Males Last Bastion—Economics

Last week, after reading Tyler Cowen’s predictions of which men might win the Nobel Prize in economic science, I wondered why do males so dominate economics when females are steadily pulling away from males in educational attainment? Why do female economists find the upper echelon’s of the field so elusive? More specifically, where is the female half of Nobel Prize winners in economic science?

Increasingly, economics is applied math. I do not believe men are better than women at math. For me, if there’s some kind of proof of that contention, it simply begs more questions, particularly, why are men (allegedly) better than women at math. I suspect there are differences between men’s and women’s brains, but I don’t believe for a second that the part of men’s brains that do math is somehow superior to that part of women’s.

I suspect the All Star economist gender discrepancy lies in the male dominated cultures that typify elite economics graduate schools. For now, male privilege perpetuates itself in the top doctoral programs.

Here’s Cowen’s interesting summary of the winner’s work.


Friday Assorted Links

1. The British Open has always been my favorite golf tournament because of the history, creative shot making, hellish bunkers, cold wind and rain, and the gorse of course. I’m going to miss it.

Englishman Nick Faldo, a three-time Open champion, said it is no longer correct to call it the Open Championship. “Now it’s ‘The Open. In another five years, it will just be called ‘The.’ ”

2. Tyler Cowen on his writing process.

“I try to write a few pages every day. I don’t obsess over the counting, I just do as much as I can and stop before I feel I am done, so I am eager to start up again the next day, or after lunch. That to me is very important, not to write too much in a single day, but to get something written every single day.”

3. Principals are loath to give teachers bad ratings.

“When principals are asked their opinions of teachers in confidence and with no stakes attached, they’re much more likely to give harsh ratings, researchers found.”

4. So this is why eldest daughter chooses to live in Chicago.

“Another interesting trend is that all cities in Southwest, from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, are taco cities. Burrito cities are mostly from the Midwest and West. California has cities in both categories. It appears that SoCal prefers tacos (LA and San Diego), while NorCal prefers burritos (San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose).”

Clearly, burritos > tacos, so I need to visit Indianapolis and San Fransisco.

5A. Trumpcare collapsed because the Republican Party cannot govern.

“In truth, it was never possible to reconcile public standards for a humane health-care system with conservative ideology. In a pure market system, access to medical care will be unaffordable for a huge share of the public. Giving them access to quality care means mobilizing government power to redistribute resources, either through direct tax and transfers or through regulations that raise costs for the healthy and lower them for the sick. Obamacare uses both methods, and both are utterly repugnant and unacceptable to movement conservatives. That commitment to abstract anti-government dogma, without any concern for the practical impact, is the quality that makes the Republican Party unlike right-of-center governing parties in any other democracy. In no other country would a conservative party develop a plan for health care that every major industry stakeholder calls completely unworkable.”

5B. The Republican healthcare meltdown.

“The larger lesson of this sorry episode is that nobody—not McConnell, or Trump, or House Speaker Paul Ryan—can resolve the contradictions of today’s Republican Party. Once the political arm of the Rotary Club and the affluent suburbs, the Party is increasingly one of middle-class and working-class voters, many of whom are big beneficiaries of federal programs, such as Medicaid and the Obamacare subsidies for the purchase of private insurance. But the G.O.P. remains beholden to its richest, most conservative donors, many of whom espouse a doctrine of rolling back the government and cutting taxes, especially taxes applicable to themselves and other very rich people. It was the donors and ideologues, with Ryan as their front man, who led the assault on the Affordable Care Act.”

5C. Trump’s clueless abdication of presidential responsibility.

“Predictable and despicable” are more apt than “clueless”.

“The first duty of any President is to protect the welfare of the citizenry. In blithely threatening to allow the collapse of the Obamacare exchanges, through which some twelve million Americans have purchased health insurance, Trump was ignoring this duty. Arguably, he was violating his oath of office, in which he promised to ‘faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States.'”

How To Find a Boyfriend

In case you’re looking for one. In one word, PowerPoint*. So says Jessica Guzik.

