How on-line education affects grading

This paper examines the role of student facial attractiveness on academic outcomes under various forms of instruction, using data from engineering students in Sweden. When education is in-person, attractive students receive higher grades in non-quantitative subjects, in which teachers tend to interact more with students compared to quantitative courses. This finding holds both for males and females. When instruction moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic, the grades of attractive female students deteriorated in non-quantitative subjects. However, the beauty premium persisted for males, suggesting that discrimination is a salient factor in explaining the grade beauty premium for females only.

That is from a new Economic Letters piece by Adrian Mehic.  Via tekl.

Sunday assorted links

1. My podcast with Scott Galloway.

2. Redux for a survey request on which are your most underappreciated works.

3. Can dolphin immigration succeed?

4. AGM reviews Balaji’s new book.

5. The new Roland Fryer VC firm.

6. Wrongheaded but interesting thread on AI regulation and policy risk.

7. Pilot testimony.  Cites the data too.  Virginia Beach area!

8. Ezra Klein thoughts on television and tech (NYT).

The new class of “insider” trader?

Then, crucially, the government stepped in with covid-relief funds, which were somehow granted to prisoners. (Congress did not bar us from getting stimulus cheques, though the Internal Revenue Service tried to.) That windfall came as a total shock…

Stimulus payments meant people habituated to scarcity suddenly had $1,200 in their hands (then $2,000 more as the government approved two additional payouts). And rather than splurge on items we usually go without – honey buns ($1.10 each), king-size chocolate bars ($2.40) or high-end toothpaste ($5.28) – more than a few of us chose to invest.

Cryptocurrencies have been popular too.  Here is the full Economist/1843 story.  And get this:

The perverse incentive structure of prisoner accounts makes things worse. The prison does not touch account balances below $25, the threshold at which a prisoner is considered indigent. But for those with more than $25, the prison deducts onerous fees totalling 55% of incoming transfers. “Every week I have to max out my commissary order and zero out my account,” Steve said. Prisoners are being conditioned to live pay cheque to pay cheque.

The authors are themselves incarcerated in Washington state.  Via Mike Rosenwald.

Colombian supply curves slope upwards

The most shocking revelations were that soldiers killed civilians and dressed them up as guerrillas to inflate their body counts. In return, they received benefits and promotions. Last year, a tribunal identified more than 6,400 of these so-called “false positive” killings dating from the 2002-2010 rule of hawkish rightwing president Álvaro Uribe, who is under investigation in an unrelated case and could come under further scrutiny with Velásquez as minister.

Here is more from the FT.  This is also an object lesson in why we do not use direct incentives to achieve all tasks.

Saturday assorted links

1. Podcast with Manhattan Institute.

2. “In contrast to many other growth models we find that the taxation of human capital has a substantial negative effect on its accumulation. This in turn reduces innovation and, consequently, the income growth rate.”  Link here.

3. The science fiction movies of 1982, quite the line-up (NYT).

4. The views of Emil Kierkegaard.

5. California state capacity as an EA concern.

6. Why a 1.8 million jobs gap?  And Jason Furman on the same.

7. One recent paper on taxing stock buybacks.

Cat food markets in everything

Fancy Feast is expanding into feline-inspired human cuisine, with a New York City Italian restaurant designed to celebrate the company’s new line.

Gatto Bianco, which means “white cat,” is described by Fancy Feast as an “Italian-style trattoria,” and will be open for dinner reservations on August 11-12 only, according to a news release from Purina, which produces Fancy Feast.

The human-friendly dishes were inspired by Fancy Feast’s new “Medleys” cat food line, which feature options like “Beef Ragú Recipe With Tomatoes & Pasta in a Savory Sauce” for the cat with discerning taste.

Here is the full story, via Balding.

What I’ve been reading

1. Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, Brazilian Authoritarianism: Past and Present.  One of the best general books on where Brazil is right now, and yes it is sad that you can say that about a book on political authoritarianism.  Don’t forget that most of the slaves brought to the New World were brought to Brazil, and the country now has the second largest African population in the world.  The problem with this book is that while the first half on Brazil is quite good, too much of the second half is social science mumbo-jumbo.

2. Isaac Asimov, The End of Eternity.  This novel is not so famous, but it is one of his best and also most literary creations.  Like so many Asimov tales, it is fundamentally biblical in inspiration.  Of course Asimov wrote numerous books about the Bible, so he knew it well.  You can start with Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Samson, but it doesn’t end there.

Dan Slater and Joseph Wong, From Development to Democracy: The Transformations of Modern Asia is a good “state capacity” take on how democracies developed from strong states in Asia.

Richard M. Eaton, India in the Persianate Age.  Among its other virtues, including excellent research, this book does a good job of recharacterizing the “Mughal” era as one of massive Persian influence in India.

Lindsey Hughes, Russia in the Age of Peter the Great.  I only read part of this book, as it had more detail than what I was looking to consume, but it is clearly a major and very useful source on its topic.  It focuses on the progress, science, and state-building sides of the reign of Peter.

The inflation impact of the Inflation Reduction Act

Post title and everything, here I am just copying Greg Mankiw:

“According to CBO:

In calendar year 2022, enacting the bill would have a negligible effect on inflation, in CBO’s assessment. In calendar year 2023, inflation would probably be between 0.1 percentage point lower and 0.1 percentage point higher under the bill than it would be under current law.”

