Biden, COVID and Mental Health in America

Using US Census Household Pulse Survey data for the period April 2020 to June 2021 we track the evolution of the mental health of nearly 2.3 million Americans during the COVID pandemic. We find anxiety, depression and worry peaked in November 2020, coinciding with the Presidential election. The taking of prescription drugs for mental health conditions peaked two weeks later in December 2020. Mental health improved subsequently such that by April 2021 it was better than it had been a year previously. The probability of having been diagnosed with COVID did not rise significantly in the first half of 2021 but COVID infection rates were higher among the young than the old. COVID diagnoses were significantly lower in States that had voted for Biden in the Presidential Election. The probability of vaccination rose with age, was considerably higher in Biden states, and rose precipitously over the period among the young and old. Anxiety was higher among people in Biden states, whether they had been diagnosed or not, and whether they were vaccinated or not. The association between anxiety and depression and having had COVID was not significant in Biden or Trump states but being vaccinated was associated with lower anxiety and depression, with the effect being larger in Biden states. Whilst being in paid work was associated with lower anxiety, worry and depression and was associated with higher vaccination rates, it also increased the probability of having had COVID.

That is a new NBER working paper from the highly regarded David G. Blanchflower and Alex Bryson.  Model that!

Covid protection in Oaxaca

On the flight from Houston to Oaxaca, not everyone took off their masks to eat and drink, as they would on most internal U.S. flights, even if only for “faux mask removal-motivated drinking” [FMRMD].

You have to fill out some forms, through an app, on your smart phone in advance.  When you arrive they ask: “Did you fill out the forms?”  Say yes if you did.

They let you in, no test required, no other questions asked.  They do check your baggage tag against the bag you take away.

Nearly everyone in central Oaxaca city wears a mask all the time in public, including outside.  It is like San Francisco at its mask-wearing peak.

They spray the sides of the parks with something that smells like hand sanitizer.

If you wish to enter a store, you have to accept some hand sanitizer.  This is perhaps an efficient tax on browsing.  Toward the end of the day, however, they dispense with the tax.

Some establishments spray your clothes when you enter, maybe it is water?  Some spray you front and back.  Staff compliance does not seem to be grudging, rather the “Mexican petty bureaucracy” seems to be mobilized and out in force and with real enthusiasm.

There is a place along the local highway where they stop all cars, and have everyone get out to accept a dose of hand sanitizer.

I wonder how the equilibrium operates.  Of all the above measures, perhaps only the masks stand a chance of helping?  Does the rest of the security theater make it easier for them to largely stay open?

Here is some NYT coverage of U.S. tourists in Mexico.

When a bathroom towel restored an Indian bureaucrat’s pride

From the new memoir of Kaushik Basu:

The use of the word, sir, is very common in Indian officialdom.

During a government meeting, Prof Basu recounts, he decided to keep a tab on how many times the word was said.

A senior official, he counted, was saying sir, “on average 16 times every minute (there was a minister present)”.

Assuming it took her half a second to say the word, Prof Basu calculated that 13% of the official’s speaking time was spent saying sir.

And:

Professor Basu found it is “impolite to knock” in officialdom. “Either you have the right to enter a person’s office or you don’t.”

So if you have the right, the “norm is go right in”.

“It has taken me a while to adjust to this custom, it being such a strict norm in the West to knock before entering,” he writes.

And:

But he faced a small problem, adjusting to the new norm.

“What made the adjustment harder is that, given the high humidity in India, many doors are swollen and jammed, and so one needs to push against them for them to open,” he writes.

“The upshot is that not only do you not knock when entering someone’s office, but you often end up entering the room like a cannon ball, as the door suddenly gives way.”

Here is the full story, via Malinga Fernando.

Sunday assorted links

1. “Why did you build such a long piano?”

2. “We estimate the introduction of a new airline route increases the number of shared kidneys by 7.3%.

3. Why do the wealthy buy so much insurance rather than self-insuring through saving?

4. Stablecoins and the history of American free banking.  And improving bitcoin as a unit of account.

5. “Larger Nursing Home Staff Size Linked To Higher Number Of COVID-19 Cases In 2020.”

Supported decision-making vs. guardianship

In the last decade, and especially after the 2013 Virginia court case of Ross and Ross v. Hatch, there has been a dramatic increase in knowledge, use, and legal recognition of supported decision-making (SDM) in the United States. SDM is a methodology in which people work with trusted friends, family members, and professionals who help them understand their situations and choices so they may make their own decisions and direct their lives. After the Hatch case, in which a young woman with Down syndrome defeated a petition for permanent guardianship by demonstrating that she uses SDM, this methodology has increasingly been considered and used as an alternative to guardianship to enable people to retain their legal rights and make life choices to the maximum extent possible. This article reviews the guardianship laws of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Using criteria we developed, in light of the findings and values expressed in Hatch, we assessed the extent to which those laws recognize or encourage the use of SDM as an alternative to guardianship and as a means to enhance self-determination for people in guardianship. We then offer recommendations for future SDM research, policy, education, and advocacy efforts.

That is from a recent paper by Jonathan Martinis, et.al., via the excellent Kevin Lewis.  Guardianship is not the only alternative to “chaos,” now is the time to be truly Woke.

Why did Portugal decline?

