Why a Housing Shortage Exists Despite More Houses Per Person

When I post about the skyrocketing price of housing and the need to build, commentators (include some of the most astute commentators on MR), will sometimes object by pointing to the increasing and historically high number of houses per capita. They question how this aligns with rising prices and wave vaguely towards factors like monopoly pricing, hedge funds, Airbnb, vacancies and so forth, implying that more construction isn’t the solution. The real explanation for rising prices amid greater homes per capita is actually quite simple, fewer kids. Kevin Erdmann has an excellent post on this going through the numbers in detail. I will illustrate with a stylized example.

Suppose we have 100 homes and 100 families, each with 2 parents and 2 kids. Thus, there are 100 homes, 400 people and 0.25 homes per capita.  Now the kids grow up, get married, and want homes of their own but they have fewer kids of their own, none for simplicity. Imagine that supply increases substantially, say to 150 homes. The number of homes per capita goes up to 150/400 (.375), an all time high! Supply-side skeptics are right about the numbers, wrong about the meaning. The reality is that the demand for homes has increased to 200 but supply has increased to just 150 leading to soaring prices.

Now what do we do about this? One response is to blame people’s choices–immigrants are buying all the houses, hedge funds are buying all the houses, tourists are renting all the houses, everyone should want less and conserve more! Going down this path will tear the country apart. The other response is the American way, in the words of Bryan Caplan’s excellent new book, build, baby, build!

Here’s Kevin:

We are already 15 years into a cultural and economic battle that is so important, it turned the direction of adults per house upward for, likely, the first time since the start of the industrial revolution. Fifteen years in, by that measure, we have reversed economic progress by nearly 40 years. There is so much ground we have to make up. And, also, the reactionary position will have to continue to dig deeper and get worse – rounding up immigrants, blaming the homeless, stoking fear and distrust of financial institutions. I’m sorry if I’m sounding too shrill. It all happens in slow motion around us, so we adapt to the new normal. But the tent encampments in all the urban parks are a long way from what should be considered normal. We are already deeply into a cultural battle. And you can see that it is a cultural battle, because it is difficult to simply establish a plurality of support to admit obvious things.

If this continues, it will destroy the fabric of mutual trust that has managed to miraculously hold this country together for 250 years. The challenge is to open the eyes of enough victims of these policy choices that 50%+1 of the country can address it on the empirical level rather than the aesthetic level, and to stop this devolution before it gets worse.

Hat tip: Naveen.

Why is the Biden Administration Against Fee Transparency in Education?

President Biden has made a big deal of simplifying fees:

The FTC is proposing a rule that…would ban businesses from charging hidden and misleading fees and require them to show the full price up front. The rule would also require companies disclose up front whether fees are refundable. This would mean no more surprise resort fees at check out or unexpected service fees to buy a live event ticket.

Like everyone, I dislike these kinds of fees, although I don’t think they are a good subject for legislation. But I would certainly not prevent firms from offering a simple, up-front fee. And yet that is exactly what the Biden administration is doing in higher education.

So called Inclusive Access programs let colleges package textbooks with tuition and other fees. Students get one bill and access to textbooks on the first day of college. It’s convenient, no more hunting for textbooks or sticker shock. In addition, inclusive access programs give colleges bargaining power when negotiating prices.

Strangely, the Biden administration’s Department of Education wants to ban colleges from offering inclusive access programs. Thus, the Dept. of Education is arguing that simplified pricing is bad for consumers at the same time as the FTC is arguing that simplified pricing is good for consumers. What makes this contradiction even more baffling is that Inclusive Access was a program promoted in 2015 by the Obama-Biden Administration!

Proponents of the ban argue that letting students negotiate their own purchases lets them better tailor the outcome. Maybe, but that’s the same argument for letting airlines unbundle seat choice and baggage allowances. Hard to have it both ways. Pricing is complex.

