Results for “department why not”
171 found

Michigan markets in everything department of why not?

Oakley, Mi. is barely a town at 300 people, only one streetlight and, until recently, one police officer. The one cop was good at his job, reports Vocativ’s M.L. Nestel, until he was forced to step down after getting caught stalking a teenage girl.

In 2008, new chief Robert Reznick made some changes: he hired 12 full-time officers and started an enormous volunteer officer program which allowed lawyers, doctors and football players (from other towns) to work toward upholding the law.

One qualifies for this prestigious program simply by paying $1,200 to the police department. In return, you’ll get a uniform, bullet-proof vest and gun. For an additional donation, you’ll get a police badge and the right to carry your gun basically anywhere in the state, including stadiums, bars and daycares.

There is more here, via Larry Rothfield.

Markets in everything, or Department of Why Not?

Bouncers, ex-soldiers and former police officers are being brought into schools to provide "crowd control" and cover absent teachers' lessons, a teacher has revealed.

school, thought to be in London, employed two permanent cover teachers
through an agency for professional doormen, the National Union of
Teachers annual conference in Cardiff heard today.

Bouncers, who
more usually work nights keeping order in pubs and clubs, are being
employed in schools because they are "stern and loud", said Andrew
Baisley, a teacher at Haverstock school in Camden, north London.

Here is the story.

Department of Why Not

In England, this new cognitive approach to psychosis and the efforts of Hearing Voices Network are independent of each other, and are sometimes at odds.  H.V.N.’s leading members, for instance, frequently criticize even sympathetic academic researchers for being insufficiently political.  Yet both approaches share a similar purpose in seeking to place voice-hearing within the continuum of normal human experience – one, in order to better treat patients, the other, out of a firm conviction that hearing voices need not interfere with leading an otherwise “normal” life. [emphasis added]

Of course that refers to hearing voices that aren’t actually there.  Here is the full and fascinating story.  It advises people who wish to talk back to the voices to carry around cell phones.

How extreme must a single weirdness be, before a person can’t much function in the real world or be counted as "normal"?

Department of Why Not?

Kieran Healy writes:

This reminds me of one of my favorite books, encountered during research for Last Best Gifts: Ed Brassard’s Body For Sale: An Inside Look At Medical Research, Drug Testing, And Organ Transplants And How You Can Profit From Them.
This is a how-to guide for selling the renewable and non-renewable bits
of yourself and also for getting accepted into paying clinical trials
of all kinds.

Why don’t elite colleges expand supply?

Peter Q. Blair (Harvard) and Kent Smetters (U. Penn) have a new paper based on that question, here is the abstract:

While college enrollment has more-than doubled since 1970, elite colleges have barely increased supply, instead reducing admit rates. This study shows that straightforward reasons cannot explain this behavior. The authors propose a model where colleges compete on prestige, measured using relative selectivity or relative admit rates. A key comparative static of the model is that higher demand decreases [increases] the admit rate when the weight on prestige is above [below] a critical value, consistent with experience in elite [non-elite] colleges. A calibrated version of the model closely replicates the pattern in the data of declining admit rates at elite colleges while counter-factual simulations without prestige fail. Prestige competition is inefficient. Allowing elite colleges to collude on admissions strategy internalizes the non-pecuniary prestige externality and is Pareto improving.

My answer is slightly different.  I do not doubt that the postulated enrollment selectivity constraint binds in the short run.  Nonetheless, I think if most of the top schools really wanted to take in more students, they could do a mix of “recalibrating” the data and lobbying the college raters in such a way that would allow larger classes to happen with little or no reputational penalty.

The true constraint is the faculty.  Let’s say Harvard tried to grow by 3x.  They would have to hire many new professors, and those are people who could not currently obtain tenure at Harvard.  (Harvard could lure those people in, and afford them, right now, but they don’t.)  So Harvard tenure standards would have to fall.  In addition to tolerating these “lower standards,” the current interest groups controlling Harvard departments would find their power greatly diluted by all these newcomers.  And so it doesn’t happen.  When “self-interest” and “high standards” coincide in the academic world, it is very difficult to defeat that.  At least on academic matters, faculty governance really is the order of the day at top universities.

