Links round-up

Hi all,

Normally, this week’s links would open with the Ashes (and before I abandon the issue, my most vivid-ever Ashes moments in Australia: Mitchell Johnson at the absolute peak of his powers, and Glenn McGrath’s ‘old man’ celebration). This week, though I’ve had something other than cricket on my mind: a colleague pointed out that for all of my talk about gender and the difficulties women face in economics, from a quick scan (3 editions), I linked to women in only 7 out of 28 overall links. So, what’s going on? I’m pretty confident in ruling out conscious bias, but that still leaves a few unpalatable possibilities. It could be that I’ve got an unconscious bias and link to women too little for how often they appear in my reading. Or it could be that I select ‘male’ subjects and so the gender balance is rigged against women. Or perhaps women write disproportionately little in economics, basketball and cricket, and the selection that makes it here is a fair reflection of what’s out there. Am I missing a possibility? And ideas how to work out which one it is?

  1. Despite that navel-gazing, I’m still starting with coverage of an argument between two men: Branko Milanovic slaps “Degrowth theory” in the face, hard. And Jason Hickel responds, before getting the smack laid down on him again. Branko says the only way we could halt growth now without condemning a substantial chunk of the world to permanent poverty and deprivation is to dramatically reduce GDP per capita in the West: a hard, fast and aggressive nominal decline. Hickel suggests that this wouldn’t be much of an issue, because Costa Ricans are poorer than Americans and metrics show they’re just as happy. Talk about cherry picking. Look at the Our World in Data page on Happiness and Life Satisfaction: there is an incredibly strong correlation between GDP per capita and happiness. Suggesting that countries can shrink and avoid a change in happiness (without even getting into reference-dependent preferences) seems a stretch. It’s important to want to change the world, but a strong grip on reality might help.
  2. The Development Impact job market paper series is running again this year, and it starts with a couple of crackers: one on taxation in the DRC and its effects on political participation and one looking at whether simply reminding parents of the value of attending school can improve their children’s outcomes.
  3. I loved this: Oliver Roeder links God, the normal distribution, Central Limit Theorem and Laplace’s Demon in a glorious article inspired by a trashy US game show.
  4. Claudia Sahm argues Claudia Goldin’s claim that ‘time demands’ can explain much of the gender pay gap is economically incoherent. She says time demands are endogenous, meaning that they are part of the system and can be changed. I buy this, but only partly: there are jobs where an individual client relationship matters; and this often means insanely long hours (and extremely high pay). The solution might be in changing the client-provider relationship, but it’s certainly not simple. Related, another amazing job market paper using Google Maps, mobile phone apps and a survey to show that women go to worse colleges in order to have a safer route to school in India. I’ve not got beyond the abstract yet, but what a headline finding.
  5. So, research into bureaucracy is getting better and better, and touching on increasingly interesting topics. Lee Crawfurd dons his David Evans mask and offers an excellent round-up of the latest research presented at the recent World Bank symposium.
  6. Two goodbyes to end. First, and more happily, Mugabe’s exit prompted this piece in the Guardian, suggesting that a bunch of other illiberal leaders’ days are numbered because… well, it’s virtually impossible to work out why the author thinks this. One comment: anyone with a cursory knowledge of history should recognise the need to see how this shakes out before the celebrations become too wholehearted. Cutting off the head does not necessarily make this a much more tractable polity to steer towards good outcomes.
  7. And lastly, Malcolm Young died last week; if you had fun in the 1980s or early 1990s, the odds were he provided at least part of the soundtrack. Angus might have been the icon, and Bon might have the live fast, die young obituary, but Malcolm wrote this. And this. And this. And (maybe my favourite) this. The good news is wherever he winds up, he’ll find something to like.

Have a great weekend everyone!

R

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