And, as always, Matt Kahn makes a timely suggestion:
In the past, I've done some writing on social capital and civic engagement. I just put the theory to the test by volunteering to serve on USC Econ's PHD Admissions Committee. USC Economics is world renown for its excellence in econometrics. With Antonio Bento, Dana Goldman, me and Arie Kapteyn now all at USC (and many other research active Price School faculty), a talented student can take his/her knowledge of econometrics and apply it to the economics of aging, health, the environment and cities. There are many exciting possibilities and permutations here. I strongly encourage serious students to apply. I'm especially interested in attracting students who are graduates from U.S undergraduate institutions. Please contact me if you have any questions.
For those of you who already have a Ph.D., perhaps it is time for you to do a refresher course to see if you are still at the frontier. It is sunny and 80 degrees today on November 18th 2015 in LA. Can you say the same thing about where you are now standing?
Yes, I'm definitely within the frontier. What could be a better challenge than applying to the PhD program in a top economics department and doing the whole g.d. thing all over again? Of course, I'll need to bone up on my maths. I stopped at integral calculus as an undergrad but it should be fun taking real analysis and whatnot from the folks in Walker Hall. After I get accepted I can only hope to get an assistantship that would allow me and my family to live in the sunny city of angels for 6+ years. But dang, I'm just so excited about thinking a dissertation topic that would apply my new world renown econometrics skills (I've always wanted to be able to write out my own likelihood function in "matlab" ... [is that what the kids call it?]) to some hedonic data!!! And then I could jump in the labor market and go for that R1 job that I've always dreamed about. But, I also have location preferences. I hear that the weather is always wonderful in southern CA.
Rather than read before I go to bed, I have taken to watching Netflix documentaries on the iPad. I thought this would lead to me falling asleep easier from the boredom of watching documentaries, but instead I find myself actually enjoying them leading to less sleep...and more questions.
Last night I watched Inequality for All, which is former U.S. labor secretary and now Berkeley professor Robert Reich's take on the causes and effects of growing income inequality in the U.S. I will admit that I was a skeptic going in knowing that Reich in a known socialist who wants to ride tax and spend policies to the Utopia of socialism. Beyond that, short people got no reason to live*.
Despite my misgivings, I gave Reich's documentary a go, knowing I'd fall asleep in the first 10 minutes. Two hours later, I found myself scratching my head and questioning my own conservative existence--or at least a little of what I thought before. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here, as I still have a lot of thinking to do, but I did want to show you a little of my initial 'research.'
One of Reich's basic premises in Inequality for All is that income inequality causes decreased economic growth. This is a less than veiled attack on trickle-down arguments. In short (HA! Get it? He's 4'11". Get it? Nevermind.)**, Reich argues that when income accumulates at the top of the income distribution, little reinvestment occurs as would be required for trickle-down arguments to work. Again, I'm not ready to fully question that basic premise, but rather a thought occurred to me: If Reich is right (as opposed to left?), then we should see a negative correlation between measures of income inequality and income growth. That is, as income becomes less equal, income growth should slow down. And that is something I can do 'blog-level research' on.
So here goes. If we look at the U.S. Gini coefficient (roughly: a measure of income inequality where 0 indicates a uniform distribution and a value of 1 indicates all wealth concentrated with 1 person), from 1980-2013, the simple correlation between the Gini coefficient and GDP growth is -0.06--negative but probably not significantly negative to support Reich's argument.
So there you have it--Reich is a short nitwit who knows nothing about economics or politics or economic policy and Berkeley should immediately move to fire him and put me in his place. After all, I'm really tall.
Just kidding. As any good blog researcher knows, in today's hard hitting journalistic era where not just any schmuck can post stuff on the internet with no evidence (pfft), it takes more than one correlation coefficient to prove a point. So I thought, well, if income inequality causes decreased growth it might take a few years for the effects of today's inequality to affect GDP growth rates. So I decided to look at the correlation between the Gini coefficient in year X and GDP growth in years X+1, X+2, X+3,...,X+10.
When I did that, an interesting pattern emerged. Take a look at the graph below: On the horizontal axis is the # of years in the future. On the vertical axis is the correlation between the U.S. Gini coefficient and GDP growth. For example, if we are looking at 2 years in the future, the data point represents the correlation between the Gini coefficient from 1980 to 2011 with the GDP growth from 1982 to 2013. If we are 5 years in the future we are looking at the correlation between the Gini from 1980 to 2008 with GDP growth from 1985-2013.
The pattern that emerged is intriguing enough to add to my list of things that make me go hmmmm***. As we look 1,2 and 3 years into the future, the correlation between income inequality and GDP growth becomes more and more negative. That effect seems to start to wear off beyond 3 years and by 10 years is back to the baseline level of very little correlation.
So what might this mean?
A) It could mean that if this holds up, Reich is right. If income inequality increases there seems there could be a negative and lagging impact on GDP growth. So, if income inequality increases over a period of time, the cumulative effect on decreased GDP growth could be large. Or,
B) It could mean I'm an idiot.
Either way, I'm intrigued. And I look forward to those more Macro than me to tell me whether A), B) or both are correct.
