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Archive of posts filed under the Economics category.

Risk aversion is not a thing

I came across this post by Alex Tabarrok arguing that people should be given one rather than two doses of a new vaccine. I know nothing about these vaccines but my attention was drawn to this statement from Alex: We should vaccinate 6 million people with first dose NOW. It is deadly cautious to hold […]

In this particular battle between physicists and economists, I’m taking the economists’ side.

Palko writes, “When the arrogance of physicists and economists collide, it’s kind of like watching Godzilla battle Rodan . . . you aren’t really rooting for either side but you can still enjoy the show.” Hey! Some of my best friends are physicists and economists! But I know what he’s talking about. Here’s the story […]

If—

If you can argue that knuckleheads are rational And that assholes serve the public good, But then turn around and tell us we need you To nudge us as you know we should; If you can be proud of your “repugnant ideas” And style yourself a rogue without taboo, If you assume everyone is fundamentally […]

What’s Google’s definition of retractable?

Timnit Gebru, a computer scientist known best for her work on ethics and algorithmic bias in AI/ML applications like face recognition, was fired yesterday from co-leading Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team. Apparently this was triggered by an email she sent to members of her team. Social media is exploding over this, and I don’t have […]

Understanding Janet Yellen

I don’t know anything about Janet Yellen, the likely nominee for Secretary of the Treasury. For the purpose of this post, my ignorance is OK, even desirable, in that my goal is to try to understand mixed messages that I’m receiving. Two constrasting views on the prospective Treasury Secretary First, here’s Joseph Delaney: So, I […]

Today in spam

1. From “William Jessup,” subject line “Invitation: Would you like to join GlobalWonks?”: Dear Richard, I wanted to follow up one last time about my invitation to join our expert-network. We are happy to compensate you for up to $900 per hour for our client engagements. If you would like to join us, you may […]

Is vs. ought in the study of public opinion: Coronavirus “opening up” edition

I came across this argument between two of my former co-bloggers which illustrates a general difficulty when thinking about political attitudes, which is confusion between two things: (a) public opinion, and (b) what we want public opinion to be. This is something I’ve been thinking about for many years, ever since our Red State Blue […]

Why it can be rational to vote

I think I can best do my civic duty by running this one every Election Day, just like Art Buchwald on Thanksgiving. . . .

Sh*ttin brix in the tail…

After my conversation with Andrew yesterday about The Economist election forecasting model I got curious about how G. Elliot, Merlin and Andrew want their prediction to be assessed given the menu of strange contingencies we have in front of us. I checked Betfair rules for some guidance: This market will be settled according to the candidate […]

Piranhas in the rain: Why instrumental variables are not as clean as you might have thought

Woke up in my clothes again this morning I don’t know exactly where I am And I should heed my doctor’s warning He does the best with me he can He claims I suffer from delusion But I’m so confident I’m sane It can’t be a statistical illusion So how can you explain Piranhas in […]

“Everybody wants to be Jared Diamond”

As the saying goes, “Everybody wants to be Jared Diamond, that’s the problem.” (See also here and here.) The funny thing is, this principle also applies to . . . Jared Diamond himself! See this review by Anand Giridharadas, sent to me by Mark Palko.

A question of experimental design (more precisely, design of data collection)

An economist colleague writes in with a question: What is your instinct on the following. Consider at each time t, 1999 through 2019, there is a probability P_t for some event (e.g., it rains on a given day that year). Assume that P_t = P_1999 + (t-1999)A. So P_t has a linear time trend. What […]

Information, incentives, and goals in election forecasts

Jessica Hullman, Christopher Wlezien, and Elliott Morris and I write: Presidential elections can be forecast using information from political and economic conditions, polls, and a statistical model of changes in public opinion over time. However, these “knowns” about how to make a good presidential election forecast come with many unknowns due to the challenges of […]

In case you’re wondering . . . this is why the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world

Read the above letter carefully, then remember this. (Greg Mankiw called comparisons of life expectancies schlocky, but maybe he’ll feel different about this once he reaches the age of 70 or 75 . . .) P.S. This doesn’t help either.

Taking the bus

Bert Gunter writes: This article on bus ridership is right up your alley [it’s a news article with interactive graphics and lots of social science content]. The problem is that they’re graphing the wrong statistic. Raw ridership is of course sensitive to total population. So they should have been graphing is rates per person, not […]

Election forecasts: The math, the goals, and the incentives (my talk this Friday afternoon at Cornell University)

At the Colloquium for the Center for Applied Mathematics, Fri 18 Sep 3:30pm: Election forecasts: The math, the goals, and the incentives Election forecasting has increased in popularity and sophistication over the past few decades and has moved from being a hobby of some political scientists and economists to a major effort in the news […]

Coronavirus disparities in Palestine and in Michigan

I wanted to share two articles that were sent to me recently, one focusing on data collection and one focusing on data analysis. On the International Statistical Institute blog, Ola Awad writes: The Palestinian economy is micro — with the majority of establishments employing less than 10 workers, and the informal sector making up about […]

2 econ Nobel prizes, 1 error

This came up before on the blog but it’s always worth remembering. From Larry White, quoted by Don Boudreaux: As late as the 1989 edition [of his textbook, Paul Samuelson] and coauthor William Nordhaus wrote: “The Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function […]

Information, incentives, and goals in election forecasts

Jessica Hullman, Christopher Wlezien, and I write: Presidential elections can be forecast using information from political and economic conditions, polls, and a statistical model of changes in public opinion over time. We discuss challenges in understanding, communicating, and evaluating election predictions, using as examples the Economist and Fivethirtyeight forecasts of the 2020 election. Here are […]

Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. A commenter on an earlier post quoted Terence Kealey, who said this in an interview in Scientific American in 2003: “But the really fascinating example is the States, because it’s so stunningly abrupt. Until 1940 it was American government policy not to fund science. Then, bang, the […]

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