Month: March 2021

Tuesday assorted links

1. Berk’s deep dive into the male/female seminar questions paper.  For women there is a hostile question every twelve seminars, so might they, at least in this regard, be treated in a more friendly manner than I have been?  And what is the measure of productivity or outputs here?

2. Ross Douthat on how to evaluate conspiracy theories (NYT).

3. Animating dead economists?

4. New John Cochrane paper on g > r and fiscal sustainability.

5. Do conversations end when people want them to? And more here.

6. Toronto Star to launch on-line casino to fund its journalism.

Canada Moves to First Doses First

The Canadian province of British Columbia has moved to First Doses First (as I suggested they would) with a four month (not three as in Great Britain) delay on the second dose. Quebec is already using FDF. I believe that the rest of Canada will follow shortly:

Also on Monday, the province announced it is extending the time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to four months. The change, as well as Health Canada’s approval of a third vaccine, means every eligible person in B.C. will receive the first dose of their vaccine by mid- to late July.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control — and countries around the world such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand — shows “miraculous” protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of a Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

She said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is expected to issue a statement to align with B.C.’s decision, which frees up 70,000 doses for younger age groups.

“This is amazing news,” said Henry. “These vaccines work, they give a very high level of protection and that protection lasts for many months.”

As I wrote earlier:

… first doses first will save lives in the US but delaying the second dose and other dose-stretching policies are even more vital in countries [such as Canada] where vaccines supplies are more limited than in the United States.

Meanwhile in the United States we are vaccinating relatively quickly but in the last week we have given out more second doses than first doses. Overall, we have given out 25 million second doses–under first doses first we would have vaccinated 25 million more people benefiting them and the unvaccinated by lowering transmission rates.

The US FDA is not following the science.

The English Data Support First Doses First

A new study from Public Health England shows that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine work well from the first dose. If that sounds familiar it’s because the results are similar to those found in Scotland. The results cover all adults in England aged 70 years and older (over 7.5 million people).

Vaccination with either a single dose of BNT162b2 or ChAdOx1 COVID-19 vaccination was associated with a significant reduction in symptomatic SARS-CoV2 positive cases in older adults with even greater protection against severe disease [approximately 80% effective at preventing hospitalisation, AT] . Both vaccines show similar effects. Protection was maintained for the duration of follow-up (>6 weeks). A second dose of BNT162b2 provides further protection against symptomatic disease but second doses of ChAdOx1 have not yet been rolled out in England. There is a clear effect of the vaccines against the UK variant of concern.

Score three for the land of Reverend Bayes: first doses first, approve AstraZeneca, approve AstraZeneca for the elderly.

We now have significant real world data from millions of vaccine recipients in Israel, Scotland and England and it is very supportive of First Doses First and Approve AstraZeneca.

The US FDA is not following the science.

The Gregory Clark working paper

I wanted to present this paper to you all, here is the abstract:

Economics, Sociology, and Anthropology are dominated by the belief that social outcomes depend mainly on parental investment and community socialization. Using a lineage of 402,000 English people 1750-2020 we test whether such mechanisms better predict outcomes than a simple additive genetics model. The genetics model predicts better in all cases except for the transmission of wealth. The high persistence of status over multiple generations, however, would require in a genetic mechanism strong genetic assortative in mating. This has been until recently believed impossible. There is however, also strong evidence consistent with just such sorting, all the way from 1837 to 2020. Thus the outcomes here are actually the product of an interesting genetics-culture combination.

The title is “For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls: A Lineage of 400,000 English Individuals 1750-2020 shows Genetics Determines most Social Outcomes.”  For those of you who don’t know, Greg’s home page provides some context.

Higher education sentences to ponder

We find that the WTP [willingness to pay] for in-person instruction (relative to a remote format) represents around 4.2% of the average annual net cost of attending university, while the WTP for on-campus social activities is 8.1% of the average annual net costs. We also find large heterogeneity in WTP, which varies systematically across socioeconomic groups. Our analysis shows that economically-disadvantaged students derive substantially lower value from university social life, but this is primarily due to time and resource constraints.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Aucejo, French, and Zafar.

Monday assorted links

1. GMU Econ Society interviews me.

2. How TikTok led to a run on feta cheese (NYT).

3. “In-fight meals repurposed as bento boxes are proving popular in Japan at a time when many flights have been canceled due to sluggish demand amid the coronavirus crisis.

