A few months ago, I was going back and forth on pricing Living with Water Scarcity, i.e., finding a balance between cheap (more sales) and expensive (more revenue). That debate was complicated by the (real or imaged) ideas that higher prices mean more value or a greater obligation to read for some people at the same time as non-zero prices create a barrier for people who lack credit cards, doubt the book's value, or have plenty of "free" stuff to read.
I've been thinking over these issues over the past few months, and I've decided to lower the PDF price from $5 to free because revenues to me are not as important as getting this book into people's hands and its ideas into their heads.
I hope that people who download the book will read it, recommend it to others, and review it on Amazon, their blogs, facebook, and other websites. More important, I hope that my book helps readers and leaders engage in fruitful debates that improve water policies in their communities
Tar Heels in search of the easy A, beware. Starting this fall, UNC-Chapel Hill transcripts will provide a little truth in grading.
From now on, transcripts for university graduates will contain a healthy dose of context.
Next to a student’s grade, the record will include the median grade of classmates, the percentile range and the number of students in the class section. Another new measure, alongside the grade point average, is the schedule point average. A snapshot average grade for a student’s mix of courses, the SPA is akin to a sports team’s strength of schedule.
The nuanced transcripts will provide more information for graduate schools and employers, who should be better able to judge the difference between good and excellent performance. An A- in psychology might not look so swell when the average grade in the class is an A. On the other hand, an A- in physics looks downright impressive if the class average is a C+.
The new contextual transcript is the university’s response to grade inflation – the long-term trend of rising grades that began in the 1960s and accelerated in the 1980s. ...
Andrew Perrin, a sociology professor at UNC-CH, said the [grade inflation] system provides a perverse incentive for students to seek courses not because of intellectual interests or career aspirations, but to pad their GPAs. Popular sites such as Rate My Professors include a measure of “easiness” for each faculty member.
Anything less than an A is unacceptable for some students.
“Elite universities, both elite state universities like ours or elite private universities, face a particular challenge, which is that everybody here is used to being the best,” Perrin said. “And in many cases, they’re used to complaining if they’re not the best.”
At elite regional comprehensive state universities or elite community colleges, professors face a particular challenge, which is that not everybody here is used to being the best and they don't complain if they're not the best. They especially don't complain if you explain to them that this is a college course and not everyone is going to get an A.
... a host of researchers, spurred by the rising cost of telephone polls and plummeting participation rates, are pushing to use a new generation of online-only surveys for their research. This work, which relies on subjects volunteering to be polled, carries great promise of allowing researchers to expand experiments beyond the usual suspects. But it also carries perils. ...
"Right now we don't know if the methods they employ are, or are not, going to have a catastrophic failure," says Robert Santos, chief methodologist at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.
"The vast majority of social scientists would say these volunteer polls have no reason to be right," says Robert M. Groves, provost of Georgetown University and a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau. "They have no theory behind them at all."
Such arguments nag at Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University. "There's a reason why people aren't sticking with the old stuff," he says. Every survey now requires massaging data to account for low response rates; the ideal poll no longer exists. Researchers need new methods, he says. "Traditional polls are not so wonderful."
This simmering debate popped into public view this month, when the American Association for Public Opinion Research, the discipline's professional body, sent a letter to The New York Times warning against its recent use of online surveys. The letter was broadly written and seemed to indict the whole discipline of online polls.
Members of the association's email list were soon in a furious internal debate, and Mr. Gelman prominentlycriticized the statement. The association's president, Michael W. Link, regrets some of the language chosen for the letter. It was meant as a caution to the public—especially news outlets—and not as a condemnation of the research, he says. "Maybe the statement could have been a little clearer."
However it was meant, the letter highlighted the curious state in which survey research finds itself. As Mr. Groves has written, if there were a war between our guts and our statistics, the quants have won. Data are the currency of business, government, science, even higher education. There has never been more interest in polling; following Nate Silver, the media have rowed toward data analysis. The truth, if it can be found, simply must be hidden among those numbers.
