Jeffrey Sachs (not the economist) asks, Why are psychologists so prevalent in the free speech movement?:
If any academic field is associated with the contemporary debate surrounding free speech, it’s psychology. Haidt, Pinker, Peterson, Saad, Jussim, even Lehmann. All specialize or have backgrounds in academic psych.
The Scholar’s Stage offers a good answer:
I attribute this all to three things.
1. The conclusions academics reach tend to rankle the right. There are exceptions. If your research draws on evolutionary psychology, focuses on innate behavioral differences, or touches any sort of psychometrics (e.g., IQ), the angry tide does not sweep in from the right. The wave these men and women fear crashes in from leftward side. Moreover, the sort of leftist opposition that the academic consensus on these topics face leaves little room for rational debate or compromise: controversies over psychometrics or evolutionary psychology are usually framed in terms of good and evil, not right and wrong. The scientists involved are to be conquered, not reasoned with.
So that is point one: the people who want to shut controversial psychologists up are overwhelmingly creatures of the left.
2. Psychology, especially social psychology, is itself an overwhelmingly leftist discipline. We actually have data on this, and it is pretty grim: a recent survey of American tenure-track professors reveals that there 17.4 registered Democrat psychologists for every single registered Republican. If there is a field of people who ought to be sympathetic to social justice railroading, these people are it.
3. Despite this, behavioral scientists have not yet adopted the rhetorical techniques or methodology of inquiry of “critical theory.” In contrast, see how these modes of inquiry have swallowed up the fields of anthropology and communications, and established creeping colonies in history, sociology, and area studies. Given the left-leaning sympathies of almost all in the profession, the threat that the same might happen to the study of human behavior is real.
…Haidt et. al. are confident they can win the debate if they are allowed to debate. For the heterodox anthropologist or sociologist the game is already over: their discipline has already been conquered. For the economist, the threat is too remote to take seriously. Behavioral science exists in that rare in-between: methodologically, it has the tools to fight back against the excesses of the activist. Socially, it provides a compelling reason for its practitioners to use them.
I will be doing a Conversation with her, here is her home page:
Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University
Also: amateur powerlifter and boxer and certified sommelier
I live in the middle of Washington, DC, with my 13-year-old son Eli and my two Portal-themed cats, Chell and Cube. My research focuses on social epistemology, philosophy of medicine, and philosophy of language.
This interview is an excellent entry point into her thought and life, here is an excerpt from the introduction:
[Rebecca] talks about traveling the world with her nomadic parents, her father who was a holocaust survivor and philosopher, hearing the Dream argument in lieu of bedtime stories, chaotic exposure to religion, getting a job at and apartment at the age of 14, the queerness of Toronto, meeting John Waters and Cronenberg, her brother who is the world’s first openly transgender ordained rabbi, getting into ballet, combating an eating disorder, the importance of chosen family, co-authoring an article with her dad, developing an interest in philosophy of mathematics, the affordability of college in Canada, taking care of a disabled, dramatically uninsured loved one, going to University of Pitt for grad school, dealing with aggravated depression, working with Brandom, McDowell, the continental/analytic distinction, history of philosophy, how feminism and women—such as Tamara Horowitz, Annette Baier, and Jennifer Whiting–were treated at Pitt, coping with harassment from a member of the department, impostor syndrome, Dan Dennett and ‘freeedom’, her sweet first gig (in Vermont), dining with Bernie Sanders, spending a bad couple of years in Oregon, having a child, September 11th, securing tenure and becoming discontent at Carleton University, toying with the idea of becoming a wine importer, taking a sabbatical at Georgetown University which rekindled her love of philosophy, working on the pragmatics of language with Mark Lance, Mass Hysteria and the culture of pregnancy, how parenting informs her philosophy, moving to South Florida and the quirkiness of Tampa, getting an MA in Geography, science, philosophy and urban spaces, boxing, starting a group for people pursuing non-monogamous relationships, developing a course on Bojack Horseman, her current beau, Die Antwoord, Kendrick, Trump, and what she would do if she were queen of the world…
And from the interview itself:
I suspect that I’m basically unmentorable. I am self-destructively independent and stubborn, and deeply resentful of any attempt to control or patronize me, even when that’s not really a fair assessment of what is going on.
So what should I ask her?
Abstract: This paper provides the first evidence of the effect of a U.S. paid maternity leave policy on the long-run outcomes of children. I exploit variation in access to paid leave that was created by long-standing state differences in short-term disability insurance coverage and the state-level roll-out of laws banning discrimination against pregnant workers in the 1960s and 1970s. While the availability of these benefits sparked a substantial expansion of leave-taking by new mothers, it also came with a cost. The enactment of paid leave led to shifts in labor supply and demand that decreased wages and family income among women of child-bearing age. In addition, the first generation of children born to mothers with access to maternity leave benefits were 1.9 percent less likely to attend college and 3.1 percent less likely to earn a four-year college degree.