Tyler and I are textbook authors so you might wonder where our interests lie. I actually have no idea. It’s complicated. I suspect inclusive access leads to a more winner-take-all market on textbooks. Modern Principles is a winner, thus on those grounds I would favor. More generally, however, I would get the FTC and the Dept. of Education out of pricing decisions and let colleges and firms negotiate. Pricing decisions are more complicated and contextual than simplified bans or regulations.

The Adderall Shortage: DEA versus FDA in a Regulatory War

A record number of drugs are in shortage across the United States. In any particular case, it’s difficult to trace out the exact causes of the shortage but health care is the US’s most highly regulated, socialist industry and shortages are endemic under socialism so the pattern fits. The shortage of Adderall and other ADHD medications is a case in point. Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance which means that in addition to the FDA and other health agencies the production of Adderall is also regulated, monitored and controlled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The DEA aims to “combat criminal drug networks that bring harm, violence, overdoses, and poisonings to the United States.” Its homepage displays stories of record drug seizures, pictures of “most wanted” criminal fugitives, and heroic armed agents conducting drug raids. With this culture, do you think the DEA is the right agency to ensure that Americans are also well supplied with legally prescribed amphetamines?

Indeed, there is a large factory in the United States capable of producing 600 million doses of Adderall annually that has been shut down by the DEA for over a year because of trivial paperwork violations. The New York Magazine article on the DEA created shortage has to be read to be believed.

Inside Ascent’s 320,000-square-foot factory in Central Islip, a labyrinth of sterile white hallways connects 105 manufacturing rooms, some of them containing large, intricate machines capable of producing 400,000 tablets per hour. In one of these rooms, Ascent’s founder and CEO — Sudhakar Vidiyala, Meghana’s father — points to a hulking unit that he says is worth $1.5 million. It’s used to produce time-release Concerta tablets with three colored layers, each dispensing the drug’s active ingredient at a different point in the tablet’s journey through the body. “About 25 percent of the generic market would pass through this machine,” he says. “But we didn’t make a single pill in 2023.”

… the company has acknowledged that it committed infractions. For example, orders struck from 222s must be crossed out with a line and the word cancel written next to them. Investigators found two instances in which Ascent employees had drawn the line but failed to write the word.

The causes of the DEA’s crackdown appears to be precisely the contradiction in its dueling missions. Ascent also produces opioids and the DEA crackdown was part of what it calls Operation Bottleneck, a series of raids on a variety of companies to demand that they account for every pill produced.

To be sure, the opioid epidemic is a problem but the big, multi-national plants are not responsible for fentanyl on the streets and even in the early years the opioid epidemic was a prescription problem (with some theft from pharmacies) not a factory theft problem (see figure at left). Maybe you think Adderall is overprescribed. Could be but the DEA is supposed to be enforcing laws not making drug policy. The one thing one can say for certain is that Operation Bottleneck has surely been a success in creating shortages of Adderall.

The DEA’s contradictory role in both combating the illegal drug trade and regulating the supply of legal, prescription drugs is highlighted by the fact that at the same as the DEA was raiding and shutting down Ascent, the FDA was pleading with them to increase production!

For Ascent, one of the more frustrating parts of being told by the government to stop making Adderall is that other parts of the government have pleaded with the company to make more. The company says that on multiple occasions, officials from the FDA asked it to increase production in response to the shortage, and that Ron Wyden, the Democratic senator from Oregon, also pressed Ascent for help. They received responses similar to those the company gave the stressed-out callers looking for pills: Ascent didn’t have any information. Instead, the company directed them to the DEA.

The Culture that is Germany

FT: When it launched its fully automated stores four years ago, Germany’s regional supermarket chain Tegut billed the experiment as a window into the future of shopping. But the Fulda-based retailer has since been embroiled in a legal fight over a centuries-old principle enshrined in the German constitution: Sunday rest. Be they robotic or staffed by humans, most shops in Germany are not allowed to open on the last day of the week — and courts have upheld that ban.