And if you’re looking for one, and are not a serious gamer, you should probably limit your search to college grads. Economist Erik Hurst via economist Tyler Cowen on what young men are doing.

In related news, I’m slowly working my way through The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing The Patterns Of Intimate Relationships. I think HLerner knew if she pitched it as a “Woman’s Guide” I couldn’t help myself. Savvy. A pgraph to ponder from the early going:

Making a long-term relationship work is a difficult business because it requires the capacity to strike a balance between individualism (the “I”) and togetherness (the “we”). The tugs in both directions are very strong. On the one hand, we want to be separate, independent individuals—self-contained persons in our own right: on the other, we seek a sense of connectedness and intimacy with another person, as well as a sense of belongingness to a family or group. When a couple gets out of balance in either direction, there is a problem.

The Good Wife and I successfully balance that seesaw about a third of the time. Which if we played professional baseball, would make us All Stars.

*nice to know PowerPoint isn’t a complete catastrophe

Think Globally, Yeah Right

I predicted this story about Ethiopia becoming the next China nearly twenty years ago after living there, traveling in other sub-Saharan African countries, and becoming a student of globalization.*

Long story short, the outsourced manufacturing race to the bottom has entered it’s final stage. China’s average manufacturing wage is 3,469 yuan ($560) per month. Pay at Ethiopia’s Huajian shoe factory (18 miles outside of Addis Ababa) ranges from the basic after-tax minimum of $30 a month to about twice that for supervisors.

A paragraph to ponder:

Huajian’s 3,500 workers in Ethiopia produced 2 million pairs of shoes last year. Located in one of the country’s first government-supported industrial zones, the factory began operating in January 2012, only three months after Zhang decided to invest. It became profitable in its first year and now earns $100,000 to $200,000 a month, he said, calling it an insufficient return that will rise as workers become better trained.

Meanwhile, last week, George Mason economist and blogger extraordinaire, Tyler Cowen, wrote in the New York Times about income inequality. The title is the thesis, “Income Inequality is Not Rising Globally. It’s Falling.

Here’s the gist of Cowen’s argument:

We have evolved a political debate where essentially nationalistic concerns have been hiding behind the gentler cloak of egalitarianism. To clear up this confusion, one recommendation would be to preface all discussions of inequality with a reminder that global inequality has been falling and that, in this regard, the world is headed in a fundamentally better direction.

The message from groups like Occupy Wall Street has been that inequality is up and that capitalism is failing us. A more correct and nuanced message is this: Although significant economic problems remain, we have been living in equalizing times for the world — a change that has been largely for the good. That may not make for convincing sloganeering, but it’s the truth.

A common view is that high and rising inequality within nations brings political trouble, maybe through violence or even revolution. So one might argue that a nationalistic perspective is important. But it’s hardly obvious that such predictions of political turmoil are true, especially for aging societies like the United States that are showing falling rates of crime.

I’m positively predisposed to counter-intuitive thinking, but Cowen was hopelessly naive if he thought his NYT readers might concede even some aspects of his argument.

Here’s the comment Cowen’s readers most liked:

You’ve Got to be Kidding

This article is a classic example of a divide and conquer strategy. The gist is that less educated and skilled people in countries like the U.S are suffering but those in other countries are gaining. Hence, the world is equalizing. So, if you complain about the U.S., you are essentially wishing harm on others. In reality, what the “miracle” of capitalism has done is what it always does — it enriches owners of capital and exploits labor. Developing countries are, of course, better off; they started from nothing, and so anything is an improvement. So production is moved to places where people are desperate, and profits rise because of poor wages, no attention to work place safety, no regard for environmental concerns, etc. Yet, we are to celebrate because the workers in the poor countries are no longer earning zero. This logic then absolves companies from any criticism about the horrendous working conditions. After all, global inequality is falling!

The author also glides over the fact that people live in particular societies and their own inequality is most important. It matters for the distribution of political power (Citizens United, anyone?), for health (see, e.g., studies by Richard Wilkinson), for education, for housing and for a host of other things.

