Category: Data Source

The most thanked man in science

Apparently it is Olivier Danvy:

Danvy, a French researcher who works
on programming languages at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, says
that at first he was "stunned" to find his name at the top of the list.

on reflection, he puts it down to "a series of coincidences". He is
multidisciplinary, well-travelled, is involved with an international
PhD programme, and belongs to a university department that encourages
international visitors.

a snowball effect," says Danvy, who admits to being a helpful sort of
fellow. "I encourage people a lot, and advise many students on their

Here is the full story; text-mining software was used to compile the results.  Here is Olivier’s home page, which lists his six doctoral students as well.  He has, by the way, 15,800 Google entries as of early this morning…

Brazil fact of the day

Agriculture is now a $150-billion-a-year business in Brazil,
accounting for more than 40 percent of the country’s exports and
creating what Brazilians call the "green anchor" of their economy.

Already the world’s biggest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar,
coffee and tobacco, according to Agriculture Ministry statistics,
Brazil soon hopes to add soybeans to the list, depending on what
happens in that volatile market.

With a grass-fed herd of 175
million cattle that is the world’s largest, it passed the United States
as the world’s largest exporter of beef last year. During the first
nine months of 2004, sales of Brazilian beef abroad rose 77 percent
over the same period last year, leading the government to predict $2.5
billion in earnings from beef exports this year.

Over all, the
agricultural bonanza, aided in part by mad cow disease in Europe and
avian flu in Asia, is likely to give Brazil a record trade surplus of
over $30 billion.

…Brazil, which Secretary of State Colin L. Powell described as "an
agricultural superpower" during a visit in October, hopes to pass the
United States as the world’s largest agricultural producer.


"What’s really driving this revolution is that the Brazilians
discovered how to use tropical and savanna soils that had always been
considered poor," said G. Edward Schuh, director of the Center for
International Economic Policy at the University of Minnesota. "They
learned that with modest applications of lime and phosphorus they can
quadruple and quintuple their yields, not just with soybeans but also
with maize, cotton and other commodities."

In the 1960s, coffee was responsible for 60 percent of Brazil’s exports.  Today it is seventh on the list.

Here is the full story, NYT password required.

One more reason why New Zealand is not a growth dynamo

An interview-based correlation of financial satisfaction with overall life satisfaction lists 31 countries.  Tanzania has the highest correlation, by far, coming very close to 0.7 on the bar graph.  In other words, the wealthy Tanzanians report the strongest satisfaction with their lives.  Next is Korea, Bahrain, Jordan, Kenya and Greece, roughly clustered in the 0.4 to 0.5 range.  The U.S. comes in at about 0.4, which is high for the wealthy countries in the sample.

Where is the correlation by far the weakest?  New Zealand does not even make it past a correlation of 0.1. 

I can think of at least three reasons why this correlation might be so low:

1. New Zealanders don’t think you need to be rich to be happy.

2. New Zealanders sense their economy isn’t going anywhere, and so rationalize their forthcoming failure by pretending they will be happy anyway.

3. New Zealanders find it uncouth to admit that money makes you happy.

None of these views bodes well for a country’s commercial dynamism.

Here is my earlier post on why Kiwi growth has been slow. 

See the January 2005 Scientific American, p.90, drawing on the research and E. Diener and M. Diener.

Who volunteers the most?

The Norwegians come in a clear first, with 52% of their adult population doing volunteer work in a significant way. The UK and Sweden come in second and third, with 30% and 28% rates of volunteering. Uganda is next with 23% and then the United States with 22%.

Of the cited countries Mexico comes in last with a volunteering rate of 0.1%. Eastern Europe, Egypt, and Japan fare poorly as well. I would like to see follow-up work on whether these low rates are correlated with tight family structures, or whether they simply represent a low rate of cooperation overall. Might a high aggregate level of volunteering be a response to loneliness and lack of community within the family, or are the two forms of cooperation complements?

The information is from Global Civil Society, by Lester Salamon, S. Wojciech Sokolowski, and Associates. Here is the home page of the research project, with links to data as well.

The same volume (p.78) offers a carefully constructed “civil society index,” although for my tastes it does not distinguish enough between private and public sector efforts. The top five countries for civil society are Netherlands, Norway, U.S., Sweden, and the UK; some of the East African nations (Tanzania, Uganda) score surprisingly well. Mexico, Romania, and Pakistan do poorly.

