Category: Data Source

The evolution of political views

This paper examines the effect of party affiliation on an individual’s political views. To do this, we exploit the party realignment that occurred in the U.S. due to abortion becoming a more prominent and highly partisan issue over time. We show that abortion was not a highly partisan issue in 1982, but a person’s abortion views in 1982 led many to switch parties over time as the two main parties diverged in their stances on this issue. We find that voting for a given political party in 1996, due to the individual’s initial views on abortion in 1982, has a substantial effect on a person’s political, social, and economic attitudes in 1997. These findings are stronger for highly partisan political issues, and are robust to controlling for a host of personal views and characteristics in 1982 and 1997. As individuals realigned their party affiliation in accordance with their initial abortion views, their other political views followed suit.

That is a new paper by Eric D. Gould, and Estaban F. Klor, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

p.s. don’t call it “tribalism,” that is something else.

A lot of the fear of smart phones and social media may be based on faulty data

New research shows that the fear of smart phones and social media was built on a castle made of sand. Turns out almost all of previous research never bothered to validate their assessments of smart phone use – and that appears to have been a HUGE mistake.

That is from Patrick Markey at Villanova, here is the whole thread.  Here Dr. Andrea Howard has some comments about screen time and suicide correlations.

Determinants of college majors

Students who happen to be assigned classes in one of four required subjects during the semester when they’re supposed to pick a major are twice as likely to major in the assigned subject, according to a new working paper from Pope, and Richard Patterson and Aaron Feudo of the U.S. Military Academy.

This held true regardless of how well a student did or how much they liked the course, according to the economists’ analysis of U.S. Military Academy class data from 2001 to 2015. Their database included grades, class times and students’ opinions of the course. It allowed them to control for factors such as students’ hometowns and racial backgrounds.

“Small and seemingly unimportant things can really have a large impact on people’s life decisions,” Pope said. Often students cite a specific class or teacher as justification for this life-altering choice.

In a related paper, the economists, along with Carnegie Mellon’s Kareem Haggag, showed students are about 10 percent less likely to major in a subject if they took a class at 7:30 a.m. Likewise, as students grow more fatigued during the day they grow about 10 percent less likely to major in the subject covered by each successive class…

Given how easily a first choice of major can be swayed by accidents of timing and environment, it’s perhaps not surprising that 37 percent of students eventually switch, according to a new paper from University of Memphis economists Carmen Astorne-Figari and Jamin D. Speer that will be published in the journal Economics of Education Review…

Students with lower GPAs are more likely to leave their major. But so are women of all ability levels. In contrast, men are more likely to drop out instead of sticking around and trying a different subject, according to a study published last year by Astorne-Figari and Speer.

Both men and women are most likely to abandon majors in the sciences. In addition, education and philosophy appear in the top five majors men leave most frequently, while women are more likely to leave computer science…

Students tend to switch to less competitive majors.


On net, business, social sciences and economics tend to gain the most students from major switching, while biology, computer science and medicine (medical and health services) tend to lose the most.

Here is the full WaPo piece by Andrew Van Dam.

Immigration Status, Immigrant Family Ties, and Support for the Democratic Party

That is a newly published piece by George Hawley, Social Science Quarterly, not yet available on-line as far as I can find:

I test the hypothesis that immigration status itself is a predictor of Democratic Party affiliation and vote choice, even controlling for other attributes. I further test whether having immigrant parents and grandparents has a similar effect. Method.To examine these questions, I created single- and multilevel models of party affiliation and vote choice using the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. Results. Even after controlling for a myriad of individual and contextual attributes, immigration status was a statistically significant and substantively important predictor of Democratic affiliation. This was also true of the children and grandchildren of immigrants, but this effect weakened over multiple generations. Conclusion. Immigration status itself appears to be an important determinant of voting patterns, which is highly consequential, given the large and growing foreign-born population in the United States.

Perhaps this explains some small part of American politics in recent times.

For the pointer I thank D.

Perceptions of crony capitalism

This paper discusses a national survey of business leaders that sought to deter-mine how government favoritism toward particular firms correlates with attitudes about government, the market, and selectively favorable economic policy. Findings indicate that those individuals who believe they work for favored firms are more likely to approve of free markets in the abstract but also more likely to say the US market is currently too free. These individuals are more skeptical of competition and more inclined to approve of government intervention in markets. They also are more likely to approve of government favoritism and to believe that favoritism is compatible with a free market. Those who have direct experience with economic favoritism or are more attuned to such favoritism are more likely to have distorted perceptions of free- market capitalism and are more comfortable with further favoritism.

