Links round-up

Hi all,

I’m struggling for a good intro today. I normally talk about sports, but the NBA’s broken for the All-Star weekend (in which my happiness will only be complete if Joel Embiid dunks Russell Westbrook’s soul out of his body again), Sri Lanka’s win in the T20 yesterday was a huge anti-climax and the Winter Olympics sucks (see below). I could talk about the weather, but Oxford is nondescript and sunny today (and though I fail the Tebbit test, is there anything more English than hitting cricket and the weather as your first two topics of conversation?). So I’m stuck for topics. I just spent two hours doing optimal taxation modelling and an hour having my research design ripped to well-justified shreds, so forgive my lack of inspiration, and let’s get straight in to the links.

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve started on a proper rant, hasn’t it? VoxDev published an account of Oriana Bandiera and co-authors experiment on vocational training and apprenticeships on employment. They find that both help people find jobs. The interesting question is whether these jobs are ‘created’ or are usurped from other people consequently who become unemployed. Well, they check that, and lo and behold: “we find that apprentices displaced other workers in the firms where they were matched” though they have no evidence on vocational training. What really irritated me was this line: “even in the presence of full displacement, the interventions may still have led to an improvement in overall productivity, since the workers who were brought into employment were highly motivated and so likely to be more productive than the average unemployed youth.” Wait, what? That is pure speculation – was motivation or productivity measured? Do they actually replace ‘average unemployed youth’? What if they replace older workers, who have more dependents – that could reduce social welfare. Also, the finding of displacement suggests that motivation isn’t the limiting factor in finding jobs, it’s demand for workers – so how do we know ‘the average youth’ is less motivated? In these settings is unemployment a problem with the unemployed or a problem with the economy? Statements like that put you in the former camp.
  2. While I’m ranting: someone recently asked me why I’m not on twitter, and my response was that it seems to bring the worst out in people, and I’ve seen my worst and don’t care to inflict it on the world. Another reason is that there is so much groupthink, so much over-reaction and under-analysis, that you have to wade through an Okavango of bullshit before you find even a nugget of insight. This week’s “OMG, Steven Pinker is a Nazi” flare-up reinforces my decision.
  3. As an antidote, let’s all consider this shining example of good practice: Noam Angrist on replicating his Young 1ove intervention in Botswana and the generalisability of evidence. [full disclosure, Noam is a friend and co-student at BSG, but this is an example of really good practice that should be saluted].
  4. If you’re interested in American politics, I can’t recommend this piece by Clare Malone enough. She’s a data journalist from 538, but this is much more about the subjective experience of being an American in 2014, and how it contributed to the Trump phenomenon.
  5. This week in I hope people are listening: Michael Clemens on what the Global Compact on Migration can achieve.
  6. Let’s be honest: the Winter Olympics kind of suck, don’t they? I watched ten minutes of curling the other day and a portion of my soul evaporated. However, out of darkness, light: 538 have two good articles that use the Olympics as a launching pad for a consideration of gender equality, in one pointing out that men and women should probably be competing against each other in a number of events; and in the other they consider how maternal leave norms and laws contribute to the fact that while the US has sent 20 fathers to the games, they are represented by only one mother.
  7. This LitHub round-up of major literary feuds confirms two things: one, that Ernest Hemingway was a total prick; and two, that one should never get in a war of words with Salman Rushdie. You’ll lose.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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