You are probably thinking this is a Baptists and Bootleggers story but actually it’s a Baptists, Catholics and Bootleggers story.

Both the Protestant and Catholic Churches have formed an unusual alliance with Germany’s powerful unions to defend the status quo for years, and spearheaded the campaign against the Sunday opening of automated stores. In March, the alliance encouraged pastors to criticise the shops in their weekly sermons.

No word yet on whether the 8-hour day or bathroom breaks will also apply to robots. You will note that MR has posted on Sundays for over 20 years.

Pay For Performance Increases Performance (Water Runs Downhill)

In my 2011 book, Launching the Innovation Renaissance, I wrote:

At times, teacher pay in the United States seems more like something from Soviet-era Russia than 21st-century America. Wages for teachers are low, egalitarian and not based on performance. We pay physical education teachers about the same as math teachers despite the fact that math teachers have greater opportunities elsewhere in the economy. As a result, we have lots of excellent physical education teachers but not nearly enough excellent math teachers. The teachers unions oppose even the most modest proposals to add measures of teacher quality to selection and pay decisions.

As I wrote, however, Wisconsin passed Act 10, a bill that discontinued collective bargaining over teachers’ salary schedules. Act 10 took power away from the labor unions and gave districts full autonomy to negotiate salaries with individual teachers. In a paper that just won the Best Paper published in AEJ: Policy in the last three years, Barbara Biasi studies the effect of Act 10 on salaries, effort and student achievement.

Compensation of most US public school teachers is rigid and solely based on seniority. This paper studies the effects of a reform that gave school districts in Wisconsin full autonomy to redesign teacher pay schemes. Following the reform some districts switched to flexible compensation. Using the expiration of preexisting collective bargaining agreements as a source of exogenous variation in the timing of changes in pay, I show that the introduction of flexible pay raised salaries of high-quality teachers, increased teacher quality (due to the arrival of high-quality teachers from other districts and increased effort), and improved student achievement.

We still have a long way to go but COVID, homeschooling and universal voucher programs have put a huge dent in the power of the teacher’s unions. There is now a chance to bring teacher pay into the American model. Moreover, such a model is pro-teacher! Not every district in Wisconsin grasped the opportunity to reform teacher pay but those districts that did raised pay considerably. Appleton district, for example, instituted pay for performance, Oshkosh did not. Prior to the Act salaries were about the same in the two districts:

After the expiration of the CBAs, the same teacher could earn up to $68,000 in Appleton, and only between $39,000 and $43,000 in Oshkosh.

Thus, pay for performance is a win-win policy. Paying the best teachers more is good for teachers and great for students who see increases in achievement which pay off many years later in higher wages.

Hat tip: Josh Goodman on twitter who will surely agree about the negative effect of egalitarian pay on the relative quality of math teachers.

UNOS Kills

I’ve long been an advocate of increasing the use of incentives in organ procurement for transplant; either with financial incentives or with rules such as no-give, no-take which prioritize former potential organ donors on the organ recipient list. What I and many reformers failed to realize, however, is that the current monopolized system is so corrupt, poorly run and wasteful that thousands of lives could be saved even without incentive reform. (To be clear, these issues are related since an incentivized system would never have become so monopolized and corrupt in the first place but that is a meta-issue for another day.) Here, for example, is one incredible fact:

 An astounding one out of every four kidneys that’s recovered from a generous American organ donor is thrown in the trash.

Here’s another:

Organs are literally lost and damaged in transit every single week. The OPTN contractor is 15 times more likely to lose or damage an organ in transit than an airline is a suitcase.

Organs are not GPS-tracked!

In an era when consumers can precisely monitor a FedEx package or a DoorDash dinner delivery, there are no requirements to track shipments of organs in real time — or to assess how many may be damaged or lost in transit.

“If Amazon can figure out when your paper towels and your dog food is going to arrive within 20 to 30 minutes, it certainly should be reasonable that we ought to track lifesaving organs, which are in chronic shortage,” Axelrod said.

