Category: Data Source

Myths about France

1. The French are extreme cultural protectionists.  Not true.  The French do spend large amounts of money pretending they are cultural protectionists and making noise in various international arenas.  And the language restrictions are binding on audiovisual media.  But for the most part France is quite open to foreign cultures.  Just trying seeing a foreign film in Paris, you’ll hardly find a better place. 

2. French labor productivity is about as high as that of the United States.  Call this one a half-truth.  The measured average productivity is close, in part because French labor law discourages low-wage, low-productivity jobs.  A better test is if a French-English bilingual person moves from one country to the other, where is productivity higher?  I’ll put my money on the United States. 

3. Within fifty years, France will be half Islamic.  Very unlikely, read this sober assessment of the demographics.

4. Frenchmen hate the United States.  Personally I’ve never found this to be true.  I’ve spent maybe three months of my life in this country, and I can’t recall one time that anyone was ever rude to me.  Can I say that about any other country?  Remember that many peoples distinguish between citizenries and governments more than Americans do.  In this regard the French are more libertarian then we Americans are.  Here is one look at the poll evidence on whether the French hate Americans.

5. French culture dried up after World War II.  OK, French painting has not been impressive, though I am fond of Yves Klein.  But try Georges Perec, Robert Bresson, or Olivier Messiaen, or Yves Nat for some brighter moments.  Let’s not forget the key role of Paris in supporting music from Africa and the Arabic world.  (America isn’t the only country which should get credit for the culture of its immigrants.)  Nor is French rap a total wasteland.

The bottom line: France, like the United States, is very good at confounding our expectations.

Jobs in everything — Smithian theme of the day

We profiled chemist Jesse Keifer, who works as a gumologist at Cadbury
Schweppes, a multi-billion dollar corporation and one of the world’s
largest confectioners. And while you can find lots of Trident at any
local store, you’d be hard-pressed to find another gumologist. In fact
a Google search returned a handful of links, most leading to Jesse.

Others, like James Niehues, find unusual ways to make a living with
their artistic talent by illustrating ski resorts. Still, others make a
living preserving the fountain pen, a writing tool that dates back many
centuries. And another who takes pride in restoring the nostalgic
kiddie ride.

Here is more information.  Click on the "Photo Gallery" for the material.  My favorite is the Movie Prop Replicator.  What was that old saying about the division of labor?

Which Mexicans end up coming here?

Here is a long and valuable paper on the topic.  From the abstract:

Consistent with positive selection of emigrants in terms of observable skill, emigration rates appear to be highest among individuals with earnings in the top half of the wage distribution.

There is much more along those lines.  To be frank, I know this paper will not convince most of the skeptics.  They will say, or perhaps think, "Yikes, what must the others be like?"  But at the very least evidence should improve a debate.  The next time you hear it argued that we receive "the dregs" of Mexico, send along this link.

The paper also finds that wages tend to rise in parts of Mexico where many people leave.  You could argue this one of two ways.  First, it might cause you to doubt David Card’s view that wage effects in the U.S. are small (although the U.S. is a much bigger economy and thus the labor shift should have a smaller impact here).  Second, it raises our estimate of how much Mexico benefits from emigration.

Thanks to Eric Husman for the pointer.  Here is another relevant paper on Mexican emigration, forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Literature.  Full of facts, as they say.

Luxury markets in everything

Some khaki pants are now selling for as much as $1055; $400 and $500 khaki pants are becoming common.

See The Wall Street Journal, May 13-14, p.P7.  Makes you want to sign up with Peter Singer, doesn’t it?

One Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director noted: "For some of these brands, that’s a lot of money."

If you know of other absurd luxury markets, please mention them in the comments.

Leisure time is growing, and becoming more unequal

Julie Schor and others have spread the myth that people have less leisure time than before.  Here is yet another smackdown of that claim:

In this paper, we use five decades of time-use surveys to document trends in the allocation of time. We find that a dramatic increase in leisure time lies behind the relatively stable number of market hours worked (per working-age adult) between 1965 and 2003. Specifically, we show that leisure for men increased by 6-8 hours per week (driven by a decline in market work hours) and for women by 4-8 hours per week (driven by a decline in home production work hours). This increase in leisure corresponds to roughly an additional 5 to 10 weeks of vacation per year, assuming a 40-hour work week. Alternatively, the "consumption equivalent" of the increase in leisure is valued at 8 to 9 percent of total 2003 U.S. consumption expenditures. We also find that leisure increased during the last 40 years for a number of sub-samples of the population, with less-educated adults experiencing the largest increases. Lastly, we document a growing "inequality" in leisure that is the mirror image of the growing inequality of wages and expenditures, making welfare calculation based solely on the latter series incomplete.

Here is the paper, and the link.

World population 1500, and other maps

Here is a population-weighted map of the world, circa 1500:


Here is the projected world population map, circa 2050:


Here are other neat maps.  Here are maps of tourism, emigration, and refugees.  Here is my favorite, a map of the flow of net immigration.  Or try this map of aircraft departures, watch Africa disappear.  Here is the strange geography of fruit exports.  Here is how to make South America look really big, or reallly small (can you guess?).