Month: January 2018
Trained as an anthropologist and medical doctor, Mr. Kim now says that the world of high finance is “some of the coolest stuff I have ever looked at.”
Mr. Kim is, by nature, a cheery person, but there was no mistaking the edge to his voice when he started talking about the World Bank economists whose pay is tied to how many loans they churn out. In his view, the bank needs to reward staff, Wall Street-style, for devising innovative financial solutions.
“One of the most difficult things to do in a large bureaucracy is to change incentives,” Mr. Kim told the financiers. “And if you have a large bureaucracy full of economists it is especially hard, because it turns out that economists really hate it when you change the incentives.”
The Australian Behavioural Economics Team conducted a randomized trial of hiring in which applications for senior positions in the Australian Public Service were reviewed and ranked. By comparing outcomes in treatments in which gender, minority status and indigenous status could be inferred with outcomes using de-identifyed applications the researchers were able to test for bias and the effect of de-identification.
We found that the public servants engaged in positive (not negative) discrimination towards female and minority candidates:
Participants were 2.9%
more likely to shortlist female candidates and 3.2%
less likely to shortlist male applicants when they were identifiable, compared with when they were de-identified.
Minority males were 5.8%
more likely to be shortlisted and minority females were 8.6%
more likely to be
shortlisted when identifiable compared to when applications were de-identified.
The positive discrimination was strongest for Indigenous female candidates who were 22.2% more likely to be
shortlisted when identifiable compared to when the applications were de-identified.
Interestingly, male reviewers displayed markedly more positive discrimination in favour of minority candidates than
did female counterparts, and reviewers aged 40+ displayed much stronger affirmative action in favour for both
women and minorities than did younger ones.
The study was small and the participants knew they were in a study (although not what the study was studying).
This reminds me of the important Williams and Ceci paper which also found positive gender discrimination in academic hiring (with one notable exception of equal treatment):
The underrepresentation of women in academic science is typically attributed, both in scientific literature and in the media, to sexist hiring. Here we report five hiring experiments in which faculty evaluated hypothetical female and male applicants, using systematically varied profiles disguising identical scholarship, for assistant professorships in biology, engineering, economics, and psychology. Contrary to prevailing assumptions, men and women faculty members from all four fields preferred female applicants 2:1 over identically qualified males with matching lifestyles (single, married, divorced), with the exception of male economists, who showed no gender preference.
Rande Gerber is married to Cindy Crawford, is a father to the teenage supermodels Kaia and Presley Gerber, and is a tequila baron (with his pal George Clooney).
That is the front-page header for this NYT piece, you will note it is not a critique of the wealthy or famous. Recommended, interesting throughout, and don’t forget to check out the photos…
Oh, and here is the closer:
The Gerbers can sound a little corny, and that’s because they are. Nothing confounds a celebrity profile like a happy family. They are four golden figures that, even viewed up close, seem to be constantly dissolving into a Malibu sunset.
“When I meet people from my past, they’re not really shocked where my life has taken me,” Mr. Gerber said, clinking his Casamigos and ice, flanked by his wife and equally symmetrical daughter.
“Most people just figured I would have been successful,” he said, and shrugged.
Here were reader recommendations: remember the ground rules, namely that the book must aspire to some degree of comprehensiveness:
Japan and the Shackles of the Past by R. Taggart Murphy.Japan and the Shackles of the Past is very good. David Pilling’s Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of SurvivalAlso, Japan through the looking glass, by Alan Macfarlane.While Richie is *the* famous foreign voice on Japan, Alan Booth’s “The Roads to Sata” is, to use Tyler’s favorite word, underrated and worth a read.
Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West Paperback – March 28, 2000 by T.R. Reid
Good book about Japan by the WaPo correspondent. Funny.
Alex Kerr is another great writer on Japan, but this one is a bit dated although definitely still worth a read. His Lost Japan is my favorite.
The best book I’ve read about Japan, or at least modern Japan, is “Dogs and Demons” by Alex Kerr. It’s a fairly pessimistic book about how various postwar obsessions — material comfort, social harmony, and clear class identities — have created a surprisingly unambitious, overly conservative, deeply sclerotic country that has seen its brief glimpse as one of the world’s major powers unambiguously pass.
Modern: Bending Adversity by David Pilling is an excellent view on modern (deflation era) Japan.