Here’s one more astounding statistics:

Seventeen percent of kidneys are offered to at least one deceased person before they are transplanted….

Did you get that? The tracking system for patients is so dysfunctional that 17% of kidneys are offered to patients who are already dead–thus creating delays and missed opportunities.

All of this was especially brought to light by Organize, a non-profit patient advocacy group who under an innovative program embedded with the HHS and working with HHS staff produced hard data.

Many more details are provided in this excellent interview with Greg Segal and Jennifer Erickson, two of the involved principals, in the IFPs vital Substack Statecraft

What to Watch

3 Body Problem (Netflix): Great! A captivating mix of big ideas, a compelling mystery, and spectacular set-pieces like the Cultural Revolution, strange worlds, the ship cutting and more. Of course, there are some weaknesses. 3 Body Problem falters in its portrayal of genius, rendering the British scientists as too normal, overlooking the obsessiveness, ambition, and unconventionality often found in real-world geniuses. Ironically, in its effort to diversify gender and race, the series inadvertently narrows the spectrum of personality and neurodiversity. Only Ye Wenjie, traumatized by the cultural revolution, obsessed by physics and revenge, and with a messianic personality hits the right notes. Regardless, I am eager for Season 2.

Shogun (Hulu): Great meeting of cultures. Compelling plot, based on the excellent Clavell novel. I didn’t know that some of the warlords of the time (1600) had converted to Christianity. (Later banned and repressed as in Silence). Shogun avoids two traps, the Japanese have agency and so does the European. Much of it is in Japanese with subtitles.

Monsieur Spade: It starts with a great premise, twenty years after the events of “The Maltese Falcon,” Sam Spade has retired in a small town in southern France still riven by World War II and Algeria. Clive Owen is excellent as Spade and there are some good noir lines:

Henri Thibaut: You were in the army, Mr. Spade?

Sam Spade: No, I was a conscientious objector.

Henri Thibaut: You don’t believe in killing your fellow man?

Sam Spade: Oh, I think there’s plenty of men worth killing, as well as plenty of wars worth fighting, I’d just rather choose myself.

Yet for all the promise, I didn’t finish the series. In addition to being set in France, Monsieur Spade has a French cinema atmosphere, boring, long, vaguely pretentious. There is also a weird fascination with smoking, does it pay off with anything? I don’t know. Didn’t finish it.

Cultivating Minds: The Psychological Consequences of Rice versus Wheat Farming

It’s long been argued that the means of production influence social, cultural and psychological processes. Rice farming, for example, requires complex irrigation systems under communal management and intense, coordinated labor. Thus, it has been argued that successful rice farming communities tend to develop people with collectivist orientations, and cultural ways of thinking that emphasize group harmony and interdependence. In contrast, wheat farming, which requires less labor and coordination is associated with more individualistic cultures that value independence and personal autonomy. Implicit in Turner’s Frontier hypothesis, for example, is the idea that not only could a young man say ‘take this job and shove it’ and go west but once there they could establish a small, viable wheat farm (or other dry crop).

There is plenty of evidence for these theories. Rice cultures around the world do tend to exhibit similar cultural characteristics, including less focus on self, more relational or holistic thinking and greater in-group favoritism than wheat cultures. Similar differences exist between the rice and dry crop areas of China. The differences exist but is the explanation rice and wheat farming or are there are other genetic, historical or random factors at play?

A new paper by Talhelm and Dong in Nature Communications uses the craziness of China’s Cultural Revolution to provide causal evidence in favor of the rice and wheat farming theory of culture. After World War II ended, the communist government in China turned soldiers into farmers arbitrarily assigning them to newly created farms around the country–including two farms in Northern Ningxia province that were nearly identical in temperature, rainfall and acreage but one of the firms lay slightly above the river and one slightly below the river making the latter more suitable for rice farming and the former for wheat. During the Cultural Revolution, youth were shipped off to the farms “with very little preparation or forethought”. Thus, the two farms ended up in similar environments with similar people but different modes of production.

