status

Why the low status of opposition to child abuse?

Michael Kaan emails me:

Hi Tyler, I’m a healthcare professional in Canada and a long-time reader of your blog. For the past couple of years, observing the culture wars and various elections, I’ve noticed that child abuse is an extremely rare topic among the cultural left: the highly visible progressive segment that drives wokeness, is culturally powerful, etc. You know what their dominant concerns are. (On the right it’s basically non-existent.)

While there’s nothing obviously wrong with their attention to sexual and racial discrimination, the energy put into it is disproportionate to the massive social cost of child abuse. Rates vary around the world, but in general it looks like about 30% of all children globally suffer some sort of serious maltreatment each year, often many times a year, repeated over multiple years.
So one can easily estimate that billions of people have experienced this. In other words, more people have been abused as children than have experienced war, famine, or epidemics.
The impact and costs of this have been measured (low academic achievement, health problems, low earnings, drug and alcohol use, etc.), and child abuse is sometimes lethal. What puzzles me is why it has no legs politically. Among the woke crowd, if child abuse is mentioned it’s usually in terms of discrimination against girls or sexual minorities. But there are really no prominent voices actively campaigning to mitigate child abuse generally.
Why is this? Is it overly complex? Is the phenomenon too widely dispersed demographically, so that an evil agent group isn’t easily identified? Does its persistence foreground chronic failures of the welfare state (if that’s the case)? Is it boring?

For a start, I would note that virtually everyone is again child abuse, so opposing it doesn’t make anyone significant look worse.  But I am sure there is much more to it than that.

Fast Grants, a project of Emergent Ventures against Covid-19, status update

As you may recall, the goal of Fast Grants is to support biomedical research to fight back Covid-19, thus restoring prosperity and liberty.

Yesterday 40 awards were made, totaling about $7 million, and money is already going out the door with ongoing transfers today.  Winners are from MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Rockefeller University, UCSF, UC Berkeley, Yale, Oxford, and other locales of note.  The applications are of remarkably high quality.

Nearly 4000 applications have been turned down, and many others are being put in touch with other institutions for possible funding support, with that ancillary number set to top $5 million.

The project was announced April 8, 2020, only eight days ago.  And Fast Grants was conceived of only about a week before that, and with zero dedicated funding at the time.

I wish to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make this a reality, including the very generous donors to the program, those at Stripe who contributed by writing new software, the quality-conscious and conscientious referees and academic panel members (about twenty of them), and my co-workers at Mercatus at George Mason University, which is home to Emergent Ventures.

I hope soon to give you an update on some of the supported projects.

How does isolation change status-seeking?

That is the topic of my new Bloomberg column, excerpt:

The plunge in status-seeking behavior is yet another way in which the lockdown is a remarkable and scary social experiment. One possible consequence is that many people won’t work as much, simply because no one is watching very closely and it is harder to get that pat on the shoulder or kind word for extra effort.

Worse yet, for many people social approbation compensates for economic hardships, and that salve is now considerably weaker. Time was, even if you were unemployed, you could still walk down the street and command attention for that one stylish item in your wardrobe, or your cool haircut, or your witty repartee. Now there’s no one on the street to impress.

Americans are learning just how much we rely on our looks, our charisma and our eloquence for our social affect. As Sonia Gupta asked on Twitter: “Extremely attractive people, I have a genuine question for you, no snark: What’s it like to not be getting the regular daily social attention you might be accustomed to, now that you have to stay inside and isolate from others?”

…To some extent this status erosion is liberating. It may cause a lot of people to reexamine perennial questions about “what really matters.” There are other positive effects: fewer peer-related reasons to go out and spend money, for instance (do you really need that new jacket, or to try all the hot new restaurants?). That will help make tighter budgets or even unemployment more bearable. Some socially anxious people may even feel they are better off.

Yet overall this is a dangerous state of affairs.

There is much more at the link.

Who and what will rise and fall in status?

A reader asks:

will we see a post from you with predictions of ‘risers & fallers’ in our new coronowartime world?…What are your predictions for (semi-) permanent changes in status of various insititutions & ideologies in the new times?!

Here goes:

Risers

Health care workers — duh, and much deserved.