That is the job market paper of Brenden Timpe, a brave man from the University of Michigan.
Our analysis reveals that segregation into small, homogeneous groups can be a rational choice that maximizes the amount of information available to an individual. In fact, homophilic segregation can be efficient and even Pareto-optimal for society. Why is that? Our argument builds on the idea that people have not only different information, but also different preferences. These differences in preferences can prevent successful communication, because people do not want to reveal their information to those who are different, and distrust the motives of those who speak to them. It then becomes easier to exchange information in segregated, homogeneous cliques than in large crowds. Echo chambers, though they may cut off potential communication with a great number of people, make actual communication possible, and are hence useful for society.
That is from a new paper by Ole Jann and Christoph Schottmüller. I believe Jann is currently on the job market from Oxford this year. Here is their other paper on the economics of privacy. And from Schottmüller: “The quality of
advice can be highest if the adviser’s competence is uncertain.”
The Left/liberal/progressive side engages in cant about “diversity”, when we all know they mean a very precise sort of diversity and a very particular type of background when they talk about “background.” But the Right/conservative side’s emphasis on merit and colorblindness strikes me as consciously blind to the fact that these institutions were always about shaping and grooming the elite and engaged in the game of reflecting and determining the American upper class. The Right/conservative project would abolish Harvard as we know it on a far deeper level than the Left/liberal/progressive posturing cultural radicalism, which at the end of the day has no problem bowing before neoliberal capital so long as lexical modifications are made.
More than 75 percent of online students enroll at an institution within 100 miles of their homes, according to recent research from The Learning House (and consistent across past surveys over time). A majority of online students visit campus to access services and support, or to attend events and in-person courses, in a true blending of online and in-person.
Here is the column, here is one bit:
I attended Harvard (for my doctorate in economics), and most of the people there are as well-meaning as any you might find in Idaho or West Virginia.
Step back from the emotions of the current debate and start with the general point that social elites need to replicate themselves, one way or another.
The collateral damage on Asian-American applicants is psychologically minimized and explained away as a problem that can only be remedied over time.
Few societies have methods of assuring cultural continuity that could be revealed transparently without causing at least some outrage or scandal… It is no accident that Harvard has strenuously resisted disclosing the methods of its admission processes.
Get the picture? By the way:
In the meantime, the elites will do everything possible to protect the system, co-opt the opposition, and make a mix of symbolic and real concessions…You will recognize these elites by their apologies, their attempts to shift the focus back to African-American issues, and their unwillingness to entertain fundamental change.
The process by which individuals become entrepreneurs is often described as a decisive moment of transition, yet it necessarily involves a series of smaller steps. This study examines how human capital and social capital are accumulated and deployed in the earliest stages of the entrepreneurial transition in the setting of “user entrepreneurship.” Using the unique dataset from Ravelry—the Facebook of knitters—I study why and how some knitters become entrepreneurs. I show that knitters who make the entrepreneurial transition are distinctive in that they have experience in fewer techniques and more product categories. I also show that this transition is facilitated by participation in offline social networks where knitters garner feedback and encouragement. Importantly, social and human capital appear to complement each other with social capital producing the greatest effect on the most skilled users. Broader theoretical implications on user innovation, the role of social capital, and entrepreneurship research are discussed.
Here is part of the concluding summary:
…the critical factor explaining why some creative knitters transition to designers is the feedback and encouragement they receive from fellow knitters and friends. With a carefully matched sample, difference-in-difference analysis verifies that the participation in an offline local networking group increases the likelihood of transition by 25%. Furthermore, the results suggest that social capital effect is largest among those with entrepreneurial human capital, as social capital complements human capital in knitters’ transition to
I have read through the entire paper and the whole thing is a gem.
Appointing female managers is a common proposal to improve women’s representation and outcomes in the workplace, but it is unclear how well such policies accomplish these goals. Using newly-collected panel data on academic departments, I exploit variation in the timing of transitions between department chairs of different genders with a difference-in-differences research design. For faculty, I find female department chairs reduce gender gaps in publications and tenure for assistant professors and shrink the gender pay gap. Replacing a male chair with a female chair increases the number of female students among incoming graduate cohorts by ten percent with no evidence of a change in ability correlates for the average student.
We find that schools with better outcomes for women also hire more women faculty, facilitate advisor-student contact, provide collegial research seminars, and are notable for senior faculty with awareness of gender issues.
In yet another piece he estimates the value of unpaid cooking time in Mexico, always higher than you think I would say.
We use a novel dataset of job flyouts for junior economists to investigate three aspects of the market for “stars”. First, what is the background of students who become stars? Second, what type of research does the top of the market demand? Third, where do these students take jobs? Among other results, we show that stars are more international and less female than PhDs overall, that theoretical and semi-theoretical approaches remain dominant, that American programs both produce the most stars and hire even more, that the private sector is largely uncompetitive, and that there is a strong shift toward stars having pre-PhD full-time academic research jobs.
