Category: Data Source

How the workday is changing post-lockdown

Using de- identified, aggregated meeting and email meta-data from 3,143,270 users, we find, compared to pre- pandemic levels, increases in the number of meetings per person (+12.9 percent) and the number of attendees per meeting (+13.5 percent), but decreases in the average length of meetings (-20.1 percent). Collectively, the net effect is that people spent less time in meetings per day (-11.5 percent) in the post- lockdown period. We also find significant and durable increases in length of the average workday (+8.2 percent, or +48.5 minutes), along with short-term increases in email activity.

That is drawn from data from Europe, North America, and the Middle East, in this new NBER paper by Evan DeFilippis, Stephen Michael Impink, Madison Singell, Jeffrey T. Polzer, and Raffaella Sadun.

Why do some states have such low unemployment rates?

That is for June, Kentucky is at 4.3 percent but West Virginia at 10.4?  Here are the underlying BLS data.  Here is some description of Kentucky in June.  Note that Kentucky cases are now rising rapidly.  Here is the case pattern for Idaho.  The three states with the highest unemployment rates — New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts — have been moving toward relative safety after some very tough times early on.  One interpretation of these numbers is that serious lockdowns were necessary to stem the virus, but those lockdowns caused high unemployment.  More plausible to me is the view that a high initial virus burden led to high unemployment — consumers were scared — but also superior case and death results later on.

Via Nick Clerkin.

CEO stress, aging, and death

We show that increased job demands due to takeover threats and industry crises have significant adverse consequences for managers’ long-term health. Using hand-collected data on the dates of birth and death for more than 1,600 CEOs of large, publicly listed U.S. firms, we estimate that CEOs’ lifespan increases by around two years when insulated from market discipline via anti-takeover laws. CEOs also stay on the job longer, with no evidence of a compensating differential in the form of lower pay. In a second analysis, we find diminished longevity arising from increases in job demands caused by industry-wide downturns during a CEO’s tenure. Finally, we utilize machine-learning age-estimation methods to detect visible signs of aging in pictures of CEOs. We estimate that exposure to a distress shock during the Great Recession increases CEOs’ apparent age by roughly one year over the next decade.

Here is the full paper by Mark Borgschulte, Marius Guenzel, Canyao Liu, and Ulrike Malmendier.

The love letter becomes a chain letter

The public’s view of almost every industry has improved since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Axios/Harris poll. Industries with a prominent role in life under quarantine have seen especially big jumps.

Why it matters: Businesses in America were already undergoing a transformation from being solely focused on profits to being focused on values as well. The coronavirus pandemic has expedited that shift, and consumers are responding favorably to it.

Details: The poll ranks the top 100 companies, based on consumers’ scores across 7 qualities: Affinity (trust), citizenship, ethics, culture, vision, growth and products and services. Affinity is weighted higher than all other categories.

Leading the index are companies that have focused on solving problems related to the coronavirus.

By the numbers: According to the poll, 75% of consumers agree that generally speaking, during the Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, “companies were more reliable than the federal government in keeping America running.”

81% of consumers agree that large companies, with resources, expensive infrastructure, and advanced logistics “are even more vital now to America’s future than before the pandemic.”

Here is the full Axios article.  Social media, telecom companies, and the airlines (?) are those sectors that have declined in reputation.

Experienced Segregation

Here is a new and important paper from Susan Athey, Billy A. Ferguson, Matthew Gentzkow, and Tobias Schmidt:

We introduce a novel measure of segregation, experienced isolation, that captures individuals’ exposure to diverse others in the places they visit over the course of their days. Using Global Positioning System (GPS) data collected from smartphones, we measure experienced isolation by race. We find that the isolation individuals experience is substantially lower than standard residential isolation measures would suggest, but that experienced and residential isolation are highly correlated across cities. Experienced isolation is lower relative to residential isolation in denser, wealthier, more educated cities with high levels of public transit use, and is also negatively correlated with income mobility.

Here is the NBER link.  Here is an earlier and ungated version.

Global quieting of high-frequency seismic noise due to COVID-19 lockdowns

Human activity causes vibrations that propagate into the ground as high-frequency seismic waves. Measures to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread changes in human activity, leading to a months-long reduction in seismic noise of up to 50%. The 2020 seismic noise quiet period is the longest and most prominent global anthropogenic seismic noise reduction on record. While the reduction is strongest at surface seismometers in populated areas, this seismic quiescence extends for many kilometers radially and hundreds of meters in depth. This provides an opportunity to detect subtle signals from subsurface seismic sources that would have been concealed in noisier times and to benchmark sources of anthropogenic noise. A strong correlation between seismic noise and independent measurements of human mobility suggests that seismology provides an absolute, real-time estimate of population dynamics.

Here is the paper by Thomas Lecocq, et.al., Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The demise of the happy two-parent family

Here is new work by Rachel Sheffield and Scott Winship, I will not impose further indentation:

“-          We argue, against conventional wisdom on the right, that the decades of research on the effects of single parenthood on children amounts to fairly weak evidence that kids would do better if their actual parents got or stayed married. That is not to say that that we think single parenthood isn’t important–it’s a claim about how persuasive we ought to find the research on a question that is extremely difficult to answer persuasively. But even if it’s hard to determine whether kids would do better if their unhappy parents stay together, it is close to self-evident (and uncontroversial?) that kids do better being raised by two parents, happily married.

