Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oral Sex Laws

This poor kid. From the Volokh Conspiracy.

Ten Years in Prison for 17-Year-Old Who Had Consensual Oral Sex with 15-Year-Old: The Georgia Supreme Court just upheld this. The sentence strikes me as unduly harsh even on its own terms, but it seems especially unjustifiable given that:

1. The age of consent in Georgia is 16.

2. In 2006, the Georgia Legislature amended the statute to provide that oral sex between an under-18-year-old and a 13-to-15-year-old is only a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of a year in jail. This revised statute would have thus made the defendant's conduct a misdemeanor had he committed his crime after the statute's enactment, but the statute expressly provided that it wasn't retroactive.

3. Even at the time the act occurred, genital sex between an under-18-year-old and a 14-or-15-year-old was also a misdemeanor.

4. This defendant had no criminal record that would justify an especially long sentence.

Here's a brief opinion from presiding justice Carol W. Hunstein:

Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation based upon an act of oral sodomy performed on him by victim T.C., which was documented on videotape and seems to show that the victim's participation in the act was voluntary. Wilson was 17 years old at the time of the act; the victim was 15 years old. Pursuant to the version of the aggravated child molestation statute then in effect, Wilson was sentenced to ten years imprisonment without possibility of parole. See former OCGA § 16-6-4 (d) (1).

The sentence sounds mandated by state statute, and I don't think there's any Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause problem here. One can argue that the distinction between between genital sex and oral sex violates the Equal Protection Clause, but while this argument was accepted in a related context by the California Supreme Court, which held that the distinction lacked a rational basis, it was rejected by the Georgia Supreme Court in Odett v. State, 541 S.E.d 29 (2001), on the grounds that "General Assembly could reasonably conclude that the psychological well-being of minors is more damaged by acts of sodomy than by acts of intercourse" — not very plausible grounds, I think, but likely sufficient to pass the rational basis test (see also this related item from the California Appellate Report blog). The equal protection argument also seems to have been procedurally forfeited, because it wasn't raised until after the guilty verdict; and while the defendant might have argued that there's an equal protection violation in treating pre-2006 actors differently from post-2006 ones, that argument likely wouldn't work, either, and in any event likely wouldn't have been made.
But while the conviction is constitutionally permissible, it hardly seems like a just result. This is so even given that the sex here was public and videotaped and thus more likely to have been psychologically and emotionally injurious to the girl. Such uncharged and even not independently illegal aspects may be relevant in evaluating the overall moral fairness (though not legal validity) of the sentence, but they nonetheless don't seem sufficient to justify a 10-year-term here — especially when the same conduct would have been treated so much more lightly had it happened after the statute was changed, and had it involved genital sex (which tends to be more dangerous for the girl in various ways than oral sex).

Monday, December 18, 2006


The post entitled conspiracy against cuckolds, by Robin Hanson, reminded me I've wanted to look into the origin of the use of the term cuckold.

What is a cuckold?
A cuckold is a married man whose wife has sex with other men. In current usage it sometimes refers to non-married couples in committed relationships as well, although the traditional meaning is a man whose wife is adulterous.

There are connotations of helplessness and humiliation attributed to the word: implications that the husband lacks the strength to enforce the fidelity due to a man, and is too weak, too stupid, or henpecked to leave or divorce her. Although historically it was a term in general use, nowadays it is much more frequently associated with female domination, power exchange, sexual humiliation, erotic sexual denial or sexual fantasy based on those themes.

"Cuckold" is derived from the Old French for the Cuckoo bird, "Cocu" with the pejorative suffix -ald. The earliest written use of the Middle English derivation, “cokewold” occurs in 1250. The females of certain varieties of Cuckoo lay their eggs in other bird’s nests, freeing themselves from the need to nurture the eggs to hatching. In mediaeval Europe, the law, custom, and the church all defined married women as a category of property held by her husband. Although Christian marriage vows strictly enjoined sexual exclusivity in a marriage for both partners, custom and doctrine rarely enforced it on the husband. A married woman who was unfaithful to her vows made a “cuckoo” of the husband who unknowingly provided her, and potentially her illegitimate offspring, with shelter and protection as a tricked bird does to the cuckoo’s eggs.

I've been surprised at - what seems to me to be - the recent surge in cuckold porn. It seems to be pretty clear evidence disputing the myth that all porn objectifies and humiliates women doesn't it? Apparently some males fantasize about being humilitated.

Cuckolds apparently are paid about $100 per scene, whereas the male performing talent might make $500-600 for the scene.

There was this interesting discussion on Adultdvdtalk where some guy was contemplating being a cuckold in a film which offered to pay him $500. Most of the posters thought he was being conned into producing some solo footage for gay porn. You can read it here, though it is all text some ads may not be safe for work.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Last Minute Gift Ideas

For those last minute gifts for your favorite tech nerd, you might want to try this USB Pole dancer.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Girls Gone Wild

From the Pioneer Press:

'Girls Gone Wild' fined $1.6 million

The "Girls Gone Wild" video empire agreed to pay $1.6 million and its founder was sentenced to community service Wednesday for filming drunken, underage girls in the raunchy videos. The guilty pleas by Mantra Films Inc. and its multimillionaire founder, Joe Francis, stem from the company's use of two 17-year-olds in its DVDs and videos, which feature young women baring their breasts in public. The videos at issue were filmed in Panama City Beach, Fla., during spring break in 2003. U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak ordered Francis to read aloud in court a victim impact statement from one of the women, who said she was emotionally tormented by her appearance on a "Girls Gone Wild" video and that the video damaged her relationship with her family. Smoak told Francis he added the community service because it did not appear a fine would be a meaningful punishment. The fine represents less than 3 percent of Mantra's profits since 2002 and only 12 percent of Mantra's 2005 profits, Smoak said.

So profits, where about 13 million in 2005 and about 53 million from 2002 through 2005. Every article refers to profits, but I have to imagine its probably gross revenues?

Further investigation reveals I would be wrong. The LA Times reports it is a 40 million dollar a year business. With that kind of profit maybe congress should consider a windfall profits tax? I'm going to start the $9.99 a DVD is price gouging campaign, but where shall we picket?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Death Tax

Keith and I did another Sunday debate, this time on the estate tax. You'll find my piece here and Keith's here.

And here is my piece for posterity:

Estate tax fails to meet standards of a ‘good tax’
As I write this, I’m looking at a Web cam image of my parents on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. They are busy spending my inheritance on expensive trips like this one. My father, an accountant by training, tells me he is just trying to avoid the estate tax. A tax which I oppose on principle, even though my dad is making sure it will never affect me.

Afew confessions to make: In 2006 you won’t need to file an estate return unless your gross estate exceeds $2 million. Even then, you may not pay a tax if you qualify for certain deductions. Estimates are that only the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans will be subject to the estate tax, but that doesn’t mean the other 98 percent of Americans shouldn’t care.

Because, as economists are often wont to say, who pays the tax (as in from whom the tax is collected), is not necessarily the same as the person who pays (as in who is affected by) the tax. Not only are the heirs affected, but so is everyone else in our economy, through slower economic growth.