And here is a point on the stickiness of academic rankings over time:
In economics, among the 13 programs with the most published pages in a Top 5 journal by their faculty between 2002 and 2009, all 13 were among the top 18 in the same ranking for publications between 1974 and 1978 (McPherson )!
“!” is right! And this:
…almost 80% of the faculty at a top 10 economics department did their PhD in a top 10, compared to 58% in mathematics and 63% in literature.
While some say wisdom comes with age, younger Americans are better than their elders at separating factual from opinion statements in the news, according to a new analysis from Pew Research Center.
And the gap is noticeable:
About a third of 18- to 49-year-olds (32%) correctly identified all five of the factual statements as factual, compared with two-in-ten among those ages 50 and older. A similar pattern emerges for the opinion statements. Among 18- to 49-year-olds, 44% correctly identified all five opinion statements as opinions, compared with 26% among those ages 50 and older.
When looking at the 10 statements individually, younger adults were not only better overall at correctly identifying factual and opinion news statements – they could do so regardless of the ideological appeal of the statements.
Maybe social media aren’t so terrible after all. And maybe cable TV is less than perfect?
Chad Haag considered living in a cave to escape his student debt. He had a friend doing it. But after some plotting, he settled on what he considered a less risky plan. This year, he relocated to a jungle in India. “I’ve put America behind me,” Haag, 29, said.
He now lives in a concrete house in the village of Uchakkada for $50 a month. His backyard is filled with coconut trees and chickens. “I saw four elephants just yesterday,” he said, adding that he hopes to never set foot in a Walmart again.
His debt is currently on its way to default. But more than 9,000 miles away from Colorado, Haag said, his student loans don’t feel real anymore.
“It’s kind of like, if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it really exist?” he said.
The philosophy major concedes that his student loan balance of around $20,000 isn’t as large as the burden shouldered by many other borrowers, but he said his difficultly finding a college-level job in the U.S. has made that debt oppressive nonetheless. “If you’re not making a living wage,” Haag said, “$20,000 in debt is devastating.”
Short, and mostly about boyhood, here is one bit:
If you became really good at something (physics, programming, art, music), how exactly did you first get hooked?
Learning is fun. I found that social sciences are a good vehicle for learning things all the time. That got me hooked. It made my travel more salient, and it enriched the time I spent with music and the arts. It helped me make sense of people, too. All that at once. That was a pretty potent brew, and it still is.
What are some weird things you worked on or did as a teenager?
These days, what’s weird? I play chess intensively for four years, ages 10 to 14. Then I studied economics for the rest of my life. Arguably I was less weird as a teenager than I am today. What’s weird is that I haven’t “matured” into a less intensive course of study.
Here is the full link, here is a link to Pioneer, a new venture capital enterprise to discover the “lost Einsteins.” That may be you, so go apply. Here is a Pioneer list of some specific projects of interest.
If you are too conscientious, you might experience undue stress during a negative performance review. Or being too agreeable is correlated with lower salary levels, especially for men. And surely too much extroversion and too much openness are possible too?
…researchers have only recently begun to uncover evidence that extreme standing on “normal” or “desirable” personality traits might be maladaptive…many more people possess optimal personality-trait levels than previously thought…
I don’t quite agree with that, though I wouldn’t, would I? I think they are overrating normality. The notion that “weirdos are bad” seems to me longstanding, and one of the most durable human intuitions, not something that researchers have only started to realize. In a world with growing division of labor, and greater accountability (in the private sector, at least), extreme traits would seem to be rising in social value. And perhaps some of that return can be captured as private value too — Silicon Valley anybody?
Overall, I still think that “falling short” on say either conscientiousness or openness is undesirable for most though not all individuals. How can conscientiousness ever be bad, you might be wondering? Well, if the world is underproducing people with unusual interests and inclinations, more conscientiousness might make “more weirdos” a harder outcome to achieve. For instance, conscientiousness, with respect to obligations toward broader society, might keep many people more conformist. That said, there still are many people who would do better to get up in the morning and go to work, one manifestation of conscientiousness.
Agreeableness is the trait that remains a hard to define black box. Cooperativeness is often good, though simple deference to the opinions of others, without critical examination, is often bad. When I hear “agreeableness” discussed as a formal personality trait, the possible clash between those two (and other) underlying features of agreeableness seems to receive insufficient attention.
Here is a previous MR Post on related issues.
In the year that I was born, 1966, some words which were used for the first time in print were:
cryonics, art deco, assault weapon, ROM, biocontainment, hot button, kung fu, meth, male-pattern baldness, multitasking, multiorgasmic, Medicaid, number cruncher, paperless, street smarts, ranch dressing, z-score
I would have guessed that many of these terms were older.
New words in recent years are ico, manspreading, utility token and aquafaba (?).
All this is according to the Merriam-Webster Time Traveler.
Hat tip: Paul Kedrosky.