And so the classes at most top universities stay small.  By the way, a potential faculty expansion wouldn’t even have to be with tenure and voting rights.  Say Harvard econ would invite in 15 dissident economists, of varying sorts, on “long enough to carry them to retirement” sorts of “no voting rights” contracts.  Those people would teach, go to seminars, and in general liven up the environment and bring greater intellectual diversity.  They would over time become a force and influence of their own.  And so it ain’t gonna’ happen.  Harvard has to stay relatively small.

So don’t believe them the next time faculty at top schools tell you they are egalitarian.  They are not with their own resources at least, though they are happy to play the game with the resources of others.

Why the quality of the police is not higher

According to the Fairfax County Fraternal Order of Police, the average starting salary for a Fairfax County cop is $52,000. The median household income in the county was $124,831 in 2019.


Fairfax County Police Department is down 188 officers, according to Sean Corcoran, president of the Fairfax County Coalition of Police. Officers eligible for retirement are leaving, others are getting out to join higher paying federal agencies like the Capitol Police.

It is thus very difficult to exercise quality control.  Here is the full story.

Why don’t NYPD police officers wear more masks?

While police officers may forgo mask-wearing for any number of reasons, from peer pressure within ranks that are loath to change to a desire to more easily communicate, the images have fueled a perception of the police as arrogant and dismissive of protesters’ health — perhaps even at the peril of their own.

And while several officers have conspicuously knelt down with or hugged people at rallies, the widespread failure to use masks is creating a more standoffish look, one that protesters say suggests that the police operate above the rules — one of the very beliefs motivating the nationwide movement.

“If you’re out here to protect the public, it starts with you,” said Chaka McKell, 46, a carpenter from Bedford-Stuyvesant who attended a protest in Downtown Brooklyn on Monday. “The head sets the example for the tail.”

The official New York Police Department policy is that officers should wear masks when interacting with the public. But in a statement on Wednesday, the department dismissed the criticism about the lack of masks as petty.

“Perhaps it was the heat,” Sgt. Jessica McRorie of the department’s press office said in a statement. “Perhaps it was the 15 hour tours, wearing bullet resistant vests in the sun. Perhaps it was the helmets. With everything New York City has been through in the past two weeks and everything we are working toward together, we can put our energy to a better use.”

“In a nutshell,” as they say, and here is the full NYT piece.  This short vignette reflects two basic truths: first, there is a tendency to see oneself above at least some of the laws, and to follow defined procedures only selectively.  Second, given the resources and constraints put on the table, such attitudes should not be entirely surprising.

One reason why food intended for restaurants is not reallocated to supermarkets

Nutrition labeling also frequently doesn’t comply with Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration guidelines for consumer sales, said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association, a trade organization for the consumer packaged goods industry. A company that sold hamburger buns to major fast food outlets could try to pivot to retail, but that entails changing packaging on the fly, a relaxation of labeling requirements and new distribution contracts.

Here is a longer story, about how supermarkets are changing, by Laura Reiley, interesting throughout.  I’ll say it again: America’s regulatory state is failing us.

Why is the United States behind on 5G?

No American company makes the devices that transmit high-speed wireless signals. Huawei is the clear leader in the field; the Swedish company Ericsson is a distant second; and the Finnish company Nokia is third.

It is almost surprising that the Defense Department allowed the report to be published at all, given the board’s remarkably blunt assessment of the nation’s lack of innovation and what it said was one of the biggest impediments to rolling out 5G in the United States: the Pentagon itself.

The board said the broadband spectrum needed to create a successful network was reserved not for commercial purposes but for the military.

To work best, 5G needs what’s called low-band spectrum, because it allows signals to travel farther than high-band spectrum. The farther the signal can travel, the less infrastructure has to be deployed.

In China and even in Europe, governments have reserved low-band spectrum for 5G, making it efficient and less costly to blanket their countries with high-speed wireless connectivity. In the United States, the low-band spectrum is reserved for the military.

