Does Globalization Increase Economic Mobility?

A new working paper draws on Swedish manufacturing data between 1997 and 2013 to determine the effects of globalization on economic mobility. Defining globalization as “a reduction in trade costs” (pg. 22), the authors note,

Most workers land their first full-time job in their 20s and then spend 40 to 50 years in the labor market trying to earn a living. Over their careers, workers acquire new skills, which enables them to change jobs and (sometimes) occupations in order to increase job satisfaction and career earnings. It follows that a complete picture of the impact of globalization on a typical worker should take into account its impact on skill acquisition and the rate at which workers are able to secure better jobs (that is, economic mobility) (pg. 38).

The authors develop “a model of a jobs ladder in which workers gain skills on the job that qualify them for higher-paying jobs at more productive firms” (pg. 38). They explain,

Our main finding is that when trade costs are initially high, globalization increases economic mobility through two channels. First, the reduction in trade costs leads to more international engagement by firms. As the number of exporting firms grows, the ability of workers to gain skills that reduce trade costs is enhanced. This makes it easier for workers to qualify for jobs at the top of the jobs ladder. Second, since high-productivity firms gain disproportionally from falling trade costs, globalization increases wage inequality. And, as the gaps between the wages paid by different groups of firms increase, workers become more willing to (a) incur the moving costs associated with changing jobs and (b) expend effort to keep their skills from deteriorating. As a result, upward economic mobility rises and downward economic mobility (due to demotions or terminations) falls. These changes in economic mobility reduce the differences in expected lifetime incomes forecast by workers in high-wage and low-wage jobs, resulting in the possibility that inequality in lifetime incomes might fall with globalization (even though wage inequality is rising). Even the case in which globalization increases inequality in terms of lifetime incomes, the impact is smaller than its impact on wage inequality (pg. 39).

What’s more,

Employment is reallocated from firms that pay medium wage towards the extremes, with high-wage and low-wage employment both increasing. While it is tempting to interpret this reallocation of employment as an explanation of “job polarization” as described in recent empirical work (see Goos and Manning 2007; Goos, Manning, and Salomons 2009; Autor, Katz and Kearney 2006, 2008 and Autor and Dorn 2013), we believe that would be a mistake…Our results indicate that globalization can result in a shrinking middle-class within a given occupation, with increased export opportunities resulting in more firms willing to recruit the most experienced workers by paying the highest wage; while others react to increased competition from imports by re-orienting their hiring toward inexperienced low-wage workers. These results are not driven by outsourcing. Instead, they are completely driven by the manner in which globalization alters the networks that firms use to fill their vacancies (pg. 39-40).

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When trade costs are high, “globalization allows [low-wage workers] to move up the jobs ladder more quickly and, as they reach higher and higher rungs, they enjoy the enhanced benefits of the higher real wages generated by freer trade. In this case, a focus on wage inequality can be misleading in that low-wage workers do not lose as much relative to others in the labor market as would be indicated by standard analysis” (pg. 28-29). However, when trade costs are already low, “[w]age inequality rises and the rate at which workers move
out of their entry level jobs slows.” However,

the proper way to measure the effect of globalization on a worker is to examine its impact on that worker’s expected lifetime real income. That measure considers both the change in real wages and the degree of economic mobility faced by that worker. Thus, we can get a better view of how globalization affects inequality by examining the changes in expected lifetime real incomes for workers in different labor market states…Inexperienced workers only hold low-wage jobs for a portion of their lifetime, moving on to much better jobs as they gain skills. As they mature, they benefit from the higher real wages paid to medium-wage and high-wage production workers if they can gain the proper skills and land better jobs. The fact that using current wages as a proxy for lifetime earnings can lead to misleading conclusions is not a new insight. This issue is well understood and heavily researched in many sub-fields of economics; but, as far as we know, it has not received much attention from those investigating the link between globalization and inequality (pg. 29-30).

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The devil is in the details.

DREditors’ Best Books of 2018

Due to a long-term and acute case of lameness, I never published the DREditors’ best books of 2017. As part of my recover from this lameness-attack, I’m making sure that we get 2019 started off right with a review of the top-5 best books from each of our DREditors. Each who replied, at least. So, here we go!

Ro Givens

The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Many books like this one have a lot more science in them. This is more of a memoir/biography mixed with some science and medical law. So if you’re looking for a science-focused book, this is not the one, although if you’re looking for a book with no science, this is also not the one. This book tells the story of Henrietta and her family, interwoven with the medical industry’s use of her cervical cancer cells (HeLa), the author’s journey to uncover the family and medical history, and the legal precedents (or lack thereof) involving the consent for and use of human tissue sampled from patients and research subjects. One of the biggest legal takeaways is that if you have tissue separated from you (especially by a medical professional), you likely have no legal claim to it, the medical establishment can do whatever research they want on it, and, in most cases, they can profit from its use.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance

This book really touches on the cultural aspects of “hillbilly” America that have resulted in poverty throughout much of middle and southern America. It’s not all encompassing, as the author grew up white lower class, and not black, lower class (which brings a host of other issues, but which also has some overlap). Vance often talks about the pervasive feeling that “nothing I do matters” which results in people not trying hard and then blaming everyone else for their problems. He also discusses the feeling that “only other people can be successful”, the inherent tribalism among those who grow up in poverty, and thus the fear of admitting and showing success if you do end up successful. Ultimately Vance believes he “escaped” the poverty cycle because his grandparents didn’t let him hold on to these feelings and provided a safe and stabilizing home – even if he didn’t always live there. But he also benefited from getting into Yale law school – which gives some of the best social capital you can have in America.

