Worthy Reads for March 20, 2019

Worthy Reads at Equitable Growth:

  1. Alan Krueger's suicide is horrible and tragic news. All sympathy to his family. He was a light that shone very brightly for good into many dark corners. May his memory be a blessing: Heather Boushey: [Remembrance: Alan Krueger(https://equitablegrowth.org/press/remembrance-alan-krueger/): "We at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Alan Krueger. He was devoted to serving the public and to ensuring that economics was not only about theory but about improving people’s lives.... As a pioneer in the use of natural experiments as the basis for economic research, his work helped create a paradigm shift in the discipline itself.... The lessons learned from the advances in economics in-no-small-part pioneered by Alan underlay much of the cutting edge of economics—and the work we do at Equitable Growth to show how inequality affects economic growth...

  2. I have been waiting for this for a while: it's very good. David R. Howell and Arne L. Kalleberg: Declining Job Quality in the United States: Explanations and Evidence: "We group... explanations... into three broad visions... the competitive market model, in which supply and demand for worker skills in competitive external labor markets generates a single market wage by skill group... contested market models, in which... firms typically have substantial bargaining (monopsony) power; and social-institutional models, which... place greater emphasis on the public policies, formal and informal institutions, and the dynamics of workplace cultures and conflict.... The supply-demand explanation, which has focused on evidence of occupational employment polarization (driven by skill-biased production technologies) and the rise in the college-wage premium.... We conclude by summarizing policy recommendations that follow from each of these visions...

  3. Well worth your time chasing the links from this review of work Equitable Growth has published over the past several years on women's roles. At the root, I think, is that a great many of our economic and societal practices reflect gender reality as it stood 50, 100, or 150 years ago—and both biological and even more societal reality as it stood then was hardly conducive to the empowerment of women. Recall that two centuries ago an overwhelming proportion of women became mothers, that the typical mother stood a one-in-seven chance of dying in childbed, and that the typical mother (if she survived) would spend twenty years eating for two—pregnant or nursing—in a world in which childcare-by-non-relatives was a thing for only the upper class. Legacy institutions from that time are unlikely to serve today's women—or men—well: Equitable Growth: Equitable Growth’s History of Focusing on Women’s Role in the Economy: A Review: "How women are reshaping the American economy.... Gender wage inequality.... Paid family and medical leave.... Women... [and] family economic security.... The gender gap in economics.... The link between bodily autonomy and economic opportunity.... The wages of care.... Motherhood penalties..

  4. The Gap asked researchers to quantify the benefits from offering its employees more regular schedules. The benefits are substantial: Alix Gould-Wirth: Retail workers' Unpredictable Schedules Affect Sleep Quality:: "Retail outlets of The Gap, Inc.... surprising connections between retail workers’ schedules and their sleep patterns.... Joan C. Williams... Susan Lambert... and Saravanan Kesavan.... A novel, multicomponent intervention.... Randomly assigned 19 stores to a treatment group to implement the intervention and nine stores to a control group that did not implement the intervention. The Gap was so committed to increasing the amount of notice workers had of its scheduled shifts that the company extended two components that were originally planned to be part of the intervention—two-weeks advance notice and the elimination of on-call shifts—to all of its workers in North America prior to the beginning of the experiment. So, this experiment tells policymakers and businesses alike how the multicomponent intervention affects workers’ lives beyond advance notice alone..... The intervention made a substantively (and statistically) significant impact on the sleep quality of workers...

  5. And at this I really am crying. There have been a lot of economists behaving very badly indeed in the twenty-six years since I first went to Washington as an adult to start doing economic policy in a serious way. But the late Alan Krueger always behaved well—in communicating with the public, with his colleagues, and with himself. Friend of Equitable Growth Arindrajit Dube puts it best: Arindrajit Dube: "More than any other work,: "More than any other work, Myth and Measurement helped shape my view of building an economics that is open, evidence-driven, and where the core theories can be rejected. Alan Krueger kept reminding us of this, and I won't ever forget it." Alan B. Krueger (May 10, 2018): "Wait. Don’t concede anything. The idea of turning economics into a true empirical science, where core theories can be rejected, is a BIG, revolutionary idea." *Arindrajit Dube (May 10, 2018): "In an empirical science based model of economics, there are fewer 'big thinkers' who dream up of big ideas and more 'plumbers'" Doesn't mean vision and synthesis aren't important, but means knowledge & progress are more emergent than in political economy of 19th/20th century...