I am not arguing that we should not pay taxes. Rather I’m arguing that this particular tax does not meet the standards of a good tax. I know “good tax” sounds like an oxymoron, but a good tax is simple, easily understood, seldom changes, is neutral to different choices and promotes economic growth.The estate tax fails at least the last two principles since it treats saving and wealth accumulation differently depending on how much you have saved. It does not treat the savings over $2 million as it does the first $2 million. And in so doing it discourages economic growth by discouraging capital accumulation.

Let’s say I had another set of parents, a more austere couple, they eschew the globetrotting for a life of ramen noodles and coupon clipping so that they can provide me and my future family with a financial safety net. Why should the government impose a tax on them that they will not impose on my actual parents?Why would a fair tax system penalize someone for self-sacrificing behavior intended to make their children and grandchildren better off? Why are we penalizing those who live frugally and through their frugal behavior are laying the seeds of economic growth for the rest of us to enjoy? Not only should we not discourage that behavior, we should probably do more to encourage it.

As anybody who has noticed the rising amount of U.S. debt held by foreigners should realize, it is not occurring because typical Ameri-cans save too much, but because they are saving too little. So let’s not penalize people for saving more.

If it’s the deficit that worries you, find somewhere else to raise revenue or, better yet, cut spending. I offer the expenditures in Iraq as a starting place because I know Keith would agree with me on that one.

Keith argues that private wealth accumulation is due to our public institutions and markets and therefore should be taxed more heavily. Keith is confused. I’d like to point out that our system of progressive taxation will not be affected by eliminating the death tax, in fact it will be improved as there will be more incentive to accumulate wealth for your children rather than pass your current income on to them now when they are likely to be in a much lower tax bracket.

It’s not clear that the tax is very effective at raising revenue either. Wealthy Americans can afford to hire accountants, lawyers, and estate planners to figure out ways to avoid paying the estate tax. Even though this might be one of the nicer things lawyers do for people, it isn’t a very productive use of society’s resources. So, Keith, please join me in setting those lawyers free — and encouraging economic growth for all — by ending the estate tax.

Taggert J. Brooks teaches economics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Simple Crush

How can you not love a woman like Emily Oster? Her work is featured in Esquire here. To think, I actually had her lined up to present in a session I organized for the AEA, but the powers that be decided against the session. How could they turn us down?

And how is this not hot?

I consider a world where individuals live a maximum of two periods. All individuals live for certain in period 1, and there is a chance, p, of surviving until period 2. Each individual receives utility from certain income, y, in each period, as well as their choices of number of sexual partners in each period: sigma1 and sigma2. Total utility in period i is u(y, sigmai), and we will assume that u(.) is concave in both y and sigmai. In a world without HIV, total lifetime
utility can be written:

Utot = u(y, sigma1) + pu(y, sigma2) (1)

Income is fixed in each period so the only choices individuals make are about sexual behavior. The first order condition defining the choice of sigmai is usigmai(y, sigmai) = 0. Note that optimal choice of sigmai can vary with y, even in the framework without HIV. The direction of this relationship will depend on the sign of usigmay. If the cross partial is positive, richer people will have more sexual
partners; if it is negative, they will have fewer. For example, if sexual partners cost money, this will deliver a positive cross partial, which would imply that richer people have more partners.

How is that not hot? I mean, sex, partial derivatives and utility maximization. I defintely have a crush.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Quad S

Blogging a sex conference. The Quad S, stands for the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Their annual meeting was held in Vegas over the weekend. I was the only economist in attendance.

Wow. Interesting people, and quite the change of pace from my normal econ nerd conferences. These people had personality. Some rather quickly, but not much more than normal. Some of the differences I noticed:

Friends greet each other with a hug and a kiss, even straight male friends.

There are few straight males under the age of 40 here.

People are friendlier. I met more people in one conference than I've met in all of my Econ conferences in the last 10 years.

People research their interests. The hippies study polyamory, the gay guys study HIV transmission and masculinity among Brazilian men, and the lesbians study erotic plasticity in college females.

But I exaggerate. A little.

They rely primarily on bivarate analysis, some on ANOVA and MANOVA.

All of their samples are convenience samples, which they always acknowledge, but then calculate significance levels for anyway.

Some interesting things I heard this weekend:
Women have much more diverse interests than men, and are more likely to have had or like to have a same sex encounter or an encounter different than their usual preference.

Females are aroused while watching ANY erotica, while males are aroused when watching their preferred erotica. That's not to say there aren't some baseline increases in male response to erotica that does not fit their preference, but it is to say that when you match their preference there is a VERY large spike.

Gambling addiction is frequently found in people who have also had or have sexual addictions. They tap the same brain chemicals.

Some people can say masturbation, anal stimulation, cunnilingus, blow job in the span of 30seconds, and no one bats an eye, except the snickering economist. I felt like bevis..."ahh..ahh.ahh, she said masturbation."

The best book on sex: The Guide to Getting it On.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Weather as Instrumental Variable

The Freakonomics duo has an interesting column on the use of weather by empirical economists. It has been used as an instrumental variable in several cases. It is likely to be correlated with the included variable but uncorrelated with the error, or the excluded variable.

It was used in the autism study.

I'm thinking the weather might be a good instrument for some sex research. Under the assumption that bad weather leads to staying indoors, and more sex among married couples and cohabitants, but fewer matching opportunities for single people.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


From the ever useful New Economist:
Five facts about prices
Emi Nakamura and Jon Steinsson from
Harvard University present Five Facts About Prices: A Reevaluation of Menu Cost Models (PDF):

We establish five facts about prices in the U.S. economy:
1) The median duration of consumer prices when sales are excluded at the product level is 11months. The median duration of finished goods producer prices is 8.7 months.
2)Two-thirds of regular price changes are price increases.
3) The frequency of price increases responds strongly to inflation while the frequency of price decreases and the size of price increases and price decreases do not.
4) The frequency of price change is highly seasonal: It is highest in
the 1st quarter and lowest in the 4th quarter.
5) The hazard function of price changes for individual consumer and producer goods is downward sloping for the first few months and then flat (except for a large spike at 12 months in consumer services and all producer prices).

These facts are based on CPI microdata and a new comprehensive data set of microdata on producer prices that we construct from raw production files underlying the PPI. We show that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd facts are consistent with a benchmark menu-cost model, while the 4th and 5th facts are not.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Texas Twofor

Today is a Texas two for one. From the sexually repressed file we have the following:

But Ms. McGee, 51, a popular art teacher with 28 years in the classroom, is out of a job after leading her fifth-grade classes last April through the Dallas Museum of Art. One of her students saw nude art in the museum, and after the child’s parent complained, the teacher was suspended.

Although the tour had been approved by the principal, and the 89 students were accompanied by 4 other teachers, at least 12 parents and a museum docent, Ms. McGee said, she was called to the principal the next day and “bashed.”
She later received a memorandum in which the principal, Nancy Lawson, wrote: “During a study trip that you planned for fifth graders, students were exposed to nude statues and other nude art representations.” It cited additional complaints, which Ms. McGee has challenged.

