Month: September 2016

Haitian-American fact of the day

Despite all of their adversities, Haitians had rather low crime rates.  Martinez and Lee’s 1985-95 study reported a homicide victimization rate of 16.7 for Haitians, which was lower than those for non-Hispanic whites and Latinos and far lower than the rate for American blacks.  In fact, the Haitian crime figures may be inflated, since over 54 percent of the suspected killers of murdered Haitians were African American.  In other words, the Haitian victimization rate is not an especially good indicator of Haitian offending, because, contrary to the usual situation, Haitians were the victims of an inordinate number of out-group killings.  They were believed to have been only 3.5 percent of the murder suspects at a time when they were 14 percent of Miami’s general population.

That is from Barry Latzer’s new and interesting The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America.

Is economic growth good for the environment?

Maybe so, at least in some significant ways.  There is a new paper from Nature, by Oscar Venter  It strikes me as an oversimplification in some ways (carbon? what if there is a biodiversity “wall”?), but still many of the core points are valid and indeed empirically verifiable:

Human pressures on the environment are changing spatially and temporally, with profound implications for the planet’s biodiversity and human economies. Here we use recently available data on infrastructure, land cover and human access into natural areas to construct a globally standardized measure of the cumulative human footprint on the terrestrial environment at 1 km resolution from 1993 to 2009. We note that while the human population has increased by 23% and the world economy has grown 153%, the human footprint has increased by just 9%. Still, 75% the planet’s land surface is experiencing measurable human pressures. Moreover, pressures are perversely intense, widespread and rapidly intensifying in places with high biodiversity. Encouragingly, we discover decreases in environmental pressures in the wealthiest countries and those with strong control of corruption. Clearly the human footprint on Earth is changing, yet there are still opportunities for conservation gains.

For the pointer I thank Charles C. Mann.

Movies as a shared experience

The more some people go, the more other people want to go too.  It is something to share and talk about.  From the latest JPE, by
Duncan Sheppard Gilchrist (Wealthfront) and Emily Glassberg Sands (Coursera), here is the abstract:

We exploit the randomness of weather and the relationship between weather and moviegoing to quantify social spillovers in movie consumption. Instrumenting for early viewership with plausibly exogenous weather shocks captured in LASSO-chosen instruments, we find that shocks to opening weekend viewership are doubled over the following five weekends. Our estimated momentum arises almost exclusively at the local level, and we find no evidence that it varies with either ex post movie quality or the precision of ex ante information about movie quality, suggesting that the observed momentum is driven in part by a preference for shared experience, and not only by social learning.

Here are ungated copies, note it is fitting this research comes in part from Coursera.  Also from the new JPE, if a Spanish region has a disproportionate share of lottery winners, it is more likely to opt for the incumbent.

Thursday assorted links

1. David Beckworth podcast with Hugh Rockoff — did it take 150 years for the United States to become an optimal currency area?

2. Profile of Yuja Wang.

3. Boise has more Syrian refugees than does New York City (NYT).

4. The explanatory power of marrying up and marrying down, for men vs. women.

5. Bucknell economics professor now leads an Ethiopian rebel army.

6. Speed bumps on the exchanges.

Who is the most impressive leader in the world right now?

Here is my latest Bloomberg column:

The winner is President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru, also known as PPK. He was sworn in on July 28, and so it is too early to judge his job performance. But there are reasons to be hopeful.

Let’s consider the qualities that might matter in a national leader. Experience? PPK has plenty, having led two ministries (Energy and Mines and Economy and Finance) and served as general manager of the Central Reserve Bank and as prime minister (in Peru the president stands above the prime minister). Energy and mines are especially important sectors for the Peruvian economy.

Peru has a dynamic export economy with trade and investment connections to China, the U.S. and the EU, so you might think a Peruvian leader would need global experience and be well-connected internationally. PPK has worked for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He’s extremely well-traveled, lived in Washington for many years, is married to an American and speaks fluent English.

Academic credentials? He has a master’s degree from Princeton, studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford, and, among numerous other publications, has written a first-rate Princeton University Press book on the history of Peruvian economics and politics during the 1960s. The study focuses on why Peru’s earlier economic boom was not sustained, exactly the issue he faces as president today.

There is much more at the link, including an assessment of Peru’s current economic prospects, and also how much the quality of national leadership matters at all.  And do read his book Peruvian Democracy under Economic Stress — it is one of the most underrated works on both Latin American development and in development economics more generally.

Drug Reciprocity with Europe Gains Support

As loyal readers know, I’ve long been in favor of a system where a drug approved in another major, developed country is also approved here. For a long time it seemed as if I was shouting in the wilderness but in the last few years support for the idea has grown, as the Cruz-Lee Reciprocity bill indicates. In A Cure for Swelling Drug Prices: Competition, Greg Ip at the WSJ notes another new development:

Mr. Tabarrok says the FDA should also offer reciprocal approval of drugs that regulators in other advanced countries have already cleared. Imports of generics from countries with government-negotiated prices ought not to be as controversial as patent-protected drugs because they involve far less expensive and risky research. Indeed, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and its European equivalent, Medicines for Europe, have proposed a “single development pathway” under which approval in one jurisdiction would automatically confer approval in the other.

The proposed plan is for generics only where the issues are simpler but Greg is right to conclude more generally:

The FDA has long insisted, for safety reasons, that it approve all drugs regardless of whether they have been approved overseas. But if the FDA was once a better regulator than its overseas peers, it isn’t now. Ken Kaitin, a professor of medicine at Tufts University who has studied drug regulation around the world, says there is “absolutely no evidence” the U.S. drug supply is safer than in Britain, Canada or Europe.

Thus, the FDA wouldn’t be compromising safety by harmonizing its approvals with foreign regulators. Indeed, by making more drugs available at lower cost, it could ultimately make Americans healthier.

What I’ve been reading

1. Alex Cuadros, Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country.  One of the best looks at contemporary Brazil, and it’s not just about the country’s billionaires.

2. Philip Ball, The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China.  I am glad to see the Grand Canal finally get its due.  “An epic portrait of China’s water management history,” says one blurb.  I found half of this book fascinating and the other half not terrible.

3. Edward B. Foley, Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States.  A serious yet also readable look at rigged and semi-rigged elections in the United States, including in the recent past.

4. Nathan Hill, The Nix.  This is the trendy novel right now, and usually I don’t like those, but after one hundred or so pages I am still enjoying it.  It is both smart and genuinely funny, and doesn’t (yet?) grate on my nerves.  And what is “the Nix”?  Amazon says: “In Nathan Hill’s remarkable first novel, a Nix is anything you love that one day disappears, taking with it a piece of your heart.”  I say it’s the best mother-son story to come along in a long time.

5. Marc Raboy, Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World.  A very good, very detailed, 863 pp. but still conceptual and history-of-science rich biography.  Compared to Marconi’s earlier fame, you actually don’t hear so much about him any more.