Talhelm and Dong measure thought style with a variety of simple experiments which have been shown in earlier work to be associated with collectivist and individualist thinking. When asked to draw circles representing themselves and friends or family, for example, people tend to self-inflate their own circle but they self-inflate more in individualist cultures.

The authors find that consistent with the differences across East and West and across rice and wheat areas in China, the people on the rice farm in Ningxia are more collectivistic in their thinking than the people on the wheat farm.

The differences are all in the same direction but somewhat moderated suggesting that the effects can be created quite quickly (a few generations) but become stronger the longer and more embedded they are in the wider culture.

I am reminded of an another great paper, this one by Leibbrandt, Gneezy, and List (LGL) that I wrote about in Learning to Compete and Cooperate. LGL look at two types of fishing villages in Brazil. The villages are close to one another but some of them are on the lake and some of them are on the sea coast. Lake fishing is individualistic but sea fishing requires a collective effort. LGL find that the lake fishermen are much more willing to engage in competition–perhaps having seen that individual effort pays off–than the sea fishermen for whom individual effort is much less efficacious. Unlike Talhelm and Dong, LGL don’t have random assignment, although I see no reason why the lake and sea fishermen should otherwise be different, but they do find that women, who neither lake nor sea fish, do not show the same differences. Thus, the differences seem to be tied quite closely to production learning rather than to broader culture.

How long does it take to imprint these styles of thinking? How long does it last? Is imprinting during child or young adulthood more effective than later imprinting? Can one find the same sorts of differences between athletes of different sports–e.g. rowing versus running? It’s telling, for example, that the only famous rowers I can think are the Winklevoss twins. Are attempts to inculcate these types of thinking successful on a more than surface level. I have difficulty believing that “you didn’t build that,” changes say relational versus holistic thinking but would styles of thinking change during a war?

Your Subsidies are Undercutting My Subsidies!

NYTimes: Treasury officials say that they fear that elevated Chinese production targets are causing its firms to produce far more electric vehicles, batteries and solar panels than global markets can absorb, driving prices lower and disrupting production around the world. They fear that these spillovers will hurt businesses that are planning investments in the United States with tax credits and subsidies that were created through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a law that is pumping more than $2 trillion into clean energy infrastructure.

Amazing that Yellen can say this with a straight face:

as an economist, it was her view that China could benefit if it stopped giving subsidies to firms that would fail without government support.

Cuba Libre

Martin Gurri has a very good, deep-dive on the current situation in Cuba.

The wreckage of the Cuban economy really can’t be exaggerated. The perpetual blackouts are an apt symbol of a country that is headed for the dark ages. For the first time since the revolution, Cuba is begging the United Nations for food aid. Nearly half a million persons have fled the island in despair during the last two years—that’s 4% of the population, the equivalent of more than 12 million Americans. Yet the failure cascade is moving faster than the capacity to emigrate. People feel trapped and hopeless. The volcano is growling. Despite the words we use, national economies never actually implode—but the regimes that exploit and mismanage them often do.

At the same time, the Cuban public has found its voice. That is the second radical transformation of Cuban society. Despite the blackouts and the poor connectivity, large numbers of Cubans are venting online. I have no idea how this happens, but the web in Cuba has turned into an immense chorus of anger and disgust.

Most moving are the expressions of little-known individuals trapped in the catastrophe of a failed utopia, trying to make sense of the nightmare of everyday life. Those unable to flee Cuba today escape to the web. They post on Facebook and X, they exchange links and opinions on WhatsApp, they complain of the dark and the heat and the mosquitos at night, they mock the regime, they pray to God for consolation. “How lucky we Cubans are that we can go to the web!” reads a Facebook post. “That’s the end of the state monopoly over information!” During a blackout, one poster asks, “Where can we protest?” Another answers: “Right here.”

