Month: May 2005

What are the most prestigious jobs?

I can tell you only what people claim are the most prestigious jobs.  Here are the top five:

1. Scientist (really?)
2. Doctor
3. Firefighter
4. Teacher (really?)
5. Military officer

I have yet to cash in on the groupies.  Here is the full list and story

Being a lawyer, I suspect, is more prestigious than most people are willing to admit.  The same is true for politician, athlete, or entertainer.  Clergy comes in number eight, but I suspect its real prestige is lower.  But I can believe what comes in last — real estate agent.

Alex and I do *more* than just blog together

Should you be just a little more ambiguous about your commitment to heterosexuality (if indeed there is one)?  After all, leaving it unclear can make life easier for gays.  Making a point of announcing your mainstream orientation makes it hard for others to leave their preferences unspoken.

Or does it work the other way around?  Perhaps we need openly gay friends and acquaintances to make society more tolerant.  It is inducing people to come out of the closet which brings the positive externality.  Positive declarations of heterosexuality ("My wife is very fond of Alex…") should then be encouraged.

Are you interested in "tipping" issues, and the social construction of norms?  Read the new, excellent, and surprisingly analytical Straightforward: How to Mobilize Heterosexual Support for Gay Rights, by Ian Ayres and Jennifer Gerarda Brown.

Academic rent-seeking and direct appropriations

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, there were 1,964 earmarks to 716 academic institutions costing a total of $2 billion in the 2003 fiscal year, or just over 10 percent of the federal money spent on academic research. From 1996 to 2003, the amount spent on academic earmarks grew at an astounding rate of 31 percent a year, after adjusting for inflation…

As academic earmarks have grown, so have universities’ lobbying expenditures. Spending on lobbying jumped to $62 million in 2003 from $23 million in 1998, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A study by John M. de Figueiredo of the University of California, Los Angeles and Brian S. Silverman of the University of Toronto, which will soon be published in The Journal of Law and Economics, finds that universities receive a high return on their lobbying dollars. The researchers related the amount each university received in earmarks to its lobbying expenditures from 1997 to 1999, and other factors.

Professors de Figueiredo and Silverman found that a $1 increase in lobbying expenditures is associated with a $1.56 increase in earmarks for universities in districts that do not have a senator or congressman on the crucial Appropriations Committees, and more than a $4.50 gain in earmarks for universities with a representative on one of the Appropriations Committees.

Even among universities that do not lobby, those that have a congressman or senator on the Appropriations Committees tend to be awarded more earmarked funds.

A university’s fortunes also tend to rise or fall when senators from its state join or exit the Appropriations Committee. For example, the year after Senator Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina, a member of the committee, was defeated by John Edwards, who did not become a member, earmarks to universities in North Carolina fell by half.

But alas, all this money does not seem to pay off in terms of quality:

…a university’s academic standing, as measured by the National Academy of Science’s ranking of departments, is not related to the amount of earmarked funds it receives.

A. Abigail Payne, an economist at McMaster University in Canada, has studied how earmarks affect the quantity and quality of academic research, inferring quality from the number of times research studies are cited by subsequent studies. She concludes that "earmarked funding may increase the quantity of publications but decrease the quality of the publications and the performance of earmarked funding is lower than that from using peer-reviewed funding."

Indications are that academic earmarks crowd out spending on competitive peer-reviewed grants, at least in the short run.

Alan Krueger offers more.  Here is a very early version of the first cited paper.

The Dubner Effect

Earlier this year, Tyler posted on the research of Emily Oster, a Harvard econ graduate student, who suggests new and compelling explanations for Asia’s missing women and why Aids rates are so high in Africa (here and here).  Today, Dubner and Levitt discuss Oster’s research on Asia’s missing women at greater length in Slate.  I’d like to say that Marginal Revolution had it all first but you should still read the Slate piece for the final twist.  Damn you Stephen Dubner!!!  (That last, to be shouted to the sky ala Jon Stewart.) 🙂

The distribution of soccer and baseball

–Baseball has a tremendous emphasis on individual performance. When you strike out, everyone can see, and some kids come out of the batter’s box crying. Hitting is *extremely* hard, as is pitching to a four-footer. Really lousy baseball players are more marginalized and embarrassed than really lousy soccer players. Soccer is more "everybody run around," although of course individuals matter.
–Contemporary parents are obsessed with safety. Soccer is perceived as safer, and may well be, at least until the kids get a little older and start banging into one another harder.
–Girls seem to like soccer better, and co-ed soccer seems to go on longer than co-ed baseball, perhaps because girls can compete more effectively at this sport. My son’s little league is already probably 97% male, and he’s only 8.

