot of negative emotional reactivity regarding these glasses going on here, but it’s worth thinking about the implications, both positive and negative.

1. They clearly can be built with current technology. Therefore, assuming they are useful, they will be built.

2. It clearly looks like they provide a much superior hands-free experience for smart phone operation. I see both benefits and issues that could go along with this, but need to note that anything that keeps drivers from fumbling with their phones has potential positive safety implications.

3. They are a potential boon to people with disabilities. The glasses can provide a unified experience that can enable anyone who has difficulty manipulating a computer mouse, phone or other handheld device to get information quickly and efficiently.

4. The same applies to people who are in the early stages of dementia. Given an accompanying personal database of photos of friends and loved ones, the visual prompts from the glasses can help a person with failing memory and mental faculties.

5. The glasses would be similarly useful to people in professions that require them to interact with very large numbers of other people, such as clergymen, managers, politicians and even retail store workers. The ability to rapidly call up names and information about someone that you’ve met only once four years ago is not necessarily a bad thing.

6. I think it inevitable that law enforcement agencies are going to be potentially huge customers of this. For example, given current security trends, I think that the TSA will be buying a boatload of these.

7. The same obviously applies to the military.

It’s going to be interesting.

That is from Phil C.

From the comments, on OWS and PEPFAR

There is somewhat of an intellectual void in Republican leadership over the past 20 years. Occasionally that void creates space for a uniquely good idea that doesn’t align too well with ideology. When the Democrats are in charge, there are plenty of mainstream Democratic ideas to fill up the agenda, so nothing too unusual happens.

The low ideological alignment also explains why these ideas are underrated later, because they have no deep well of partisans to promote their successes.

That is from Kevin.

New issue of Econ Journal Watch

This is now twenty years of Econ Journal Watch, congratulations to Dan Klein!  Here is the table of contents:

Volume 20, Number 2, September 2023

Screening the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation: In an article in the American Economic Review, Desmond Ang purports to show causal impact of screenings of the film between 1915 and 1919 on lynchings, on the formation and growth of Ku Klux Klan chapters between 1920 and 1925, and on hate crimes in the early 2000s. Here, concurring that the film itself reeks of racism, Robert Kaestner scrutinizes Ang’s data and analyses, and challenges the claims of causal evidence of effects from 1915–1919 screenings of the film. (Note: Professor Ang was not invited to reply for concurrent publication because Kaestner’s piece was finalized at too late a date. Professor Ang is invited to reply in a future issue.)

Temperature-economic growth claims tested again: Having tested temperature-economic growth claims previously in this journal (here and here), David Barker now reports on his investigation into much-cited articles by Melissa Dell, Benjamin Jones, and Benjamin Olken, published in the American Economic Review in 2009 and the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics in 2012. As with the two previous pieces by Barker, the commented-on authors have declined to reply (the invitation remains open).

Debating the causes of the Ukraine famine of the early 1930s: Two scholars interpret the complex causes of a tragedy that caused the loss of perhaps three million souls. Natalya Naumenko’s research on the causes of the Ukraine famine is discussed by Mark Tauger, and Naumenko replies.

Ergodicity economics, debated: A number of scholars have advanced an approach to decision making under uncertainty called ergodicity economics. A critique is provided here by Matthew Ford and John Kay, who maintain that psychology is fundamental to any general theory of decision making under uncertainty. Eleven proponents of ergodicity economics have coauthored a reply. They suggest that the critique is based on an incomplete understanding of ergodicity economics, and point to two sources of misunderstanding. The replying authors are Oliver Hulme, Arne Vanhoyweghen, Colm Connaughton, Ole Peters, Simon Steinkamp, Alexander Adamou, Dominik Baumann, Vincent Ginis, Bert Verbruggen, James Price, and Benjamin Skjold.

Dispute resolution on hospitals, communication, and dispute resolution? Previously, Florence R. LeCraw, Daniel Montanera, and Thomas A. Mroz (LMM) criticized the statistical methods of a 2018 article in Health Affairs. Here, Maayan Yitshak-Sade, Allen Kachalia, Victor Novack, and Michelle M. Mello provide a reply to LMM, and LMM provide a rejoinder to them.