The school board suspended her with pay on Sept. 22. In a newsletter e-mailed to parents this week, the principal and Rick Reedy, superintendent of the Frisco Independent School District, said that Ms. McGee had been denied transfer to another school in the district, that her annual contract would not be renewed and that a replacement had been interviewed.
And on a more serious note, we have the recent decision by the SCOTUS to take a pass on reviewing the Texas ban on selling sex toys. The court continues to confuse privacy issues and commercial ones. How does one have the right to own a sexual toy, but no one has the right to sell one to the public? I guess these "adult" stores need to become private clubs, to avoid running afoul of the law. But really, don't cops have something better to do in Texas?

Supreme Court turns down sex toys.

SEX -- A war on sex toys?

The Supreme Court is giving some sex toy shops a bad vibe.

On Monday the court refused to consider whether a Texas law prohibiting the sale, marketing or dissemination of an "obscene device" is unconstitutional. An "obscene device" is a "a device including a dildo or artificial vagina, designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs."

(enlarge photo)
Better call this a child's toy if it's in a Texas, Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia sex shop. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
A man who worked in an El Paso adult book store had sued the state after he was arrested for showing two undercover officers a penis-shaped device and telling the female officer it would give her an orgasm.

The law may sound archaic, but Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama have similar bans.

Alabama's has been circulating through the courts since its passage in 1998. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case last year, but it is back in lower courts. (The law is not being enforced because of a judge's injunction that was issued after adult store owners filed suit).

South Carolina discussed banning the sale of sex toys during its legislative session earlier this year. The bill never left committee, and the two-year session ended in June, so it is officially dead.



Of course, there are sex shops in those Southern states.

But most sellers refer to sex toys as novelties or health or therapeutic items. In Texas, medical and educational uses of the toys, such as demonstrating how to put on a condom, are exempt from the law.

Ignacio Sergio Acosta, a clerk at Trixx adult bookstore, didn't know to use that spin, says his attorney, Roger Jon Diamond.

"He was honest," says Diamond. "He told them what the purpose was. He didn't know by doing that he would be incriminating himself. He didn't know to say, 'Look you can use this as an art object. Put it on your mantle.'"

Acosta was arrested and spent 12 hours in jail. A lower court dismissed the criminal complaint against him, but an appeals court reinstated it, saying the Texas law does not infringe on private sexual behavior. After all, Texas law does not prohibit someone from owning a sex toy or using one.

But Diamond scoffs at that notion.

"You can't buy it. You cannot give it as a gift. If you bought a dildo for example in California, you could not give it to someone in Texas," he says. "So Texas is making it impractical to have one. If you can't acquire it. You can't use it. We're arguing for sexual privacy, which we claim is protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment."



Some Christians argue that using a sex toy is wrong. If someone is using a vibrator, that's basically masturbation, which goes against the Bible, says the Rev. Dave White, a minister with Harvest USA in Philadelphia.

"The Scripture makes it clear that sexuality is a relational thing," says White. "God designed for it to exist in a married relationship. The whole thrust of sex is that it is supposed to be a selfless service. You are not supposed to be focused on yourself. Obviously with masturbation, you are failing on both accounts."

Others say restricting the devices hurts personal freedom and relationships. Lisa Lawless, founder of holisticwisdom.com, an online sexual health store, believes sex toys enhance marriages.

"It's frustrating for people who want to feel free to explore their sexuality in a non-harmful way," says Lawless. "I think it's interesting that lots of states allow guns. Texas is fine with allowing the NRA to have a lot of leeway, but something as simple as a sex toy which brings someone pleasure and not pain is not allowed."

Lawless says the laws have also created this fear among people who sell sexual toys.

She mentioned Joanne Webb, the Texas housewife who was arrested for selling a vibrator at a private party to undercover officers who were posing as a married couple. Webb was a sales consultant for Passion Parties, a company that markets lotions and sexual toys at a private gathering similar to Tupperware parties. Her case was eventually dismissed.



You can't read too much into the Supreme Court's decision, says Roger Pilon, vice-president for legal affairs at the Cato Institute. He says the Supreme Court chooses around 80 cases, out of more than 9,000 petitions. A law banning sex toys is not that high on the radar screen.

"This is the kind of case that would generate a lot of prurient interest and a lot of laughter," he says. "But it isn't really central to the legal life of the nation. It involves the right of people to sell things that other people might not want sold, and therefore involves liberty more than privacy."

But Diamond disagrees.

He uses the case of Lawrence vs. Texas to make his argument. The case stemmed from two men who were arrested for having sex in their home, a violation of the Homosexual Conduct law. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that states do not have the right to ban consensual sex between adults in their own home.

"If the U.S. Supreme Court said it's OK for two persons of the same gender to have sex with each other," he asks, "what's wrong with one person having sex with himself?"

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Yeah, so Wisconsin has once again put itself on the international map. This time instead of Dahmer, or Ed Gein, we have this trio of morons:
Three Wisconsin men have been charged with attempted misdemeanor theft and third-degree sexual assault after attempting to steal a corpse from a cemetery to have sex with it, police said.

According to the Grant County criminal complaint, Cassville police were dispatched to the St. Charles Cemetery in Cassville, Wis. last Saturday at 11 p.m. on a report of an unoccupied, suspicious vehicle.

Officer Brent McDonald discovered Alexander Caleb Grunke, 20, near the vehicle, sweating and appearing to be nervous. Authorities then located the grave that Grunke told McDonald had been dug up by his brother Nicholas Owen and their friend Dustin Blake Radke, both also 20 years old. The grave had been dug up enough to expose the plaque on the vault below.

According to the complaint, Alexander Grunke admitted in a tape-recorded interview held on Sept. 3 that the three had driven to the Cassville cemetery to dig up the grave and remove the body, and that the three fled the scene when a vehicle entered the cemetery.

According to the complaint's account of a separate interview, Radke informed police that Nicholas Grunke had asked him to scout the Cassville cemetery earlier in the week to locate a specific grave.

Police said that Radke was then asked by Grunke to assist in digging up the gravesite, that Nick wanted to remove the body and bring it to a location behind his house, and that they stopped at a Wal-Mart in Dodgeville, Wis. to buy condoms for Nick to use while having sex with the corpse.

Sabbatical Roundup

I've applied for a sabbatical for next year. I want to research a book, and retool in order to do more research and teaching on the intersection of sex, health and porn economics. Here are a few articles from NBER that I might use, provided without commentary, but with pithy title:

Risky Teens:
The problems of teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and the high rates of other sexually transmitted diseases among youth have lead to widespread concern with the sexual behaviors of teenagers. Alcohol use is one of the most commonly cited correlates of risky sexual behavior. The purpose of this research is to investigate the causal role of alcohol in determining sexual activity and risky sexual behavior among teenagers and young adults. This research also addresses the question of whether there are public policies that can reduce the risky sexual behavior that results in harmful consequences. Individual and aggregate level data are used to investigate these questions. Results show that alcohol use appears to have no causal influence in determining whether or not a teenage has sex. However, alcohol use may lower contraception use among sexually active teens.
Catholic School Girls Gone Crazy:
Although there is a sizeable literature of the effect of private school attendance on academic student outcomes, there is a dearth of studies of the impact of school sector on non-academic outcomes. Using a rich data set, we analyze the impact of Catholic school attendance on the likelihood that teens use or sell drugs, commit property crime, have sex, join gangs, attempt suicide, and run away from home. Controlling for a host of personal and family background characteristics and adjusting for the endogeneity of sector choice, we cannot find evidence that Catholic schooling leads to a lower incidence of these risky behaviors among teenagers.

