Friday, December 28, 2007

Texas Taxes

Somehow my preparation for the ASSA meetings distracted me from this piece of news:
In what some have dubbed the "pole tax," the Lone Star State will require its 150 or so strip clubs to collect a $5-per-customer levy, with most of the proceeds going to help rape victims. The tax goes into effect on New Year's Day.
The strip clubs are suing to block the tax, which state officials estimate will raise more than $40 million a year, based on liquor sales figures. If accurate, the estimate suggests at least 8 million people a year go to Texas strip clubs to get a lap dance or watch women pole-dance in a G-string.
I should point out the estimates imply there are 8 million visits, that does not mean 8 million unique visitors. From the NHSLS data I find the average number of visits for someone who has gone to a strip club is approximately 4.45 yielding 1,797,753 unique visitors. Though this may even be skewed upward as the median number of visits is 2.


Ever walk through the grocery story, annoyed at the woman apparently talking to herself, only to realize she is actually talking on a cell phone? Its a good example of a negative externality, not unlike air pollution. Often externalities are mitigated by social norms. For instance a stern look at the offending woman in the grocery store will hopefully get her to lower her voice if not hang up. Other solutions are often imposed by store owners themselves who impose bans on cell phone use in their stores. In this article covering internet access on airlines we see that different airlines are responding differently.
We think decency and good sense and normal behavior" will prevail, said Jack Blumenstein, chief executive of Aircell LLC, which is launching service on some American and Virgin flights in 2008.

In many ways, airlines are facing issues similar to those encountered by Wi-Fi networks on the ground — at airports, coffee shops and other public places.

Glenn Fleishman, editor of the Wi-Fi Networking News site, said operators of public networks generally do not filter because users are conscious that others can see what they surf. A coffee shop employee might occasionally ask a customer to leave, Fleishman said, "but those stories tend to be pretty far between."

Airplanes, however, are different because customers are in closer quarters and are more likely to include kids.

Allowing porn could subject an airline to harassment complaints much like an employer that refuses to clamp down, said John Palfrey, a Harvard Law School professor.

"I think they have a right to (filter), but I come up short of saying they have the responsibility," Palfrey said. "I'd rather have the responsibility in the hands of passengers and require them to be accountable for what they do on laptops and airplanes."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NPR on Healthcare

NPR had a great Talk of the Nation on the current state of the Healthcare system. I disagree with Uwe Reinhardt, but he clearly lays out the issues like only a good economist can.

Monday, December 10, 2007


The next Economic Indicators Breakfast meeting will be April 2nd and we'll be discussing entrepreneurship. In preparation, I'll be linking to a lot of the research I come across on the topic. Here is a paper which is part of a larger publication coauthored by Dean Karlan from Yale.
Can one teach entrepreneurship, or is it a fixed personal characteristic? Most academic and policy discussion on micro entrepreneurs in developing countries focuses on their access to credit, and assumes their human capital to be fixed. However, a growing number of microfinance organizations are attempting to build the human capital of micro entrepreneurs in order to improve the livelihood of their clients and help further their mission of poverty alleviation. Using a randomized control trial, we measure the marginal impact of adding business training to a Peruvian village banking program for female micro entrepreneurs. Treatment groups received thirty to sixty minute entrepreneurship training sessions during their normal weekly or monthly banking meeting over a period of one to two years. Control groups remained as they were before, meeting at the same frequency but solely for making loan and savings payments. We find that the treatment led to improved business knowledge, practices and revenues. The microfinance institution also had direct benefits through higher repayment and client retention rates. Larger effects found for those that expressed less interest in training in a baseline survey have important implications for implementing similar marketbased interventions with a goal of recovering costs.

Eat Breakfast

Another reminder of the adage that breakfast calories are near free. This is a back door verification of something that has been found in other studies.
One of the major determinants of childhood obesity is the number of meals they eat. Missing breakfast and eating fewer meals, according to the authors, “may lead to higher concentrations of 24 hour insulin, which, in turn, can lead to increased fat deposition and higher body weight.” Children of working mothers eat fewer meals and having fewer meals significantly increases obesity.

Maybe breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cable TV Is Good For Women

According to Jensen and Oster:
Cable and satellite television have grown rapidly throughout the developing world. The availability of cable and satellite television exposes viewers to new information about the outside world, which may affect individual attitudes and behaviors. This paper explores the effect of the introduction of cable television on gender attitudes in rural India. Using a three-year individual-level panel dataset, we find that the introduction of cable television is associated with improvements in women's status. We find significant increases in reported autonomy, decreases in the reported acceptability of beating and decreases in reported son preference. We also find increases in female school enrollment and decreases in fertility (primarily via increased birth spacing). The effects are large, equivalent in some cases to about five years of education in the cross section, and move gender attitudes of individuals in rural areas much closer to those in urban areas. We argue that the results are not driven by pre-existing differential trends. These results have important policy implications, as India and other countries attempt to decrease bias against women.