Recent: Covering the Showa Period (1923-1989), the graphic novel “Showa” by Shigeru Mizuki is excellent. (I’m not usually a graphic novel reader, but this was amazing)-4 volumes.
Through 1867: A history of Japan by George Sansom (published 1958) is a three volume set covering -1334, 1334-1615 and 1615-1867.
There are a number of other enjoyable books as well (e.g., Road to Sata) but I would not say that they are representative or “must-reads”, regardless of how pleasant reading it may be.
I am not endorsing (or rejecting) those selections, merely aggregating them. That said, you should read them.
You can certainly add having bought the right properties in the right cities in the 1970s and 1980s to the list of drivers of inequality, but I don’t think it is a big piece of the puzzle. Instead, I think it is more accurate to point out that one of the first and most valuable amenities people purchase when they become wealthier is wealthier neighbors. Wealthy people self-segregate, and the places to which they self-segregate become valuable, because the way you get a place limited to wealthy people is by bidding up the price of being in that place. The community, or the city, is gated for a reason.
Here is much more by Steve Randy Waldman. So given this not so ideal preference is in place, might building restrictions be a relatively efficient way to satisfy it? Compare to violence, racism, or more direct interference with individual mobility?
1. Professor Bishnupriya Gupta talk on India and colonialism. Here is the associated paper, look to agriculture.
3. Man bites dog (and is arrested).
“Over the last five years a new Dollar General opened every four-and-a-half hours…”
That is from The Economist. The article attributes much of the success of the chain to its location decisions, such as opening near churches, schools, highways, and post offices.
Madhav Nandipati writes to me:
Hi Professor Cowen, I’ve been a follower of MR for many years. I have a question that you may have some insights on: in what industry do you think the professional talent is closest to the best/optimal talent, and why? Similarly, what industry do you think the professional talent has the furthest gap from the best/optimal talent?
For example, if you consider cooking, the best chefs of Indian cuisine may actually be mothers cooking for their families at home; the professional talent is not as good as it could be. My guess where the professional talent is closest to optimal is in an industry that:
1) is relatively open (along different demographic dimensions)
2) is somewhat lucrative (to attract people to that industry)
3) uses a filtering mechanism (interviews, grades, etc.) that properly identifies talent
Maybe surgery (and to a lesser extent) acting fit those criteria?
I don’t have a way of using or citing evidence to resolve this question, but here are my intuitions:
Good at finding the best talent:
1. Highly paid professional sports (those who care can play them in high school)
2. Finance and management consulting (lots of people from top schools consider these careers, and we get enough, even if non-elites are somewhat “locked out”)
3. Nerdy tech stuff (so many people are exposed to this at a young age and can be autodidactic)
4. Real estate agents (not as smart as Bill Gates, but as good as they need to be)
In these areas very often performance can be measured fairly readily.
Bad at finding the best talent:
4. Education and teaching and religious leaders
5. Humanities scholars
In general think about areas where performance is hard to measure, good producers are underpaid, and getting a start requires early social connections and mentoring. I wonder also if “management” fits into this category.
You could take the separate tack of focusing on women and minorities, and asking in which sectors they are most likely to be unjustly excluded, and also in which sectors further talent might be needed. (Perhaps they are excluded from some segments of finance, but perhaps also we have enough of that.) This will mean that swimming and tennis attract the best talent less than many other sports do, because you need to have attended a high school with the proper facilities. Or try running an art gallery or being a museum curator or writing an etiquette guide. National politics strikes me as one area where quite a bit of talent is unjustly excluded, both women and minorities, but there are many others, including leadership positions more generally across many different sectors.
Dutch canal houses are another classic example of how rules and regulations can shape structures. Taxed on their canal frontage rather than height or depth, these buildings grew in tall and thin. In turn, this typology evolved narrower staircases, necessitating exterior hoist systems to move furniture and goods into and out of upper floors.
That’s from an excellent post by Kurt Kohlstedt at 99% Invisible who gives many other examples of taxes having long-lasting effects on the built environment.
Hat tip: Devon Zuegel.
Here are reader suggestions, I am aggregating this information, do not think of these as independent recommendations from me:
Canada: A Story of Challenge by J. M. S. Careless
For Canada, read “A Fair Country” by John Ralston Saul, “Clearing the Plains” by James William Daschuk, and pretty much any of Pierre Berton’s books.
