Fun with Maps, Part Deux

I put up a blog post a couple of weeks ago called Fun with Maps. In it I showed some very cool maps that give the viewer a great idea of where migration takes place.  I remarked at the end of the post that it would be nice to have these maps from a per-capita perspective instead of just the level of migration.

I’m now really glad I added that last sentence because I received an email the next day from Casey Cupps, a software developer who has started working on his GIS skills. Here are the incredible maps of outbound and inbound per-capita migration rates that he put together for Cherokee Gothic. Please click on the images for a much better view:




A huge thanks to Casey for all of the work he did.  If you are interested in talking to (or better yet, hiring) this talented man, here is his twitter address:

Narcotraficantes and economic growth in Mexico

I just came across a new working paper entitled “Crime and growth convergence : evidence from Mexico” by the awesomely named Ted Enamorado and his co-authors Luis Lopez-Calva and Carlos Rodriguez-Castelan.  They study crime in Mexico and test whether different types of crime affect economic growth differently.  Here is what they find:

Scholars have often argued that crime deters growth, but the empirical literature assessing such effect is scarce. By exploiting cross-municipality income and crime data for Mexico — a country that experienced a high increase in crime rates over the past decade — this study circumvents two of the most common problems faced by researchers in this area. These are: (i) the lack of a homogenous, consistently comparable measure of crime and (ii) the small sample problem in the estimation. Combining income data from poverty maps, administrative records on crime and violence, and public expenditures data at the municipal level for Mexico (2005-2010), the analysis finds evidence indicating that drug-related crimes indeed deter growth. It also finds no evidence of a negative effect on growth from crimes unrelated to drug trafficking.

h/t @mclem

Move over Evita

I’m all in favor of more female participation in politics, but I prefer if it comes in the form of official participation.  The Miami Herald had an article about the concentration of power in Nicaragua behind Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo.  The photo below gives you an idea of why people bring up “flower child” when discussing her.  Apparently looks can be deceiving though.  After her daughter accused Ortega of molesting her as a child, Murillo sided with him, calling her daughter “mentally unstable” and an “enemy of the state.”  It’s rumored that she runs much of the government now, and that this was the quid-pro-quo of turning against her daughter.


So why do people say she has so much influence?  Here are some details:

1. “She presides over Cabinet meetings and makes most of the government’s public pronouncements.”

2. “Nearly every weekday, she speaks soothingly on state television, explaining public projects, discussing weather, touting the achievements of her husband’s political party, the Sandinista Front, and even showing her esoteric side, encouraging Nicaraguans to embrace “Mother Earth” and to act kindly to one another.”

3. Call any government official or any Sandinista Front deputy in the National Assembly, and he or she is unlikely to speak without Murillo’s OK.”

4. “She doesn’t let any Cabinet member talk. If there is a health problem, it is not the health minister who speaks. It is her,” said Oscar-Rene Vargas, a Swiss-trained sociologist who was a supporter of the Sandinista Front when it took power for the first time in 1979.”

5. “Her current list of titles starts with government spokeswoman. But she’s also Cabinet chief on all social issues and presides over the Councils of Citizen Power, ubiquitous neighborhood groups that channel food aid and other assistance.”

The president of the Nicaraguan-American Chamber of Commerce, Diego Vargas Montealegre, summed up the situation by stating “There’s a lot of concentration of power, and this is not good.” Couldn’t agree more. 

Some speculate that she is plotting her political future for after Ortega passes.  The article notes that Ortega is “said to suffer from debilitating lupus or another illness that prevents him from going outside much during daylight hours.” (Vampire?)

It definitely sounds like she aims to give Evita a run for her money.

Maceo! Take me to the bridge.

If you are going to wait until now to get your first drawbridge, you definitely should make it something special.

So kudos to Chile for having their’s installed upside down! Or is it backward?

The Spanish firm who built the thing insists that it’s no big deal. What I think they mean is that it is good enough for Chile!

I crack up picturing them pushing the raise the drawbridge button only to have the moving parts descend into the water and crush the ship trying to get through.

hat tip to Greg Weeks


Sticks and stones?

Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald has an interesting article called “Miss Venezuela’s murder reveals culture of violence.”  In the last 15 years, Venezuela has become a very dangerous place to live.  Its homicide rate has gone up by 400%, from “19 per 100,000 people to 79 per 100,000, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a non-government group that tracks violent crimes.”

While news of homicides are nothing new in the country, the recent murder of former Miss Venezuela Mónica Spear has rocked the country to the extent that President Maduro has reached out to longtime opponent Henrique Capriles to look for solutions.  Ms. Spear, who became a beloved actress as well, was shot and killed with her ex-husband in front of their 5 year old daughter while vacationing in Venezuela (Kevin and I actually went to Venezuela on our honeymoon but I wouldn’t consider it nowadays).  I personally was shocked by the news as I had enjoyed watching Ms. Spear in a couple of Venezuelan telenovelas, which I watch to practice my Spanish.  She seemed to have had a spunk, intelligence and a feistiness that is often lacking in telenovela stars.

Interestingly, instead of blaming the increasing violence on video games or movies, Oppenheimer instead points the finger at the government itself, accusing it of using “rhetoric that glorifies violence.”  Obviously the evidence is only anecdotal but he makes a thoughtful case.