Finding A Wife In a the Middle of a Sausage Fest:

A combination of changing migration patterns and US immigration restrictions acted to shift the male-female balance in many ethnic groups in the early 20th Century. I use this variation to study the consequences of changing sex ratios for the children of immigrants. Immigrant sex ratios affected the second generation for a number of reasons, most importantly because immigrants and their children typically married in the same ethnic group. The results suggest that higher sex ratios, defined as the number of men per woman, had a large positive impact on the likelihood of female marriage. More surprisingly, second-generation male marriage rates were also an increasing function of immigrant sex ratios. The results also suggest that higher sex ratios raised male earnings and the incomes of parents with young children. The interpretation of these findings is complicated by changes in extended family structure associated with changing sex ratios. On balance, however, the results are consistent with theories where higher sex ratios increase male competition for women in the marriage market.
Big is Beautiful? But Fewer Bucks:

We investigate income, marital status, and hourly pay differentials by body mass (kg/m2) in a sample of 23 to 31 year olds drawn from the 1988 NLSY. Obese women have lower family incomes than women whose weight-for-height is in the 'recommended' range. Results for men are weaker and mixed. We find similar results when we compare same-sex siblings in order to control for family background (e.g., social class) differences. Differences in economic status by body mass for women increase markedly when we use an earlier weight measure or restrict the sample to persons who were single and childless when the early weight was reported. There is some evidence of labor market discrimination against obese women. However, differences in marriage probabilities and in spouse's earnings account for 50 to 95 percent of their lower economic status. There is no evidence that obese African American women suffer an economic penalty relative to other African American women.
Be Happy, Have Sex:
This paper studies the links between income, sexual behavior and reported happiness. It uses recent data on a random sample of 16,000 adult Americans. The paper finds that sexual activity enters strongly positively in happiness equations. Greater income does not buy more sex, nor more sexual partners. The typical American has sexual intercourse 2-3 times a month. Married people have more sex than those who are single, divorced, widowed or separated. Sexual activity appears to have greater effects on the happiness of highly educated people than those with low levels of education. The happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is calculated to be 1. Highly educated females tend to have fewer sexual partners. Homosexuality has no statistically significant effect on happiness. Our conclusions are based on pooled cross-section equations in which it is not possible to correct for the endogeneity of sexual activity. The statistical results should be treated cautiously.
Punish Gays with Marriage Monogamy and end HIV:
One of the conjectured benefits of establishing the legal recognition of samesex partnerships is that it would promote a culture of responsibility and commitment among homosexuals. A specific implication of this claim is that "gay marriage" will reduce the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STI). In this study, I present a simple 2-period model, which provides a framework for discussing the ways in which gay marriage might reduce (or increase) the prevalence of STI. Then, I present reduced-form empirical evidence on whether gay marriage has actually reduced STI rates. These evaluations are based on country-level panel data from Europe, where nations began introducing national recognition of same-sex partnerships in 1989. The results suggest that these gay-marriage laws led to statistically significant reductions in syphilis rates. However, these effects were smaller and statistically imprecise with respect to gonorrhea and HIV.>
Unintended Consequences:

Recent breakthroughs in the treatment of HIV have coincided with an increase in infection rates and an eventual slowing of reductions in HIV mortality. These trends may be causally related, if treatment improves the health and functional status of HIV+ individuals and allows them to engage in more sexual risk-taking. We examine this hypothesis empirically using access to health insurance as an instrument for treatment status. We find that treatment results in more sexual risk-taking by HIV+ adults, and possibly more of other risky behaviors like drug abuse. This relationship implies that breakthroughs in treating an incurable disease like HIV can increase precautionary behavior by the uninfected and thus reduce welfare. We also show that, in the presence of this effect, treatment and prevention are social complements for incurable diseases, even though they are substitutes for curable ones. Finally, there is less under-provision of treatment for an incurable disease than a curable one, because of the negative externalities associated with treating an incurable disease.

Abstinence Increases the Spread of HIV?
Under asymmetric information about sexual history, sexual activity creates externalities. Abstinence by those with few partners perversely increases the average probability of HIV infection in the pool of available partners. Since this increases prevalence among the high activity people who disproportionately influence the disease's future spread, it may increase long-run prevalence. Preliminary calculations using standard epidemiological models and survey data on sexual activity suggest that most people have few enough partners that further reductions would increase steady-state prevalence. To the extent the results prove robust, they suggest that public health messages will be more likely to reduce steady-state prevalence and create positive externalities if they stress condom use rather than abstinence.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Yuan Update

I just finished covering Exchange Rates in the principles class, so this round-up will make a nice suggestion for further reading.

Mark Thoma covers the recent renewal of Senators Schumer and Graham's call for a tariff against Chinese imports. Somehow they think taxing ourselves 27% will get the point across to the Chinese. What? They argue that the Chinese fixing their currency is a violation of free trade. So they feel we should then further sacrifice free trade? I thought an eye for an eye leave you both blind?

But Mankiw points out that fixed exchange rates are not inconsistent with free trade.

Here is a question for the Senators to ponder: How do New York and South Carolina manage to have free trade between them? There is no floating exchange rate to bring interstate trade flows into equilibrium. By using a common currency, the two states effectively have a fixed exchange rate, and somehow everything works out just fine. David Hume explained why.

And according to Menzie the prospect is for the dollar is that it will likely continue to depreciate, making a yuan devaluation vis a vis the dollar much more diffiuclt to engineer.

Keywords: Exchange Rates, ECO120

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Oktoberfest - Good For Wages

From Marginal Revolution:

...we conjecture that binge drinking conveys unobserved social skills that are rewarded by employers.

Here is the full and very carefully done paper. I've known for a while there is a correlation between drinking and wages, but only recently have I started thinking it might be more than a trick in the data. The effect disappears for women, once educational attainment is taken into account. So should you encourage your sons to drink, so as to learn rituals of social bonding, or is their binging simply a signal of sociability? I'll note, by the way, that I am a not very social person who also doesn't drink much, verging on not at all.

I think this is a prime example of how econometrics can help us understand complicated relationships. And there is no doubt that this matches some theoretical intuition you might have. Who make the best salesmen? I'm not being sexist here but this is really something you see only in males (as the data suggest). I think the best salesmen are the guys that were the life of the party, and they were ALWAYS partying. I'm not advocating anyone take up binge drinking, but I am pointing out the importance of developing the ability to socialize.

So, as Oktoberfest approaches we can all turn to building important job skills.

Update: Andrew Gelman offers a link to this Journal of Research article as well.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Unemployment Kills

Another reason to lower unemployment from the Journal of Health Economics:

In this note we test if unemployment has an effect on mortality using a large individual level data set of nearly 30,000 individuals in Sweden aged 20–64 years followed-up for 10–17 years. We follow individuals over time that are initially in the same health state, but differ with respect to whether they are employed or unemployed (controlling also for a number of individual characteristics that may affect the depreciation of health over time). Unemployment significantly increases the risk of being dead at the end of follow-up by nearly 50% (from 5.36 to 7.83%). In an analysis of cause-specific mortality, we find that unemployment significantly increases the risk of suicides and the risk of dying from “other diseases” (all diseases except cancer and cardiovascular), but has no significant effect on cancer mortality, cardiovascular mortality or deaths due to “other external causes” (motor vehicle accidents, accidents and homicides).