The internet and the tech community more broadly — Their institutions have performed the best, and even Anand G. has more or less recanted.

Big business

Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea

Peter Thiel, who numerous times cautioned us about the fragility of globalization and global supply chains.

State capacity libertarianism

The NBA and Adam Silver — They led the charge to shut things down.

Surveillance — It worked in parts of East Asia, and Europe’s unwillingness to use it will cost many lives.

Telemedicine

Science and scientists

Balaji Srinivasan, who saw it all coming on Twitter.

Individuals who can create structure for themselves — the true winners of lockdown.

The Federal Reserve System and Jay Powell — hail QE Infinity!

Losers

The FDA, CDC, and WHOouch.

Social justice warriors — who cares about your microaggression these days?

Rudy Gobert — will never be in the running for “Defensive Player of the Year” ever again.  That said, his being Covid-positive led to the closing of the NBA and may have benefited America more than any other NBA player “action” has done, ever.  He has since given a good deal of money to charity and ought to go up in status.

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York.

Bolsonaro, López Obrador, and populism more generally.

Academics in the humanities — have they added much to our understanding of the situation, or to our response?

The media.  No matter what you think they might deserve, they just seem to keep on going down in status.  Bet on the trend!

Mixed

Various “right wing types,” of varying degrees of fringe, were early on this issue.  But I suspect they will rise in status only within their “in groups.”  Same with Matt Stoller.

Triage — we had to do it, and we did it unflinchingly.  But in the “social record,” will this go down as OK, or as horrifying and “we can’t ever let this happen again”?  Or maybe we’ll just forget about it, and pretend those silly philosophers doing trolley problems are wasting our time.

Donald Trump and also China.  I’ll delete any comments that discuss these, because as topics they do not encourage subtlety of response.  No matter what you may think is a just outcome here, in predictive terms the paths of these reputations are still difficult to call.

I thank C. for some assistance with this post.

Immigration Status, Immigrant Family Ties, and Support for the Democratic Party

That is a newly published piece by George Hawley, Social Science Quarterly, not yet available on-line as far as I can find:

I test the hypothesis that immigration status itself is a predictor of Democratic Party affiliation and vote choice, even controlling for other attributes. I further test whether having immigrant parents and grandparents has a similar effect. Method.To examine these questions, I created single- and multilevel models of party affiliation and vote choice using the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. Results. Even after controlling for a myriad of individual and contextual attributes, immigration status was a statistically significant and substantively important predictor of Democratic affiliation. This was also true of the children and grandchildren of immigrants, but this effect weakened over multiple generations. Conclusion. Immigration status itself appears to be an important determinant of voting patterns, which is highly consequential, given the large and growing foreign-born population in the United States.

Perhaps this explains some small part of American politics in recent times.

For the pointer I thank D.

Raising the status of Chow Yun Fat

He is one of my favorite actors, so I was pleased to read this:

Chow Yun Fat plans to give his entire net worth of $714m to charity.

As reported by Jayne Stars, Hong Kong movie legend Chow Yun Fat will give his entire net worth of $5.6 billion HKD ($714m USD) to charity.

Despite his gargantuan wealth, Fat remains rather frugal. Only spending $800 HKD ($1o2 USD) per month, Fat is often seen taking public transport and doing charity work.

He used his first Nokia phone for over 17 years, only switching to a smartphone two years ago. Fat is known for shopping at discount stores. “I don’t wear clothes for other people. As long as I think it’s comfortable, then it’s good enough for me,” he said.

Fat often spends his free time hiking and jogging, instead of splashing out.

Here is the full story, via the excellent Benjamin Copan.  And if you don’t know his performances in The Killer, a John Woo film, now is the time to check it out.

Status goods change over time

In Scotland, you can buy a 16th-century castle for a little more than a million dollars.

On Wednesday, someone paid a similar amount for a 750-milliliter bottle of single malt whisky described as “the Holy Grail” of the dark alcoholic spirit: just over $1.1 million, a record.

The 60-year-old Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 is “one of the rarest and most desirable bottles ever produced,” according to a specialist at Bonhams, the auction house in Scotland that made the sale. The price included a bid of 700,000 pounds, or about $900,000, plus a £148,000 sales premium.

