Monthly Archives: March 2014

Trillion dollar bills on the sidewalk

In case you did not notice, Michael Clemence found trillion dollar bills on the sidewalk a few years back. Happy Open borders day!

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An experiment on how to improve journal referee speed

Chetty, Saez and Sandor have experimented on the referees of the Journal of Public Economics. They find that somewhat unsurprisingly that shorter deadlines, cash incentives and social incentives make referees faster. Further, cash does not crowd out intrinsic motivation, report quality is unaffected, and spillovers on other referee activites are small or nonexistent. They do note that “[O]f course, referees must forego or postpone some activity to prioritize submitting referee reports. The social welfare impacts of our treatments depend on what activities get displaced.” To the extent that it is just procrastination that is crowded out, the conclusions could be even more positive.

H/t: @JFiva

The persistent effect of affirmative action

Conrad Miller from MIT finds in his job market paper that US affirmative action regulation introduced from 1979 onwards had substantial effect on the black share of employees, also after deregulation. The exogenous variation comes from “changes in employers’ status as a federal contractor” and the fact that it was only federal contractors who were subject to these regulations. To get at the full dynamic effect of the regulation, Miller does not stop at comparing employers when they switch contractor status, but exploits also variation in when the firms are contractors for the first or the last time. In this way he can estimate whether there is a (persistent) causal effect also after a firm has lost his status as a federal contractor (has become “deregulated”). 

The event study results are striking: Miller2014Persistenteffectsofaffermativeactionfigure2eventstudies

Figure 2 Event studies, from Miller 2014 The persistent effect of temporary affirmative action

The effect is quite small – becoming a contractor on average increases an establishment’s black share of around 0.15 percentage points per year – but the key point is that it persists, even when the firm is no longer is a contractor. There is much more in the paper, including a proposed explanation in terms of employers being induced to improve their screening procedures for potential employees.

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Monthly book roundup – 2014 February

Books finished in February:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Stoner by John Willams. There are many disappointments and setbacks in William Stoner’s life. Although he is successful in a few cases, like caring for his infant daughter and at times in his job. Not an inspirational book, but it makes one think and gives perspective.

We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson. Get to know some of the Anonymous. The story of Anonymous and related “groups” told through the stories of the six core members of LulzSec – hackers with different motivations and skills that happened to come together and get the opportunity to create trouble for PayPal, the Scientology church, authoritarian governments, Sony, private citizens and many others. Often just because they could. Decentralization and coordination both play roles. Numbers sometimes important and sometimes not. Recommended.

Ubik by Philip K. Dick. Glen Runciter’s firm is in the “prudence business” – protecting people’s minds against others’ psychic powers, such as mind reading. One mission goes awry, and the team must communicate between living and dead, though it is not easy to tell who is what. Things start to revert to earlier forms, in an entropy fashion.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Alternate history, Germany won WWII, slavery is still legal in the US. Not finished.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. How are parents affected by their children? Research and anecdotes on parents’ time use, devotion to their children, happiness, marriages, social life, work, parenting styles, and other things. At times heavily geared towards American, not-Scandinavian-style-gender-equal conditions, but in general much to recognize and think about for parents. Tells of a survey where kids wanted less stressed mums more than more time with her. Interesting purported link between child care and happiness.

The Crying of Lot 49 (Perennial Fiction Library)
by Thomas Pynchon. Did not catch me, put down quickly, not finished.
Ratings and old books are in the library.

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