What’s in a name?

The paper we discussed yesterday had 3 authors. The last listed author’s name is Yanos Zylberberg. That poor dude never gets his name listed first I bet.

In the same issue of the AEJ: Applied is another cool paper. This one is by Jon Zinman and Eric Zitzewitz.

Tyler and I wrote a Grantland piece that discussed this paper years ago, in which we noted the absolute joy that Mr. Zinman must have felt upon establishing a working relationship with Mr. Zitzewitz.

Finally he didn’t have to go last.

When I was a professor at George Mason, we had a grad student named Zenon Xavier Zygmont, who as Bob Tollison loved to point out probably was in the back of every line he stood in throughout his childhood.

OK kids, line up alphabetically by first/last/middle names. Made no difference to Zenon.



May the Force be with you!

I have a forthcoming paper (with Dan Hicks and Weici Yuan) that has a running head of “Peacocks in Porsches”. I once tried to publish a paper called “How Dead is the Solow Model” (the abstract was two words: “Stone dead”).

So you can imagine how impressed I was to see a piece in the new AEJ: Applied called “Star Wars: The Empirics Strike Back”.

An ungated version of the paper is available here.

Star Wars in this context refers to the barbaric practice of putting “stars” beside coefficients in regression tables that are significant. The lower the p-value, the greater the number of stars.

The authors investigate the distribution of p-values across tens of thousands of coefficients in published economics articles and find,

“The distribution of p-values exhibits a camel shape with abundant p-values above 0.25, a valley between 0.25 and 0.10 and a bump slightly below 0.05. The missing tests (with p-values between 0.25 and 0.10) can be retrieved just after the 0.05 threshold”

In other words, if your p-value is worse than .25, most researchers will not try to “rescue” their test. But if you get close to the holy grail of at least marginal significance, it appears that many researchers will not report that test and work to find a specification that pushes the test into “significance”.

It’s all about them stars.



MIE: ’cause you can’t bribe a camera edition

When Robin and I lived in Mexico City, dealing with cops basically just meant giving them money. Now in the new Mexico they have traffic cameras (just like Fairfax VA and Norman OK), and I guess they are harder to bribe as a company is selling “Phantom Plate”, a spray they claim causes cameras to not get a clean foto de tus placas.

The mayor of Chilangolandia, Miggy Angel is both threatening consequences for users of the product and claiming that the product doesn’t work. At least some things don’t ever change.

People, how great is it that traffic cameras in the D.F are called “fotomultas”? Mexican Spanish is just the best.

Orale, pues.

hat tip to @rafafc91


Out of the frying pan and into…Denmark

VOX has an article today detailing Denmark’s repulsive plan about how to deal with refugees.  The proposal is to allow authorities to “seize jewelry and other personal valuables from refugees.” It’s almost cliche these days to compare some policy or policymaker to Hitler or fascism, but sadly there are some really valid points of comparison in this new Danish proposal.

In the name of funding refugee support, the proposed plan would allow authorities to seize any assets worth more than $440.  On the other hand, “Foreigners will always be able to keep assets which are necessary to maintain a modest standard of living, e.g. watches and mobile phones.”  Wow, how considerate of them.  As for the refugees currently in Denmark, they shouldn’t get too comfortable.  The proposal notes that they are fair game too.

In case you weren’t terrified enough, Mia Tang, a spokesperson for the Danish Ministry of Immigration, Integration, and Housing, noted that “Assets which have a certain personal, sentimental value to a foreigner will not, as a main rule, be seized unless they have considerable value.”  Unless they have considerable value!! Holy crap people.  I’m speechless about the rapaciousness and cruelty of this plan.

One MP made the obvious point that “the idea of seizing wedding rings ‘awakens terrifying historical images.'”  Indeed–you wouldn’t think Danes would need a reminder of this, given that the Nazis occupied the country for 5 years during WWII and regularly seized assets from Jewish Danes!

For the poor refugees, the good news is that they made it out of Syria and into Europe.  The bad news is that they landed in Denmark.  Into the frying pan indeed!


Setting the bar low, Ecuador edition

Ecuador is a serial defaulter on its debts.  In 183 years, the country has never managed to pay back any of its bonds on time. Until now that is!