Yet at this moment of demand, polling is in crisis. The costs have spiraled out of control. The public is harder than ever to reach. Landlines are dwindling, and rare is the person who takes an unknown call on her cellphone. Robocalls and junk polls clog the air. We all want to know what the public thinks—but who has the time to talk?
There is lots of good stuff in the rest of the piece.
I've used data collected by, in order of how much the data costs, Knowledge Networks, Online Survey Solution and SurveyMonkey (who bought Zoomerang). I endorse the first two but won't use SurveyMonkey's panel again (at least for surveys with hypothetical questions, I've presented a telephone vs. mail vs. online panel paper at a couple of conferences that explains why). I'm involved in data collection using the ridiculously cheap Mechanical Turk this summer, but I haven't seen the results yet. I've also heard good things about Survey Sampling's panel.
And today, I'll be in the field supervising an in-person survey of people lined up waiting to get in to the High Country Beer Fest. We have a 5 question postcard survey to pass out where the main question is something like, if the ticket cost $X instead of $40 would you still have shown up today? And in about a week, we hope to survey those who bought their tickets online. I've done a bunch of these tourism event surveys and have always gotten a good response rate.
Not so long ago, eating at a vegetarian restaurant could be an ascetic experience even for vegetarians. But all those meat eaters have no idea what they’re missing when they walk past the Laughing Seed Cafe. It distills much that is distinctive about modern Asheville’s charms and quirks to a single place. After the restaurant opened in 1991, it helped lead Asheville’s downtown revival and now highlights a list of eateries that likely give the city the heaviest concentration of vegetarian restaurants per capita on the East Coast. Owners Joan and Joe Eckert also founded the attached Jack of the Wood pub, which brewed Green Man Ales. They sold the brewing business, but still pour its distinctive products in the restaurant and pub. The food has an international turn, with influences on standing menu items that include Vietnamese, Thai, Cuban, Indian, Pakistani, French, Mexican, Jewish, and ingredients assembled in imaginative, clever ways. 40 Wall St, Asheville. 828-252-3445. http://laughingseed.jackofthewood.com
With the start of the autumn 2014 semester, the university adds a new housing learning community focused on sustainability to its diverse living options for new and returning students. The university offers its students more than a dozen learning communities, which are comprised of groups of students who live together on a residence hall floor who have common majors, career aspirations or personal interests.
SUSTAINS (Students Understanding Sustainability and Taking Action to Improve Nature and Society) is targeted at undergraduates studying or interested in the environment and focuses on helping students to explore and engage with sustainability topics and investigate human interaction with environmental problems.
With a new school year approaching, this is a good time to update our review of the treatment of climate change in economics textbooks. As in our 2010 and 2012 reviews, some books hit the mark while others are wildly misleading. But we’re happy to say that there’s plenty of good news, especially at the top and the bottom of the grade distribution: the good books have gotten better (including the first-ever A+ grade!) and even the worst ones have made improvements (the lowest grade is now a D-, not a F!).
Some books, of course, suffered some backsliding. Out of 18 books reviewed, four still make the “Not Recommended” list, with the biggest loser being Gwartney, Stroup, Sobel, and Macpherson’s Economics: Private and Public Choice (15th ed.), hereby dubbed the recipient of the undesired 2014 Ruffin and Gregory Award for the Worst Treatment of Climate Change in an Economics Textbook (so named for a comically bad treatment of climate change in a textbook now thankfully out of print).
Without further ado, here is the full report, as well as our summary report card:
The course is for senior economics majors, MBAs and graduate students from other programs. My reading list includes BCA examples, overviews, technical stuff (in mostly non-technical language) and other stuff.
Am I missing anything?
Allen, Bryon P., and John B. Loomis. "The Decision to use Benefit Transfer or Conduct Original Valuation Research for Benefit-Cost and Policy Analysis," Contemporary Economic Policy 26, no. 1 (2008): 1-12.
Atkinson, Giles, and Susana Mourato. "Environmental cost-benefit analysis."Annual Review of Environment and Resources 33 (2008): 317-344.