Finally, the author predictably criticizes redistribution (what, not unions?) But the real issue is changing the rules of the game so things aren’t rigged for elites. If so, redistribution will be less needed.

The other most highly rated reader responses were similarly critical. Taken together, they illustrate people’s unwillingness to compare themselves to foreign people in distant places. It’s no surprise that economically secure professionals like Cowen and myself choose cosmopolitanism, but for anyone else who lacks economic security, its a luxury they can’t afford.

It’s the same reason the well-to-do, who can afford higher prices elsewhere, brandish “I Don’t Shop at Walmart” bumper stickers. Cowen embraces cosmopolitanism because his university and book publishers and blog sponsors pay him handsomely; and his university provides his health care; and, like me, he has extraordinary job protections as a tenured professor; and he travels the world doing research, lecturing, and teaching.

I don’t begrudge him his professional success, but for him to assume others will embrace cosmopolitanism based upon his logic suggests he’s woefully out-of-touch with those that are struggling to get by.

Cowen might respond to that criticism by insisting that it’s in everyone’s best interests to think more globally, and I’d agree, but it’s going to take far more than abstract New York Times essays to get people to think beyond their household, community, state, and nation.

imgres * Rest assured, normally my predictive skills are nothing special. For example, I was sure Jay-Z and Beyonce would live happily ever after.

How Autobiographical?

Awhile back, I started out a fitness update with a passing reference to an encouraging sibling of mine who once told me “no one cares” about my swimming, cycling, and running.

That begs a larger question. What type of writing do readers, blog readers more specifically, find most interesting?

I’m not entirely sure, but I have some hypotheses. Think of the blogosphere in terms of a continuum with writers either off the stage altogether, on the stage’s edge, or center stage. Put differently, there are blogs focused almost exclusively on impersonal specialized content of some sort; other blogs that focus on the sometimes personal application of relatively impersonal specialized content, and blogs whose content is in essence the personal details of the author’s life.

I don’t read a lot of blogs, but here are a few that I do that represent fairly well the different points on the continuum. Each is wildly successfully at least measured by readership. Also interesting, Cowen and Trunk self identify as having Aspergers.

Example one, Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen, an economist. Written primarily for other economists, the content is sometimes a reach for me, which is nice. Cowen is scarily prolific posting several times a day. The main thing to note about his blog is he’s mostly off-stage. Sure he’ll ask for restaurant suggestions for where ever he’s traveling next, and he’ll summarize what he’s reading every few weeks (also scary, seemingly a book a day), but don’t look for him to write about whether he’s getting along with his wife or daughter or his non-academic interests.

Example two, DC Rainmaker by Ray Maker, a triathlete. I highlighted Ray’s blog recently. Written primarily for other triathletes, the content tends towards the science of triathlon training. His reviews of triathlon related electronics are the clearest, most detailed, and intelligently written up on the internet. He’s also an outstanding photog who sprinkles twenty or so pics in his three or four posts a week. Ray is my “stage’s edge” example. Two-thirds of the time he focuses in on all things triathlon. The other third, you learn about his worldwide travels (I’m guessing he does IT for the State Department), his fascination with sharks, his love of cooking and food, and “The Girl” who he was recently engaged to.

Example three, Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist. Penelope is the undisputed “center stage” champion. She’s successful I suspect for the same reasons the authors my writing students and I are reading—Esme Cadell, Sherman Alexie, and Frank McCourt—are: 1) She understands that not every moment in every day and not every day in every week is equally interesting. She’s skilled at teasing out from the details of her life “critical incidents” that encapsulate the most interesting elements of her life that also resonate with other people. 2) When describing and exploring the meaning of the critical incidents of her life she grabs readers by the collar by providing intimate details even when they are not flattering. Scratch that, especially when they’re not flattering. And there-in lies the third reason. 3) She doesn’t self-censure herself, instead she opts for authenticity, transparency, the unvarnished truth, pick your phrase(s). In the same literary vein, Tina Fey’s or Liz Lemon’s self-deprecation on “30 Rock” is pure genius.