Ecuadorean President Correa actually took to the twitter-verse to crow about the repayment.  Seriously!  I guess when you set the bar low enough, even a small accomplishment seems huge.  As a side note, who are these crazily optimistic bondholders?  I understand lending Ecuador money the first time.  But how about the thousands of times since?  Is there no learning curve?

Bondholders couldn’t have been too confident about repayment as the same President railed against international financial markets in 2008, saying the external debt was “‘illegitimate’, its bondholders ‘real monsters.’”  Ecuador eventually defaulted on  $3.2bn of global bonds (duh, of course they did) and later bought back its debt on the secondary market for “35 cents on the dollar.”

I’m guessing this is just a blip in an otherwise perfect track record and Ecuador will be back to its defaulting ways soon.



The Devil don’t wear Prada: Turkish Embargo Edition

Some things are just too good. Like this story (I pray that it’s true)

One Russian entrepreneur’s quest to make and sell anti-Turkey tee shirts has been thwarted by…..

Russia not allowing trucks coming from Turkey with her fabric to enter the country!!

“If these trucks finally arrive with Turkish fabric, we will definitely release a collection of anti-Turkish-themed clothing,” Dobryakova was quoted as saying. “The trucks are stuck. Our suppliers are panicking because the vehicles aren’t being allowed to cross the border.” 

So the wily Turks have managed to shoot down a Russian plane AND not have to have a line of anti-Turkish tees being paraded around?

Where I come from that is called a win-win situation.

“A” does not equal “A”

In a nice Orwellian move, China’s top censor has denied the fact that there is censorship in China!  To wit, he stated that “China does not censor but ‘manages’ internet content.”

He goes on to helpfully clarify that “the Chinese government blocks some foreign websites because it ‘has the right to choose friends.'”  So…censorship then!  Indeed in Freedom House’s ranking of countries by internet freedom, China comes in dead last at #65.  All that “management” is taking a toll.


Language & Human Capital

One of my favorite former students, Priscilla Gomes, is now working as a technical adviser to PASEC in Senegal.  PASEC stands for Programme for the Analysis of Education Systems and, amongst other things, it has just published an assessment of primary education in 10 Francophone Sub-Saharan Countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad,Congo,Côte d’Ivoire,Niger,Senegal andTogo).  It was quite an undertaking, involving about 40,000 students and almost 2,000 schools.

Here is an executive summary of what they found, entitled “Education System Performance in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa:  Competencies and Learning factors in primary education.”  The summary is worth checking out in full because the results are really interesting.  What most caught my eye though was some good news about a country that has seen very little good news of late:  Burundi.

Overall, the study found that “70% of early primary pupils are below the “suficient” threshold in language” in these 10 countries.  Burundi stands out in two ways:

  1. “the language of the test, which is also the language of instruction (Kirundi) is familiar to pupils, and
  2. almost eight in ten pupils achieve the “suficient” threshold in language, and seven in ten pupils achieve the mathematics threshold.

The results also show that student results in language and math are highly correlated.  That is, “whatever the country, pupils and schools that are successful in language achieve high scores in mathematics, and vice-versa.”

I have always found the language of instruction to be an interesting issue in human capital formation.  One of my earliest articles studied differences in economic development across British and French former colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa.  I found that ex-British colonies tended to have higher levels of education and hypothesized that it might be because British colonial policy was to train native educators to teach in the local vernacular.


The worst campaign slogan ever

But what do I know?  It actually worked.  Recently elected Tanzanian President John Magufuli ran on a campaign of frugality and hard work.  Incredibly, his slogan was “Work and Nothing Else.”  That sounds eerily reminiscent of General Park in South Korea, who didn’t have to worry about being elected with such a slogan.

I guess the citizenry is so fed up with the corruption of higher officials that they are willing to vote in someone who promises thriftiness and a new perspective on what it means to be a civil servant.  Twitter has had a field day with this perspective though and the results are hilarious.  The hashtag is #WhatWouldMagufuliDo? and here are some of my favorites.

tanzania2tanzania1Screenshot 2015-12-03 08.12.23

h/t @JustinSandefur