The difference this makes is stark. Google conducted an experiment for the board, placing 5G transmitters on 72,735 towers and rooftops. Using high-band spectrum, the transmitters covered only 11.6 percent of the United States population at a speed of 100 megabits per second and only 3.9 percent at 1 gigabit per second. If the same transmitters could use low-band spectrum, 57.4 percent of the population would be covered at 100 megabits per second and 21.2 percent at 1 gigabit per second.

In other words, the spectrum that has been allotted in the United States for commercial 5G communications makes 5G significantly slower and more expensive to roll out than just about anywhere else.

That is a commercial disincentive and puts the United States at a distinct disadvantage.

Here is more from Andrew Ross Sorkin (NYT).

The Nobel Laureate who is not a full professor

Donna Strickland (at right) was on Tuesday named one of the three winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. Many have noted that she is the first woman in 55 years to win the prize. The BBC noted in a radio interview that Strickland is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and asked why she was not a full professor. She said she never applied. She laughed when asked if she would apply now.

Link here.

It’s a lot of work to apply for full professor, in terms of compiling one’s dossier, writing a research and teaching statement, cultivating letter writers, and so on.  At many schools you might get a raise of say $1500 for the promotion?  Apply Canadian tax rates to that.  That could be accompanied by more administrative responsibilities, such as pressure to become department chair at some point.

Hail Donna Strickland!

Why some of Trump’s appointees are likely to be highly effective

That is my latest Bloomberg column, and here are some short excerpts:

If the political default is not much change in the first place, introducing more variance into the policy process may shake up at least some parts of the status quo. There will be plenty of gaffes, dead ends and policy embarrassments along the way, but don’t confuse those with a lack of results. An incoming administration that does not mind embarrassment is a bit like a sports opponent who has little to lose. It is easy enough to say that neurosurgeon Ben Carson is unqualified to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but it would be a mistake to dismiss his potential influence…

One rumor is that Sylvester Stallone has been discussed in conjunction with chairing the National Endowment for the Arts. That suggestion might meet with mockery in some quarters, but Stallone’s ability to draw attention to the agency and its mission might prove more important than whatever shortcomings he would bring to the job…

…Under one model of the federal government, narrowly defined administrative competence is most required at the all-important departments of Treasury, State, and Defense, and arguably the Trump picks for those areas are consistent with that view. (They are Steven Mnuchin, a financier, Rex Tillerson, a corporate executive and James Mattis, a military man, respectively.) For many of the other picks, there’s a case for taking more chances.

…I interpret Trump’s nominations as a sign of an intelligent and strategic process, and his choices may prove surprisingly effective in getting things done. Whether you like it or not.

Do read the whole thing.

Why is it so hard to find the cash register?

That is increasingly the case at some upper end stores and boutiques.  Ray A. Smith has a very good WSJ piece on this phenomenon, here is one bit:

More high-end boutiques and department stores are moving the machine out of sight or eliminating it entirely.

Instead, sales associates walk the floors with mobile checkout devices or handle transactions in discreet nooks. Stores aim to make the experience of paying more elegant, akin to private shopping, and to eliminate a pain point that keeps some shoppers from completing a purchase—having to wait in a visible line. Hiding the cash register also forces shoppers to interact with the salespeople and might even encourage them to buy more.


1. Waiting in line is described as “unenlightened.”

2. I enjoyed this remark: “We’re downplaying that last transactional part of the experience…”  And this: “”Researchers have identified a concept known as “the pain of paying,” said Ziv Carmon, a professor of marketing at Insead, a business school with campuses in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. “Doing away with the queue and even with the register makes the upcoming pain of paying less salient,” he said.”

3. When customers are not waiting in line but rather having their purchases processed “privately,” salespeople are encouraged to socialize with them and get to know them better.  And: “Stores say sales associates are expected to sense when a shopper is ready to pay.”