Banzhaf, Spencer H. "Consumer surplus with apology: a historical perspective on nonmarket valuation and recreation demand." Annual Review of Resource Economics 2, no. 1 (2010): 183-207.
Barget, Eric, and Jean-Jacques Gouguet. "The total economic value of sporting events theory and practice." Journal of Sports Economics 8, no. 2 (2007): 165-182.
Blomquist, Glenn C. "Self-protection and averting behavior, values of statistical lives, and benefit cost analysis of environmental policy." Review of Economics of the Household 2, no. 1 (2004): 89-110.
Blomquist, Glenn C., Paul A. Coomes, Christopher Jepsen, Brandon C. Koford, and Kenneth R. Troske. "Estimating the social value of higher education: willingness to pay for community and technical colleges." Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis 5, no. 1 (2014): 3-41.
Cohen, Mark A., Roland T. Rust, Sara Steen, and Simon T. Tidd. "Willingness-to-pay for Crime Control Programs,” Criminology 42, no. 1 (2004): 89-110.
Farrow, Scott. "How (Not) to Lie with Benefit-Cost Analysis." The Economists’ Voice 10, no. 1 (2013): 45-50.
Graves, Philip E. "Benefit-Cost Analysis of Environmental Projects: A Plethora of Biases Understating Net Benefits." Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis 3, no. 3 (2012).
Griffiths, Charles, Heather Klemick, Matt Massey, Chris Moore, Steve Newbold, David Simpson, Patrick Walsh, and William Wheeler. "US Environmental Protection Agency valuation of surface water quality improvements." Review of Environmental Economics and Policy (2012): rer025.
Loomis, John B. "Incorporating distributional issues into benefit cost analysis: why, how, and two empirical examples using non-market valuation." Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis 2, no. 1 (2011).
Rhodes, Raymond J., John C. Whitehead, and T.I.J. Smith, A Benefit-Cost Analysis of a Red Drum Stocking Program, unpublished paper presented at the 2006 Southern Economic Association Meetings, Charleston, SC, November.
Richardson, Leslie, Tatjana Rosen, Kerry Gunther, and Chuck Schwartz. "The economics of roadside bear viewing." Journal of environmental management140 (2014): 102-110.
Robinson, Lisa A. "How US Government Agencies Value Mortality Risk Reductions." Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 1, no. 2 (2007): 283-299.
Rose, Adam, Keith Porter, Nicole Dash, Jawhar Bouabid, Charles Huyck, John Whitehead, Douglass Shaw et al. "Benefit-cost analysis of FEMA hazard mitigation grants." Natural Hazards Review 8, no. 4 (2007): 97-111. [see also: Congressional Budget Office, Potential Cost Savings from the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, September 28, 2007]
Sunstein, Cass R. "The Real World of Cost-Benefit Analysis: Thirty-Six Questions (and Almost as Many Answers)." Columbia Law Review (2014): 167-211.
Van Houtven, George, and Maureen L. Cropper. "When is a Life Too Costly to Save? The Evidence from US Environmental Regulations." Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 30, no. 3 (1996): 348-368.
Vitaliano, Donald F., “Repeal of Prohibition: A Benefit-Cost Analysis,” Contemporary Economic Policy (2014).
"This blog aims to look at more of the microeconomic ideas that can be used toward environmental ends. Bringing to bear a large quantity of external sources and articles, this blog presents a clear vision of what economic environmentalism can be."
Don't believe what they're saying
And allow me a quick moment to gush: ... The env-econ.net blog was more or less a lifeline in that period of my life, as it was one of the few ways I stayed plugged into the env. econ scene. -- Anonymous
... the Environmental Economics blog ... is now the default homepage on my browser (but then again, I guess I am a wonk -- a word I learned on the E.E. blog). That is a very nice service to the profession. -- Anonymous
"... I try and read the blog everyday and have pointed it out to other faculty who have their students read it for class. It is truly one of the best things in the blogosphere." -- Anonymous