4. “We find that watching Shark Tank seems to encourage people who are unfamiliar with entrepreneurship to explore it, but it does little to change an individual’s fundamental underlying propensity to be an entrepreneur.

5. Why do wealthy parents have wealthy children? Family culture really matters (Norwegian parents, adopted Korean children).

6. Mood affiliators!  “Come with me if you want to live!” is a much better attitude.

Which small changes in pandemic habits will stick?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

I for one will miss the Saturday evening Zoom meeting. Since the pandemic started, I have found it easy to schedule calls at 5:30 or 6:30, even when more than one person is involved. Everyone just says yes. Why not? You’re not going out to the movies or dinner. Even if you think Zoom calls are oppressive — especially if you think Zoom calls are oppressive — it is better to have somewhere to put your marginal Zoom call other than 2 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon.

For a lot of people, the blurring of work and private time has been a burden. But I’ve been living that way most of my life. For the last year, the rest of the world has been forced to adopt my work habits, and I am going to miss it when they return to traditional socializing. I’ll still be offering you that Saturday night slot. We’ll see how many takers I get.


I also will miss early lunch, a practice also noticed by New York Times columnist David Brooks. Like a lot of people, I miss eating in a variety of settings — not just restaurants or coffee shops, but cafeterias or my desk — so I look for that variety temporally. The early cooking of a hamburger does indeed provide that break in routine, and with lunch at 11, why do I need breakfast anyway?


A Biden Plan for World Vaccination

Canada has approved the AstraZeneca vaccine. The US has not. The US has paid for an AstraZeneca factory in Baltimore and stockpiled millions of doses. The US should lease the factory to Canada or simply make the doses available for export. The same factory will also produce the J&J vaccine so it’s possible that there is some small opportunity cost. Exporting vaccine to our close ally, trading partner, and neighbor, however, would create significant political, economic, and health benefits for the United States.

More generally, the US is focused on vaccinating its residents first. That’s understandable. But step two is vaccinating the world. The Kremer team advocated going big on vaccine capacity for two reasons. First, we needed a lot of capacity to vaccinate the US fast and fast was valuable. Second, going big meant that the US could vaccinate its population quickly but then have that capacity available to vaccinate the rest of the world.

Contrary to what many people feared, Operation Warp Speed hasn’t taken doses from the rest of the world, Operation Warp Speed has built the infrastructure to deliver doses to the rest of the world. Our motto in advising governments and NGOs was ‘Capacity is the antidote to conflicts over distribution.

The United States will soon be the first big country with a fully vaccinated population. The US will then have a chance to lead the world into the post-pandemic era with a “Biden plan” for world vaccination akin to the Mashall Plan.

Invest more. Vaccinate the world. End the pandemic.

Start with Canada.

Why are atheists so unpopular?

Here is a new research paper from Tomas Ståhl:

There is a widespread cross-cultural stereotype suggesting that atheists are untrustworthy and lack a moral compass. Is there any truth to this notion? Building on theory about the cultural, (de)motivational, and cognitive antecedents of disbelief, the present research investigated whether there are reliable similarities as well as differences between believers and disbelievers in the moral values and principles they endorse. Four studies examined how religious disbelief (vs. belief) relates to endorsement of various moral values and principles in a predominately religious (vs. irreligious) country (the U.S. vs. Sweden). Two U.S. M-Turk studies (Studies 1A and 1B, N = 429) and two large cross-national studies (Studies 2-3, N = 4,193), consistently show that disbelievers (vs. believers) are less inclined to endorse moral values that serve group cohesion (the binding moral foundations) [emphasis added by TC]. By contrast, only minor differences between believers and disbelievers were found in endorsement of other moral values (individualizing moral foundations, epistemic rationality). It is also demonstrated that presumed cultural and demotivational antecedents of disbelief (limited exposure to credibility-enhancing displays, low existential threat) are associated with disbelief. Furthermore, these factors are associated with weaker endorsement of the binding moral foundations in both countries (Study 2). Most of these findings were replicated in Study 3, and results also show that disbelievers (vs. believers) have a more consequentialist view of morality in both countries. A consequentialist view of morality was also associated with another presumed antecedent of disbelief-analytic cognitive style.

Via the excellent Samir Varma.