Vance’s grandparents were amazing (in both great and crazy ways). I felt a connection to this book having grown up in a broken home (though my mom was the best) with economic difficulties (though not as extreme), with several last names in the household resulting from a complicated family tree, and with my grandfather being the most present father figure in my life. I also connected with the idea of growing up poor and unfamiliar with the academic and business world (my mom never went to college) and then trying to navigate that world all the way through graduate school and beyond. I think the book has the potential to bring empathy, understanding, and laughter to those who have grown up in stable, nuclear families and to bring a feeling of connection to those who have a family skeleton or two in their closets.

When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales of Neurosurgery by Frank T. Vertosick Jr.

Great read. Not for people who dislike gory details and sad endings, or anyone who needs to avoid webMD-like information for their emotional well-being.

I thought his description of cancer was super interesting.

Cancers and embryos are kindred spirits, both composed of highly mobile cells dividing at full throttle.  A fertilized ovum changes from a single cell to a miniature human body in a matter of weeks.  During this period of high speed construction, cells migrate freely from one region of the embryo to another, as complex organs are assembled from amorphous cell clusters.  The ability of cancerous cells to metastasize to distant sites is a throwback to the migratory  properties of embryonic cells.  The similarity of cancer cells to embryonic cells goes deeper than a simple capacity to migrate.  Proteins and hormones produced in fetal tissues suddenly reappear in cancerous tissues of adults… Mechanistically, cancer results not from the degeneration of adult tissue into decrepit forms, but from their regression into juvenile forms.  Cancer cells relive the heyday of their fetal youth… While adult tumors arise from differentiated cells lapsing retrograde into prenatal behavior, pediatric tumors arise from islands of embryonic tissue which never matured in the first place.  These “Peter Pan” cells won’t grow up, acting like embryonic tissue even after birth… The fetal nature of these tumors explains why they are so refractory to treatment.  Fetal cells have a mission: to create a child.  Their drive to complete this mission is so strong that only killing the patient will stop them.

Dr. Frank T. Vertosick, Jr. in “When the Air Hits Your Brain”

Honorable Mention / Fiction

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline aka 1980s Nerd Sci-Fi Explosion

The Martian by Andy Weir aka Space MacGyver

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness aka An Academic Writes a Vampire Novel

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller aka Young Female Pirate Captain is the YA Heroine We Need

Walker Wright

In Defense of Openness: Why Global Freedom is the Humane Solution to Global Poverty by Bas van der Vossen and Jason Brennan

With populism on the rise, an empirical and philosophical defense of liberal trade and immigration are both needed. Brennan and van der Vossen give the best case I’ve seen in favor of an open economy, challenging both right-wing and left-wing populists. Perhaps even more important, they defend the notion of productive human rights: the ability to produce, work, build, create, etc. “To leave out productive rights,” they write, “…is not just to distort our picture of human rights and global justice. It’s to distort our picture of people—including the world’s poor. To fully respect people, we must not just make sure that they have enough welfare, happiness, or utility…We must treat them as active and productive agents, as contributors to their own lives and those around them, and no just as consumers or receptacles of goods” (pg. 111).

The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motivations in Everyday Life by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson

In the era of social media, I have become extremely skeptical of people’s public moral grandstanding. Through a wide-ranging empirical investigation, Simler and Hanson demonstrate that I’m right to be skeptical: many of our motives are in fact selfish in nature (color me shocked…). We often seek to gain power and status through the accumulation of social and moral capital. And we do this through various mediums: consumption, charity, politics, religion, and so on. Of course, we are a mixed bag of motivations. But sweeping the selfish ones under the rug for fear of being called cynical does no one any good.

Sex & World Peace by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett

The impressive datasets and empirical research found in this book demonstrate the interdependence of macro and microlevel institutions. The authors find that the physical security of women and various factors of gender inequality (e.g., polygyny, inequitable family law) are strongly associated with state-level peacefulness. In sum, gender inequality in customs and law perpetuates state insecurity and war. This is likely why Hudson elsewhere has described companionate heterosexual monogamous marriage as human peace incarnate.

The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology by Jonathan A. Stapley

Priesthood has been a hot button issue in contemporary Latter-day Saint discourse, largely due to debates over gender and ecclesiastical authority. In Stapley’s historical construction, priesthood in the early Church was cosmologically identified with the eternal kinship bonds created and concretized through temple rituals. The eclipse of this understanding and its conflation with ecclesiastical priesthood offices had major effects on future interpretations of both scriptures and ordinances. Stapley’s recovery of this earlier meaning enriches our already temple-oriented theology.