*Google Randy Newman if you think I'm being mean.
**For those who think my short jokes are insensitive, my wife barely tops out at 5'.
John managed earlier today to post an 842 word rant (don't make John angry, you wouldn't like him when he's angry) over the ridiculousness and arbitrariness of seemingly intelligent researchers choosing choice experiments over contingent valuation based on...well...the ridulous and arbitrary (and wrong) assumption that choice experiments somehow magically avoid the perceived woes of contingent valuation. I'm not sure I can put it any better than John did, and that's really not my point here. My point is that John managed to coherently rant for 842 words without citing or linking to this outstanding piece in the December 2013 issue of the journal Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy**.
Nothing to lose? I'm no attorney, but recording a conversation without permission might be illegal. But nevermind, like an idiot, Mark let the battery on his giant cell phone run down before he planted it. So, Mark is going to bluff an obnoxious, and potentially dangerous if you ask me, Big Oil Company lobbyist who is also somehow the "right hand man" for The Senator (isn't it against the rules for someone in Congress to employ a lobbyist?) with a taped conversation that isn't.
What could go wrong? In reverse order of importance:
Johnny Walker teases Mark Trail about the size of his cellphone.
Johnny Walker loses it and beats the heck out of Mark Trail.
The Senator is disgusted by Mark's shady tactics, introduces the Lost National Forest Development Aact and gets rich developing the heck out of Lost National Forest.
Johnny Walker steals Mark Trail's giant cell phone while he is tracking the wounded "old buck" Elk, breaks the antiquated security system is seconds, downloads Mark's embarrassing selfies and shuts Mark up forever.
Mark Trail goes to jail for illegally recording a private conversation.
I continue to obsess about the faulty logic and contrived exclamatory conversations in Mark Trail leading to duel collapses of my research agenda (and I'm using that word loosely) and teaching evaluations, a scolding from the upper administration of the university and a continuation of my public humiliation.
Maryland native Scott Van Pelt has a schtick every time he invites ESPN baseball analyst (and fellow Terrapin) Tim Kurkjian onto his radio show: he closes by saying something in Ballimerese and making Kurkjian burst out into furious, high-pitched laughter.
We've compiled these moments into one supercut, which you can play above. We encourage you to go here, where ESPN has made each moment individually available, for more context. SVP's show is already one of the WWL's best products, & that they're willing to have fun with this stuff is worth everyone's appreciation.
I have no idea how to even begin to guess who is actually going to win, so the best I can do is to say that my favorite economists on the list are the following, not necessarily for particularly well-developed reasons:
Jerry Hausman – I took graduate econometrics with Jerry, and he actually focused on explaining the neat things that we could do with the math that we were learning. Also, he kept using “Manny Ortiz” as a sports example in class, and I still can’t figure out whether he was aware of what he was doing.
Richard Thaler – I’m kind of surprised that Thaler, one of the main behavioral guys, didn’t share the prize with Dan Kahneman in 2002, so I root for him each year.
Joshua Angrist – I am amused by any economist that both looks and sounds like Ben Stein. I also think his draft lottery papers are really interesting, since I can totally picture him being like “you know, it would really be nice if the government would randomize people into military and non-military conditions so that I could analyze the effect of military service on labor market outcomes” and then having a huge light bulb go off over his head.
In response to the overwhelming grassroots interest we've received we have in being nominated for a Nobel Prize in honor of our contribution to the promulgation of environmental economics in the blogosphere, I've done some research
(i.e. I Googled 'Nobel Prize in Economic Scence nomination'--I would've Google 'Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel' but I can never remember the real name...that will change when we win).
Here are the criteria for being a nominator:
The right to submit proposals for the award of a Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel shall, by statute, be enjoyed by:
Swedish and foreign members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences;
Members of the Prize Committee for the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel;
Persons who have been awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel;
Permanent professors in relevant subjects at the universities and colleges in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway;
Holders of corresponding chairs in at least six universities or colleges, selected for the relevant year by the Academy of Sciences with a view to ensuring the appropriate distribution between different countries and their seats of learning; and
Other scientists from whom the Academy may see fit to invite proposals.
Somewhere in my family tree is a two-time President of the Swiss Confederation: Robert Haab. That should count for something, right?
Oh, wait, Swiss=Switzerland.
Anyhow...still looking for that nominator.
Rise up env-econers! Grass doesn't grow without roots.
This is just our friendly (but late)
beginning-of-the-semester reminder/request to take advantage of the myriad
resources available at THE Environmental Economics blog (www.env-econ.net) in your economics and
environment economics classes or just for your own personal pleasure.
John (Whitehead) and I have been at this for over eight years now, and still
going strong. There’s so much information on the blog that it is
practically a textbook on its own; a really crappy textbook with little
organization and a bunch of irrelevant posts and stupid jokes, but hey, at
least you can search the site—on the right side, or look at posts by topic—on
the left side.
As always, feel free to give us feedback on how we can make the
site better, or more useful. We’ll probably ignore the feedback but
you’ll at least feel like you contributed to our success (it’s not like we make
a bunch of money off this).
Tim Haab and John Whitehead
In response, we got this:
An excellent resource for policy professionals, like me, too….
"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