Links round-up

Hi all,

 In a parallel universe, one where I haven’t been mainlining coffee in an increasingly desperate attempt to maintain some level of functionality at work today, I am writing an incredibly witty intro to these links, weaving together the junior doctors’ strike, the end of days sunshine-rain-sunshine-hail weather we’re getting in London and the plummeting price of renewables that we can’t work out how to use effectively. Instead I’m going to try and type this e-mail with my eyes closed and my head on the desk. That said, my energy will return as I write – I really struggled to pick which link to lead off with, there were so many brilliant ones.

 1.        In the end, what won the race for first link was this sentence: “So we were trying to think of how to get around that, and then someone suggested that we actually just mail all of our female users a Bane mask like from ‘Batman.’” We all know, by now, that discrimination is costly for firms, for consumers, and for the economy as a whole, but it still happens. Why? Because so many of the shortcuts we take to guess at ability levels when we’re sifting job applicants hinge, at some deep level, on an unconscious bias against some group that we have, a bias that might have no bearing on ability to the job. Planet Money have a great podcast that looks at some of these biases and documents cases where overcoming them increases performance for the firm and worker – including the hiring of criminals with felony convictions in the states. That opening quote comes from one way of introducing ‘blind interviewing’, to remove all the signals that my trigger the interviewer’s unconscious biases. Theatricality and deception, Mr. Wayne. (Transcript).

2.       I very nearly led with this: Chico Ferreira thoughtfully and intelligently reviews Branko Milanovic’s new book. This is glorious, high quality thinking about inequality here, from two of the best researchers around on the topic. Sample quote: “… inequality is … a general equilibrium outcome, reflecting … very different factors: the quantity of schooling…, the changing nature of the demand for skills (affected in turn both by technical change and by trading patterns), changes in labor market institutions (such as unionization rates, or minimum wage policies), changes in tax and expenditure regimes, changes in marriage patterns, changes in returns to capital, changes in land prices, etc. The list is almost endless.” I think this is a good time to renew my call for a “I think you’ll find it’s just a little bit more complicated than that”.

3.       This was the third strong contender for first link: Tim Harford uses the threat of closure of Tata Steel in Port Talbot as a springboard for an excellent piece of thinking about how we should respond, socially, to the effects of declining industries: prop them up forever? Let them die on the vine and trust the market? Like most sensible people, he thinks the answer is somewhere in the middle, and he suggests three ‘middle-way’ policies. He closes with the suggestion that we ‘just give cash’ and promises a future post on the topic – but in the meantime, here’s a good long read on the topic from FiveThirtyEight.

4.       A colleague of mine told me this week that she’s worrying about a decline in the attention to detail with which we (by which I mean technocrats, policy wonks, and institutional researchers) use household data. She’d probably love this piece from Jed Friedman, a clever experiment to find out how biased household survey measures of consumption are, and what causes their biases. Really interesting, and I hope many of you click through.

5.       Via David McKenzie – this made me really smile: a paper about brilliant economists getting the smack laid down on them via journal rejections.

6.       In a week in which I haven’t very often felt good about humanity, in a monumental turn-up for the books Tyler Cowen provided a reason to be optimistic: a market uptick in positive opinions about migration in the US. Let’s just hope this travels.

7.       “What kind of degenerate only wants to own 30 books (or fewer) at a time on purpose?” LitHub writes about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and in doing so perfectly expresses my relationship to my books.

 Have a great weekend, everyone!


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