That is the abstract of a new Mercatus working paper, by Matthew D. Mitchell, with Scott Eastman and Tamara Winter.

Temperature and judicial decisions

The title is “Temperature and Decisions: Evidence from 207,000 Court Cases,” the authors are Anthony Heyes and Soodeh Saberian, and here is the abstract:

We analyze the impact of outdoor temperature on high-stakes decisions (immigration adjudications) made by professional decision-makers (US immigration judges). In our preferred specification, which includes spatial, temporal, and judge fixed effects, and controls for various potential confounders, a 10°F degree increase in case-day temperature reduces decisions favorable to the applicant by 6.55 percent. This is despite judgements being made indoors, “protected” by climate control. Results are consistent with established links from temperature to mood and risk appetite and have important implications for evaluating the influence of climate on “cognitive output.”

Here is the (gated) link to American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.  Here are ungated versions.

The economic ecology of Jews as a rural service minority

The five million Jews who lived in the Pale of Settlement at the turn of the century were overwhelmingly over-represented in towns and in cities. They specialized in seemingly urban occupations, were relatively literate, and were almost absent in agriculture. This pattern persisted overseas where one third of them would eventually immigrate. Hence, Jews were typically characterized as an urban minority. I argue that the opposite was true. The economic ecology of the Jews, the patterns of choices of occupation and location, are described in a model in which Jews were countryside workers with a comparative advantage in rural commerce, complementing agricultural workers, and without comparative advantage in denser urban settings. Using data from the 1897 census, I show that the cross-sectional patterns across districts and localities were consistent with all the predictions of this model. When the share of Jews in the population grew, Jews spilled across two margins—occupational, as manufacturing workers, and geographic, as rural frontier men. Non-Jews were imperfect substitute for Jews, rendering the latter indispensable to the countryside economy. No evidence of urban advantage is evident in the data. Turn of the century Pale of Settlement Jews ought to be understood as rural workers, in and of the countryside. In this light, the patterns exhibited in the US after immigration appear as a sharp break from, rather than a continuation of, old country economic tradition.

That is the abstract of a new paper by Yannay Spitzer.  For the pointer I thank Ilya Novak.

Missing markets in everything?

Or do the offer curves simply not intersect?:

Just over half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 — 51 percent of them — said they do not have a steady romantic partner, according to data from the General Social Survey released this week. That 2018 figure is up significantly from 33 percent in 2004 — the lowest figure since the question was first asked in 1986 — and up slightly from 45 percent in 2016.

Here is the story, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The Hayek auction results are very impressive

You will find them here, for instance Hayek’s copy of Wealth of Nations went for almost 200k, it was estimated in the 4k to 6k range.

“Desktop ephemera and personal effects” were estimated at 200-300 British pounds, went for 87,500 British pounds.  Crazy!  Many of the items went for 10x or 20x their original estimates.

Perhaps Hayek is back in fashion again, if only with the wealthy.

For the pointer I thank Lotta Moberg.

Addendum: Here is BC from the comments section:

So, the central planners couldn’t accurately estimate the values of Hayek’s personal effects because the necessary information was distributed among all the auction participants?

The case for real estate as investment

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit:

The authors of the aforementioned study — Òscar Jordà, Moritz Schularick and Alan M. Taylor — have constructed a new database for the U.S. and 15 other advanced economies, ranging from 1870 through the present. Their striking finding is that housing returns are about equal to equity returns, and furthermore housing as an investment is significantly less risky than equities.

In their full sample, equities average a 6.7 percent return per annum, and housing 6.9 percent. For the U.S. alone, equities return 8.5 percent and housing 6.1 percent, the latter figure being lower but still quite respectable. The standard deviation of housing returns, one measure of risk, is less than half of that for equities, whether for the cross-country data or for the U.S. alone. Another measure of risk, the covariance of housing returns with private consumption levels, also shows real estate to be a safer investment than equities, again on average.

One obvious implication is that many people should consider investing more in housing. The authors show that the transaction costs of dealing in real estate probably do not erase the gains to be made from investing in real estate, at least for the typical homebuyer.