 

Worthy Reads Elsewhere:

  1. As I have said, until there is a center-right that seriously intends to work to make people's lives better, there is no point to trying to construct a centrist coalition. Until, say, we have Republican policy economists who will not endorse a tax cut unless it will actually boost investment and economic growth, the baton is passed to the left: Simon Wren Lewis: Triangulation or Bipartisanship Does Not Work When One Side Goes Off the Scale: "The lesson of Brexit and Trump is if you fight a culture war and lies with just well researched and targeted policy proposals, you lose. It is better to fight a culture war with an alternative vision and popular policy proposals, and a bit of class war too. I am not suggesting that you don’t have well researched and targeted policy proposals behind that: as DeLong says 'we are still here'. But this is the time for radicals on both sides.... I have said very little about policy divisions between the left and centre-left, and that is because in practice I don’t think they are very important. In both countries the left cannot implement much that the centre-left disagrees with, and much of what the left want to do the centre-left are prepared to accept.... The key question is whether the centre-left allows the left to lead when it needs to lead, or instead fights against the left and keeps the right in power...

  2. On the one hand, apparently permanent low interest rates do produce a lot of reaching for yield–which means a lot of people taking risks they do not understand for low expected returns, and a lot of people figuring out how to take advantage of the cognitive biases of those who take risks they do not understand. On the other hand, as long as the bills are paid and as long as the investors are risking money they can stand to lose, the Fyre Festival Economy does push us closer to full employment. Thus I find myself genuinely perplexed here it's: Izabella Kaminska: GMO's Montier on the Rise of the Dual Economy: "This week's installment of The entire economy is Fyre Festival.... In the modern corporate sphere the desire to make profits... has been replaced with the desire to achieve growth... [because] products and services are so visionary and forward thinking that we the customers can't yet understand... [yet] one day... will... pay top dollar for.... [Or] if you hook enough customers to your brand you will eventually be able to sell them something.... What... doesn't... have to be determined yet, and may or may not be determined in countless corporate pivots.... This is why the Mystic Vision Officer is so important. Establishing a vision of what tomorrow's needs may be, rather than what today's needs actually are, is essential to keeping the investment case alive.... And it's all very believable because this is exactly how a selection of today's most profitable technology stocks have made it...

  3. Has David Brooks ever before put himself on the line in support of any policy that would make African-Americans' lives better? Asking for a friend: David Brooks: The Case for Reparations: "All sorts of practical objections leapt to mind. What about the recent African immigrants? What about the poor whites who have nothing of what you would call privilege? Do we pay Oprah and LeBron? But I have had so many experiences over the past year—sitting, for example, with an elderly black woman in South Carolina shaking in rage because the kids in her neighborhood face greater challenges than she did growing up in 1953—that suggest we are at another moment of make-or-break racial reckoning...

  4. John Harwood: @JohnJHarwood: "Trump/GOP promised lasting 3+% growth from self-financing tax-cuts. Mainstream economists predicted brief deficit-fueled growth burst. The record so far: 2018 Q2 4.2%, 2018 Q3 3.4%, 2018 Q4 2.6%, deficit way up. Fed forecasts: 2019 2.3%, 2020 2.0%, 2021 1.8%...

  5. Put me down as someone who thinks that the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have not tried and are not trying hard enough to learn from the bank of Japan. They still do not seem to be at the point of understanding the relevance of Japan for themselves as well as Paul Krugman did two decades ago, when he wrote his Return of Depression Economics https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0393320367, "Japan's Trap", and "It's Baaaack: Japan's Slump and the Return of the Liquidity Trap". This is not a good situation to be in: Enda Curran and Toru Fujioka: BOJ's Never Ending Crisis Has Lessons for World's Central Banks - Bloomberg: "The underlying problems confronting the BOJ—slowing growth, tepid wage increases, lackluster productivity gains and aging populations—are becoming more pronounced in other developed economies..... 'When Japan first confronted the problem of very low inflation, monetary economists pooh-poohed the problem, saying there was an easy fix', said Raghuram Rajan, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India and now a professor at the University of Chicago. 'After confronting the same issue in their own countries and showing an inability to deal with it, there seems to be a general consensus that the problem is harder'. Its latest experiment in yield-curve control... has drawn the attention of Federal Reserve Deputy Chair Richard Clarida amid an examination of strategy at the U.S. central bank...

