Links round-up

Hi all,

This week has been the stuff of nightmares: scroll down to link number 7 and you’ll find the story of a lady who went to the bathroom and was attacked by a python… in her own house. Link number 2 is even scarier: a breakdown of the Alwyn Young paper on instrumental variables I mentioned last week. And that isn’t even getting into the fact that we apparently live in one of Philip K. Dick’s creations, in which the most powerful political figure in the world shares content that even the people who originated it describe as ‘hate speech’. On a scale of one to what the actual eff are you doing, that one scores pretty highly. That’s not even the scariest thing that happened this week: imagine how Dame Lillard felt when this happened to him. It’s like playing basketball against an X-Man.

  1. Job market season is so much fun (well, for everyone except those on the job market), particularly because the Development Impact blog does so well in picking up good summaries of the most interesting papers. I really liked this write up of Stefano Caria’s research with Girum Abebe and Estebean Ortiz-Ospina. He shows that the cost of applying for jobs creates conditions in which poor workers with high ability are especially disadvantaged, and that this leads to firms winding up with a lower-ability workforce than is available. There’s a lot going on here (more than I realised the first time I saw it presented) and lessons could generalise to a number of contexts.
  2. For those of you who lacked the time to work through Alwyn Young’s paper, Marc Bellemare summarises. I’m not a strong enough econometrician to fully assess how valid the conclusions are, but they are startling: between a third and half of all 2SLS estimates covered are falsely declared significant. That said, I was explaining the logic behind the empirical methods economists use to a historian friend last night and pointed out that we know there are no watertight results: luck plays a role, and the quality of the concepts you’re using (and what you can measure), the data and the techniques are all imperfect. At some level, even policymakers who don’t think in detail about econometric choices get this, which is why we like results which have been proven from lots of different angles, or which accord conceptually with lots of literatures. Every paper is fallible but what the discipline knows is much greater than what any of its members can prove.
  3. Being more optimistic for a moment: Elon Musk succeeded in creating renewable storage at an unprecedented scale and pace in South Australia. This is pretty amazing.
  4. Also, I hadn’t realised that Pandas are now off the endangered list (which makes me feel better about skipping the chance to see them on a recent trip to Chengdu – it was them or a visit to the wholesale spice market, and the chillies win every time). I also hadn’t realised that this success was basically entirely due to one enormously horny bear named Pan Pan.
  5. Planet Money are so cool. When they discovered Paul Manafort was charged with money laundering they did what seemed obvious to them: asked an expert money launderer if he was any good at it (transcript).
  6. In one of those ‘economists shocked by events that all other humans expect’ moments, a new paper (yes it’s political science, but why spoil a good joke?) shows that politicians sometimes make enormous blunders. Using multiple sources to try and find those instances where politicians either miscalculated based on known information or had too little information, Daniel Treisman finds that many autocratic regimes become more democratic due to blunder, not design.
  7. Lastly, just to leave you with the worst nightmares possible for the weekend: snakes are everywhere, and Samuel L. Jackson isn’t.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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