Gavyn Davies on the Swiss central bank and why it folded

The SNB balance sheet at the end of December was about 85 per cent of GDP, mostly in foreign currencies, and we do not know whether this has increased markedly during the bout of euro weakness in January. The SNB’s mark-to-market currency losses on Thursday were probably around 13 per cent of GDP (SFr75bn). Paul Meggyesi of JPMorgan says that “the SNB would have been bankrupted by this de-pegging had it not made such a large profit last year”. The SFr38bn profit in 2014 was announced only last week, which is surely not a coincidence.

Many economists believe that balance sheet losses are irrelevant for a central bank, so they should play no role in policy. But the SNB is 45 per cent owned by private shareholders, many of whom are individuals, who receive dividends from the SNB. The rest is owned by the cantons, which have been complaining recently about insufficient cash transfers from the SNB.

This ownership structure contrasts sharply with most other central banks, which are in effect government departments, wholly owned by the treasury and therefore the taxpayer. The Swiss set-up makes the SNB particularly concerned about balance sheet losses, especially since disgruntled citizens can directly force changes in monetary and reserves policy via referendum.

Excellent points, there is more in the FT here.  Here is my post earlier today on whether central banks require capital, financial, political, or otherwise.

No, A Majority of US Public School Students are Not In Poverty

In widely reported article the Washington Post says a Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty. The article cites the Southern Education Foundation:

The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches.

Eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches, however, depends on eligibility rules and not just income levels let alone poverty rates. The New York Times article on the study is much better:

Children who are eligible for such lunches do not necessarily live in poverty. Subsidized lunches are available to children from families that earn up to $43,568, for a family of four, which is about 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

The number of children eligible for subsidized lunches has probably increased in part because the federal Agriculture Department now allows schools with a majority of low-income students to offer free lunches to all students, regardless of whether they qualify on an individual basis or not.

Frankly I suspect that this study was intended to confuse the media by conflating “low-income” with “below the poverty line”. Indeed, why did this study grab headlines except for the greater than 50% statistic? It is very easy to find official numbers of the number of students in poverty according to the federal poverty standard. Here is what the National Center for Education Statistics says about school-age children and poverty (most recent data):

In 2012, approximately 21 percent of school-age children in the United States were in families living in poverty.

The number of school-age children living in poverty today is relatively high and not surprisingly did increase with the 2008 recession and its aftermath (green line in figure below – the numbers here differ slightly from NCES but the time line is longer). But recent numbers do not look like especially remarkable compared to the history.

It’s certainly worthwhile discussing why poverty has increased. The economy is one possible reason as are issues to do with family formation and marriage rates. Another possibility is immigration. A higher poverty rate caused by the immigration of more low-income children is compatible with everyone becoming better off over time and not necessarily a bad thing. Those are just a few possible topics worthy of investigation. I don’t claim that any of them are correct.

I do claim, however, that we won’t get very far understanding the issue by shifting definitions and muddying the waters with misleading but attention grabbing statistics.

Which characteristics of economics departments predict productivity of publications?

In some recent work, Bosquet and Combes look at French data (only) and correlate the quality of economics departments with some of their underlying features. Why did they chose France?: “The most frequent way of becoming a full professor is via a national contest that allocates winners to departments in a largely random way.”

So what do we learn?  First, large departments are in per capita terms not so much more productive and not at all doing better in terms of quality.  Proximity to other economics departments also does not matter.

And then:

Heterogeneity among researchers in terms of publication performance has a large, negative explanatory power.

I suspect some of this is causal.  It is good for departments to get rid of their dead wood and good when departments insist that everyone produce.

There is also this:

The second department characteristic that has the highest explanatory power of individual publication performance is the diversity of the department in terms of research fields (within economics).

I wonder there how much the allocation of researchers is truly random.  I find the reverse causality story more plausible, namely that the strongest departments have the resources and heft to cover a larger number of fields, as it is less likely that having people scattered across many fields makes the department as a whole more productive.

In your spare time, you might also ponder this:

Finally, other department characteristics have interesting properties.

  • Contrary to common intuition, more students per academic do not reduce publication performance.

  • Women, older academics, stars in the department and co-authors in foreign institutions all have a positive externality impact on each academic’s individual outcome.

For the pointer I thank Mills Kelly.