Links round-up

Hi all,

So, you go away for a few weeks and the whole world gets upended: Kawhi and Paul George play for the Clips? Aberdeen is the home of whisky? London is finally, finally catching up with Hong Kong’s MTR (in a very limited way) by rolling out phone networks underground? England are World Champions?! I managed to miss the most thrilling one day international ever played, sadly, but England couldn’t have won in more fitting fashion: slightly unsatisfyingly and possibly the beneficiary of an epic error. Still: show me the champions of anything that didn’t benefit from an enormous stroke of luck somewhere – England deserved to win the tournament, a sentence that I could not have imagined my fingers tapping out in an intro to the links even 12 months ago. And to cap a brilliant tournament, Sri Lanka weren’t a complete and total national embarrassment. It’s been a pretty excellent few weeks, it has to be said.

  1. There are many things I like about this excellent article about Raj Chetty, Nobelist-in-waiting, but one of my favourites is the first line: “Raj Chetty got his biggest break before his life began.” No matter how brilliant you are, if you are successful you are also lucky, even if it’s not obvious immediately. Chetty’s work on inequality and mobility in America isn’t without some flaws, but it remains to me one of the most impressive and important projects in modern economics. Much of it is simply descriptive, though he and his co-authors are also exploiting natural experiments and running some RCTs to see how to change mobility dynamics in the US; but the sheer scope of the project and it’s ambition is amazing. Best of all, it seems fundamentally geared towards informing large-scale public policy. At some point the lack of political analysis in the work will constrain it, but it’s a long way from there still.  
  2. This one is definitely for the economists, but is very much worth reading: Morgan Kelly summarising his new paper looking at an overlooked empirical problem with the large and growing literature on the deep roots of development. He demonstrates how spatial correlations (i.e. correspondences between regions next to each other) can significantly bias the results of all those empirical results that say things like ‘if you your country had pointy headwear in the 1700s, you are 3% poorer today’. He doesn’t attack individual papers, but suggests that this problem is widespread. A good companion piece to Dietz’s recent series on this literature.
  3. Also for those with both time and inclination: I highly recommend taking a scan of what underlies March 2019 update of the World Bank’s poverty figures. The paper is a primer on the varied and non-standard problems with poverty statistics and how we do our best to overcome them. If you use these numbers a lot, it’s good to have at least a passing knowledge of what goes into them.
  4. A new paper from Joyce Sadka, Enrique Seira and Chris Woodruff on a simple experiment to try and improve outcomes from Mexican Labour Courts. Dispute resolution is one of those hidden problems that I suspect underlies a lot of the problems we see in developing country markets, and yet there’s a horrible paucity of good research in the area, so this is to be welcomed.
  5. Good CGD summary of recent innovations in promoting legal, regular and safe migration. I sometimes despair of ever having sensible policies (let along politics) around migration, so this shot of hopefulness helps.
  6. Branko Milanovic is going to be spending part of his year in the UK, which is good news for us. Two of his recent posts help demonstrate why: he asks questions that other economists don’t and the breadth of his knowledge and his willingness to speculate mean that he generates ideas at a faster rate than most. Here he is on population density, and on the evolution of oligarchy in Russia.
  7. This is terrifying for any civil servant who routinely sends out massive e-mails rammed with pop culture references and the occasional rap video: the Head of Iowa’s Department of Human Services may have been fired over loving Tupac too much, and more specifically for sending out reminders on his birthday, the anniversary of his death and inspirational quotes from his songs (though presumably not “Grab your glocks when you see Tupac! Call the cops when you see Tupac!”). I’m going to restrain myself from tempting fate by linking to more Meek, Jidenna and Rakim, but instead will geek out over this: they are making a Top Gun sequel. This is not a drill: A TOP GUN SEQUEL IS COMING OUT! Whether this means more one liners, more volleyball (seriously, how low is the net when the famously 3-foot-1 Tom Cruise is spiking?), or more sad motorbike moments, I think we can all agree that one day we will look back on this as the moment when humanity peaked.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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