Links round-up

Hi all,

It’s International Women’s Day today, and while I unfortunately won’t be celebrating by seeing Captain Marvel (I suspect any attempts to play the IWD card to get my partner to watch an action flick only I am interested in would get very short shrift indeed), the reaction to the film is a pretty good starting point for thinking about why we need an international women’s day at all. Apparently, some people are so worked up that Brie Larsen is both female and not obviously dedicated to making the men watching the film feel like she likes them (in other words, she isn’t smiling while fighting a race of alien warriors) that they’ve tried to hijack the online ratings of the film to sink its performance at the box office. My hobbies, notably cricket and birdwatching, are notorious for inducing obsessive behaviour, but even I find that deeply sad.

  1. Anyway, it feels appropriate to start with a few gender links, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to the sunniest opening possible. Planet Money investigate the tampon tax, crossing linguistic barriers in search of new colloquialisms to describe the period, but in typical fashion they don’t simply decry the tax as a disgrace and leave it there, they also look at how much money it raises, and what the welfare impact of eliminating it might be (transcript). Meanwhile Marginal Revolution report on some other pretty depressing results, specifically a paper that reports that girls who have younger brothers rather than younger sisters suffer an earning penalty, that might come from parents redistributing focus to the boy. At least Markus found something to be happier about: it turns out that conditional cash transfers directed to women may well be giving them more power in the household, and not by a negligible amount.
  2. Speaking of conditional cash transfers having good side-effects, a cool paper from VoxDev: when drug enforcement action in Colombia shifted coca production to Peru, it induced many kids to stay home from school and enter the coca production sector. Many of these kids remain engaged in criminality throughout their lives, and this might be because they develop industry-specific human capital – that is, they become good at crime (another reason, not addressed as far as I can see is that they might just get arrested and then find it hard to get other jobs, or develop better networks among criminals than among non-criminals). However, a CCT that rewarded parents for keeping their kids in school seems to have had an amerliorating effect buy making it less likely that they enter the criminal sector at all. Related: somehow, these researchers are surprised that giving kids internet access and a laptop at home induces more time spent on youtube and other crap than on studying. I am confident that the two things I’ve googled most on my laptop are ‘how to [insert basic function] in Stata?’ and ‘funny videos of people falling over’.
  3. A really good summary of the key results from the literature on the impact historical events on current income or growth by two of the key authors in the field, Michalopoulos and Papaioannou. While it’s hard – indeed, foolhardy, to try and argue that historical events haven’t impacted current development, I do think we need to be careful about how strong these claims are, and what they actually mean for what we do now. As ever, I direct you to Dietz Vollrath.
  4. We need an IgNobel Prize in economics, and I propose that the first one go to Matt Collin of AidThoughts fame, who has written a paper suggesting that democratic pressure causes leaders to smile more. I’ve got no idea what we can do with these findings (are we hoping for reverse causality? Do we send Maduro a DVD of The Big Lebowski and hope he calls an election?) but the write up made me laugh out loud.
  5. More from Planet Money, interviewing Raghu Rajan about his new book, about inequality in the US and the increase in returns to ‘superstars’. The idea is that since technology has dramatically integrated markets, the returns to being the best have dramatically risen. He illustrates his point with the most popular female singer in the world now and in the 1800s; it turns out that Taylor Swift earns around 150 times what the opera singer Elizabeth Billington raked in (transcript).
  6. I really do like these VoxDev videos, but why was this one filmed in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse? It adds a certain tension to the research finding that China’s bureaucracy may be becoming less meritocratic, because it did make me worry that Yang Yao had been abducted and forced to film the video under duress.
  7. The last link is normally frivolous frippery, and I’ll get there. But first, do not read this if you’re feeling emotional: a man has gone through all of the last words of executed prisoners in the US and written an incredibly moving article about them. Love is the most common word used. And if you read that and need to come down a bit, here are some hilariously negative reviews of Wuthering Heights.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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