Death (The Art of Living) by Todd May

May is a philosophical advisor for the show The Good Place and it was there that I saw this book briefly mentioned. May argues that death is the most defining feature of human beings since it permeates throughout everything we think, feel, and do. What’s more, he argues that immortality in some ways would undermine meaning by eliminating the sacrifice and urgency associated with time scarcity. As a Latter-day Saint, my theology views mortality as a necessary step in eternal progression toward divinity. Despite the author coming from an atheistic angle, this book offers possible answers as to what role death plays in this training ground for godhood.

Honorable Mention

Nathaniel Givens

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore

It’s like I said in my Goodreads review: if I could give this book 6 stars, I would. I started listening to Lecrae after hearing “Just Like You” on a campus bus in Michigan. I memorized enough of the lyrics to look it up when I got home, and from then on I was hooked. Lecrae is one of my heroes with folks like Dustin Kensrue and Josh Garrels: artists who refuse to pick and choose between their faith and their art. Between the world and the kingdom.

This book is Lecrae’s autobiography. It’s an awesom story. It’s well-written. A lot of Lecrae’s excellent lyricism translates from verse to prose just fine. And it’s also full of really insightful Christian theology. I’m pretty sure Lecrae is reformed Calvinist which is pretty different from my ow faith, but it’s OK. It’s OK with me, anyway. What we have in common is much more than what separates us, and I learned–and continue to learn–a lot from Lecrae.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The word for “workmanship” is “poema”. We are God’s poem to the world. A poem articulates the heart, the mind, and the character of the poet. Your calling may not be to write music or produce music or sing music but that’s OK. You are music. You’re God’s music. And God doesn’t just want to break records and top charts with you. He wants to change lives and industries and society. By God’s grace, I’m going to keep making the music as long as I have air in my lungs. But my prayer is that you’ll make music too. Maybe not with your voice. Maybe not on a stage. But hopefully with your life. And may God get the glory from the music we create. 

Keep on creating.

Lecrae in “Unashamed”

Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary

I grew up with friends who were Muslim. I learned about Islam in school. I studied Islam a little bit more on my own. But reading Destiny Disrupted was the first time I felt like I really started to get it. The most important insight for me was understanding the extent to which Islam is–and always was–a communal project. I also really enjoyed learning about the stories of the lives of the early successors of Mohammad. Hearing those stories made me think that to understand where someone comes from, you really have to know the stories that they heard as kids. Finally, it’s a tragic story of how the forces of fundamentalism won out over other branches of Islam and sidelined their progress. I can’t recommend this book enough for anyone who is interested in Islam or just wants to read great history.

The moment Mohammed died, the community faced an overwhelming problem. It wasn’t just “Who is our next leader?” but “What is our next leader?” When a saint dies, people can’t simply name some other saint in his placed, because such figures aren’t created by election or appointment, they just emerge; and if they don’t, oh well; people may be disappointed but life goes on. When a king dies, by contrast, no one says, “Wouldn’t it be nice of someday we had another king?” The gap must be plugged at once.

When Prophet Mohammed died, it was like a saint dying but it was also like a king dying. He was irreplaceable, yet someone had to take his place. Without a leader, the Umma could not hold together.

Tamim Ansary in “Destiny Disrupted”

When the Air Hits Your Brain by Frank T. Vertosick, Jr.

I know that Ro already picked this one for her list, but I have to add it to mine, too. I’ve read several medical or scientific autobiographies, but this one is probably the most touching that I’ve ever encountered. It is a book defined by one term that you don’t ordinarily associate with the medical profession, and especially not with neurosurgeons: humility. This book will touch you, and it will also enlighten you. Read it.

You have to care about the patients, but not too much. It’s unethical to operate on our wives. Why? Because we’d be too likely to choke. To get nervous and f–k up if its our own family on the chopping block. The very fact that medical ethics forbids treating your immediate family is proof that we shouldn’t get so involved with a patient that we are made nervous by the possibility of failure. Patients want us to care about them, but they want us to perform with the nerveless demeanor of someone slicing baloney in a deli at the same time. It’s one of those unexplained paradoxes we just accept.

Doctor Frank T. Vertosick, Jr. in “When the Air Hits Your Brain”

The Destroyermen Series by Taylor Anderson

I have had so much fun with this series this year! There are thirteen books in the series, and I read every single one of them. (OK, I listened to them.) The premise is pretty simple. The USS Walker, a World War I-era destroyer that was sent to the Pacific after Pearl Harbor (Walker was a real-life ship) is caught up in a mysterious storm that transports it to an alternate-history version of the Earth where humans never evolved, but other intelligent life forms did. And those other species? They’re at war. Also: dinosaurs. It’s so, so good, and it has grown so, so far from that initial premise. There’s no way that I can summarize 13 books, so just trust me: they’re great.

“Wherever we go, whatever we do in this goofed-up world, somebody or something always needs killing.”