–          We spend some time exploring the question of whether men have become less “marriageable” over time. We argue that the case they have is also weak. The pay of young men fell over the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. But it has fully recovered since. You can come up with other criteria for marriageability–and we show several trends using different criteria–but the story has to be more complicated to work. Plus, if cultural change has caused men to feel less pressure to provide for their kids, then we’d expect that to CAUSE worse outcomes in the labor market for men over time. The direction of causality could go the other way.

–          Rather than economic problems causing the increase in family instability, we argue that rising affluence is a better explanation. Our story is about declining co-dependence, increasing individualism and self-fulfillment, technological advances, expanded opportunities, and the loosening of moral constraints. We discuss the paradox that associational and family life has been more resilient among the more affluent. It’s an argument we advance admittedly speculatively, but it has the virtue of being a consistent explanation for broader associational declines too. We hope it inspires research hypotheses that will garner the kind of attention that marriageability has received.

–          The explanation section closes with a look at whether the expansion of the federal safety net has affected family instability. We acknowledge that the research on select safety net program generosity doesn’t really support a link. But we also show that focusing on this or that program (typically AFDC or TANF) misses the forest. We present new estimates showing that the increase in safety net generosity has been on the same order of magnitude as the increase in nonmarital birth rates.

–          Finally, we describe a variety of policy approaches to address the increase in family stability. These fall into four broad buckets: messaging, social programs, financial incentives, and other approaches. We discuss 16 and Pregnant, marriage promotion programs, marriage penalties, safety net reforms, child support enforcement, Career Academies, and other ideas. We try to be hard-headed about the evidence for these proposals, which often is not encouraging. But the issue is so important that policymakers should keep trying to find effective solutions.”

New York City facts of the day

In June alone some 270 people were shot in the city, a 154 per cent increase from a year earlier. July is not looking any better. Over the recent July 4 holiday weekend, 64 people were shot. Seventeen more were shot this Monday, a day after Gardner’s death. Those shootings have contributed to a 23 per cent increase in homicides so far this year. Burglary is also soaring.

Here is more from Chaffin and Zhang at the FT.

Self-doubt as a barrier

Nearly half of adults who responded to a national survey said self-doubt is one of the largest challenges they would face if they enrolled in a postsecondary education or training program.

Self-doubt was one of the top three challenges respondents cited, below time and above cost.

The new data are included in the findings from the latest “Public Viewpoints” report from Strada Education Network, which surveyed American adults on their motivations for pursuing more education, as well as the barriers they face.

The importance of mental barriers was one of the findings that stuck out the most, said Nichole Torpey-Saboe, director of research at Strada. It’s yet another layer colleges have to consider when trying to attract people without degrees for enrollment.

Here is the full story.  This is what I call a “trivial” blog post.  There is nothing startling in the content, and perhaps it is not so interesting to read.  The comments on it won’t be very good either.  Yet it represents a very important truth, and one that, while it is well-known, is probably not sufficiently emotionally internalized.  And the gains would be high if more people understood this.

Excess deaths are down — below average — for those younger than eighteen

In the United States that is, link here, from Lyman Stone, photo here:

In other words, lockdown and shelter at home have limited some of the otherwise risky activities that young people engage in.

Excess deaths more generally seem to have reached a normal range, albeit at the upper end of that range:

I wouldn’t want to call this “good news,” but it is one form of putting the current situation into perspective.

On some limitations of personality psychology

…Big Five Conscientiousness was not found to correlate with mask wearing in a sample of thousands in Spain during the coronavirus epidemic (Barceló & Sheen, 2020). This was not treated by the authors as any kind of falsification of the Big Five, or even evidence against it. The abstract noun “conscientiousness” has a rich meaning, only part of which is captured by the Big Five, and only a tinier part of which is captured by the two-question methodology used here (“does a thorough job” and “tends to be lazy”). But Conscientiousness is often correlated to health behaviors, and is often said to predict them with various strengths, even though the questions in the survey focus on job performance and tidiness.

Here is the full essayby a literal banana,” interesting throughout.

UK fact of the day

#COVID19 mortality in UK hospital patients has been falling steadily from >6% in March to ~1% now, with similar trends elsewhere. The reasons behind this pattern remain unclear, but #COVID19 Infection Fatality Rates will likely have to be revised downward. tinyurl.com/ybnlmkdz

That is from Francis Balloux.  And again here is the source link.  And please do not conclude the virus is becoming less dangerous, that is not a necessary implication of the above!  Alternative explanations are given at the latter link.  Most broadly, I will say it again: if your model does not have long-run elasticities as much greater than short-run elasticities, it is likely to be off in some significant ways.

Do walls work?

To be clear, I do not favor building the Trump Wall (at all), still I am willing to present relevant evidence when it appears. Here is the abstract of a new paper by Benjamin Feigenberg:

This paper estimates the impact of the US-Mexico border fence on US-Mexico migration by exploiting variation in the timing and location of US government investment in fence construction. Using Mexican survey data and data I collected on fence construction, I find that construction in a municipality reduces migration by 27 percent for municipality residents and 15 percent for residents of adjacent municipalities. In addition, construction reduces migration by up to 35 percent from non-border municipalities. I also find that construction induces migrants to substitute toward alternative crossing locations, disproportionately deters low-skilled migrants, and reduces the number of undocumented Mexicans in the United States.

That is from American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, you should be able to click through the captcha and get to the paper.