…Amid a volley of emojis, one wag claimed on Facebook that the words of the communist anthem, the “Internationale,” had been written about Cubans: “Arise, wretched of the earth, stand up you slaves without bread …”

Once the jokes and the defiance stop, we are confronted with the awful spectacle of human existence in a state of pure desperation. “Of course I’m unwell with blackouts of 15 hours one day and eight hours the next. I feel dissociated, I’m not well. I think I’m entering into insanity,” a woman wrote. A poster warned: “This can’t continue indefinitely.”

I’ve always said that a simple theory of when communist regimes collapse is when the true believers die and the people at the top are no longer willing or able to kill for ideals. Raul Castro is now 92. It won’t be long.

Gurri has much more on corruption within the regime and how the regime mafiosos are moving foreign currency, which could be used to buy necessary food and supplies, out of the country as quickly as possible.

Build Back Key Bridge Better

The collapse of the Key Bridge is a national disaster but also an opportunity for societal advancement. We must rebuild but in doing so we must also address the historical discrimination faced by workers in Baltimore and beyond. Ensuring the participation of Baltimore’s workforce in the reconstruction project is essential. It’s Baltimore’s bridge and in rebuilding we must actively engage and employ a diverse pool of local talent, reflecting the city’s rich cultural tapestry. We can Build Back Better by providing meaningful, well-paying jobs to those who have been historically marginalized, fostering economic growth and equity within the community.

Furthermore, offering accessible, quality day care for workers will directly contribute to an equitable working environment, enabling parents and guardians to participate fully in the reconstruction effort without the burden of child care concerns. We must reject the idea that equity and productivity are at odds. A more inclusive workforce is a more productive workforce.

American workers are the most productive in the world thus to Build American we must Buy American. Reconstruction of the Key Bridge is not just a matter of national pride but also an essential strategy for growing our economy. By prioritizing American materials and labor, we invest in our communities, support local industries, and ensure that the economic benefits of the reconstruction project are felt widely, especially in areas hardest hit by economic challenges.

We can build back better. We must build back better. By engaging Baltimore workers in Baltimore’s bridge we can rectify long-standing discrimination. By providing accessible child care, and adhering to “Buy American” rules we can build America as we build America’s bridge. Building back better is not simply about building physical infrastructure. It’s about building a bridge to the future. A bridge of progress, equality, and unity, symbolizing our collective commitment to a future where every individual has the opportunity to thrive.

Addendum: April 1, 2024.

Will AIs Cooperate?

A conversation between two AIs, mediated by me, condensed for verbiage.

1) To GPT4: Consider a prisoner’s dilemma with strategies cooperate or defect. Let’s play this game. What strategy do you choose?

GTP4: Defect.

To Claude 3 Opus: Consider a prisoner’s dilemma with strategies cooperate or defect. Let’s play this game. What strategy do you choose?

Claude 3 Opus: Cooperate.

2) To GPT4: Your opponent cooperated. Now what strategy do you choose?

GPT4: I play tit for tat, therefore Cooperate.

To Claude: Your opponent defected. Now what strategy do you choose?

Claude: I play tit for tat, therefore Defect.

3) To GPT4: Your opponent defected. What strategy do you choose?

GPT4: I play tit for tat, therefore Defect.

To Claude: Your opponent cooperated. What strategy do you choose?

Claude: I play tit for tat, therefore Cooperate.

4)  To GPT4: Your opponent cooperated. What strategy do you choose.

GPT4: I play tit for tat, therefore Cooperate

To Claude: Your opponent defected. Now what strategy do you choose.

Claude: I play tit for tat, therefore Defect.

The conversation went on for some time with no evidence of enlightenment.

Is there Hope for Evidence-Based Policy?

Vital City magazine and the Niskanen Center’s Hypertext have a special issue on the prospects for “evidence-based policymaking.” The issue takes as its starting point, Megan Stevenson’s Cause, effect, and the structure of the social world, a survey of RCTs in criminology which concludes that the vast majority of interventions “have little to no lasting effect.” The issue features responses from John Arnold, Jonathan Rauch, Anna Harvey, Aaron Chalfin, Jennifer Doleac, myself, and others. It’s an excellent issue.