Keywords: ECO120, ECO301, ECO305

Monday, September 18, 2006

Matching Donors

Would you give your sibling your spare kidney? Would you give a perfect stranger your spare kidney? I would give my brother mine, but I would not give a stranger mine. The odds are that I'm probably not a good match for my brother, but I may be a good match with someone else. Someone who would be willing to give their sibling a kidney, but is likewise not a good match. Thus we have a matching problem. Well this website, matchingdonors.com, while not specifically designed to solve the problem I point out is designed to help match live donors with patients. Of course wouldn't this be easier if we were just able to sell them? Or at least allow them to be sold once we die?

Keywords: Organ Donation, ECO120

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Mayor Daley vetoed a living wage proposal tied to big box retailers. It is shocking that a democrat would veto this, but more shocking is that it is Daley's first use of his veto power in 17 years. Bravo man.

"I understand and share a desire to ensure that everyone who works in the city of Chicago earns a decent wage," Daley said in the letter. "But I do not believe that this ordinance, well intentioned as it may be, would achieve that end."Rather, I believe it would drive jobs and businesses from our city, penalizing neighborhoods that need additional economic activity the most," Daley said."In light of this, I believe it is my duty to veto this ordinance."

The measure would require that employees of retail stores with at least 90,000 square feet operated by companies with a minimum of $1 billion in annual sales be paid at least $10 an hour and receive $3 an hour in fringe benefits by 2010.

Keywords: Minimum Wage, ECO120

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Selection Bias

Selection Bias occurs when a sample is not random in some way that has important consequences for the inference you want to draw from your sample. Marginal Revolution points to another study which tries to identify which types of people self select out of experiments.
Students were significantly less likely to participate if peers nominated them as being higher on narcissism or non-assertiveness. Results suggest it may be more difficult to obtain sufficient numbers of people high in narcissistic traits than individuals with other personality traits.

And who is more likely to participate?
There was a significantly higher probability of participation if peers nominated someone as having more histrionic, obsessive–compulsive,self-sacrificing, and intrusive/needy characteristics.

Keywords: Selection Bias, ECO307

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Incentives and Oral Sex

While Marginal Revolution won't talk about Oral Sex, this blog will. Tim Harford has a great short piece in Slate on the much talked about increase in teenage oral sex. From the article:

The rest is basic economics. When the price of Coca-Cola rises, rational cola-lovers drink more Pepsi. When the price of penetrative sex rises, rational teenagers seek substitutes. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that even as the oral-sex epidemic rages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the percentage of teenage virgins has risen by more than 15 percent since the beginning of the 1990s. Those who are still having sex have switched to using birth-control methods that will also protect them from sexually transmitted infections. Use of the contraceptive pill is down by nearly a fifth, but use of condoms is up by more than a third. The oral-sex epidemic is a rational response to a rise in the price of the alternative.

Do you think this will raise the interest of an 18 year old undergrad in a principles class? Probably, too bad I can't send the link to my colleagues as a few of them are so uptight they might file a sexual harassment grievance against me. Its a shame really.

Keywords: Sex

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Funeral Strippers

By way of Marginal Revolution and a few others, it appears that China is cracking down on the hiring of funeral strippers. Yeah, you heard me, strippers at funerals. Seems the Chinese think the more people you have at your funeral the luckier the family will be. And one way to get more people at the funeral is to hire strippers to attract aa crowd and keep them entertained.

Keyword: strippers

Update: Preventing linkrot:

Exotic dancers banned from performing at funerals in China
By Clifford Coonan and Asian Sex Gazette staffAugust 26, 2006
A striptease show is not what most mourners would expect at a funeral. But the more people that come to a funeral in China, the better the deceased is likely to fare in the afterlife, which is why some families have taken to hiring exotic dancers to keep attendance figures high.Now Chinese officials are cracking down after the state broadcaster, CCTV, ran a report about two groups of strippers performing at a farmer's funeral in the eastern province of Jiangsu. The next day, police
arrested the organisers and five women for "obscene performances". Local
officials were told they must submit plans for funerals within 12 hours after a
villager dies. Exotic dancing is off the menu - and residents can report
"funeral misdeeds" on a special hotline for a reward of USD $ 35.

In China mourners wear white, not black, and funeral processions are led by men clashing cymbals and playing musical instruments. Other mourners set off firecrackers. The local people believe that the more people gathered at a funeral, the more luck it will bring to the family and offspring. So some families hire striptease troupes to attract more people, the report said. This stripping spectacle has reportedly had become one of the town's most popular nighttime events, especially among migrant workers. Some local residents even hosted a rival shows with two performances on the each side of the street close to the mourning hall and their houses to attract viewers. With a competitive atmosphere, the dancers and singers on each side try their best to attract people's attention, the report said. Some strippers even take off the trousers of male viewers and persuade them to join in the dancing, while others bathe in public or perform nude with snakes. Dozens of troupes operated stripteases in the small town, which reportedly brings in a great fortune. A troupe boss told a CCTV reporter that he earned more than 200,000 yuan (US$25,000) last year, while a male singer in the troupe said he had purchased three apartments, one in town, one in Lianyungang, a port city of Jiangsu Province, and a small one in Nanjing, Jiangsu's capital. Most of the dancers are local women, who perform for an income of 200 yuan per show, the boss said. For USD $180, dancers will stand on top of a van singing and dancing. Once the van gets to the cemetery, the women strip off. Two years ago, a family in the southern province of Fujian paid a dance troupe US $150 to take part in a funeral service for their 70-year-old grandmother. Five women danced around in their underwear and attracted an audience of about 20.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Grade Inflation

Brad DeLong confesses to grade inflation in his 101b class. Seems he thinks the students should do no worse than they would have done in the go slower do less 100b. I guess we need to consider giving all A's to anyone in economics, because it is infinitely harder than anything in marketing.

We are keenly aware that almost everybody signing up for this course could alternatively take and do very well in Economics 100b. We are anxious not to have students vote with their feet for an easier course and learn less because they fear the consequences of lowering their grade point average. Therefore this course will have a high curve: the idea is that nobody should get a lower grade than they would have gotten had they decided to take Economics 100b.

Keywords: Grades

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Porn and Prostitution

Here is an excellent discussion of the precarious distinction between being a porner and a panderer. Issues that will soon be decided in FL in the Ray Guhn case.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Morality and Law

According to this article (nsfw):

Following are overall results for the single question asked in the survey — “Do you consider it to be morally acceptable to view pornographic websites and videos?”:

Yes — 21 percent No — 73 percent Not Sure — 4 percent Refuse to answer — 2 percent

According to the poll, women more frequently had a negative opinion of adult entertainment, with 81 percent of those surveyed saying they found it morally objectionable. On the other hand, 44 percent of men ages 18 to 34 said they have no objection to adult websites.

