Monday assorted links

The Formative Years

People born between 1963 and 1965 are less likely to drive a car to work, are more likely to commute using public transit and are even less likely to own a car than people born just before or after those years. Why? It’s a great puzzle. Give it a guess.

Severen and van Benthem have a compelling answer:

An individual’s initial experiences with a common good, such as gasoline, can shape their behavior for decades. We first show that the 1979 oil crisis had a persistent negative effect on the likelihood that individuals that came of driving age during this time drove to work in the year 2000 (i.e., in their mid 30s). The effect is stronger for those with lower incomes and those in cities. Combining data on many cohorts, we then show that large increases in gasoline prices between the ages of 15 and 18 significantly reduce both (i) the likelihood of driving a private automobile to work and (ii) total annual vehicle miles traveled later in life, while also increasing public transit use. Differences in driver license age requirements generate additional variation in the formative window. These effects cannot be explained by contemporaneous income and do not appear to be only due to increased costs from delayed driving skill acquisition. Instead, they seem to reflect the formation of preferences for driving or persistent changes in the perceived costs of driving.

Here’s a nice figure from an excellent piece covering the Severen and van Benthem paper in the Washington Post by Van Dam. Van Dam also covers a paper by Malmendier and Shen which shows how unemployment in formative years can change behavior through a lifetime even absent differences in income.

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Louis XIV and his motto

Louis XIV was both King of France and a global ruler with global ambitions. He founded colonies in America, Africa and India, tried to seize Siam (as Thailand was then known), sent missionaries and mathematicians to the Emperor of China and launched the struggle for France’s global markets which continues to this day.  The motto he adopted early in his reign, in 1662, expressed his hopes and desires: “Nec pluribus impar” (literally “Not unequal to more”), meaning “not incapable of ruling other dominions”, as well as “not unequal to many enemies”.

That is from the new Philip Mansel book King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV.

The new Flynn effect?

People can type almost as fast on a phone screen as they do on a computer keyboard, suggests a study.

Average typing speeds on mobiles are now 38 words per minute (wpm) compared to about 52 on a standard PC keyboard.

The gap was narrower among people aged 10-19 who averaged about 10wpm more than older users, it found.

The amount of time that people spend using their phones every day has honed typing skills, said the team that carried out the work…

The fastest phone typist hit a speed of 85wpm, the study found.

Oh, and this:

Phone speeds were helped by auto-correct systems but hindered by other aids that seek to predict what word a person had begun to type.

The time it took people to work out whether a predicted word was correct ended up slowing them down, it found.

By contrast, auto-correct systems that eliminated the need for a few thumb strokes helped people finish messages faster.

Here is the article, via Michelle Dawson.

Sunday assorted links

1. Peer review watch.

2. Silicon Valley residents are turning against self-driving cars.

3. The Indonesian woman who killed Kim’s brother with VX.

4. People weight reiterated messages too heavily (pdf).

5. “The distrust persists even half a century after the [Great Chinese] Famine, has been transmitted to the subsequent generation, and has spilled over to a broad range of political attitudes unrelated to the Famine.”  Link here.

6. Interview with Amartya Sen.  He can’t bring himself to admit that Modi is fairly popular.

Hotel room hacks

Here is a WaPo article on hotel room hacks, a recent viral topic, and here are other recent sources.

My #1 suggestion is simply that some pillows are too high and too hard, so bring enough of your own cloth material so you can build your own pillow if need be.  And travel with an eye mask.  And always travel with a sweater, even in the summer — it is a remarkably versatile object.

I would also say this: when in doubt simply turn the heating system off, if you can.

What are your hotel room hacks?

Does walkability boost economic mobility?

Intergenerational upward economic mobility—the opportunity for children from poorer households to pull themselves up the economic ladder in adulthood—is a hallmark of a just society. In the United States, there are large regional differences in upward social mobility. The present research examined why it is easier to get ahead in some cities and harder in others. We identified the “walkability” of a city, how easy it is to get things done without a car, as a key factor in determining the upward social mobility of its residents. We 1st identified the relationship between walkability and upward mobility using tax data from approximately 10 million Americans born between 1980 and 1982. We found that this relationship is linked to both economic and psychological factors. Using data from the American Community Survey from over 3.66 million Americans, we showed that residents of walkable cities are less reliant on car ownership for employment and wages, significantly reducing 1 barrier to upward mobility. Additionally, in 2 studies, including 1 preregistered study (1,827 Americans; 1,466 Koreans), we found that people living in more walkable neighborhoods felt a greater sense of belonging to their communities, which is associated with actual changes in individual social class.

Here is the paper by Oishi, S., Koo, M., & Buttrick, N. R., via Anecdotal.

Hypersonic is not always as fast as you think

Moreover, hypersonic gliders are actually at a speed disadvantage compared with ballistic missiles of the same range. Ballistic missiles are also boosted to high speed by large rockets, before arcing through the vacuum of space. A glider, by contrast, spends most of its trajectory in the atmosphere, using aerodynamic lift to extend its range. The increased range comes at the cost of faster deceleration caused by atmospheric friction. One implication of this reduced speed is that hypersonic gliders may be more vulnerable to interception by U.S. “point” missile defenses (especially after such defenses have been optimized for that purpose). Like cornerbacks in football, point missile defenses are intended to protect small but important areas — such as U.S. military bases in the western Pacific.

Here is the full piece by James Acton.