So how has the government contributed to this surge in violence?

a. Chávez himself in 2007 took his oath of office proclaiming “Fatherland, Socialism or Death!” In his speeches, he turned former coup plotters and guerrillas into “martyrs,” promoted the creation of paramilitary “people’s militias,” and urged the people to support him in a “war” against “the fascist oligarchy.”


b. “In Venezuela’s official rhetoric, government supporters are not sympathizers, but “combatants.” Merchants are not business people, but members of the “parasite bourgeoisie.” Political adversaries are not opponents, but “scum” and “enemies of the fatherland.”

c. “In November, Maduro called for the ‘’occupation’’ of department stores that were allegedly failing to comply with government price controls. When thousands of looters ransacked department stores, even the military were seen loading their motorcycles with television plasmas”

d. “Chávez installed the idea in society that stealing is not necessarily bad, and that criminals are not necessarily bad people, because they are victims of the capitalist system. That has contributed to the current epidemic of robberies and murders,” according to Alfredo Romero, head of the Caracas-based Foro Penal Venezolano, a non-government anti-crime group.

Oppenheimer hopes that Ms. Spears’ death may cause the government to tone down its rhetoric. Whether that directly affects crime rates or not, it would certainly be a good thing.


Experiences >>Objects

The “new” (as LeBron has it) David Brooks is on to something here:

A basic rule of happiness is don’t buy things; buy experiences. The market has taken one commodity product after another and turned it into an emotional experience — even hotel stays. I don’t know how you measure how much better off we are because of that, but we are significantly better off.

Before Tyler and I got Magic Johnson’ed by Bill Simmons, we wrote about the pleasures and pitfalls of buying sports experiences in Grantland.

My 20th wedding anniversary is approaching and we are planning a trip to Botswana and Namibia, or else a cruise to Antarctica. No china pottery sets or platinum nose rings.

If at first you don’t succeed, try slander?

Jeff Sachs had a bad year. There was the retraction of the Lancet paper about how the MV project had produced extra-ordinary results and there was Nina Munk’s devastating book
Sadly, to start the new year off, Jeff has taken to twitter to slander his long-time nemisis, Bill Easterly:

Jeffrey D. SachsVerified account@JeffDSachs

@samloewenberg And the process should include Easterly acknowledging the success of many aid programs he opposed, e.g. malaria control.

  1. To @JeffDSachs please allow me to clarify that I have always been opposed to malaria

  2. @bill_easterly You opposed the aid & policies that cut malaria deaths of African children <5 by half, then claimed that MY approach failed.

  3. @GrantBrooke It would be funny if he hadn’t fought so hard against the aid and policies that have controlled malaria.

  5. @JeffDSachs @bill_easterly This claim is false. 1) Easterly has staunchly supported health aid. 2) You have no evidence that aid halved U5R.

Buy local, even if it’s crap

This article, entitled “Shoppers urged to buy shit British vegetables instead,” made my morning.  It’s short but it’s genius at getting at the ridiculousness of government demands to buy local.  If local goods were attractive, priced right, and in demand, then they wouldn’t need government laws to make people buy them.  But I guess that’s the point.

Here are some of my favorite lines from the article:

The government is calling on shoppers to source more of their pointless, dreadful food from British farmers. Environment secretary Owen Patterson said there was no need for Britain to import 40% of its fruit and vegetables when there was plenty of tasteless, watery rubbish being mass-produced on your doorstep.

“There are some very nice people in this country producing tomatoes in the sort of climate that does not produce good tomatoes. Help them.”

h/t Lee Crawfurd, who goes by the most excellent twitter handle of @rovingbandit

Is this the worst anti-poverty “experiment” ever?

Oh boy, somebody forgot to read their RCT bible.

Yes I’m talking to you, Anisha Shankar.

 Anisha’s project was to, “create a more healthy laddoo for 350 local, impoverished kids. Some 45,000 children in the Indian state of Maharashtra, where Pune is located, die of malnutrition each year, and 50% of the kids in Shankar’s first pilot qualified as severely malnourished.”

OK, so far so good I guess, but why is making a more healthy dessert a smart way to attack malnutrition?

Here’s Anisha’s reasoning:

“Poverty is one reason, but parents are also extremely busy,” says Shankar, who was commissioned by the social good nonprofit Design Impact and an Indian charity called the Deep Griha Society to conduct her work. “They don’t have time to prepare traditional meals, so children are given a few rupees to go and spend, which they will spend on candy and other high-energy foods that are basically not nutritious.”

OK, so the problem is parental inattention? Interesting. Would be nice to see some evidence on this, no?

Now to the experiment and the results:

After Shankar’s fellowship ended, parents bought into the pilot program at 15 rupees a week, or about $0.24, and Design Impact and the Deep Griha Society continued to monitor the heights and weights of 68 kids who ate the laddoos three times a week for six months. More than half of the children shifted from severely malnourished to moderately malnourished (based on height), and 42% shifted from severely malnourished to moderately malnourished (based on weight).

Oy vey.
So you give kids an unspecified number of these “super laddoos” repeatedly over a month and a half and they gain weight. No control group, no consideration that there might be another food intervention that could work as well or better. They didn’t even give some kids regular laddoos and others the “super laddoos” to see if Shankar’s “healthy” recipe added anything to the mix.
And this intervention is certainly not sustainable. No one is choosing the super laddoos, they are being given to the children. If the problem is parents giving the kids money and the kids buying inappropriate food, then force-feeding them super-laddoos is clearly not the answer.
I am not an Indian chef, but as far as I can tell, Shankar’s laddoos are traditional laddoos with less ghee and peanuts added in.

Fun with Maps









I’m teaching a Master’s level class for the first time this spring on Global Political Economy.  One of the sections we are going to cover is on immigration.  With all of Lant Pritchett and Michael Clemens’ great work on this topic, I actually have too much material for that section of the class.  I need to work to actually pare it down some.

Having said that, I do think I’ll add the following map to the syllabus.  It gives a very nice illustration of how big migration flows are across the world, much more so then just a bunch of numbers on their own. I’d like to have one in per-capita terms as well but this is a good start.


h/t Amazing_Maps