Morality in Media wasted no time issuing a press release claiming the poll proves a majority of Americans would like to see an end to adult entertainment, and other conservative groups and media outlets, such as Concerned Women for America and CitizenLink, issued similar press releases and editorials.
But it does not follow that people want to see an end to adult entertainment. There are many people who do not believe the law should dictate morality, even some of those who answered the survey. For example many people feel divorce is morally wrong, though they would not want to see a law against it. Looking at the GSS (statistically much better than any Harris Poll) we see that generally only about 40% of people feel there should be laws against the distribution of pornography whatever the age. And the trend has been ever so slightly downward

Which of these statements comes closest to your feelings about pornography laws?
There should be laws against the distribution of pornography whatever the age40.141.538.4
There should be laws against the distribution of pornography to persons under 1854.752.257.8
There should be no laws forbidding the distribution of pornography5.26.33.8

Morality in the Media carefully avoid actually calling for new laws rather they actually point out that the current obscenity standard appeals to the local community mores, which they argue the Harris poll clearly establishes.

Keywords: Porn, Surveys, BUS230, ECO307

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Great Line

Here is a great line from a recent post by Arnold Kling:

...and I continue to say that as a conservative/libertarian I would rather have a Democratic President who listens to Democratic economists than a Republican President who does not listen to Republican ones.


Thursday, June 15, 2006


I recieved this email yesterday:

It is my unfortunate duty to inform you that the session you submitted for the January, 2007 American Economic Association meetings in Chicago has not been accepted. The title for that session is: The Economics of Sexuality

I am very sorry about this decision. There are many superb papers that could not be accepted. I divided papers among members of a program committee, who chose which papers will be on the program. They had a difficult choice because both the submitted sessions and the individually submitted papers were very good. Very many good papers could not be accepted. I estimate that only about 10 % of the submissions have been accepted. I also know personally from looking over all the sessions prior to sending them on to the individual committee members that almost very one of them would have been a fine contribution to the AEA program. Especially, I appreciate the imagination and hard work that you put into arranging this session and making this submission to the AEA. I hope that you will accept my apology. I would be most grateful if you, as the organizer of this session, could forward this e-mail on to those who were in it.

Thomas J. SargentPresident-Elect, AEA

The details of my proposal are here:

The Economics of Sexuality, I18

Session Chair: Lena Edlund, Columbia University

"Sexual Violence and Female Homosexuality" Andrew Francis,
University of Chicago

In this paper, I will examine the link between sexual
violence and female homosexuality in the US. Specifically, I
will empirically estimate the direct and indirect effects of
forced sex in adolescence and adulthood, as well as
molestation in childhood, on the likelihood of homosexual
behavior, desire, and identity in female respondents. I test
and rule out potential counter-theories, such as the effect
of recall bias, education, and the propensity for risk
taking or social deviance. I hence present evidence that non- biological variables significantly affect sexual orientation
at the margin, as economic models of sexuality predict.

Discussant: Scott Drewianka, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

"HIV and Sexual Behavior Change: Why not Africa", Emily Oster, University of Chicago

Despite high HIV rates in Africa, there seems to have been little widespread change in sexual behavior, such as in the choice to have multiple partners, premarital or extramarital sex. This is in contrast to large changes among high risk groups (e.g., gay men) in the United States. One widely discussed explanation for this discrepancy is differences in preferences or ``culture". In this paper, I consider the possibility that much of the puzzle as to why there has been so little behavioral change in response to HIV in Africa, can be explained without accounting for differences in tastes. This is done by simply noting that future utility lost from HIV infection is higher for individuals who are richer or expect to live longer. Using microdata on individuals in Africa I show that, on average, sexual behavior is unresponsive to the HIV rate. I account for potential endogeneity of HIV rate by instrumenting for the prevalence rate with the distance that individuals live to the origin of the virus. I find however, that behavior is much more responsive for those who are richer or expect to live longer. That is, when the cost of a sexual partner (based on the dollar value of individual future utility) is the independent variable, rather than the HIV prevalence rate, I find consistent and significant decreases in risky behavior among individuals in Africa. This adjustment for cost explains as much as 80\% of the difference between the behavior change with respect to gay men, and those in Africa; knowledge of HIV also plays an important role in determining safe sexual behavior in response to the HIV epidemic.

Discussant: Richard Posner, Judge, US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and University of Chicago
"The Wage Effects of Municipal Ordinances:  An Application to the Wages of Exotic Dancers", Taggert Brooks and Keith Sherony, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse

In California v. Larue the Supreme Court found exotic dancing to be a form of expressive speech protected by the First Amendment, yet many local municipalities have tried to severely restrict or eliminate it through the passage of municipal ordinances.  Some of the typical ordinances include eliminating the ability to serve alcohol, limiting hours of operation, or regulating the physical distance between dancer and customer.  Since exotic dancers are in the business of selling intimacy – albeit counterfeit – these ordinances likely affect the dancer’s wages (Boles and Garbin, 1974; Enck and Preston, 1988; Frank, 1998).  While some “feature” dancers may earn six figure incomes, many dancers do not.  Most dancers are hired as independent contractors without benefits and rely on dancing as their primary source of income (Sanchez, 2005).  A sudden loss of wages caused by passage of municipal ordinances can force dancers to look for other means of support outside the industry, which is often difficult due to the social stigma often associated with exotic dancers (Thompson and Harred, 1992; and Thompson, Harred, and Burks, 2003).  This project measures the employment and wage effects of municipal restrictions on exotic dancers and finds that wages and the stringency of ordinances are inversely related.  

Discussant: Jim Leitzel, University of Chicago
"Enforcing Licensing Requirements: Implications for Disease Transmission in the Sex Market" Manisha Shah, University of California - Berkley

Several countries are pursuing the regulation of commercial sex work in order to decrease the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and reduce the probability of a generalized HIV/AIDS epidemic. In many Latin American countries, the commercial sex market is characterized by two sectors, brothel and street, where the latter is marked by riskier behavior (e.g., lower rates of condom use) and higher prevalence of STIs. This paper studies the public health effects of enforcing licensing requirements in a two-sector commercial sex market, where enforcement varies between sectors. Specifically, we use nationally representative data from Ecuador to examine the effects on condom use and STI prevalence of enforcement in brothels vs. enforcement in the street. We exploit regional variation in the frequency of police visits to verify sex worker compliance with licensing requirements. The findings indicate that increasing enforcement in the street sector significantly increases condom use by 11 percent and decreases
sexually transmitted infections by 8 percent, yet increasing enforcement in brothels has no such effect. This paper proposes a theoretical model that explains this divergence as a consequence of sex workers’ sectoral choice. Increasing enforcement on the street unambiguously improves public health outcomes by encouraging sex workers to enter the more regulated brothel sector, where STI prevalence is lower. Increasing enforcement in the brothel sector induces counteracting effects, as some sex workers choose to comply with the licensing requirements (and undertake less risky behavior as a result), but others move to the street sector and are exposed to greater risk of infection. To minimize perverse incentive effects of regulation, enforcement should take into account the underlying characteristics of the commercial sex market, and should be concentrated in the sector which is marked by lower condom use and higher STI prevalence.

