Category: Data Source

WashingtonWatch is a new website that presents estimates of the costs or savings per family or person for a variety of bills.  Here’s the latest DOD budget cost:

S. 2766 would authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2007 for the
military functions of the Department of Defense (DoD), for activities
of the Department of Energy (DOE), and for other purposes, including
operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cost Per Family: $5535.19

The website is a useful collection but be aware that there is no attempt to do any cost-benefit or incidence analysis.  The numbers are just brute government estimates of the total program spending or tax reduction divided by the number of families or persons.  I can guarantee you, for example, that the following calculation for the "average family" is way, way off the mark.

H.R. 5638 makes the estate and gift tax permanent; increases the
estate and gift tax credit to a $5 million effective exclusion amount,
making any unused effective exclusion amount portable between spouses;
and reduces rates, as well as making other changes in tax law.

Savings per average family: $1896.79

I love lefties

Highly educated people earn more if they are left-handed.  The pay gap, relative to right-handers, is especially strong for those with low earnings relative to their level of education (e.g., academics).  If they are men they earn 15 percent more.  Here is the paper.

This earnings result appears ungrounded but it does not surprise me.  Left-handers have idiosyncrasies, obsessions, and downright insanities which lift some of them into productivity heaven.  If they are not earning a lot they probably love what they do.

I like other left-handers (yes I am one) at a disproportionately high rate and they fit disproportionately into the right-hand-tail of the distribution of my liking.  One of my absurd beliefs is that I can tell which people are
left-handers simply by observing their personalities and their charming bits of ever so slight yet always on the surface awkwardness.

Did you know that lefties also have higher rates of irritable bowel syndrome? 

For some odd reason, I play all sports but basketball with my right hand.

Private Foreign Aid

The LATimes has a superb set of articles on remittances, it focuses not just on remittances from the U.S. to Mexico but also from Japan to the Phillipines, Italy to Kenya and  Florida to Haiti. 

Migrants have been sending money home, in one form or another, for
centuries. But only recently have economists recognized its
significance. Today, remittances are the largest, fastest-growing and
most reliable source of income for developing countries. Poor nations
reported $167 billion in receipts from overseas workers last year,
according to the World Bank, more than all foreign aid. Including
unrecorded transactions, the bank estimates that the total exceeded
$250 billion.

…Mexico’s annual remittance inflow has doubled since 2002 and reached
$20 billion last year, second only to petroleum as a generator of
wealth for the country.

Other developing nations also depend
heavily on their migrants’ money. Brazilian laborers in Japan send home
more than $2 billion a year, out-earning their country’s coffee
exports. Remittances bring in more than tea exports do in Sri Lanka and
tourism does in Morocco. In Jordan, Lesotho, Nicaragua, Tonga and
Tajikistan, they provide more than a quarter of the gross national


Thanks to Carl Close for the pointer.

Sad facts of the day

"80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year."

"58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school."

"…more people probably read Engadget than all of the top 50 science blogs combined."

Bill Simmons (a good link for NBA fans) thinks that Allen Iverson would have been the greatest soccer player ever to try the game.

You’ll find all of those over at the ever-excellent

How American is Globalization?

Extending the analysis to 1999, we see that the percentage of the world’s population who are native speakers of English actually declined from 9.8 to 7.8 percent.  The percentage of native speakers of the world’s leading language, Mandarin, also declined slightly, from 15.6 to 15.2 percent…The language groups that have increased dramatically as a percentage of the world population are Arabic and Bengali, which each accounted for 2.7 percent of the world’s speakers in 1958, but rose to 3.5 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively, in 1992.  Hindi speakers rose from 5.2 to 6.4 percent, and Spanish speakers from 5.0 to 6.1 percent.  English as a first language has fallen from its mid-century position of second place to fourth as the millennium ended.

That is from William H. Marling’s How "American" is Globalization?  This wide-ranging book is the definitive current source on which cultures are gaining and losing in respective cultural areas.  The bottom line of this book?  The world is not becoming Americanized.  Very highly recommended.

JSTOR for People not at a University

One of the great pleasures of being a professor in recent years is that I no longer have to go the library.  Trudging to the stacks, finding an article, and photocopying it are things of the past.  Almost everything is available online especially at the great JSTOR in the sky, a vast repository of electronic journals some dating back more than 100 years.

Not every university has access to JSTOR, however, and individual subscriptions are costly and limited in scope.  But Kevin Kelly points out that in many places you can get a digital library card which will get you access to many online databases. 

In most states, you can get a library card from a public library
outside of your county of residence — as long as you can prove state
residence (true for the San Francisco Public Library). Often you will
have to go the actual state library in person to pick up your card, but
once in hand, you can access the library from the web. Fanatical
researchers are known to have a wallet full of library cards from
numerous public library systems within their respective states. Some
states, Ohio and Michigan being two of the better known, have statewide
consortiums of private, corporate and public libraries, which allows
you access to the combined services and databases licensing power of
them all.

China facts of the day

Suicide is now the biggest single killer among young Chinese people, the country’s first national suicide survey has shown.

Each year more than a quarter of a million people in China are taking their own lives, the study showed.

But the most significant finding was that, unlike almost everywhere else in the world, more women than men commit suicide.

Suicide now accounts for a third of all deaths among women in the countryside.

In the study, to be
published in British medical journal, The Lancet, US and Chinese
researchers discovered there was apparently a significantly lower rate
of mental illness among those committing suicide than would be the case
in the West.

Dr Michael Phillips, who
helped lead the study, told the BBC that while 90-95% of those taking
their own lives in the West suffered significant mental illness at the
time of attempting suicide, around a third of those in China did not.

…the biggest single reason why so many suicide attempts in China are successful is their method.

Nearly two-thirds of them are by consuming pesticides and powerful rat poisons which are extremely easy to buy in China.

Here is the story, courtesy of

Literature and movie maps

What else do fans of Amelie Nothomb read?  The closer the names are together, the more likely both a person likes both authors. 

Enter your favorite author here.  David Foster Wallace, whom I dislike, is closest to Don Delillo.   Virginia Postrel is paired next to Ayn Rand and Arthur Conan Doyle.  Here is Milton Friedman.  No, I don’t know the details of their data but it involves asking visitors.

The parent company offers similar services for music and movies.  Fans of Eyes Wide Shut like these moviesTotal Recall is linked, sadly, to Animal House.

Go ahead, waste your time with this, I said it was OK.

Which is the second most polite city?

My current locale Zurich, it turns out, based on this field experiment.  New York City of all places came in first, but I agree.  There is so much human capital in the city one is always tempted to speak to strangers, given the reasonably high chance you will hear something magnificent in return.  Third and fourth were Toronto and Berlin.  In Europe Moscow and Bucharest were the least polite cities.  Bombay fared worst of all.