– Jim Ellis, in Taylor Anderson’s novel “Firestorm”

A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 – 1918 by G. J. Meyer

This is the best history of World War I I’ve read since Guns of August, and I’d even say it’s better than Guns of August. It’s always amazing to me how badly wrong everything I learned about history in high school was, and this is no exception. A lot of that is on me. What can you really teach a sheltered teenager about the Great War? Not much. So, yeah, a lot of what I learned about trench warfare was wrong. The combat in World War I was much more dynamic, even on the Western Front, than what I was taught. But the utter, monumental, tragic senselessness of it all? I was told about it, but it didn’t sink in. Of course I don’t believe I cna understand it now like someone who lived through it then, but at least a glimmer of it finally got through to me while reading this sweeping, majestic, terrible history.

“Among this chaos of twisted iron and splintered timber and shapeless earth are the fleshless, blackened bones of simple men who poured out their red, sweet wine of youth unknowing, for nothing more tangible than Honour or their Country’s Glory or another’s Lust of Power. Let him who thinks that war is a glorious golden thing, who loves to roll forth stirring words of exhortation, invoking Honour and Praise and Valour and Love of Country. Let him look at a little pile of sodden grey rags that cover half a skull and a shin bone and what might have been its ribs, or at this skeleton lying on its side, resting half-crouching as it fell, supported on one arm, perfect but that it is headless, and with the tattered clothing still draped around it; and let him realise how grand and glorious a thing it is to have distilled all Youth and Joy and Life into a foetid heap of hideous putrescence.”


Excerpt from a letter by Roland Leighton to Vera Brittain in August 1915 as quoted by G. J. Meyer in “A World Undone”

Honorable Mention

Currently Working without Pay: Border Patrol, FBI, etc.

© Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

USA Today is reporting that many of the federal workers who specifically work to protect our country, and our borders, are working without pay due to the government shutdown. That’s right, Border Patrol, the FBI, and the Coast Guard are working without pay. (Also included: the TSA, but I think the security they add to our nation may be more up for debate).

The author, a Republican, has a lot to offer in terms of why Trump is doing this and how the GOP can let this fight go down in flames while still letting Trump say he did everything he could.

There is not a single person who actually thinks that forcing Border Patrol agents work without pay, or driving them to find new jobs, will somehow increase border security. So why has Trump painted himself into this corner?


I’m afraid that the answer is Trump actually does not care about border security at all. It has been obvious for quite some time that the main thing Donald Trump likes about being president is holding rallies. What he cares about is his “base” — specifically, the people who are willing to show up and cheer for him.

Chris Truax

Finally, if Congressional Republicans “betray” Trump, the stalemate could end, agents could be paid, and the fight for the wall could be taken up another day (if anyone currently in a position to fight for the wall actually wants it).

The kindest thing Republicans can do is to let Trump go down fighting. They should back the Democrats’ efforts to reopen the government and, if necessary, vote to override Trump’s veto. This will straighten out the shutdown mess while allowing Trump to claim he did everything he possibly could to keep faith with his fans but was stabbed in the back by “traitorous” Republicans.


This is a small price to pay for getting cash flowing once again into agencies such as the FBI and the Border Patrol that really do protect America. And being a “traitor” to Donald Trump is far preferable to being a traitor to common sense and the public good. 

Chris Truax

The Effects of Legalizing Immigrants

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Over at SMU’s Texas-Mexico Center blog, I wrote,

Despite the recent political rhetoric and anti-immigrant sentiments, the economic benefits of immigration are well-established in the empirical literature. A 2011 meta-analysis by economist Michael Clemens found that dropping all current immigration restrictions would result in a doubling of world GDP.

A more recent analysis corroborated these findings, concluding that lifting all migration restrictions would increase world output by 126%. In 2015, migrants made up 3.4% of the world population yet contributed about $6.7 trillion to global output—9.4% of world GDP. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that this is $3 trillion more than these migrants would have produced had they stayed in their origin countries. Even undocumented workers in the United States contribute about 3.6% of private-sector GDP annually—around $6 trillion dollars over a 10-year period. Granting these migrants legal status would increase their contribution to 4.8%. 

On this last point, a recent study explores the effects of immigrant legalization in Spain. The authors explain the background for the natural experiment:

In the early 2000s, Spain experienced an incredible boom in immigration. The share of immigrants in the working-age population increased from less than 2% in 1995 to around 10% in 2004. Many of these newly arrived immigrants lacked work permits. By 2004, there were close to 1 million undocumented immigrants in a country of around 43 million inhabitants.

Despite this large number of undocumented immigrants, the government at the time, led by Jose Maria Aznar (Popular Party) and with Mariano Rajoy in its cabinet, was unlikely to legalise the work status of immigrants. Traditionally, the Popular Party had been proposing tougher policies against immigration. Its main stance was to avoid implementing policies that could attract new waves of immigrants. In this context, in the early 2000s, immigrants were granted work permits mostly on the basis of family reunification.

On 14 March 2004, voters in the Spanish general election had to determine whether the Popular Party would continue in power or be replaced by the Socialist Party. In the week before the election, the outcome seemed clear: the polls were forecasting that Zapatero of the Socialist Party was trailing Rajoy by seven percentage points. 