The identity of the private buyer was not revealed. But a Bonhams spokesman said on Wednesday that the person was from Asia and had made the bid over the phone.

That is from Anna Schaverien at The New York Times.  Do note that it is harder to steal a castle:

If the new buyer chooses to preserve the bottle untouched, the fate of the world’s most expensive bottle of vodka serves as a cautionary tale.

The gold and silver bottle, with its diamond-encrusted cap, which was said to be worth $1.3 million, was stolen from a bar in Copenhagen in January.

After days of searching, the police found the bottle dented — and empty.

Envy and status in politics

2. People will oppose policies that benefit themselves and their community if they think it will lower their within-group status. 

McClendon uses survey data from South Africa and the United States to show that status motivations change the way that people think about redistributive economic policies. This is even true within ethnic groups, including marginalized ethnic groups like African Americans. As McClendon notes:

“The worse off people are than their coethnic neighbors, the more supportive they are of greater redistribution (regardless of how personally costly this support is); the better off people are than their coethnic neighbors, the less supportive they are of redistribution.”

In other words, even when a policy might make someone materially better off (by, say, improving their housing conditions), they are likely to oppose it if the government doing so for everyone in their community would harm their relative status position.

That is from Laura Seay at The Washington Post, drawing on work from the new Envy in Politics, by Gwyneth H. McClendon.  I have just ordered that book.

Greg Clark visits Australia and finds high rates of status persistence

The co-authors on this paper (pdf) are Andrew Leigh and Mike Pottenger, here is the abstract:

The paper estimates long run social mobility in Australia 1870–2017 tracking the status of rare surnames. The status information includes occupations from electoral rolls 1903–1980, and records of degrees awarded by Melbourne and Sydney universities 1852–2017. Status persistence was strong throughout, with an intergenerational correlation of 0.7–0.8, and no change over time. Notwithstanding egalitarian norms, high immigration and a well-targeted social safety net, Australian long-run social mobility rates are low. Despite evidence on conventional measures that Australia has higher rates of social mobility than the UK or USA (Mendolia and Siminski, 2016), status persistence for surnames is as high as that in England or the USA. Mobility rates are also just as low if we look just at mobility within descendants of UK immigrants, so ethnic effects explain none of the immobility.

Social mobility is indeed difficult to pull off.  Hat tip goes to Ben Southwood.

Is plough use persistently bad for female status?

In countries with a tradition of plough use, women are less likely to participate in the labor market, own firms, and participate in national politics.

And:

…societies that historically used the plough are characterized by higher parental authority granted to the father, by inheritance rules that favor male heirs, and by less freedom for women to move outside the house. She also finds that, in these societies, women are more likely to wear a veil in public and polygamy is less accepted or illegal.

Furthermore:

Past societal norms, too, are related to domestic violence today: women in societies formerly characterized by bride-price have a lower probability and lower intensity of violence today.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Paola Giuliano.  Among other things, this means that how you treat people today really matters for the longer run.

Which macroeconomic theories will rise and fall in status because of Donald Trump?

It seems likely that Trump and a Republican Congress can agree on some big mix of tax cuts and spending.  Furthermore, there are plenty of rumors that Trump may push on the independence of the Fed and the ten-year yield leaped upon his election.  So odds are it will be a stimulus with some degree of monetary accommodation, and in that case even tax cuts for the wealthy can serve as an effective form of QE into the assets the wealthy invest in.

And yet 80% of economists are Democrats, many top economists signed a petition opposing Trump, and I can’t think of a single top economist who has endorsed Trump.  So clearly something has to give, and here are some theories that may rise or fall in status:

1. “The multiplier is high.”  That seems ready to decline in status.

2. “Even wasteful expenditures can boost demand and help pull us out of secular stagnation.”  Ditto.  “We need to do stimulus right” will make a comeback.  And I see “the distributional effects of stimulus really matter” lurking around the corner.

3. “Tax cuts aren’t as good as government spending.”  That actually may rise in status, especially if Congress gets the bargain they want — lots of tax cuts — rather than what Trump wants.

4. The notion of how a credibly irresponsible leader can improve macro performance won’t get cited as much.

5. Austrian-like theories of how there can be a boom in the short run, yet with great long-run dangers, will return to prominence, albeit with modifications to the original Austrian story.

