Links round-up

Hi all,

It’s a lovely, sunny day in London which is, against my better judgement, putting me in rather a good mood. It’s a good day for a walk, if you’re so inclined – there’s a pretty popular one trending on social media for London-based readers. In any case, the weather is doing its best to placate put-upon Brits, be they Federer fans, cricket fans, or football fans (fans of the greatest athlete alive should be happy, at least). Anyway, if the sunshine isn’t helping you, maybe the links will (although, poor you if this is your last chance to greet the weekend in a good mood: economics is rarely cheerful these days).

  1. To break a habit, let’s start with something positive (and no, I’m not referring to Sri Lanka’s performance against South Africa). Markus Goldstein writes up a detailed but extremely accessible summary of a new paper by Alesina and co-authors about migration. They use a clever survey experiment to investigate views about migration and redistribution and how they are affected by information. Unsurprisingly, most people dramatically overestimate the number of migrants in their country, and are pretty poorly informed as to the dominant countries of origin and religions among them. Also unsurprising: those respondents randomly selected to answer questions about migration before answering an (incentive compatible) redistribution question are less generous in redistributing. So far, so depressing. There is a ray of light, however: information on the true number of migrants in the population, coupled with a story about how hard migrants work lead to more support for both migration and redistribution. Positive economics, which simultaneously achieves the near-impossible: it makes me hate the Daily Mail even more.
  2. Ok, the first link was (kind of) positive, so I feel like I should balance it out with some depressing research. This will not exactly stun the mothers on this list, but this VoxEU piece finds that women bear almost all of the labour market costs of childbearing, which come from time off work, movement into more flexible work (flexibility being traded off against income), and other labour market margins. What’s more, this is barely changing over time. It seems to be worst for those mothers whose parents also adhered to this gendered view of work, with their own mothers making career sacrifices.
  3. Tim Harford is a genius of exposition. He explains convergence, conditional convergence and the effect of globalised competition and supply chains thereon in about 500 words, and illustrates it with a football example. Especially for the non-economists, this.
  4. Dietrich Vollrath discusses Mariana Mazzucato’s new book, The Value of Everything. I’ve long been of the opinion that economics degrees spend far too little time covering the history of economic thought, with the result that economists tend to be self-reflective in only a fairly narrow sense. Debates about different kinds of evidence or the merits of RCTs are valuable, but within economics there are too few debates about the fundamental concepts we use, and whether they’re the right ones for a science of social welfare. Vollrath argues that Mazzucato’s questions are genuinely thought-provoking in this fashion, but bemoans the lack of an alternative that does better.
  5. This interview with Betsey Stevenson is very US-centric but is worth reading to see how a top class labour economist thinks (transcript). She also puts into words a vague discomfort I’ve had when hearing about ‘skills mismatch’ in labour markets, largely rejecting them as a major issue (in developed countries). She points out that the unspoken clause to the sentence “we can’t find skilled workers” is “at the wage we offered” and offers the not-unreasonable solution of raising wages.
  6. Finally, given that the links have been longer and more serious than usual this week, a piece of idiocy for the weekend: The Rock is in a new movie where the bad guy appears to be a building he needs to lay the smack down on. Remarkably, this is not even the dumbest movie he’s been in, and The Ringer provides a handy guide to creating your own hypothetical Dwayne Johnson movie.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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