Yet, something completely unexpected happened just three days before the election which, as shown by Garcia-Montalvo (2011), changed the final outcome: Madrid suffered the largest terrorist attack in Spanish history, a tragedy that was poorly managed by the Popular Party. As a result, the Socialist Party came to power, and one of the first policies it implemented was the legalisation of nearly 600,000 immigrants already living (and working illegally) in Spain.

Using administrative payroll tax revenues, the authors find

that the legalisation of immigrants’ work status increased revenues locally — i.e. at the province level — by around €4,189 per newly legalised immigrant. This amount is only 55% of what we would have expected if newly legalised immigrants had shared the same characteristics as previous contributors to the social security system and had enjoyed similar labour market experiences. Two factors may explain this. First, newly legalised immigrants were perhaps disproportionately low-skilled and had worse labour market experiences than natives. Second, the legalisation may also have affected previous workers.

…Using very detailed administrative and survey data on wages and employment, we show that the policy change disproportionately affected the labour market outcomes of workers in high-immigrant locations relative to low-immigrant locations. In particular, it worsened employment opportunities for both low-skilled natives and immigrants, while it improved them for high-skilled workers. Among low-skilled natives, those who lost their jobs were negatively selected — the policy change negatively affected employment prospects of native low-skilled workers at the bottom of the wage distribution. Putting together all the labour market changes and comparing them to payroll tax revenue changes, we show that this negative selection is crucial to fully understand the effects of the reform.

We also show that, following the reform, many immigrants moved from high- to low-immigrant locations. This is important since these immigrants also contributed to payroll tax revenues, but in traditionally low-immigrant locations. This, in turn, means that comparing local payroll tax revenues in high- relative to low-immigrant locations to evaluate the effect of the policy may underestimate the true impact of immigrant legalisation on payroll tax revenues. Once we take into account internal migration and selection, we argue that the true contribution was almost €5,000 per newly legalised immigrant, i.e. substantially higher than what we would have been able to estimate on the basis of local tax revenue data alone.

The DR Book Collection: Catch-Up #7

This is part of the DR Book Collection.

I’m once again behind on my book reviews, so here’s a list of the books I’ve read recently, their descriptions, and accompanying videos.

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Bas van der Vossen, Jason Brennan, In Defense of Openness: Why Global Freedom is the Humane Solution to Global Poverty (Oxford University Press, 2018): “The topic of global justice has long been a central concern within political philosophy and political theory, and there is no doubt that it will remain significant given the persistence of poverty on a massive scale and soaring global inequality. Yet, virtually every analysis in the vast literature of the subject seems ignorant of what developmental economists, both left and right, have to say about the issue. In Defense of Openness illuminates the problem by stressing that that there is overwhelming evidence that economic rights and freedom are necessary for development, and that global redistribution tends to hurt more than it helps. Bas van der Vossen and Jason Brennan instead ask what a theory of global justice would look like if it were informed by the facts that mainstream development and institutional economics have brought to light. They conceptualize global justice as global freedom and insist we can help the poor-and help ourselves at the same time-by implementing open borders, free trade, the strong protection of individual freedom, and economic rights and property for all around the world. In short, they work from empirical, consequentialist grounds to advocate for the market society as a model for global justice. A spirited challenge to mainstream political theory from two leading political philosophers, In Defense of Openness offers a new approach to global justice: We don’t need to “save” the poor. The poor will save themselves, if we would only get out of their way and let them” (Amazon).

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Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (Penguin, 2018): “Something is going wrong on many college campuses in the last few years. Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are rising. Speakers are shouted down. Students and professors say they are walking on eggshells and afraid to speak honestly. How did this happen? First Amendment expert Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt show how the new problems on campus have their origins in three terrible ideas that have become increasingly woven into American childhood and education: what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people. These three Great Untruths are incompatible with basic psychological principles, as well as ancient wisdom from many cultures. They interfere with healthy development. Anyone who embraces these untruths—and the resulting culture of safetyism—is less likely to become an autonomous adult able to navigate the bumpy road of life. Lukianoff and Haidt investigate the many social trends that have intersected to produce these untruths. They situate the conflicts on campus in the context of America’s rapidly rising political polarization, including a rise in hate crimes and off-campus provocation. They explore changes in childhood including the rise of fearful parenting, the decline of unsupervised play, and the new world of social media that has engulfed teenagers in the last decade. This is a book for anyone who is confused by what is happening on college campuses today, or has children, or is concerned about the growing inability of Americans to live, work, and cooperate across party lines” (Amazon).

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Andrew Selee, Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and the United States Together (PublicAffairs, 2018): “There may be no story today with a wider gap between fact and fiction than the relationship between the United States and Mexico. Wall or no wall, deeply intertwined social, economic, business, cultural, and personal relationships mean the US-Mexico border is more like a seam than a barrier, weaving together two economies and cultures. Mexico faces huge crime and corruption problems, but its remarkable transformation over the past two decades has made it a more educated, prosperous, and innovative nation than most Americans realize. Through portraits of business leaders, migrants, chefs, movie directors, police officers, and media and sports executives, Andrew Selee looks at this emerging Mexico, showing how it increasingly influences our daily lives in the United States in surprising ways–the jobs we do, the goods we consume, and even the new technology and entertainment we enjoy. From the Mexican entrepreneur in Missouri who saved the US nail industry, to the city leaders who were visionary enough to build a bridge over the border fence so the people of San Diego and Tijuana could share a single international airport, to the connections between innovators in Mexico’s emerging tech hub in Guadalajara and those in Silicon Valley, Mexicans and Americans together have been creating productive connections that now blur the boundaries that once separated us from each other” (Amazon).

