I’m away next week, so this is your last links till the 7th of October – make it last! There’s been an absolute glut of great stuff online, though, so it’s a good one – though not particularly cheerful (is good economics ever cheerful?). As with cricket, the collapses seem so much more interesting…
1. Let’s start with some good news, though – do you remember that great paper from a couple of years ago that used fake CVs to see if firms discriminated against people with ‘foreign sounding’ names? Rather depressingly, it did find that many firms did. Fear not, though! Alex Tabarrok reports on a follow-up paper showing that the firms that discriminate are more likely to go bust. Obviously, if discriminating against otherwise qualified people makes you less efficient by making it harder to match the right people to the right roles, your business will suffer. I’d suggest that even if this is the mechanism, we can’t rest on our laurels – it would only work in really competitive industries, not something the kind of countries we work in are known for. (Full paper here).
2. A phenomenal (but long) post by Andrew Gelman about replicability of research findings and the political economy of academia that makes even small improvements in research practice quite difficult. He takes aim at Susan Fiske, a psychologist who published an opinion piece basically slating people who use social media to criticise research, and he doesn’t hold back [note, I am obviously not unbiased in this debate being a person who uses social media to criticise research]. It’s really worth reading if you want to have a better sense of the personal and professional politics that influences the quality of the research we use, and why it’s so important to be discerning about it.
3. A few people have pointed this one out out to me, but I’ve only just got round to listening/reading: Planet Money did a podcast on the research of Christopher Udry and Dean Karlan on supporting farmer expansion in Ghana. Both Chris and Dean have presented this research in DFID, which makes it even more impressive to keep me gripped throughout the pod – I already knew how it was going to turn out. The Planet Money guys frame it as an intellectual death match between two theories: that farmers are credit constrained, on the one hand (what farmers say); and that they are constrained by risk on the other (what Udry observed). It’s brilliant, and a good lesson in why we shouldn’t just take what people say at face value – we’re very often not the best judges of the constraints that hold us back (Transcript).
4. Another popular piece about a recent bit of research, but in this case I’m slightly less convinced: Eric Verhoogen suggests that labour standards can be a spur to innovation. I think his real claim is more limited: that in a specific second best world, they were in one instance. I don’t think you can generalise from his example to a universal truth.
5. Everyone has been very complimentary of Dani Rodrik’s piece on the need to tame globalisation – but I worry about it slightly. Dani is a reasonable and thoughtful man, but I think people in power may seize on his ideas and turn them into a new form of mercantilism and retreat from cultural and economic exchange, which I think would not be what Dani intended, or good for the world.
6. The format is hell, if you want to read the transcript, but it’s worth wading through this EconTalk (or listening to it!) with David Autor. David’s research on China’s effect on US manufacturing jobs is fascinating, and was quoted by Francis Teal in a talk to DFID recently – Francis points out that it shows that globalisation is not the main reason for the decline of certain industrial regions, and I think he’s very convincing.
7. And lastly, to end on a scholarly (indeed, Nobel-winning!), but positive note – here’s Robert Schiller on what he describes as the next great global revolution – one against the arbitrariness of economic circumstances being decided by the lottery of where you were born. His world view is different to Rodrik’s – he sees more globalisation, not less, as the answer, so much that it eliminates the differences between countries through factor mobility. I like the idea of a more prosperous, fairer world, even if I think Schiller is hopelessly optimistic here. But I wanted to end on a positive note that didn’t depend on Taylor Swift gifs, and this is the best I’ve got.
Back in two weeks, have a great weekend, everyone!