Koran abuse

It turns out that terror suspects have been complaining about Koran abuse for some time now.  Perhaps they are lying but I fear the worst. 

Rarely is it explained just how important the Koran is to Islam.  As I understand it, the Koran itself is seen as holy, the closest to an extension of God that we have on earth.  No, Muhammed is not parallel to Jesus, but in some regards the Koran is.  That is one reason why it is so important to learn the book in Arabic.

Desecrating the Koran approaches a direct attack on God; it is much worse than tearing up a Bible in Christianity.  Of course this sacred status for the Koran also makes it harder to have a Reformation in Islam. 

For many years I failed to understand the attraction of the Koran (for the record, I am a non-believer).  It seemed to me rather simple and not as dramatically gripping as the Bible.  Then I heard an amazing Koranic recital in Arabic.  This was the best introduction to the Islamic world I have found; it hadn’t occurred to me that a musical dimension was needed.  You can buy my favorite Koranic recording here.  I recommend this highly, both as an aesthetic, musical (not until Robert Ashley did Western music catch up), educational, and for some religious, experience.


Someday I will try this:

Technical Video Rental is a service that rents video tapes and DVDs…Rent online, at any time of day, and get the videos shipped straight to you (with return postage included free!).

$9.99 for one video for one week, they include some from Teaching Company but I want the one on spot welding.

American vs. European labor revisited: the household dimension

…you ask why we Americans work more hours than do Europeans.  But perhaps we don’t.  While the data do show that Americans work more hours AT FORMAL JOBS, it doesn’t follow that Americans work more hours in total.  The reason is that, compared to Europeans, Americans have more time-saving household appliances, as well as greater access to other time-saving amenities such as prepared foods, child care, and housecleaning services.  As a result, we Americans work fewer hours taking care of our households and, hence, can work more hours earning income.

Let’s not forget that buying things is much easier in the U.S. as well.  Don Boudreaux just submitted the above in a letter to The Economist.

Markets in Everything: Rent a Son

RentMySon provides safe and trustworthy child-rental services in multiple
metropolitan areas. Our service area is growing every year and we are on target
to provide services in 50 cities by the end of 2006.

Here is Zach, age 9.

About Me: Zach enjoys playing in the park. He has gone on several
afternoons with single men trying to attract women by looking like the "father
type". He also has fun at birthday parties.

Specializes in: Father-Son Events, Playing in the

And yes, you can also rent a daughter for take your daughter to work days. 

On the day my son was born I taught a law and economics class on the economics of baby-selling.  I’ve always been rather proud of this but I don’t think I’m ready to rent my kids.  On the other hand, I never refuse an offer before hearing the price.

Thanks to J-Walk Blog.

Addendum: Probably a hoax.  Thanks to Stephen Ayer of disinterested party for the investigation.  KipEsquire adds, Tabarrok got punked!

Greg Mankiw speaks out

Here is a very recent interview.

On Karl Rove: "To the extent there was a political constraint, it wasn’t from Karl’s shop, it was from Congress."

On the Bush administration: "The policy process worked extremely well."

On the trade deficit and savings: "I don’t think we really have a good sense of what the limits are, especially since we’re growing so much faster than most of the world. This might sound glib, but it might be fruitful to think about immigration and the trade deficit as reflecting the same thing–capital and labor both want to flee here because we’re the most productive economy.

On the other hand, while the trade deficit isn’t a problem in itself, it may be a symptom of a problem. The problem is that Americans aren’t saving enough. I don’t think there’s a single magic bullet to increase national saving, but I do think a switch from an income tax to a consumption tax would help."

On Paul Krugman: No love lost, read for yourself.

Fascinating all around.

Joke inflation

Whatever tenuous hold the joke had left by the 1990’s may have been broken by the Internet, Mr. Nilsen said. The torrent of e-mail jokes in the late 1990’s and joke Web sites made every joke available at once, essentially diluting the effect of what had been an spoken form. While getting up and telling a joke requires courage, forwarding a joke by e-mail takes hardly any effort at all. So everyone did it, until it wasn’t funny anymore.

Here is the full and fascinating story of how the joke has died as a dominant institution of humor.