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Blaire G. Van Dyke, Brian D. Birch, Boyd J. Petersen (eds.), The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts (Greg Kofford Books, 2018): “Among the most distinctive and defining features of Mormonism is the affirmation of continuing revelation through modern day prophets and apostles. An important component of this concept is the acknowledgement of an open canon—that the body of authoritative scriptural texts can expand as new revelations are made available and presented to the membership for ratification. This volume brings together both Mormon and non-Mormon scholars to examine the place, purpose, and meaning of the LDS Standard Works (Christian Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) in the Mormon tradition, as well as the extra-canonical sources that play a near-scriptural role in the lives of believers. Approaching LDS scripture from a variety of disciplines, methodologies, and perspectives, these scholars offer new insights into both the historical and contemporary understandings of Mormon continuing revelation” (Amazon).

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Beth Felker Jones, Faithful: A Theology of Sex (Zondervan, 2015): “Many believers accept traditional Christian sexual morality but have very little idea why it matters for the Christian life. In Faithful, author Beth Felker Jones sketches a theology of sexuality that demonstrates sex is not about legalistic morals with no basis in reality but rather about the God who is faithful to us. In Hosea 2:19-20 God says to Israel, “I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.” This short book explores the goodness of sexuality as created and redeemed, and it suggests ways to navigate the difficulties of living in a world in which sexuality, like everything else, suffers the effects of the fall. As part of Zondervan’s Ordinary Theology series, Faithful takes a deeper look at a subject Christians talk about often but not always thoughtfully. This short, insightful reflection explores the deeper significance of the body and sexuality” (Amazon).

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Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (Penguin, 2014): “Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives” (Amazon).

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Kevin Simler, Robin Hanson, The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life (Oxford University Press, 2018): “Human beings are primates, and primates are political animals. Our brains, therefore, are designed not just to hunt and gather, but also to help us get ahead socially, often via deception and self-deception. But while we may be self-interested schemers, we benefit by pretending otherwise. The less we know about our own ugly motives, the better – and thus we don’t like to talk or even think about the extent of our selfishness. This is “the elephant in the brain.” Such an introspective taboo makes it hard for us to think clearly about our nature and the explanations for our behavior. The aim of this book, then, is to confront our hidden motives directly – to track down the darker, unexamined corners of our psyches and blast them with floodlights. Then, once everything is clearly visible, we can work to better understand ourselves: Why do we laugh? Why are artists sexy? Why do we brag about travel? Why do we prefer to speak rather than listen? Our unconscious motives drive more than just our private behavior; they also infect our venerated social institutions such as Art, School, Charity, Medicine, Politics, and Religion. In fact, these institutions are in many ways designed to accommodate our hidden motives, to serve covert agendas alongside their “official” ones. The existence of big hidden motives can upend the usual political debates, leading one to question the legitimacy of these social institutions, and of standard policies designed to favor or discourage them. You won’t see yourself – or the world – the same after confronting the elephant in the brain” (Amazon).

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Michael D. Tanner, The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor (Cato Institute, 2018):The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor energetically challenges the conventional wisdom of both the right and the left that underlies much of the contemporary debate over poverty and welfare policy. Author and national public policy expert Michael Tanner takes to task conservative critiques of a “culture of poverty” for their failure to account for the structural circumstances in which the poor live. In addition, he criticizes liberal calls for fighting poverty primarily through greater redistribution of wealth and new government programs. Rather than engaging in yet another debate over which government programs should be increased or decreased by billions of dollars, Tanner calls for an end to policies that have continued to push people into poverty. Combining social justice with limited government, his plan includes reforming the criminal justice system and curtailing the War on Drugs, bringing down the cost of housing, reforming education to give more control and choice to parents, and making it easier to bank, save, borrow, and invest. The comprehensive evidence provided in The Inclusive Economy is overwhelming: economic growth lifts more people out of poverty than any achievable amount of redistribution does. As Tanner notes, “we need a new debate, one that moves beyond our current approach to fighting poverty to focus on what works rather than on noble sentiments or good intentions.” The Inclusive Economy is a major step forward in that debate” (Amazon).

Are Tech Companies Responsible for Harassment on their Platforms?

Ibrahim.ID [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

So far the answer to that question is — No. According to a 1996 law that was originally passed to protect free speech, companies are not liable for speech on their online platforms — including harassment.

After repeated harassment and a restraining order against the dating app Grindr, one man is trying to change that. Matthew Herrick’s ex repeatedly created fake profiles of Herrick, sending men to his workplace and home expecting to hookup. The harassment continued even though the ex was not following Grindr’s terms of service, and Herrick got a restraining order against Grindr in which they were to take down all the fake accounts.  In 2017, Herrick filed a lawsuit against Grindr.

