During the CSAE conference, I heard that Alan Krueger had passed away. My exposure to Krueger was primarily through his seminal paper with David Card on minimum wages – a case study in tackling a big topic carefully (important topics and careful research are two circles of a venn diagram with a smaller overlap than you’d hope). I didn’t know much else about him – just the headlines you’d expect any economist to have picked up. The tributes to him show how much I missed. He was an economist who worked on things that mattered because he wanted to make the world a better place, and furthered that end. He took his own life, which given how hard and competitive life in academia is will prompt some introspection.
- That sad news apart, CSAE was a lot of fun. I blogged summaries of the first two days here and here. I’ll add one more thought here, one I’m echoing from others I spoke to. In the intro I talked about the venn diagram of great research: an important, interesting question and a good method for finding an answer. The culture of economics is heavily weighted towards the second circle of this venn diagram, and I sometimes wished the presentations and discussions spent more time establishing the first. There’s a distinction between ‘building on a literature’ and ‘asking something important’ that we sometimes gloss over. More thoughts and papers were discussed on twitter: #OxCSAE2019.
- Extremely cool: The Africapolis website has an incredible data explorer which allows you to map the evolution of urbanisation across Africa.
- I’ve been trying to avoid Brexit talk in the links as far as possible, and I’m not going to break that habit now – if you want to hear what I really think you can stand anywhere within fifteen feet of me and wait: within 30 minutes I’ll say something unfiltered. However, on a Brexit related note, this piece from the FT on how it has posed uniquely destructive challenges for governance in here is worth reading from the first word to the last. You need to register to read the FT, and you should.
- While I’m depressing everyone, here’s the NYT on how effed up it is to be woman in the economics profession. “Nearly 100 female economists say a peer or a colleague has sexually assaulted them. Nearly 200 say they were the victim of an attempted assault. And hundreds say they were stalked or touched inappropriately”. If your first response is to quibble with the numbers or the methods, you are getting this wrong. We should be more tolerant of doing too much to make this profession more welcoming than doing too little.
- More positive gender work: an intervention that improved girls’ outcomes even under the severe stress of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone; and how we can find things that support girls education well among those interventions that weren’t set up to help girls specifically.
- I love FiveThirtyEight. Maggie Koerth-Baker answers a child’s question about whether scientists study other scientists and uses it to launch a discussion about the psychology (and sometimes herd mentality) of scientists, and the good and bad reasons (and consequences) for them.
- Jobs and automation came up at CSAE repeatedly: the first day’s plenary was essentially a long warning about shoddy thinking on the topic (Stefan’s best line was “we’ve never been scared of tractors, so why are we so scared of robots?”, and there were something like 9 papers presented that related to some aspect of the labour market. Two good pieces on the Voxes: at VoxEU, David Autor on how automation is affecting the US labour market; and Girum Abebe summarises his work (with various co-authors) in Ethiopia.
- This whole week has been pretty depressing. Two things have been cheering me up, both of which I’ve linked before. First, watching this video on repeat, I’m increasingly struck by how cool Wendy Melvoin is: how is she dancing like that while playing those guitar lines? It takes a lot to attract attention away from Prince. And secondly, Baloji. Always Baloji.
Have a great weekend, everyone!