Links round-up

Hi all,

Normally when Sri Lanka are five hundred runs to the good and have seven wickets in hand, I’m responding to all text and e-mail traffic with ‘Deeply ill. Unlikely to recover until the 90th over the day has been bowled’, but in this case I’m struggling to care: we’re responding to a first innings of 500 odd from Bangladesh, and if there’s a result in this test, I will not only eat my hat, I will livestream the event on YouTube. Bah. Fortunately, at least one piece of news gave me cause to freak out in full geek mode: they are making an Andre the Giant documentary, and it’s going to be awesome. Just look at him fit Mean Gene’s *entire head* in the palm of his hand!

  1. From the sublime to the ridiculous (some would say from the ridiculous to the sublime, but they’d be wrong). Last week, Angus Deaton wrote an op-ed arguing that poverty inside the US is so bad that they should shift our attention from developing countries to domestic poverty. It was, of course, seized upon by noted aid sceptics like Bill Easterly, though the reaction turned this in to the world’s shortest game of a whack-a-mole. Two things are particularly odd about the original article. First is that someone who so clearly cares about the poor in all parts of the world should use the old trope of pitting two progressive causes against each other, because the most common outcome tends to be that both lose. The second is that the person who remains my go-to reference for the importance of empirical rigour should have been guilty of some pretty shoddy use of data. Justin Sandefur and Charles Kenny demonstrate as much here. Well worth reading.
  2. From one eminence grise of economics to another: Janet Yellen is no longer the Chair of the Federal Reserve, and a sentence in her final speech made the Planet Money crew extremely excited. She said: “the conventional framework for understanding inflation dynamics could be misspecified in some fundamental way.” Now, not everyone is going to get the vapours hearing that, but this is one of the most powerful central bankers in the world saying there’s a real chance we just don’t know why inflation behaves the way it does. It’s remarkable, and worth thinking about why more economists don’t talk openly about the doubts we no doubt all have about our models. They may do the job, or may be the best thing available, but being open about uncertainty should be encouraged (transcript).
  3. How does David Evans do this? 31 papers on education in 31 bullets. The man is a marvel.
  4. When I did my Master’s degree (the world looked like this back then), I did a course on ‘the imperialism of economics’ – the idea that economics was worming its way into virtually every discipline out there. I doubt the course convenor was thinking about sports when he designed the course, but when 538 start using Pareto optimality as a method of identifying outstanding performances, it’s hard not to think about how deep our tentacles go. (They still miss out Reggie Miller, though).
  5. Really nice VoxDev write up of research by Paulo Bastos, Joana Silva and Eric Vernoogen on how firms upgrade their outputs when they export. It turns out a crucial part of the story is input upgrading (so ‘garbage in, garbage out’ might apply to more than just econometrics).
  6. Michael Clemens does the sums and reports on the expected impact of Trump’s immigration proposals on migration into the US – on aggregate, by race and by level of education.
  7. And finally, in news that makes me feel substantially better about the high-pitched squeal I emitted when a microscopic spider ran across my desk this morning, elephants are terrified of bees. This seems both sensible and unremarkable, until the implications become clear: you can dramatically reduce the rate of elephant encroachment on farmland by using beehives. Brilliant.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

R

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