6. Criticizing countries with trade surpluses will decline in status.

7. The efficient markets hypothesis will decline in status.  It imposes too much discipline on our judgments of leaders and their policies.  The more certain we are of our own judgments, the more that evidence contradicting those judgments should be downgraded.  Right?

Don’t get me wrong, I think most (not all) of these moves will be “economists coming to their senses,” and thus good news.  But let’s be clear about what is going on.  While I don’t expect many instances of people making claims they do not believe, in terms of what gets emphasized, stressed, and repeated, macroeconomic discourse is about to change.

Trump winning: who rises and falls in status?

This is not who you may think should rise or fall in status, but rather who will:

Rise

Peter Thiel

Scott Adams

Steve Sailer

Nate Silver

Critics of Obamacare, especially those such as Megan McArdle who said it was a huge mistake to proceed with zero Republican votes

Brexiters and Ukip

Ray Fair

Jonathan Haidt

Baskets

Those who pushed for market circuit-breakers

Martin Gurri

Donald Trump

Fall

Most intellectuals and academics

Pollsters

Economists

Progressives who suggested Hillary Clinton shouldn’t compromise with Republicans or reach out to them with significant policy concessions

Lots of other people too

People who denied the “backlash” worry about high levels of immigration

Ruth Ginsburg

The media, in multiple ways

Yet even more people

People

Addendum: Scott Sumner adds comment.

Give money to the boss, status to the workers

Or so I am told!  Dubey and Geanakoplos argue that employers should use status incentives more for lower skilled workers, and monetary incentives more for higher skilled workers.  That sounds counterintuitive, but here is their explanation:

……status incentive derives from the change in status that effort can bring, not from the level of status one winds up with.

In this model, once you’re CEO, you can only feel so much better about yourself, so that is a relatively inefficient incentive.  (An alternative take is that the CEO is the one with the addiction to status.)  On the other hand:

The deeper explanation is that with meritocratic pay schedules, a wage hike between low and middling performance forces a higher wage for all superior performance, and is therefore very expensive, while the same wage hike between excellent and the best performance does not necessitate any further raises.  Thus the more that status incentives can substitute for pay hikes at low performance levels, the less the total wage bill.

If you give the CEO a raise, or maybe embedded stock options, you don’t have to give many other people a comparable boost to preserve ordinal parity.

Here are a few versions of the paper, somehow my pile ended up with a May 2016 version, though I don’t yet see that on-line.  I thank whoever sent me this, your name is lost in the dustbin of history.

Coin flip experiments as a measure of status quo bias

That is what the new Steve Levitt paper looks at and it does seem people stick with their current circumstances too much:

Little is known about whether people make good choices when facing important decisions. This paper reports on a large-scale randomized field experiment in which research subjects having difficulty making a decision flipped a coin to help determine their choice. For important decisions (e.g. quitting a job or ending a relationship), those who make a change (regardless of the outcome of the coin toss) report being substantially happier two months and six months later. This correlation, however, need not reflect a causal impact. To assess causality, I use the outcome of a coin toss. Individuals who are told by the coin toss to make a change are much more likely to make a change and are happier six months later than those who were told by the coin to maintain the status quo. The results of this paper suggest that people may be excessively cautious when facing life-changing choices.

Of course not all coin flips turn out the right way.  And furthermore we all know that the control premium is one of the most underrated ideas in economics…

There is a thirty percent chance Ray Fair rises considerably in status

The weak Friday gdp report reminded me of this March column by Jeff Sommer (NYT):

Professor Fair has been tracking and predicting elections in real time since 1978 with a good deal of success, using an approach that continues to be provocative. He ruthlessly excludes nearly all the details that are the basic diet of conventional political analysts — items like the burning issues of the day, the identities, personalities and speeches of the candidates and the strength of their campaign organizations. In fact, his model pays no attention whatsoever to the day-to-day fireworks of the political campaigns.

Instead, he considers only economics, finding that economic factors usually correlate well with political outcomes…

In November 2014, he did his first projection for the 2016 election and found that the odds favored the Republican candidate — whoever that may be. The Republican side has been leading consistently ever since, and the margin has increased as he has fed in new data.

Here is Reihan Salam on Trump and pessimism.