Grindr and other tech groups and companies are relying on the 1996 law to say they are not responsible for third party speech on their platforms.  Herrick’s attorney has turned towards product liability laws — saying Grindr is dangerous and built specifically to allow such harassment.

So, is Grindr responsible for the repeated harassment? Or do apps not harass people, people harass people?  Or is it something in between: should a person have legal recourse if a company doesn’t stick to its TOS?

Incoherent Know-Nothings

Cards Against Humanity’s Pulse of the Nation poll from 2017 to 2018 has some pretty interesting, disturbing, and rather unsurprising findings about the American public:

Conflicting Views

39.1% of Democrats think that it’s wrong to negatively stereotype people based on their place of birth, but also think Southerners are more racist.

65.2% of Republicans think that people are too easily offended, yet find Black Lives Matter offensive.

64.6% of Democrats think that a woman has the right to do what she wants with her body, except when it comes to selling her kidney. Nearly half also believe a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body, except sell it for sex.

57.9% of Republicans think that people should be free to express their political opinions in the workplace, but athletes shouldn’t be allowed to make political protests at games.

Over half of Democrats think that men and women “are equal in their talents and abilities,” except when it comes to multitasking and empathy.

About 1/3 of Republicans think we should be more suspicious of foreigners, yet believe Putin when he says he didn’t interfere in the 2016 election. (You’re twice as likely to do this if you support Trump.)

Over half of Republicans believe nobody deserves a handout and that the government should do more to help small, working-class towns in America’s heartland.

About 1/3 of Democrats say that they trust the scientific consensus, just not when it comes to GMOs.

Political Ignorance

39% of Americans either think low GDP is better than high GDP or have no clue altogether.

The majority of Americans can’t name the three branches of government.

Only 12.7% of Americans can name a living, breathing economist. 55.9% can’t name a living economist, but think their opinions about economic policy are well-informed.

The richest 1% of Americans own 39% of the country’s wealth. Everyone overestimates the amount. If you’re a Democrat, you think it is 75 percent. If you’re a Republican, you think it’s 50 percent. Perhaps surprisingly, the more educated you are, the more likely you are to overestimate the amount.

Nearly half of Americans do not believe the U.S. has interfered with foreign democratic elections. You’re less likely to believe it if you’re Republican.

Other Stuff

Those who think “sex without love” is okay are far more likely to be pro-choice.

If you rely on “common sense” instead of empirical evidence, you’re likely older, less educated, and lack a Twitter account. You also are more likely support military action against Russia for their 2016 election interference. 

29% of Trump supporters would still stick with him in 2020 even if he murdered journalist for spreading lies.

Do Bumps in the Minimum Wage Increase the Number of Job Seekers?

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Some argue that increasing the minimum wage will increase the number of job seekers and, consequently, employment. From a new NBER paper:

Do minimum wage increases affect search effort by job seekers?

…We investigate the effect of minimum wage increases on job search effort utilizing data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). We exploit the staggered nature of CPS and ATUS interviews and use an event-study approach, leveraging within-state variation in the adoption of minimum wage changes. We account for shocks affecting a particular state in a given year as well as month effects to control for seasonality, and individual demographic characteristics. Intuitively, we compare the outcomes in each month near the treatment date to the outcomes for otherwise-identical individuals in the same state and year whose survey period was not near a treatment date.

We find no evidence that the minimum wage has persistent effects on search effort; the likelihood of searching does not increase in the aftermath of minimum wage increases. However, there is a large yet transitory increase in the intensive margin of search effort, concentrated
in the month of the minimum wage increase, that fades almost immediately. There is no short-run increase in the employment rate nor changes in observable characteristics of searchers, suggesting that our results are not driven by changes in the composition of job seekers. These findings are robust to the inclusion of demographic controls, the duration of unemployment benefits, and month-by-year fixed effects that account for any idiosyncratic national-level variation in a given month. We also conduct a permutation test for our search duration results in which we randomly assign minimum wage increases across time periods and show that these results do not appear to be due to chance.

Our results call into question the assumption underpinning search-and-matching models as applied to analysis of the minimum wage – namely, that more workers will enter the labor market and each worker will search harder, increasing the returns to firm vacancy postings. Importantly, we find minimum wage increases do not induce individuals to begin searching. While we find that minimum wage increases yield significant increases in worker search effort on the intensive margin, they are transitory (pg. 2-3).

 

What Kind of Immigration Fuels Nationalism?

From a recent NBER Digest:

In Skill of Immigrants and Vote of the Natives: Immigration and Nationalism in European Elections 2007-16 (NBER Working Paper No. 25077), Simone Moriconi, Giovanni Peri, and Riccardo Turati explore the relationship between immigration and European elections. They develop an index of “nationalistic” attitudes of political parties to measure the shift in preferences among voters when confronted with influxes of skilled and unskilled immigrants. They find that larger inflows of highly educated immigrants dampen nationalistic sentiments, while larger inflows of less-educated immigrants heighten them. Their results imply that a more balanced inflow of high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants could attenuate voters’ nationalistic attitudes.