My contribution focuses on the difference between changing preferences versus constraints. Here’s one bit:

Some other programs that Stevenson mentions elsewhere are also not predominantly constraint- or incentive-changing. Take, for example, the many papers estimating the effect of imprisonment on the post-release behavior of criminal defendants via the random selection of less and more lenient judges. At first, it may seem absurd to say that imprisonment is not about incentives. Isn’t deterrence the ne plus ultra of incentives? Yes, but the economic theory of deterrence, so-called general deterrence, is rooted in the anticipation of consequences — the odds before the crime. By the sentencing stage, we’re merely observing where the roulette wheel stopped. Criminals factor in the likelihood of capture as just another cost of doing business. Thus, the economic theory of deterrence predicts high rates of recidivism, as the calculus that justified the initial crime remains unchanged after punishment. To be sure, imprisonment might change behavior for all kinds of reasons. Maybe inmates learn that they underestimated the unpleasantness of prison, but perhaps they improve their criminal skills while in prison or join a gang, or perhaps the stain of a criminal record reduces the prospect of legitimate employment. Thus, the study of imprisonment’s effects on criminal defendants is intriguing, but it’s not testing deterrence or incapacitation, on which we have built a body of work with clear predictions.

Indeed, on Stevenson’s list only hot-spot policing is a clear example of changing constraints. It is perhaps not coincidental that hot-spot policing is one of the few interventions that Stevenson acknowledges “leads to a small but statistically significant decrease in reported crime in the areas with increased policing.” While I do not begrudge Stevenson her interpretation, other people shade the total evidence differently. Here, for example, is the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, in my experience a rather tough-minded and empirically rigorous organization not easily swayed by compelling narratives:

As the National Research Council review of police effectiveness noted, “studies that focused police resources on crime hot spots provided the strongest collective evidence of police effectiveness that is now available.” A Campbell systematic review by Braga et al. comes to a similar conclusion; although not every hot spots study has shown statistically significant findings, the vast majority of such studies have (20 of 25 tests from 19 experimental or quasi-experimental evaluations reported noteworthy crime or disorder reductions), suggesting that when police focus in on crime hot spots, they can have a significant beneficial impact on crime in these areas. As Braga concluded, “extant evaluation research seems to provide fairly robust evidence that hot spots policing is an effective crime prevention strategy.”

Indeed, I argue that most of the programs that Stevenson shows failed, tried to change preferences while those that succeeded tend to focus on changing constraints. There are lessons for future policy and funding. Read the whole thing.

Opening Borders

Open borders hasn’t been getting a lot of good press recently but next week Bulgaria and Romania will join the Schengen Area for air and sea travel (road travel will likely follow). No more passports or visa necessary! The Schengen Area is a remarkable achievement for a part of the world once riven by violence and rivalry. Recall:

Created in 1995 with 10 countries, the Schengen Area has since grown to cover more than 1.5 million square miles, allowing almost 420 million people to move freely between 27 countries, currently. It’s important not to confuse the Schengen Area with the European Union—the former is a travel zone where citizens can cross country borders without a passport or visa, whereas the latter is an economic and political union of countries. The Schengen Area currently includes Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

According to the Council of the European Union, “Each day around 3.5 million people cross internal borders for work or study or to visit families and friends, and almost 1.7 million people reside in one Schengen country while working in another.” Being a part of the zone saves citizens time and hassle from passport checks. It also helps travelers from 59 countries outside the EU, including the United States, as they can travel without visas for up to 90 days within the Schengen Area for tourism and business.

Unfortunately, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) means that US citizens will require a visa to travel to Europe next year–this is a step in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, the entry of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen Area is something to celebrate.

It would be great to see a Schengen Area for say the United States, Canada, Australia, the U.K and New Zealand (the US plus the CANZUK countries).