Good news: your children will be slackers

The concept of discretionary time is what you have left after sleeping, eating, and a minimum of personal hygiene:

…contrary to much of public opinion, the lifetime discretionary hours spent earning a living have declined by about one-third over the past century…In 1880 four-fifths of discretionary time was spent earning a living. Today, the lion’s share (59) percent is spent doing what we like. Moreover, it appears probable that by 2040, close to 75 percent of discretionary time will be spent doing what we like, despite a further substantial increase in discretionary time due to the continuing extension of the life span.

That is from Robert Fogel’s The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death.

How much time do workers spend on the Web?

“It feels both inaccurate and inadequate to describe The Office as a comedy. On a superficial level, it disdains all the conventions of television sitcoms: there are no punch lines, no jokes, no laugh tracks, and no cute happy endings. More profoundly, it’s not what we’re used to thinking of as funny. Most of the fervently devoted fan base watched with a discomfortingly thrilling combination of identification and mortification. The paradox is that its best moments are almost physically unwatchable. Set in the offices of a fictional British paper merchant, The Office is filmed in the style of a reality television show. The writing is subtle and deft, the acting wonderful, and the characters beautifully drawn: the cadaverous team leader Gareth (Mackenzie Crook); the monstrous sales rep, Chris Finch (Ralph Ineson); and the decent but long-suffering everyman Tim (Martin Freeman), whose ambition and imagination have been crushed out of him by the banality of the life he dreams uselessly of escaping. The show is stolen, as it was intended to be, by insufferable office manager David Brent, played by codirector-cowriter Ricky Gervais. Brent will become a name as emblematic for a particular kind of British grotesque as Basil Fawlty, but he is a deeper character. Fawlty is an exaggeration of reality, and therefore a safely comic figure. Brent is as appalling as only reality can be. –Andrew Mueller”

Yes you will find the anti-capitalist mentality in this show, but I doubt if few will walk away with a fervent belief in government planning as the proper response.

Econ Journal Watch II

The second issue of Econ Journal Watch is now out. EJW is fast becoming one of my favorite journals (I am an advisor but cannot claim responsibility for the excellent content). Lots of good stuff including:

Economics in Practice: Stephen Ziliak and Deirdre McCloskey examine all the American Economic Review articles from the 1990s, and present systematic evidence of the abuse of statistical significance.

William Davis uses survey evidence to argue that a large portion of professional economists falsify their preferences about economics.

Daniel Klein establishes that Journal of Development Economics authors and editors have extensive ties to the World Bank, the IMF, the UN etc., and asks how such ties affect the character of the field.

The most expensive cities

The first three are Tokyo, London, and Moscow. The cheapest major cities are Asuncion, Paraguay; Montevideo, Uruguay; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

How about the U.S.?

Among U.S. cities, New York, which ranks No. 12 worldwide, is the most expensive. Other cities that rank as among the most expensive are Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, ranks as the least expensive city in the country.

Here is some housing information:

For one month in that two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo, you’ll drop a stunning $4,501. In Paris, you can expect to pay $2,422 and in Beijing about $3,700.

The same flat in London will cost you about $3,603, whereas in New York you’ll pay about $3,500. The best “deals” are in Buenos Aires or Johannesburg, where such an apartment will only cost you about $600.

Here is the full story.

Who are Britain’s most influential public intellectuals?

Here is one list, from Prospect magazine. Here is some discussion. Economists include John Kay, Samuel Brittan, Martin Wolf, Adair Turner, Robert Skidelsky, Amartya Sen, and Richard Layard. You have a chance to vote for the top five of the one hundred. Here is a Richard Posner list of public intellectuals, not restricted to the UK. Here is a related review of Posner.

Do you love Dad more than Mom?

Sons and daughters plan to spend just $86 on their fathers this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. That’s $12 less than the $98 they spent on their mothers on Mother’s Day last month…

But if you interpret these figures in per hour of labor terms, I would say that Mom is greatly underappreciated. And let’s not forget that these expenditures, in reality, often come from Dad rather than from the kids.

What’s the bad news for Dad?

This year the average family spent $13 less on Dad than last year. It gets worse:

While nearly 81 percent of Americans celebrated Mother’s Day, only 72 percent plan to celebrate Father’s Day tomorrow [today], according to the survey of 6,899 persons.

Here is the full story.

The world’s 100 largest economic entities

Fifty-one are corporations, and General Motors comes in at number twenty-three, just ahead of Denmark (the data are from 2000, Wal-Mart should be higher than listed, among other changes).