So in essence, my sib didn’t go far enough. If I self-censure myself and churn out safe, vague, self-conscious descriptions of the personal aspects of my life no one will care for any parts of my personal life story let alone the swimming, cycling, and running chapters of it.

And in all honesty, three years in and I still haven’t figured out yet how to follow Trunk’s, Cadell’s, Alexie’s, and McCourt’s examples in this format. For example, I’ve consciously chosen not to write about the most personally significant thing that has happened to me this year. I’m not quitting though and I suppose this post is another step in the process of figuring where I want to sit on the continuum and exactly what type of blogger I want to be.


Three things that made me laugh recently.

Everyone needs a mentor don’t you think? He doesn’t know it yet, and it doesn’t matter that his family is younger than mine, but Phil Dunphy of Modern Family is mine. Great show. I’ve been having amazing success with Phil’s “peer-enting” approach to fatherhood. In this short clip, my mentor explains how to “keep it real” and “take it to the next level” or vice-versa, not sure yet.

Even money I’m the only person who thinks this is funny. Read Tyler Cowen’s short blog post titled “Why do people ask questions at public events?” Funniest sentence, “Anecdotally, I have found that men wearing suspenders are most likely to ask longish, rambling questions.” If you watch Booknotes on C-Span like me you read that sentence and said to yourself, “Yeah, no kidding!” You can picture loquacious suspender guy in vivid detail, white hair, spare tire, open windbreaker, prone to conspiracy theories. So why is the suspender-set so loquacious? Funny!

And my next car is funny.

“At full gallop, the concept can theoretically reach 62 mph in 3.2 seconds and nip 198 mph on the high end.” Funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. As a bonus, “Porsche says it can also achieve 78 miles per gallon and emit just 70 grams of CO2 per kilometer.” On the “To Buy” list. I will laugh at Lance in his highway patrol car.

What I’m Reading

The WSJ recently reviewed the top economics blogs and one I read regularly, Marginal Revolution, by Tyler Cowen, was highlighted. The one critique of MR was that Cowen’s sporadic “What I’m Reading” posts make people feel inferior because he’s always reading about 20 different books stretching across about 10 different fields, many quite esoteric. Cowen is a unique dude, incredibly well read, a prolific writter (he blogs 3-5x a day and writes nonstop essays and books), and a connoisseur of ethnic cuisine among other things. 

I’m always reading email, student work, and lots of print and electronic periodicals. On top of that, I have book reading periods, one of which I’m in right now. So with no Cowen-like pretense, here’s what I’m reading.

Nancy Pearl, on Seattle’s NPR station, KUOW, turned me on to “the best teen novel” she had ever read, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. I purchased it for my soon to be 14 and 17 year olds. I’m reading it before wrapping it and to say I’m wrapped up in it is an understatement. You know how we all have things we wish were different about ourselves, I wish I made more time for fiction. I really believe in the power of fiction, I just don’t make time to drink from the well often enough. Synopsis. . . elite boarding school, 10th grade girl, 12th grade boyfriend, secret all male society, feminist pushback, timely, and smartly written. 

I’m also reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. The subtitle hints at the thesis: Why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need-and what we can do about it. Overlaps almost directly with my primary professional interests so I’m enjoying it. Wish I wrote it first.

Last, but not least, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I heard the author, John Gottman, on NPR one night and thought he was the clearest and most interesting and insightful speaker on marriage I had heard. When I told the wife that she ran out and got a few of his books. Should I take that as a bad sign? I negotiated down to taking turns reading alternate chapters of “Seven Principles”. Funny thing, she hammered out chapter one and then we stalled. Yesterday she told me she has to return it to the library soon, a not so subtle hint, but first I have to wrap up The Disreputable History. How can I concentrate on my marriage before knowing how things turn out for Frankie, Matthew, and the other Loyal Basset Hounds?