Davis Kedrosky and Nuno Palma blame Brazil:

As late as 1750, Portugal had an output per head considerably higher than those of France or Spain. Yet just a century later, Portugal was Western Europe’s poorest country. In this paper we show that the discovery of massive quantities of gold in Brazil over the eighteenth century played a key role for the long-run development of Portugal’s economy. We focus on the economic resource curse: the loss of competitiveness of the tradables sector manifested in the rise of the price of non-traded goods relative to traded imports. Using original price data from archives for four Portuguese regions between 1650 and 1800, we show that a real exchange rate appreciation of about 30 percent occurred during the eighteenth century, which led to a loss of the competitiveness of national industry from which the country did not recover until considerably later.

Via Ilya Novak.  Oh Thiago!

Saturday assorted links

1. Report on the fighting state of the U.S. Navy.

2. The culture that is Dutch: “Dutch Queen, robot involved in opening of 3D-printed bridge in red-light district.

3. “Drunk Indian buffaloes blow cover on contraband booze.

4. How Giannis could shoot free throws better (of broader performance relevance too, NYT).

5. How do you identify “hot streaks” of individuals?

6. Canada launches a dedicated refugee stream for human rights defenders.

7. Good interview with Zaila Avant-Garde.

The pandemic countercyclical asset the Vanuatu fiscal state (China fact of the day)

The sale of passports is the largest source of revenue for the Vanuatu government, with analysis by Investment Migration Insider finding it accounted for 42% of all government revenue in 2020.

In June 2021, the government reported a budget surplus despite the Covid-19 pandemic, largely thanks to the continued demand for citizenship, and the government has used the profits to pay down debts.

And:

Vanuatu issued roughly 2,200 passports in 2020 through these programs – more than half (around 1,200) were to Chinese nationals. After Chinese, the most common nationality of recipients was Nigerian, Russian, Lebanese, Iranian, Libyan, Syrian and Afghan. Twenty people from the US, six Australians and a handful of people from Europe were also among those who applied.

Here is the full story, via Shaffin Shariff.

John Aubrey’s account of his own life

In part:

Born at Easton Piers, march twelfth, 1621, about sun-rising: very weak and like to die, and therefore christened that morning before prayer.  I think I have heard my mother say I had an ague [fever] shortly after I was born.

1629: about three or four years old, I had a grievous ague.  I can remember it.  I got not health till eleven, or twelve: but had sickness of vomiting for thirteen hours every fortnight for…years…This sickness nipped by strength in the bud.

1633: eight years old, I had an issue (natural) in the coronal suture of my head, which continued running till twenty-one.

1634: October: I had a violent fever that was like to have carried me off. ‘Twas the most dangerous sickness that ever I had.

About 1639 (or 1640) I had the measles, but that was nothing: I was hardly sick.

1639: Monday after Easter week my uncle’s nag ran away with me, and gave a very dangerous fall.

1643: April and May, the small-pox at Oxford; and shortly after, left that ingenious place; and for three years led a sad life in the country…

1646: April — admitted of the Middle Temple.  But my father’s sickness, and business, never permitted me to make any settlement to my study…

1655 (I think) June fourteenth, I had a fall at Epsom, and broke one of my ribs and was afraid it might cause an apostumation [abscess]…

1656: December: Veneris morbus [venereal disease]

1657: November, twenty-second, obiit domina [died Lady] Katherine Ryves, with whom I was to marry; to my great loss

Nor were those the end of his troubles…

That is all from John Aubrey’s Brief Lives, the autobiographical section, an excellent book more generally.  Progress Studies!

China fact of the day

By 1978, Han constituted 42 percent of Xinjiang’s population, up from a mere 6 percent in 1949.  The flow was reversed in the reform era, as many Han who had been forcibly relocated to the province returned to China proper.  In 1990, the Han share of the population was down to 37.5 percent, and official estimates of the time projected a decline to 25.0 percent by 2030.

That is from Adeeb Khalid’s excellent Central Asia: A New History from the Imperial Conquests to the Present.

Elizabeth Bowen speaks to her lover

“Take it from one of the best living novelists that people’s personalities are not interesting,” she said in a dry voice unlike the voice she uses with me as a rule.  “Except,” she added, when you are in love with them.”

And more from the diary of Charles, the lover:

Would I ever have fallen for her if it hadn’t been for her books?  I very much doubt it.  But now I can’t separate her from her literary self.  It’s as if the woman I ‘love’ were always accompanied by a companion spirit infinitely more exciting and more poetic and more profound than E herself…When it comes to writing, well I had a letter from her the other day so blunderingly expressed, so repetitive, that the least of the characters in one of her books would never have been guilty of it.

That is from Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie, Letters and Diaries, Their obsessional, thirty-year love affair.

Friday assorted links

1. Early Multidisciplinary Practice, Not Early Specialization, Predicts World-Class Performance.

2. Push to free Britney gains traction on Capitol Hill (NYT): ““We don’t even know how many people are in conservatorships and guardianships,” said Zoe Brennan-Krohn, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s disability rights program. “We don’t know how long they’ve been there in them. We don’t know whether they want to be there. We don’t know why they’re there. We don’t know whether they have their own lawyers.””

3. David Brooks column on foreign policy (NYT).

4. “A Brisbane man with no formal medical qualifications who filmed himself performing “backyard” consensual castration surgeries on two men has been handed a suspended sentence and will be released from jail on probation.

5. Invest in new preferences to create your own deflation.