Here is the full list, courtesy of the ever-interesting

To be sure, these comparisons are problematic. Yearly sales are not strictly comparable to gross domestic product. Furthermore countries “hold” human capital and other forms of wealth in ways that corporations do not. Read Eric Rasmusen on the immense wealth of the United States. So these measures underestimate the economic significance of nations relative to corporations. Still they offer an object lesson in the importance of effective culture and incentives. How should Bangladesh feel, 133 million people strong, with a yearly gdp smaller than the sales of Hewlett-Packard?

Addendum: Here is more detail on why the comparisons are misleading. In a nutshell, gdp figures are based on “value added.”

Government spending: Brad asks me to tell my readers certain truths

Read him, he is correct that counting the number of agency spending cuts does not measure overall fiscal responsibility. My original post, titled “Has Bush Cut Back Government Bureaucracy?,” noted that he is 0-15 in this regard. That relates to my title, conclusion, and what I put in bold face print. I didn’t mean to endorse the data [I wrote “This is a highly imperfect proxy…”] for all other purposes, including for overall measures of fiscal responsibility across Presidents. And I am happy to report that, in my opinion, Clinton had better economic policies than most American Presidents, fiscal policy included.

This issue has come up a few times lately, so I will restate our general policy. There is writing, and there is linking. A link does not itself constitute a specifically inferable opinion on what is being linked to.

While we are on the topic, Brad has another excellent post about government spending under Reagan.

Facts about pets

1. There are 65 million dogs in the US and 77 million cats.

2. Seventy-six million households own a pet (roughly 3 in 4).

3. We will spend $34 billion on pets in 2004 (up from $17 billion in 1994): $1.6 b. on the pets themselves, $14 b. for food, and $8 b. for veterinarian care.

4. There are slightly more male dogs than female dogs and slightly more female cats than male cats. This suggests that we honor the cultural notion that dogs are “male” and cats as “female.” What happens to the animals that do not fit this gender profiling? You don’t want to know.

5. Some owners of Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs found their new pets too aggressive, and they did something surprising. They took them to a slaughter house. Then they did something really surprising. “In some cases, the owners took the meat from their pigs home, which certainly goes against our traditional thinking about what we do with our pets.”

6. …more than 60 percent of cat and dog owners include news about their pets in their holiday greetings, 27 percent take their pets along for family photographs and pictures with Santa, and 79 percent give their pets holiday or birthday presents.

7. “89 percent of pet owners believe that their pet understands all or some of what they say.” [Read here for more.]

These are all quotations from the ever-excellent Grant McCracken. Grant concludes:

We have taken our peculiar idea of the person and conferred it on our pets. This is an exceedingly odd and interesting transformational exercise. After all, these animals are by human standards deeply stupid. When we treat them as persons, we engage in an astonishing act of metamorphsis. But implausibility does not discourage us. We are a nation of individuals and we have decided that our pets are going to be individuals, too.

Grant is an anthropologist who writes about the boundaries of anthropology, culture and economics. For something slightly more prurient by him, (but still PG-13), read his post on the economics of the bare mid-riff.

Girls’ names are more inventive

Her parents called her Apple Blythe Alison Martin, hardly a common moniker. The trend, however, is more general:

…the “mutation rate” in names is higher for girls than for boys. Parents, in other words, are more liable to be inventive when choosing a name for a baby girl. The researchers have found that for every 10,000 daughters born in America there is an average of 2.3 new names. For sons, the figure is 1.6.

Why might this be?

One possibility is that in a society where family names are inherited patrilineally, parents feel constrained by tradition when it comes to choosing first names for their sons. As a result, boys often end up with the names of their ancestors. But when those same parents come to choose names for their daughters, they feel less constrained and more able to choose based on style and beauty.

Here is the full story. Here is another summary, with a link to the original research. African-Americans appear to be much more creative in naming than others, see Alex’s discussion.

The bottom line:

Most new parents copy existing names when naming their babies, say Bentley and his colleague Matthew Hahn of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Nonetheless, the overall distribution looks like a product of random copying, they demonstrate. Bentley and Hahn modelled the allotment of baby names in the United States during the twentieth century. The names follow a pattern called a power law: most names are present at a very low frequency, while a small handful are very common.

That being said, it remains a mystery why parents take more chances with the names of their baby girls. But here is the best part of the article, a paean to the leadership abilities of my parents:

But that does not explain the rise of Tyler, which first appeared in the top 1,000 in the 1950s, and reached the top ten in 1992.

I can remember a time when the only other “Tyler” in my mental universe was Henry Kissinger’s dog.