I recommend “Right Honourable Men” by Michael Bliss for Canada.
Yeah, Vimy is the standard “coming of a nation” book for Canadians – although too oversentimental. The underappreciated element of that book is some weird attempt to recover Hughes’ tarnished image as a proto-Canadian.
Definitenly recommend it to non-Canadians to get a sense of common denominator Canadian “nationalism”
I would second “A Fair Country” but suggest it as part of a field entry with Saul’s “Louis-Hippolyte-Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin”. Though neither works are above criticism, taken together they represent the best attempt available to answer the questions “Why, and how is Canada different from the United States (and western Europe).
Saul’s work is influenced by Harold Innis, particularly “The Fur Trade in Canada” (1930). This also remains worthwhile, if you feel robust enough to handle Innis’ drier-than-the-Sahara prose, and the fact that it is literally a history of the fur trade in Canada.
Canada is a hard one, esp because of the French/English duality — there’s by definition no single overarching narrative. There’s also no single overarching meta-narrative. But to get the sense of what’s up with English Canada, you could do worse than read George Grant’s Lament for a Nation, particularly the 40th anniversary edition with intro by, er, me. The issue isn’t that Grant got it right, it’s that the ways in which he was wrong, and why he remains so wrong influential, are crucial to understanding the anxieties of English speaking Canada. https://www.amazon.ca/Lament-Nation-Canadian-Nationalism-Anniversary/dp/077353010X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515422833&sr=8-1&keywords=lament+for+a+nation
For Canada, I’d suggest “The Patriot Game” by Peter Brimelow or “Lament for a Nation” by George Grant.
Canada – “The Vertical Mosaic”
For Canada, I recommend “How to be Canadian” or binge watching TSN will suffice. Also check out, trailer park boys and corner gas.
The best book about Canada is “The Patriot Game” by Peter Brimelow. Though Brimelow is now a mostly fringe figure associated with the alt-right and white nationalism, for many years he was a perfectly respected mainstream Canadian journalist who wrote for all the big newspapers and magazines up here. As a Brit, he saw Canada with a certain degree of aloof detachment, and “The Patriot Game” was his effort to write a “Unified Theory of Canada,” that focuses heavily on how Canadian politics, and the “game” of manufacturing a sense of nationalism for a rather curious, anachronistic country (he famously called it “one of the toadstools of history” — that is, something that grew up unexpectedly) provides the essence of Canadian identity. Even as Brimelow’s own reputation has declined, it is still a very widely-quoted book, and was particularly influential in the life of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
As a Canadian, I’d like to know an answer to this question. Growing up, history seemed to be a series of microaggressions (e.g. Boer war, endless fur trade disputes). It would be nice to read a more overarching narrative!
Note that several other commentators expressed displeasure with the work of John Ralston Saul. What else might you recommend as the stochastically best book to read about Canada?
I will be aggregating information for some other countries and regions soon.
That is the new David Brooks column, here is one excerpt:
Much of Peterson’s advice sounds to me like vague exhortatory banality. Like Hobbes and Nietzsche before him, he seems to imagine an overly brutalistic universe, nearly without benevolence, beauty, attachment and love. His recipe for self-improvement is solitary, nonrelational, unemotional. I’d say the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment than through Peterson’s joyless and graceless calls to self-sacrifice.
But the emphasis on strength of will, the bootstrap, the calls to toughness and self-respect — all of this touches some need in his audience. He doesn’t comfort. He demands: “Stop doing what you know to be wrong. … Say only those things that make you strong. Do only those things that you could speak of with honor.”
There is much more at the link.
Using several novel empirical facts from business microdata, we infer that the pervasive post-2000 decline in reallocation reflects weaker responsiveness in a manner consistent with rising adjustment frictions and not lower dispersion of shocks. The within-industry dispersion of TFP and output per worker has risen, while the marginal responsiveness of employment growth to business-level productivity has weakened. The responsiveness in the post-2000 period for young firms in the high-tech sector is only about half (in manufacturing) to two thirds (economy wide) of the peak in the 1990s. Counterfactuals show that weakening productivity responsiveness since 2000 accounts for a significant drag on aggregate productivity.
Soon I will be having a conversation with Robin Hanson — the Robin Hanson. What should I ask him? The jumping-off point will be his new book with Kevin Simler, but of course we won’t stop there.