Aaron Gamino rejoins on health insurance mandates and the marriage of young adults: Previously, Aaron Gamino commented on the statistical modeling in a 2022 Journal of Human Resources article, whose authors, Scott Barkowski and Joanne Song McLaughlin, replied. Here now Gamino provides a rejoinder.

A History of Classical Liberalism in the Netherlands: Edwin van de Haar narrates the classical liberal movements in the Netherlands, from the Dutch Golden Age, through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and down to today. The article extends the series on Classical Liberalism in Econ, by Country.

To Russia with love: The conservative liberal Boris Chicherin (1828–1904) addressed his fellow Russians in an 1857 essay “Contemporary Tasks of Russian Life.” Here, the essay is republished by permission of Yale University Press, with a Foreword by the translator Gary Hamburg.

Pierre de Boisguilbert: Prime Extracts and Some Correspondence: The first great exponent of liberal economics in France was Pierre de Boisguilbert (1646–1714). Here, Benoît Malbranque provides English-language readers with a taste of Boisguilbert, and for the first time.

SSRN and medRxiv Censor Counter-narrative Science: Jay Bhattacharya and Steve Hanke detail the experience of three research teams being censored by SSRN and medRxiv. The article also points to a website (link) where scholars can report their experiences of being censored by SSRN, medRxiv, or other preprint servers.

Journal of Accounting Research’s Report on Its Own Research-Misconduct Investigation of an Article It Published: Dan Klein reports and rebukes the journal.

What are your most underappreciated works? Previously, 18 scholars with 4k+ Google Scholar cites pointed to a decade-or-more old paper with cite count below his or her h-index. Now, they are joined by Andrew Gelman, Robert Kaestner, Robert A. Lawson, George Selgin, Ilya Somin, and Alex Tabarrok.

EJW Audio:

Edwin van de Haar on Classical Liberalism in the Netherlands

Paul Robinson on Russian Liberalism

Vlad Tarko and Radu Nechita on Liberalism in Romania, 1829 to 2023

*The Creator* (movie review with spoilers)

This movie was deeper and more philosophical than I was expecting.  Imagine a Buddhism that decides the AIs represent the true renunciation of desire, and thus embody the Buddhist ideal.  Globally, the AIs ally themselves with the Buddhist nations, now unified under a “Republic of New Asia” banner.  Mostly it looks like Vietnam (water buffalo), until snow-capped mountains are needed near the end.

The Buddhists considers the AIs to be kinder than humans.  America, however, tries to destroy them all, as part of a misguided quest to bomb the proverbial data centers.

You will find visual quotations from A.I., Robocop, Terminator II, Kundun, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now, Firestarter, Westworld, Lost in Space, the Abraham story from Genesis, and more.  The special effects were good, and surprisingly understated compared to the usual excess.  Scientific consistency, however, you will not find.

In this movie it is Eliezer and the Americans who are the bad guys.  I was surprised to see Hollywood make that move.

From the director of Rogue One, a good sign of course, and the soundtrack is by Hans Zimmer.  This movie is not perfect, but I am very glad I saw it.  The U.S. reviews for it are unreliable, the BBC did OK, Vulture too.

Monday assorted links

1. Overview of Robert Putnam.  Interesting piece.

2. Okie-dokie.

3. And (same source) thwarted markets in everything?

4. The Joseph Walker podcast with Katalin Karikó.  Redux.

5. “Harvard ranked 248th out of the 248 schools that were ranked. Not only did Harvard rank last, but FIRE singled us out for special scorn, stating that Harvard’s score was six standard deviations below the average, and more than two standard deviations below the next highest school.”  David Deming link here.

Work From Home Works

It took firms decades to adjust to electricity by redesigning factories, products, and workflows to take full advantage of the new possibilities. Similarly, the benefits of work from home start to come most profoundly when expensive offices can be shrunk, employers can draw from a much larger pool of workers and workers can adjust when and where they work, including the location of their homes. It’s not surprising, therefore, that with little time for either the workers or the firms to adjust and with few options to choose how much to work from home, productivity fell when COVID sent workers home.  But, with more time to plan and more options for hybrid but extensive work from home (e.g. work from home Mondays and Fridays), work from home has large benefits. We are also seeing management redesign to take advantage of work from home in the same way we saw factory redesign to take advantage of electricity. Management, for example, is shifting from input metrics–do you show up?–to output metrics–did the work get done? Designing and validating new metrics takes time, but these changes are helping to increase the benefits of work from home.