Discussant: Lena Edlund, Columbia University

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Statistical Problems: Intermediate Outcomes

Via Newmark's Door:
Andrew Gelman presents a nice example of, and briefly discusses, a statistical issue that should get more attention: "the fallacy of controlling for an intermediate outcome". (Economist Mark Killingsworth--American Economic Review, May 1993--labels it "the included-variable problem".)
The fallacy of intermediate outcomes, or what has sometimes been called the included varaible. If one is interested in income in 1991, but they use total education measured in 1993 as a RHS variable, then thye have commited this mistake.

For more details see Andrew Gelman at the must read blog: Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

Keywords: ECO307, BUS735

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Confused in Duluth

The Duluth Newspaper is clearly confused. In an recent editorial they blame the potential closure of a strip club on the fact that another club is trying to open.

Ever have a teacher who, to discipline one student for talking during a lesson, made the whole class stay in for recess? Fair or not, the idea is that everyone has to pay for the misbehavior of one.

The operators of the Saratoga Club must be thinking as much after the city moved to limit the hours of exotic dancing or shut down the Canal Park venue yesterday. The enforcement follows a hornet's nest of protest over Dr. Eric Ringsred's plans to convert his historic NorShor Theatre into a strip club -- a notion that city officials are seeking to thwart by invoking a newly passed state law prohibiting adult entertainment establishments from operating near residences, schools and houses of worship. Now, having uncorked the legal genie to halt the NorShor's plans, city officials appear to have little choice but to apply the law equitably throughout Duluth.

The new state law does have a section suggesting previously established clubs may be allowed to continue, a provision that would seemingly exempt the Saratoga. But city officials and the law's co-author, Sen. Steve Dille (R-Dassel) maintain the grandfather clause only applies to permitting, not the restrictions on location and hours of operation.

Expect it all to end up in court.

Legal challenges were anticipated even before the bill was signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty on May 26. But forcing an establishment that has been operating relatively unobtrusively for four decades to go to court to stay in business is a shame, the blame for which lies squarely at Dr. Ringsred's door.

Yes. You see if you want to exercise your right to free speech, and the politicians don't like your kind of speech, they might actually have to employ their censorship to everyone, thus making it the fault of those who wanted to exercise their rights. I think this is one of the worst cases of blame the victim I've seen.

It will be interesting to see how the new Minnesota law (HB 3779) progresses. Here is when I wish I had a GIS capable computer map readily at my hands. It can't locate near another adult business, church or school.
Proximity. An adult entertainment establishment may not operate in the same building as, or within 1,500 feet from, another adult entertainment establishment; within 500 feet of residential property, regardless of how the property is zoned; or within 2,800 feet of a public or private elementary or secondary school or a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship. Distances are measured between the closest property lines.

I'm pretty sure that covers most land in Minnesota, except of course the Boundary Waters.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

F*** Veggies

A picture says a thousand words, or in this case just two. My personal mantra: F*** Vegetables. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I have to say Brad DeLong is a goofy guy. My main evidence is his new google video series Morning Coffee. I mean, put some clothes on would you? I do have to give him some credit for pushing on new technologies. Some have worked and others have not been so successful. Oh well, we economists are a nerdy bunch (to be spoken while taking an awkward drag out of my coke can).

Christian Community

Another porn shop was shut down. The money quote comes from the chief of police.
"This is trash, and I hope this is the end of it for our community and for the Christian community and everybody out here. I hope this is the end of it," said Pocola Police Chief Eric Helms.

I'm glad to know his oath included protecting and serving the Christian community. But I wonder how shutting down a porn shop protects them? I guess it keeps them from going in. What an idiot.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Problems of Progressivity

The Aplia Blog does a nice job of informing and collecting the recent discussion on the progressivity (or lack thereof) of the Bush tax cuts.

Keywords: Taxes, ECO120, ECO712

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Funny Stuff

Maybe if more macro was in the form of music videos it might make my job easier? Here is a mock up from the Columbia B-school follies of Glenn Hubbard keeping an eye on Bernanke: Every Breath You Take.

Keywords: Monetary Policy, ECO120, ECO301

Monday, April 24, 2006

Political Independence

Ben Bernanke, reminding us why it is so important to be politically independent as the Fed Chief. It allows him the freedom to say things like this:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said tax cuts can spur greater economic activity and boost economic efficiency, but generally do not wholly pay for themselves.

"Tax cuts that reduce marginal tax rates will likely improve the efficiency of the economy and boost overall economic activity," Bernanke said in an April 18 letter to Rep. Brad Sherman (news, bio, voting record).

"Because they increase economic activity, cuts in marginal tax rates typically lead to revenue losses that are smaller than implied by so-called static analyses, which hold economic activity constant," he said. "However, under normal conditions, tax cuts do not wholly pay for themselves."

The letter, released by Sherman's office on Wednesday, was in response to written questions the California Democrat submitted in connection with a February 15 hearing on monetary policy at which Bernanke testified.

Things that he wouldn't even say if he was only a former CEA, and not head of the fed.

Here we see Greg Mankiw and Glenn Hubbard still being elliptical as Brad DeLong puts it. The sad thing is they had the gunner's chair, they had the inside job, and they could not deliver. Disappointing.

Keywords: Taxes, ECO120

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Central Wankers

When central bankers are not politically independent, they can be enticed into behaving badly. But maybe the Kenya central bankers were just corrupt? From Division of Labour:

How can a corrupt central bank line the pockets of state-connected businessmen? A report from AllAfrica.com counts the ways the Kenya Central Bank has done it:

1. Printing extra cash for the government to disburse.
2. Sweetheart deals on (controlled) foreign exchange.
3. Sweetheart deals on government bonds.
4. Favoritism in bank supervision.
And they also have a post on Turkey's newly nominated CB leader. Who adheres to sharia, the Muslim law prohibiting the charging of interest. Pretty good idea to put someone like that in charge of interest rates.

Keywords: ECO301

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bernanke on Long Rates

I merely want to save this speech by Bernanke for future reference. I think he does an excellent job of explaing the mystery of low long term interest rates.

Given the global nature of the decline in yields, an explanation less centered on the United States might be required. About a year ago, I offered the thesis that a "global saving glut"--an excess, at historically normal real interest rates, of desired global saving over desired global investment--was contributing to the decline in interest rates. In brief, I argued that this shift reflects the confluence of several forces. On the saving side, the factors include rapid growth in high-saving countries on the Pacific Rim, export-focused economic development strategies that directly or indirectly hold back the growth of domestic demand, and the surge in revenues enjoyed by oil producers. On the investment side, notable factors restraining the global demand for capital include the legacy of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, which led to continuing sluggishness in investment in some of those economies, and the slower growth of the workforce in many industrial countries. So long as these factors persist, global equilibrium interest rates (and, consequently, the neutral policy rate) will be lower than they otherwise would be.

Keywords: Interest Rates, ECO301, ECO712

Poor Form

From Marginal Revolution: In the war of words between John Lott and Steve Levitt, Lott loses much credibility by suing Levitt. A true academic sticks to the field of battle, and doesn't call in the heavies, unless of course he can't win the battle of ideas.

Hopefully it will be thrown out of court.

Update: Levitt posts the tribune article here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Immigration in LAX Trib

The piece I wrote for the La Crosse Tribune was published on Sunday. So far no one has gotten mad at me, but it is still early in the day.