  6. The empirical evidence so far seems to be telling us that policies prohibiting employers from knowing early about applicants' criminal records may be leading to employers not looking at all at young Black men. If this holds up, it would be very distressing and suggest strongly that such policies are truly counterproductive: Jennifer L. Doleac: Empirical Evidence on the Effects of "Ban the Box": "I have prepared this written testimony to review existing empirical evidence on policies that prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their criminal records until late in the hiring process.... This evidence can be summarized as follows: Delaying information about job applicants’ criminal histories leads employers to statistically discriminate against groups that are more likely to have a recent conviction. This reduces employment for young, low-skilled, black men. This negative effect is driven by a reduction in employment for young, low-skilled, black men who don’t have criminal records.... Effective approaches to this policy problem are likely to be policies that directly address employers’ concerns about hiring people with criminal records, such as investing in rehabilitation, providing more information about applicants’ work-readiness, and clarifying employers’ legal responsibilities...

  7. A panel led by Jason Furman. Predictable rules, platform regulation—a "code of conduct for the most significant digital platforms", treating them as essential services—plus ensuring data mobility and open standards are essential for the creation of a digital economy in which competition and innovation can produce large benefits. Unfortunately, none of those are in the financial interest of current tech shareholders or their lobbyists: HM Treasury: Unlocking Digital Competition, Report of the Digital Competition Expert Panel: "An independent report on the state of competition in digital markets, with proposals to boost competition and innovation for the benefit of consumers and businesses.... Chaired by former Chief Economist to President Obama, Professor Jason Furman, the Panel makes recommendations for changes to the UK’s competition framework that are needed to face the economic challenges posed by digital markets...

  8. Still the best single place to go on the internet surveying work on economics, and picking out the most interesting. Now, alas, only about twice a week. But it was naive of me to hope that Mark would stay in full harness forever: Mark Thoma: Economist's View

  9. Austan Goolsbee: You Never Know When a Recession Will Sneak Up on You: "The 2001 recession developed when the internet bubble popped.... But... the internet accounted for, at most, about 2 percent of the economy then. If we use the logic we’ve been applying to trade wars and government shutdowns, it would seem that popping the internet bubble shouldn’t have been enough to cause a recession. But it did. The reason it did was that the pop freaked out people outside just the internet sector.... Virtually every recession in the last 40 years coincided with a signal of fear, like a significant drop in consumer confidence. Sometimes confidence fell and didn’t spiral into recession, but all recessions have started with a confidence spiral.... Let us all hope for excellent jobs numbers in the months to come, along with a rebound.... But it would be a mistake to be overconfident.... If something scares people enough, it can start a recession, and you probably won’t know until it’s too late.... The great pitcher Satchel Paige once advised: 'Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you'. Had he been an economist, he might have added, 'And don’t start a trade war, either'...

  10. "[Alan] Krueger’s work defined what a modern economist should look like"—another very wise take on Alan Krueger, on the occasion of his tragic and much-mourned death by suicide: Noah Smith: Alan Krueger Led a Quiet Economics Revolution: "Krueger’s work defined what a modern economist should look like. He relentlessly focused on issues of practical, immediate importance. He constantly concerned himself with the betterment of the lives of poor and working people, but refused to naively assume that programs designed to help these people always had the intended effect. He was always aware of relevant economic theories, but never let himself be bound by them. This eclectic, humble, humanistic but practical approach has set the tone for an entire generation of young economists. He was taken from us far too soon, but his impact on economics, and on the world, will last for a very long time to come...


#noted #weblogs #2019-03-20

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