Nick Bloom reviews the evidence (slides here).

Looking at micro economic studies on working from home productivity, the classic is “The Stanford Study” I helped oversee in 2010-2012. We randomized 250 employees in a large multinational firm into those who would work from home and those who would report to the office. The expectation, of course, was that home-based employees would goof-off, sleeping or watching TV rather than working.

So, we were shocked to find a massive 13 percent increase in productivity.

The productivity boost came from two sources. First, remote employees worked 9 percent more in minutes per day. They were rarely late to work, spent less time gossiping and chatting with colleagues, and took shorter lunch breaks and fewer sick days. Remote employees also had 4 percent more output per minute. They told us it’s quieter at home. The office was so noisy many of them struggled to concentrate.

The macro evidence also suggests or at least is consistent with work from home working:

In the five years before the pandemic, U.S. labor productivity growth was 1.2 percent; since 2020, this picked up to 1.5 percent. Given the state of the world, that acceleration was miraculous.

What could have caused this? Perhaps rising government expenditure and easy monetary policy? Possibly, but greater government activity traditionally is associated with lower, not higher, productivity growth. Perhaps an acceleration in technology and computerization? Possibly, but the pandemic did not witness any pickup in technological progress. Perhaps the five-fold surge in working from home post-pandemic. Maybe cutting billions of commuting hours, replacing millions of business trips with Zoom meetings, increasing the labor supply of Americans with disabilities or child-care commitments, and saving millions of square feet of office space increased productivity? It is honestly hard to say.

Revealed preference is the most telling piece of evidence. Workers value the option to work from home and many firms now advertise the options for hybrid work as a benefit:

…millions of firms around the world are adopting hybrid and remote work, there has to be something there. I have spoken to many hundreds of managers and firms over the last three years and I repeatedly hear they use home working as a key part of their recruitment and retention strategy. Indeed, another recent experiment on 1600 employees found hybrid reduced employee quit rates by 35 percent. \

Despite a rocky start, work from home appears to have stabilized at around 25% of work days overall and stunningly, nearly 40% of work days for college educated workers! Work from home thus appears to be a permanent and beneficial change in how work is structured.

PEPFAR has been a great achievement

PEPFAR is the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, started by George W. Bush in 2003. Overseen by the State Department, the program provides treatment for HIV-AIDS and derivative maladies (such as tuberculosis) through training, medical infrastructure, support for orphans and vulnerable children, and, most important, antiretroviral drugs.

By some estimates, the program has saved 25 million lives over the last two decades, spending about $90 billion for treatments that many Africans otherwise could not have afforded or gotten access to. Not only has PEPFAR saved African lives (in a very cost-effective way, I might add), it’s also improved the quality of life for many Africans and helped the economies of many African nations. The burnishing of America’s reputation is a bonus.

And this:

What does it mean that two of the most successful policies of the last 20 years have originated with Republican administrations? Or that two of the people most associated with these initiatives — Condoleezza Rice (PEPFAR) and Jared Kushner (OWS) — have never received proper recognition for their efforts? They should, in spite of whatever other objections one might have to their other decisions.

Here is the rest of my Bloomberg column.

Sentences to ponder, scientific fraud edition

In 2015, a big team of researchers tried to redo 100 psychology studies, and about 60% failed to replicate.

This finding made big waves and headlines, and it’s already been cited nearly 8,000 times.

But the next time someone brings it up, ask them to name as many of the 100 studies as they can. My bet is they top out at zero. I’m basically at zero myself, and I’ve written about that study at length. (I asked a few of my colleagues in case I’m just uniquely stupid, and their answers were: 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, and 3.)

This is really weird. Imagine if someone told you that 60% of your loved ones had died in a plane crash. Your first reaction might be disbelief and horror—“Why were 60% of my loved ones on the same plane? Were they all hanging out without me?”—but then you would want to know who died. Because that really matters! The people you love are not interchangeable! Was it your mom, your best friend, or what? It would be insane to only remember the 60% statistic and then, whenever someone asked you who died in that horrible plane crash, respond, “Hmm, you know, I never really looked into it. Maybe, um, Uncle Fred? Or my friend Clarissa? It was definitely 60% of my loved ones, though, whoever it was.”