Furthermore, due to globalization, returns on equities are increasingly correlated across countries, which makes diversification harder to achieve. That is less true with real estate markets, which depend more on local conditions.

Do read the whole piece.

Who is most receptive to pseudo-profound bullshit?

This research systematically mapped the relationship between political ideology and receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit—that is, obscure sentences constructed to impress others rather than convey truth. Among Swedish adults (N = 985), bullshit receptivity was (a) robustly positively associated with socially conservative (vs. liberal) self-placement, resistance to change, and particularly binding moral intuitions (loyalty, authority, purity); (b) associated with centrism on preference for equality and even leftism (when controlling for other aspects of ideology) on economic ideology self-placement; and (c) lowest among right-of-center social liberal voters and highest among left-wing green voters [emphasis added]. Most of the results held up when we controlled for the perceived profundity of genuine aphorisms, cognitive reflection, numeracy, information processing bias, gender, age, education, religiosity, and spirituality. The results are supportive of theoretical accounts that posit ideological asymmetries in cognitive orientation, while also pointing to the existence of bullshit receptivity among both right- and left-wingers.

Here is the piece, by, and Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Has the Labor Share Declined? Maybe, maybe not.

In a 2017 post Asher Schechter correctly noted:

Of the various ills that currently plague the American economy, one that has economists particularly worried is the decline in the labor share—that is, the part of national income that’s allocated to wages.

Lots of theories have been proposed to explain the decline in labor share including automation, globalization and increased markups. In a big if true paper, Koh, Santaeulalia-Llopis and Zheng argue that all of these theories are wrong because there has been no decline in labor share once we take into account that the BEA changed how intellectual property was treated in the national accounts.

The lack of attention to measurement can severely misguide economic theory. We demonstrated that the change in the accounting treatment of IPP—from expensed to capitalized—gradually implemented by the BEA since 1999 is the sole driver of the decline of the accounting LS. Furthermore, our examination of the accounting assumptions behind the capitalization of IPP—mainly that all IPP investment rents are attributed to capital—indicates that less arbitrary and extreme assumptions on the factor distribution of IPP rents yield a trendless accounting LS. In other words, the LS decline is an artifact of the change in the accounting treatment of IPP in national accounts, and this is at odds with current macroeconomic theory that considers the accounting decline as an economic phenomenon at face value.

Labor share appears to have declined globally. Have most countries changed their accounting practices? Quite possibly, but more investigation is needed. Many of the theories are also quite plausible which perhaps explains the reluctance of theorists to give up on the “fact”. The Koh et al. paper has been circulating for a few years but most seem to brush it off. Autor, Dorn, Katz, Patterson and Van Reenen, for example, say:

Although there is controversy over the degree to which the fall in the labor share of GDP is due to measurement issues such as the treatment of capital depreciation (Bridgman, 2014), housing (Rognlie, 2015), self-employment and proprietor’s income (Elsby, Hobjin, and Sahin, 2013; Gollin, 2002) and intangible capital (Koh, Santaeulalia-Lopis and Zheng, 2016), there is a general consensus that the fall is real and significant.

Wait and see is probably rational at this stage. If the paper makes it through peer-review at the JPE, it will be more difficult to ignore.

It is arresting how many facts are in fact open to question. Maybe.

Hat tip: David Andalfatto somewhere on twitter.

Women’s employment has shaped the course of recent business cycles

This paper studies the impact of changing trends in female labor supply on productivity, TFP growth and aggregate business cycles. We find that the growth in women’s labor supply and relative productivity added substantially to TFP growth from the early 1980s, even if it depressed average labor productivity growth, contributing to the 1970s productivity slowdown. We also show that the lower cyclicality of female hours and their growing share can account for a large fraction of the reduced cyclicality of aggregate hours during the great moderation, as well as the decline in the correlation between average labor productivity and hours. Finally, we show that the discontinued growth in female labor supply starting in the 1990s played a substantial role in the jobless recoveries following the 1990-1991, 2001 and 2007-2009 recessions. Moreover, it depressed aggregate hours, output growth and male wages during the late 1990s and mid 2000s expansions. These results suggest that continued growth in female employment since the early 1990s would have significantly improved economic performance in the United States.

That is the abstract of a new NBER working paper by Stefania Albanesi.