Category: Data Source

Data Prizes

I suspect greater payoffs will come from more data than from more technique.

So said Alan Greenspan and I think he is right.  Think of how much important work, for example, has been based on the Summers-Heston, Penn World Tables.  Yet, most of the time the collectors of data toil in the fields unrecognized and unrewarded.  When original data is collected it’s often hoarded – better to mine it for yourself than open up the commons.  Now, that is a tragedy.

We ought to increase rewards to data collection.  As a salutary example, which might be emulated by the AEA and others, Mike Kellerman points to the Dataset Award given by the APSA Comparative Politics section for "a publicly
available data set that has made an important contribution to the field of
comparative politics."

Poll of the greatest 20th century economists

Given the source, expect a left-wing, anti-neoclassical perspective.  Here are the tallies, with a much longer list at the link:

1. John Maynard Keynes 3,253 

2. Joseph Alois Schumpeter 1,080 

3. John Kenneth Galbraith 904 

4. Amartya Sen 708

5. Joan Robinson 607

6. Thorstein Veblen 591

7. Michal Kalecki 481

8. Friedrich Hayek 469

9. Karl Polanyi 456

10. Piero Sraffa 383

11. Joseph Stiglitz 333

12. Kenneth Arrow 320 

13. Milton Friedman 319

13. Paul Samuelson 319

15. Paul Sweezy 268

16. Herman Daly 267 

17. Herbert Simon 250 

18. Ronald Coase 246

19. Gunnar Myrdal 216 

20. Alfred Marshall 211

At least Milton Friedman beat out Herman Daly.  Poor John Hicks.  And further down the list, does Pierangelo Garegnani, an obscure neo-Ricardian obsessed with commodity own-rates of return, deserve to place ahead of Franco Modigliani?

Thanks to www.politicaltheory.info for the pointer.

Parking fact of the day

On average [in the U.S.] a new parking space has cost 17 percent more than a new car.  Drivers may not realize it, but many parking spaces cost more than the cars parked in them, especially because cars depreciate in value much faster than parking spaces do…the parking supply is worth more than the vehicle stock.

That is from Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking, a detailed, economically insightful, data-rich, and lengthy, impassioned plea for charging people for parking spaces.  Here is Dan Klein’s excellent review of the book.

China fact of the day

That the [Shanghai pedestrian traffic] guards have no powers of arrest, or even the ability to issue tickets, allows many pedestrians to feel free to ignore them. What is worse, they are frequent targets of aggression from crowds of sneering and cursing pedestrians. According to the city government, they are physically assaulted at a rate of about 20 times a month. [emphasis added]

Here is the full and fascinating story of the traffic mess we call Shanghai.  Any predictions on when the city turns into a mass of frozen gridlock?  Or will they develop the technical infrastructure to institute road pricing, as Singapore has done?

Chicago fact of the day

The average wind speed down Michigan Ave.: 10.4 mph

The average wind speed in Boston: 12.5 mph

The average wind speed in New York City: 12.2 mph

The Windy City, anyone?  It turns out the name was adopted in the 19th century to promote the city’s beaches.  That is from Discover magazine, March 2006 issue, back page.

Update: Wikipedia offers a different perspective on the origins of the name.  Read this tooThe trail also leads to my childhood chess-playing friend Barry Popik.

Does the death penalty deter murders?

Here is a new and noteworthy NBER abstract:

Does the death penalty save lives? A surge of recent interest in this question has yielded a series of papers purporting to show robust and precise estimates of a substantial deterrent effect of capital punishment. We assess the various approaches that have been used in this literature, testing the robustness of these inferences. Specifically, we start by assessing the time series evidence, comparing the history of executions and homicides in the United States and Canada, and within the United States, between executing and non-executing states. We analyze the effects of the judicial experiments provided by the Furman and Gregg decisions and assess the relationship between execution and homicide rates in state panel data since 1934. We then revisit the existing instrumental variables approaches and assess two recent state-specific execution morartoria. In each case we find that previous inferences of large deterrent effects based upon specific examples, functional forms, control variables, comparison groups, or IV strategies are extremely fragile and even small changes in the specifications yield dramatically different results. The fundamental difficulty is that the death penalty — at least as it has been implemented in the United States — is applied so rarely that the number of homicides that it can plausibly have caused or deterred cannot be reliably disentangled from the large year-to-year changes in the homicide rate caused by other factors. As such, short samples and particular specifications may yield large but spurious correlations. We conclude that existing estimates appear to reflect a small and unrepresentative sample of the estimates that arise from alternative approaches. Sampling from the broader universe of plausible approaches suggests not just "reasonable doubt" about whether there is any deterrent effect of the death penalty, but profound uncertainty — even about its sign.

Here is the paper.  I have never been a big believer in retribution per se, as opposed to restraint or deterrence motivations for punishment. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina fact of the day

…all the synthetic economies put together, with about 10m players, are about the size of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

That is Tim Harford, reviewing Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games, from the 14 January Financial Times, p.W5.

Addendum: Here is the recent WSJ piece on economists and TV game shows, thanks to www.politicaltheory.info.

Friggonomics

Here is a data base on legal Nevada prostitutes.

The average rate is about $400 an hour, and the average customer believes he is getting a woman 31 years of age.  I won’t summarize the rest, but there is a table of correlation coefficients for many variables.

Here is a concluding excerpt:

I have been informed of many instances of guys walking into a legal
Nevada brothel, picking a lady and going back to her room to negotiate,
and then quoting to her the averages I found in previous surveys. This
is not good negotiating strategy, a topic I usually prefer not to give
advice on.

Thanks to the excellent Cynical-C blog for the pointer; they swear they found the data by accident.  And here is a good piece on whether Heidi Fleiss’s brothel for women will succeed, I predict no.

The ten sexiest geeks?

The list is by www.wired.com, and one of them is an economist.  Excerpt:

Paul Zak, co-chair of economics at Claremont Graduate University, for teaching us about the "trust hormone," oxytocin, and whittling away at some long-held myths about the sexes. In a recent study he found that men, not women, react hormonally when they’re not trusted, and that men tend to take negotiations over money personally. With all that, it’s almost not fair he’s such a looker.

Dare I reveal my Austrian roots and ask sexy to whom?  Sexy to geeks perhaps?  They um…need more women on this list.

Violations of purchasing power parity

Mercer Human Resource Consulting, which publishes an annual list of the cost of living in cities worldwide, recently put Buenos Aires 142nd, out of 144 cities ranked. What was slightly more expensive than Buenos Aires? Bangalore, India. The only two cities that were cheaper were Manilia, Philippines and Asuncion, Paraguay.

Here is the link.  Yes you can get excellent pasta here for two dollars or less, or a nine-piece stainless steel knife set for $27.  Many of the best restaurants offer entrees for seven or eight dollars.  Some good and apparently legal CD collections can be had for two or three dollars a piece.