So if you hear that 60% of papers in your field don’t replicate, shouldn’t you care a lot about which ones? Why didn’t my colleagues and I immediately open up that paper’s supplement, click on the 100 links, and check whether any of our most beloved findings died? The answer has to be, “We just didn’t think it was an important thing to do.” We heard about the plane crash and we didn’t even bother to check the list of casualties. What a damning indictment of our field!

Here is more from Adam Mastroianni.

Oxford fact of the day, medieval murder edition

The research suggests that Oxford’s student population was by far the most lethally violent social or professional group in any of the three cities.

The team behind the Medieval Murder Maps – a digital resource that plots crime scenes based on translated investigations from 700-year-old coroners’ inquests – estimate the per capita homicide rate in Oxford to have been 4-5 times higher than late medieval London or York.

Among Oxford perpetrators with a known background, 75% were identified by the coroner as “clericus”, as were 72% of all Oxford’s homicide victims. During this period, clericus is most likely to refer to a student or member of the early university.

“A medieval university city such as Oxford had a deadly mix of conditions,” said Prof Manuel Eisner, murder map investigator and Director of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology.

“Oxford students were all male and typically aged between fourteen and twenty-one, the peak for violence and risk-taking. These were young men freed from tight controls of family, parish or guild, and thrust into an environment full of weapons, with ample access to alehouses and sex workers.”

Yes that is from University of Cambridge, via Anecdotal.

Sunday assorted links

1. NSF partners with the Institute for Progress to test new mechanisms for funding research and innovation.

2. Two-minute AI-generated podcast about the jazz music of Sun Ra.  From Trellis.

3. Gideon Lewis-Kraus on scientific misconduct (New Yorker).  Excellent piece.

4. “State partisanship and COVID vaccination rates are strongly predictive of COVID death rates even once you account for age.”  Nate Silver nails it.

5. Manufacturing jobs now have below-average wages for the United States.

A new estimate of costs from global warming

The paper, by David J. Winter and Manuela Kiehl, is titled “Long-term Macroeconomic Effects of Shifting Temperature Anomaly Distributions.”  I’ve posted a few papers showing results like “5 to 10 percent of global gdp by 2100” (try here and here), and I promised I would pass along further and different estimates.  Here is the abstract:

This paper uses panel data on 201 countries from 1960 to 2019 to estimate the long-term macroeconomic effects of shifting temperature anomaly distributions. We find that rising average temperature anomalies from historical norms caused by global warming have negative, non-linear impacts on GDP growth. By additionally accounting for volatility and tail composition of the temperature anomaly distribution across a geospatial grid and across time, our approach is a methodological step towards quantifying the macroeconomic impacts of broader climate change. Projected damages are far greater than estimated in previous studies that have focussed on quantifying the macroeconomic impacts of average temperature levels only. Furthermore, in contrast to these studies which suggest that cooler countries would benefit from global warming, our damage forecasts see all countries face significant losses in productivity growth beyond optimum global warming levels of 0.3°C. Against a counterfactual scenario in which temperatures are held flat at today’s levels, 2 to 2.6°C of warming versus pre-industrial levels by 2050 has the potential to reduce projected global output by 30 to 50%. Warming in the range of 4-5°C by 2100 would lead to economic annihilation, consistent with scientific research on mass extinction thresholds and tipping points.

Now I am not sure I understand this paper correctly, but the authors don’t seem to take mitigation or adjustment into account, which would be far greater for sustained global warming than they would be for periodic, earlier temperature anomalies (Lucas critique!).  And I don’t see they have any real empirical argument, from existing data, that “economic annihilation” would occur in some of their scenarios.

So I am skeptical.  Nonetheless I promised you all further reports, and here is one of them.  At the very least you can see what “moves” are needed to get the projected costs of global warming to go higher than are currently estimated.  I would gladly consider more papers in this vein, and this is an important and underdiscussed question, at least from a rational point of view.

Via tekl.