Sex Dolls

A man in Madison is accused of stealing sex dolls.
Among the items that were found was a Linn Thomas talking love doll, priced at $269.99, which is shaped to resemble the porn star of the same name. According to one review by an Internet retailer, the 5-foot-3-inch doll vibrates and blurts out recorded encouragements to its user.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why Care About Strip CLub Patrons?

So in preparing my paper for the ASSA in New Orleans, I began undertaking the worst of ex-post justifications for why one should care about strip club patrons. My argument is that we have a lot of experimental evidence that decision making differs among different conditions or contexts. Yet we haven't really looked at who puts themselves in those contexts.

So here are some of the cites for the experimental work.

Aharon, I., N. Etcoff, et al. (2001). "Beautiful Faces Have Variable Reward Value fMRI and Behavioral Evidence." Neuron 32(3): 537-551.

The brain circuitry processing rewarding and aversive stimuli is hypothesized to be at the core of motivated behavior. In this study, discrete categories of beautiful faces are shown to have differing reward values and to differentially activate reward circuitry in human subjects. In particular, young heterosexual males rate pictures of beautiful males and females as attractive, but exert effort via a keypress procedure only to view pictures of attractive females. Functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T shows that passive viewing of beautiful female faces activates reward circuitry, in particular the nucleus accumbens. An extended set of subcortical and paralimbic reward regions also appear to follow aspects of the keypress rather than the rating procedures, suggesting that reward circuitry function does not include aesthetic assessment.

Ariely, D. and G. Loewenstein (2006). "The Heat of the Moment: The Effect of Sexual Arousal on Sexual Decision Making." Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 19(2): 87–98.

Despite the social importance of decisions taken in the ‘‘heat of the moment,’’ very little research has examined the effect of sexual arousal on judgment and decision making.Here we examine the effect of sexual arousal, induced by self-stimulation, on judgments and hypothetical decisions made by male college students. Students were assigned to be in either a state of sexual arousal or a neutral state and were asked to: (1) indicate how appealing they find a wide range of sexual stimuli and activities, (2) report their willingness to engage in morally questionable behavior in order to obtain sexual gratification, and (3) describe their willingness to engage in unsafe sex when sexually aroused. The results show that sexual arousal had a strong impact on all three areas of judgment and decision making, demonstrating the importance of situational forces on preferences, as well as subjects’ inability to predict these influences on their own behavior

Burnham, T. C. (2007). "High-testosterone men reject low ultimatum game offers." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274(1623): 2327-2330.

The ultimatum game is a simple negotiation with the interesting property that people frequently reject offers of ‘free’ money. These rejections contradict the standard view of economic rationality. This divergence between economic theory and human behaviour is important and has no broadly accepted cause. This study examines the relationship between ultimatum game rejections and testosterone. In a variety of species, testosterone is associated with male seeking dominance. If low ultimatum game offers are interpreted as challenges, then high-testosterone men may be more likely to reject such offers. In this experiment, men who reject low offers ($5 out of $40) have significantly higher testosterone levels than those who accept. In addition, high testosterone levels are associated with higher ultimatum game offers, but this second finding is not statistically significant.

Loewenstein, G., D. Nagin, et al. (1997). "The Effect of Sexual Arousal on Expectations of Sexual Forcefulness." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 34(4): 443.

Decisions to commit crimes are often made under the influence of visceral feelings such as anger or sexual arousal. Rational choice models of offender decision-making assume that individuals can anticipate, in an unaroused state, their responses to such visceral feelings. This assumption is tested in an experiment in which sexually aroused and nonaroused males predict their own behavior in a date rape scenario. Aroused and nonaroused participants were asked a battery of questions designed to measure their perceptions of the costs and benefits of acting in a sexually aggressive manner, their level of arousal, and a probabilistic prediction as to how aggressively they would act in the conditions described in the scenario. The authors find that sexual arousal does increase subjects' expectations of their own sexual aggressiveness and that this impact is not mediated by perceptions of the costs or benefits of such aggression.

Lynn, M. (2007). The Determinants and Consequences of Female Attractiveness and Sexiness: Realistic Tests with Restaurant Waitresses.