...The new study tracks voter attitudes and behavior for all political parties and elections in 12 European countries for a decade. It relies on demographic and political data from the European Social Survey and a number of other sources. In addition, the researchers collected and classified the political manifestos of 126 parties for 28 elections, focusing in particular on how frequently these materials mentioned nationalistic subjects, the European Union, and other indicators of where parties stood on the political spectrum.

The researchers found “that highly educated native voters are less nationalistic in their attitudes towards immigrants than less-educated natives. The data also show strong nationalistic sentiments in regional pockets in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Demark, Sweden, Norway and, especially, Italy.”

The results suggest that a 1 percent increase in the share of a country’s population who are immigrants in highly educated, highly skilled groups was associated with a 0.1 standard deviation voting change away from nationalism. An increase of comparable size in the number of less-educated and lower-skilled immigrants led to a 0.12 standard deviation voting change towards nationalism. The same patterns emerged when the researchers analyzed voter sentiment expressed in surveys. In this case, a 1 percent increase in high-skilled immigrants led to a 0.07 standard deviation decrease away from nationalism, while a 1 percent increase in lower-skilled immigrants lead to a 0.07 standard deviation increase in nationalism. The results were broadly similar regardless of whether the analysis focused on all immigrants or only on immigrants from non-EU nations.

Immigration is not only about ethnicity, but class as well.

What’s Behind Cuba’s Health Outcomes?

The above comes from Michael Moore’s Sicko. Cuba’s healthcare system is a common talking point among those of Moore’s persuasion. However, a recent study should give us pause regarding some of the overly positive claims about Cuba’s system. First, what people like Moore get right:

How is Cuba healthy while poor? Most attribute the fact to Cuba’s zero monetary cost health care system. There is some truth to that attribution. With 11.1% of GDP dedicated to health care and 0.8% of the population working as physicians, a substantial amount of resources is directed towards reducing infant mortality and increasing longevity. An economy with centralized economic planning by government like that of Cuba can force more resources into an industry than its population might desire in order to achieve improved outcomes in that industry at the expense of other goods and services the population might more highly desire (pg. 755).

However,

Centralized planning has disadvantages. Physicians are given health outcome targets to meet or face penalties. This provides incentives to manipulate data. Take Cuba’s much praised infant mortality rate for example. In most countries, the ratio of the numbers of neonatal deaths and late fetal deaths stay within a certain range of each other as they have many common causes and determinants. One study found that that while the ratio of late fetal deaths to early neonatal deaths in countries with available data stood between 1.04 and 3.03 (Gonzalez, 2015)—a ratio which is representative of Latin American countries as well (Gonzalez and Gilleskie, 2017). Cuba, with a ratio of 6, was a clear outlier. This skewed ratio is evidence that physicians likely reclassified early neonatal deaths as late fetal deaths, thus deflating the infant mortality statistics and propping up life expectancy. Cuban doctors were re-categorizing neonatal deaths as late fetal deaths in order for doctors to meet government targets for infant mortality.

Using the ratios found for other countries, corrections were proposed to the statistics published by the Cuban government: instead of 5.79 per 1000 births, the rate stands between 7.45 and 11.16 per 1000 births. Recalculating life expectancy at birth to account for these corrections (using WHO life tables and assuming that they are accurate depictions of reality), the life expectancy at birth of men by between 0.22 and 0.55 years (Gonzalez, 2015) (pg. 755).

But that’s not the only thing driving low infant mortality rates:

Coercing or pressuring patients into having abortions artificially improve infant mortality by preventing marginally riskier births from occurring help doctors meet their centrally fixed targets. At 72.8 abortions per 100 births, Cuba has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. If only 5% of the abortions are actually pressured abortions meant to keep health statistics up, life expectancy at birth must be lowered by a sizeable amount. If we combine the misreporting of late fetal deaths and pressured abortions, life expectancy would drop by between 1.46 and 1.79 years for men. In Figure 1 below, we show that that with this adjustment alone, instead of being first in the ranking of life expectancy at birth for men in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba falls either to the third or fourth place depending on the range (pg. 755-756).

The researchers explain, “Other repressive policies, unrelated to health care, contribute to Cuba’s health outcomes” (pg. 756) These include:

  • Restrictions in car ownership leading to low automobile fatalities.
  • Rationing combined with physically demanding transportation (e.g., cycling) contributing to reductions in obesity and deaths caused by diabetes, coronary heart diseases and strokes.

The researchers conclude,

Cuban mortality and longevity statistics appear impressive. They are a result of some combination of the government’s choice to allocate more resources into the health care industry (at the expense of other industries that could produce needed goods) and from coercive measures through both health delivery and economic planning that improve health statistics at the expense of other spheres of life.

Although the USA and other countries re-examine how to design health care delivery they should not uncritically accept the myth that the Cuban health care system has been the sole, or even the most important, cause of Cuba’s abnormally high longevity statistics. The role of Cuban economic and political oppression in coercing ‘good’ health outcomes merits further study (pg. 756).