TC again: I know you can be on Twitter, and honestly pledge this thing will reduce inflation, but…c’mon people….

Friday assorted links

1. The dissolution of the monasteries.

2. “By my count, at least 29 of the 605 NBA players who saw the court last season had fathers who played in the league—almost 5 percent, a ludicrously high figure, and enough to fill two teams’ rosters.”  About Bronny.

3. Trends for U.S. water infrastructure.

4. “Considering that it predates the Bank of Ireland and the State itself, it could even be said that Guinness is the longest-running successful large institution in Ireland.”  Link here.

5. Podcast with Josh Szeps.

6. Bryan Caplan does stand-up comedy at the Comedy Cellar.

7. Is Google making the internet more boring?  An interesting piece.

Dose Stretching for the Monkeypox Vaccine

Photo Credit: NIAD.

We are making all the same errors with monkeypox policy that we made with Covid but we are correcting the errors more rapidly. (It remains to be seen whether we are correcting rapidly enough.) I’ve already mentioned the rapid movement of some organizations to first doses first for the monkeypox vaccine. Another example is dose stretching. I argued on the basis of immunological evidence that A Half Dose of Moderna is More Effective Than a Full Dose of AstraZeneca and with Witold Wiecek, Michael Kremer, Chris Snyder and others wrote a paper simulating the effect of dose stretching for COVID in an SIER model. We even worked with a number of groups to accelerate clinical trials on dose stretching. Yet, the idea was slow to take off. On the other hand, the NIH has already announced a dose stretching trial for monkeypox.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health are getting ready to explore a possible work-around. They are putting the finishing touches on the design of a clinical trial to assess two methods of stretching available doses of Jynneos, the only vaccine in the United States approved for vaccination against monkeypox.

They plan to test whether fractional dosing — using one-fifth of the regular amount of vaccine per person — would provide as much protection as the current regimen of two full doses of the vaccine given 28 days apart. They will also test whether using a single dose might be enough to protect against infection.

The first approach would allow roughly five times as many people to be vaccinated as the current licensed approach, and the latter would mean twice as many people could be vaccinated with existing vaccine supplies.

…The answers the study will generate, hopefully by late November or early December, could significantly aid efforts to bring this unprecedented monkeypox outbreak under control.

Another interesting aspect of the dose stretching protocol is that the vaccine will be applied to the skin, i.e. intradermally, which is known to often create a stronger immune response. Again, the idea isn’t new, I mentioned it in passing a couple of times on MR. But we just weren’t prepared to take these step for COVID. Nevertheless, COVID got these ideas into the public square and now that the pump has been primed we appear to be moving more rapidly on monkeypox.

Addendum: Jonathan Nankivell asked on the prediction market, Manifold Markets, ‘whether a 1/5 dose of the monkey pox vaccine would provide at least 50% the protection of the full dose?’ which is now running at a 67% chance. Well worth doing the clinical trial! Especially if we think that the supply of the vaccine will not expand soon.

The new tax on stock buybacks

Democrats opted to seek a new 1 percent tax on corporate stock buybacks, a move that would make up at least some of the revenue that might have lost as a result of the [Sinema-driven] changes.

Here is further detail.  Something has to be taxed, and I don’t pretend to have a comprehensive ranking of tax options from best to worst.  I can’t tell you where this might rank on the list.  I can however tell you these three things:

1. This is flat out a new tax on capital, akin to a tax on dividends.

2. Are you worried about corporations being too big and monopolistic?  This makes it harder for them to shrink!  Think of it also as a tax on the reallocation of capital to new and growing endeavors.

3. The real reason this is being proposed is because so many Democratic and left-leaning public intellectuals have written “flat out wrong, doesn’t matter what your partisan stance is” pieces on stock buybacks.

And there you go.

Sex ratio and infant mortality in India

“India has made tremendous progress since 1990. …

What would you expect about sex ratio at birth in India?

I expected the following:

  • It would have improved across the whole country.
  • It would be worse in the north than in the south.
  • It would be worse in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • The law banning prenatal sex determination, which was passed almost 30 years ago, would have helped with the known problem of selective abortion of female fetuses.

I had also assumed these to be true and touted them as facts to multiple people, including twice in the last two years. Recently, when I tried to confirm this, I learnt the opposite:

  • Sex ratio at birth has gotten worse across the whole country.
  • It is better in the south than in the north, but neither is it better in every southern state nor is it good in absolute terms.
  • It is worse in urban areas than in rural areas.
  • The impact of the law has been mild.”

Here is the link, that is all from .

The rise and fall of empires

The last two centuries witnessed the rise and fall of empires. We construct a model which rationalises this in terms of the changing trade gains from empires. In the model, empires are arrangements that reduce trade cost between an industrial metropole and the agricultural periphery. During early industrialisation, the value of such bilateral trade increases, and so does the value of empires. As industrialisation diffuses, and as manufactures become more differentiated, trade becomes more multilateral and intra-industry, reducing the value of empires. Our results are consistent with long-term changes in income distribution and trade patterns, and with previous historical arguments.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Roberto Bonfatti and Kerem Coşar.