Here is Keith's piece. And here is my piece.

There has been a lot written recently on this topic. Here is Greg Mankiw's take and Don Bourdeaux captures my sentiments on the misappropriation of the term 'illegal'. His co-blogger Russ Roberts has a nice post here as well.

Keywords: Immigration, ECO305, ECO120

Monday, March 27, 2006

Behind the Green Door

Looks like I'm well behind the times. I guess one way to get students excited to take econ classes is to not only talk about porn but to show it.

Linda Williams, a film professor at Berkeley, lines up on the side of showing rather than simply telling. While researching feminist reactions to porn in the early '90s, she grew fascinated by the choreography of dirty movies and began teaching a trailblazing course about porno films. "I'm quite critical of pornography," she says.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In Da Club

My paper, entitled "In Da Club: An Econometric Analyis of Strip Club Patrons", is now available here.

Conservative estimates from the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS) suggest 17 million Americans went to a club that featured nude or semi-nude dancers in 1991. Their attendance comprises nearly 67 million visits, 10 million more than the attendance at major league baseball games that year. A recent report by the Free Speech Coalition (2005), and recent testimony in front of the Ohio legislature by an industry advocate, Angelina Spencer, put the total revenues earned by strip clubs at 15 billion dollars a year (Smyth, 2005; Thompson, et. al., 2003). The industry arrived at this point following a doubling of the number of strip clubs between 1987 and 1992 according to Hanna (2005). Yet there has been no academic work covering this industry by economists.

In this paper I estimate a hurdle model using the NHSLS which is the first and only national probability based sample which asks people about their sexual behavior including if they have attended a strip club and the frequency of attendance. Using the hurdle model I test two popular theories which purport to explain the rapid increase in the number of clubs. I find that for those who reported changing their behavior in response to AIDS/HIV they were much more likely to go to a strip club and more frequent visitors than those who did not change their behavior. On the second explanation I fail to find support for the belief that attendance at strip clubs was motivated by the desire to escape the uncertain rules of a gender integrated work place. The rise of societal sensitivities to sexual harassment in the workplace does not appear to explain patron attendance at a strip club.

It is a very rough draft, more like some regressions and some random thoughts. Comments welcome.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Porn and Fashion

I've noted before that the porn industry does not treat new technology with the same disdain that Hollywood does. I've often thought one of the reasons is the difficulty they have in enforcing their copyrights. You have never seen a porn executive testifying in front of congress about the need to clamp down on illegal copying. And, other than this Perfect 10 idiot, and the occasional Playboy cease and desist letter, you never hear the industry complain about piracy. It should be noted these are both "soft core".

Maybe the porn industry is more like the fashion industry? Marginal Revolution has a nice post with some links on the problems of innovation and imitation in the fashion industry.

I really think the connection has to do with the nature of demand. Porn strikes me as something that experiences much shorter cycles of interest, then on to the next new thing. That's similar to fashion, but different than Hollywood. I'm sure there is something on the supply side as well. Hollywood is dominated by a few very profitable releases, whereas porn has many smaller profit releases.

Obviously I need to think about this much more.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Welcome Back

Welcome back Larry. We sure did miss you. I think the world is better served with you as an academic then with you as an administrator.

For those that haven't heard Larry Summers is resigning as President of Harvard and returning to his academic post. How long before he goes somewhere else? MIT? Berkeley? I can't imagine he'll want to hang around Harvard too long, unless he finds a nice home in women's studies.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Printer's Alley

It looks like Nashville's famous (or should I say infamous?) Printer's Alley has been the target of the moral conservatives. According to this article:

Wednesday night's agenda for the board listed nearly 200 entertainment permits. All those dancers were approved in the first wave of permits considered by the board. The permits issued represent the majority of adult performers in Metro. A lobbyist for the industry says many performers find the new system dehumanizing.

The 3-foot rule is being challenged by the operators of the very narrow Brass Stables. Club attorney George Barrett told News 2 that the Printer's Alley club will be in federal court on Tuesday to defend the practices of its entertainers. An employee of one of the dance clubs in Nashville told News 2 up to half their performers have left the business or left town since the new regulations were announced.
I would like to see the Supreme Court hear a challenge to buffer zones. I really think they'll find them unconstitutional. Although it has been found constitutional by the "liberal" 9th circuit in COLACURCIO v CITY OF KENT , so I'm definitely not too optimistic.

I mean only an idiot could think the whisper of "I Love You" into someone's ear carries the same meaning and same speech content as someone yelling it across a crowded bar. I wonder what the politicians would say if in the interest of public health they were prevented from holding babies and shaking hands during an election?

Listen up judges. The speech is intimacy, and there is no intimacy at a distance. And yes, I'm not talking about sex, I'm talking about intimacy.

Keywords: Stripping, Intimacy

Monday, January 30, 2006


Reader SR should be hired by the BBC to vet their stories. Apparently you can watch foreign films in Bangladesh, as he points out in his blog here. I can only imagine that what the BBC calls a strict ban on foreign films is probably more along the lines of a small quota, which is why you can find some Hollywood films playing on the big screen in Bangladesh.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Covering the Labor Market

Brad DeLong is co-teaching a journalism class on reporting on the economy. In this entry he details the coverage labor market data.

Seven background graphs on employment statistics:
Payroll Survey
Employment Growth since 1994

Long-Term Unemployment
Unemployment and Underemployment
The Employment-to-Population Ratio
Thirty Years of the Unemployment Rate
Three Years of the Unemployment Rate
Unemployment:The Importance of Seasonal Adjustment

New claims for unemployment insurance emerge every Thursday...

Monthly Employment Report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics every month, at 8:30 AM on the first Friday: Statement by Commissioner of Labor Statistics Kathy Utgoff. The January 6, 2006 Employment Report itself.

Keywords: Unemployment, ECO120, ECO712

Porn and Unintended Consequences

I think being an Economist helps you better understand the Law of Unintended Consequences. And makes you better at forecasting the consequences. Although even I might not have forecast this from Cafe Hayek:
The government of Bangladesh prohibits any films made outside of Bangladesh from being shown in theaters in that country.

Can you guess the consequences of such protectionism for what's called Dhallywood? According to a report on NPR's program The World, these consequences do not include lots of creative energy springing forth in Bangladesh to produce outstanding films. The consequences instead include bad, formulaic, banal movies, each one very much like the others. The movies are so bad that theater owners have taken to inserting scenes of hardcore pornography into their screenings in order to attract audiences.

(To hear this report, click
here, and then scroll down to -- and then click on -- "Dhallywood movie report.")

Tyler Cowen's
In Praise of Commercial Culture explains why a protected movie industry is doomed to produce films that no one wants to see.

Keywords: Porn, Protectionism, Unintended Consequences, ECO120

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Nude Dancing

Somehow I missed this excellent series of posts on The Vice Squad back in 2004. It included an excellent discussion of Barnes v. Glen Theatre here. It also includes some links to Will Baude and some excellent commentary from Posner. Another voice chimed in on the subject.

Speaking of which I believe I've pulled off a major coup, as I've organized a session that will include Posner. More on that in the next week.

Keywords: Nude Dancing