Saturday assorted links

1. Knur and Spell: the creative destruction of bygone sports.

2. Is The Sheraton censoring Taiwan?

3. Bank of Jamaica uses reggae music to teach monetary policy (WSJ).

4. The origins of various PC ideas.

5. How to avoid currency conversion charges on your credit card use overseas (NYT).

6. China announced fact of the day: “China’s Ministry of Education announced that the country has built the world’s largest higher education system with the gross enrollment ratio in higher education rising to 48.1 percent from 0.26 percent in 1949.”

Which thinker from the past would you resurrect?

The Scholar’s Stage writes:

If I were to resurrect one person to comment on our current dilemmas, that person would be Hannah Arendt. 

What issue of importance today did she not ponder?  How should Western countries understand and respond to authoritarian states? What makes meaningful community possible? Does bureaucracy, technology, and settled life diminish our freedom?  Why do politicians lie—and what consequences should there be for lying in office? How do political institutions decay? Should we forgive our political enemies? When is violence justified, and when is it not? How can it be controlled or avoided? What should the ‘justice’ in phrases like ‘social justice’ actually mean? What role should guilt, rage, and fear play in our political lives? How should we translate abstract political principles into living realities?

Arendt wrote about all of these things and more. She would have the intellectual background needed to say something useful about the biggest political and social challenges we face today: America’s relationship with China, technology’s encroach upon democracy, the unsettled relation between the sexes, the collapse of American social capital and community life, the strengths and foibles of social justice campaigning, partisanship and ‘post-reality’ politics, and of course, the presidency of Donald Trump.

I wish we could hear her opinions on these things. I wish this because I honestly do not know what her opinions would be. I recognize positions she would not adopt, but I can only guess what she would make of Facebook or consider the proper political grounding for impeachment.

A case is made against several other plausible options, including the Founding Fathers.  One approach is simply to ask who would be good on television, or on social media.  Another is to pick a person whose historical reputation is so strong that he or she cannot be ignored — perhaps that would militate in favor of Abraham Lincoln or how about Jane Austen?  Perhaps attention is the true scarcity that needs to be overcome.

I believe I would revive Confucius, at least assuming everyone would accept that it is indeed the real Confucius.  He is perhaps the person most likely to have an influence in China, and there is some chance he would seek to reverse the current course of political events.

The Wage Penalty to Undocumented Immigration

This paper examines the determinants of the wage penalty experienced by undocumented workers, defined as the wage gap between observationally equivalent legal and undocumented immigrants. Using recently developed methods that impute undocumented status for foreign-born persons sampled in microdata surveys, the study documents a number of empirical findings. Although the unadjusted gap in the log hourly wage between the average undocumented and legal immigrant is very large (over 35%), almost all of this gap disappears once the calculation adjusts for differences in observable socioeconomic characteristics. The wage penalty to undocumented immigration for men was only about 4% in 2016. Nevertheless, there is sizable variation in the wage penalty over the life cycle, across demographic groups, across different legal environments, and across labor markets. The flat age-earnings profiles of undocumented immigrants, created partly by slower occupational mobility, implies a sizable increase in the wage penalty over the life cycle; the wage penalty falls when legal restrictions on the employment of undocumented immigrants are relaxed (as with DACA) and rises when restrictions are tightened (as with E-Verify); and the wage penalty responds to increases in the number of undocumented workers in the labor market, with the wage penalty being higher in those states with larger undocumented populations.

By George Borjas and Hugh Cassidy, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Why firms stay private longer?

Yes, Sarbanes-Oxley is one well-known reason but there are more reasons, most of all stemming from a shift in the balance of power toward founders, boosting their ability to raise private capital:

One such notable deregulation event has been the National Securities Markets Improvement Act (NSMIA), passed in October 1996. NSMIA has made it easier for both private startups and the private funds investing in them to raise capital. First, NSMIA exempts private firms selling unregistered securities under Rule 506 of Regulation D from state securities regulations known as blue sky laws (Rule 506 is one of the exemptions firms can use to issue private shares not registered with the SEC). As a result, NSMIA has made it easier for startups to raise private capital from out-of-state investors by exempting private firms from complying with the blue sky laws of every new state where they issue securities (public firms have long been exempt from blue sky laws). Second, NSMIA has made it easier for private funds such as venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) funds to raise large amounts of capital by increasing the number of investors in a fund that force the fund to register under the Investment Company Act (ICA).2Registered funds have to regularly disclose their investment portfolio and face leverage and other restrictions, and so VC and PE funds tend to avoid having to register.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Michael Ewens and Joan Farre-Mensa.

Andrew McAfee Places His Bets!

Andrew McAfee is offering to take a number of bets centered around predictions and implication from his new book More From Less. Here are a few of Andrew’s bold predictions that he is willing to bet on through the Long Bets division of the Long Now Foundation.

  • In 2029, the US will consume less total energy than it did in 2019.
  • In 2029, the US will produce less total CO2 emissions than it did in 2019, even after taking offshoring into account.
  • Over the five years leading up to 2029, the US will use less paper in total than it did over the five years leading up to 2019.

The most famous Long Bet was between Warren Buffett and Protege Partners

  • Over a ten-year period commencing on January 1, 2008, and ending on December 31, 2017, the S&P 500 will outperform a portfolio of funds of hedge funds, when performance is measured on a basis net of fees, costs and expenses.

Buffett won that bet and earned over $2 million dollars for his favorite charity.

The purpose of Long Bets is to elicit argument and debate and to better encourage long thinking. All bet winnings go to charity.