Waitresses completed an on-line survey about their physical characteristics, self-perceived attractiveness and sexiness, and average tips. The waitresses’ self-rated physical attractiveness increased with their breast sizes and decreased with their ages, waist-to-hip ratios, and body sizes. Similar effects were observed on self-rated sexiness, with the exception of age, which varied with self-rated sexiness in a negative, quadratic relationship rather than a linear one. Moreover, the waitresses’ tips varied with age in a negative, quadratic relationship, increased with breast size, increased with having blond hair, and decreased with body size. These findings, which are discussed from an evolutionary perspective, make several contributions to the literature on female physical attractiveness. First, they replicate some previous findings regarding the determinants of female physical attractiveness using a larger, more diverse, and more ecologically valid set of stimuli than has been studied before. Second, they provide needed evidence that some of those determinants of female beauty affect interpersonal behaviors as well as attractiveness ratings. Finally, they indicate that some determinants of female physical attractiveness do not have the same effects on overt interpersonal behavior (such as tipping) that they have on attractiveness ratings. This later contribution highlights the need for more ecologically valid tests of evolutionary theories about the determinants and consequences of female beauty.

Van Den Bergh, B. and S. Dewitte (2006). "Digit Ratio (2D: 4D) Moderates the Impact of Sexual Cues on Men’s Decisions in Ultimatum Games." Proceedings- Royal Society of London. Biological sciences 273(1597): 2091-2095.

Three experimental studies demonstrate that ‘sex-related cues’ impact human decision-making in ultimatum games. In the ultimatum game, two individuals divide a sum of money. The proposer offers a portion of the money to the other player, the responder. If the responder accepts the offer, the money is distributed in agreement with the proposer’s offer. If the responder rejects the offer, neither player receives anything. Our studies show that exposure to pictures of sexy women or lingerie increases the likelihood of accepting unfair offers. Digit ratios of responders are reliably associated with their behaviour: males with lower digit ratios are more likely to reject an unfair split in neutral contexts, but more likely to accept unfair offers in sex-related contexts.

Waldherr, M. and I. D. Neumann (2007). "From the Cover: Centrally released oxytocin mediates mating-induced anxiolysis in male rats." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104(42): 16681-16684.

Sexual activity and mating are accompanied by a high level of arousal, whereas anecdotal and experimental evidence demonstrate that sedation and calmness are common phenomena in the postcoital period in humans. These remarkable behavioral consequences of sexual activity contribute to a general feeling of well being, but underlying neurobiological mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate that sexual activity and mating with a receptive female reduce the level of anxiety and increase risk-taking behavior in male rats for several hours. The neuropeptide oxytocin has been shown to exert multiple functions in male and female reproduction, and to play a key role in the regulation of emotionality after its peripheral and central release, respectively. In the present study, we reveal that oxytocin is released within the brain, specifically within the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, of male rats during mating with a receptive female. Furthermore, blockade of the activated brain oxytocin system by central administration of an oxytocin receptor antagonist immediately after mating prevents the anxiolytic effect of mating, while having no effect in nonmated males. These findings provide direct evidence for an essential role of an activated brain oxytocin system mediating the anxiolytic effect of mating in males.

Wilson, M. and M. Daly (2004). "Do pretty women inspire men to discount the future?" Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 271(0): S177-S179.

Organisms 'discount the future' when they value imminent goods over future goods. Optimal discounting varies: selection should favour allocations of effort that effectively discount the future relatively steeply in response to cues promising relatively good returns on present efforts. However, research on human discounting has hitherto focused on stable individual differences rather than situational effects. In two experiments, discounting was assessed on the basis of choices between a smaller sum of money tomorrow and a larger sum at a later date, both before and after subjects rated the 'appeal' of 12 photographs. In experiment 1, men and women saw either attractive or unattractive opposite-sex faces; in experiment 2, participants saw more or less appealing cars. As predicted, discounting increased significantly in men who viewed attractive women, but not in men who viewed unattractive women or women who viewed men; viewing cars produced a different pattern of results.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Too lazy to comment heavily on these links, but I want to preserve them somewhere.

1. Teens prosecuted for racy photos...of themselves. File under absurdly wasteful prosecutions.

2. Never trust estimates from advocacy groups, they usually exaggerate. The UN is no different.

3. Sex Tourism for women.

4. You can't legislate abortion away. They still happen with the same frequency.

5. Realistic estimates of the porn industry.

6. Another wage effect of female menstruation. Increased absenteeism.

7. Trends in female anatomy. Boobs are getting larger.