Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jobless Recovery Interview

My interview with Joy Cardin is here.


UW Hospital has improved kidney transplant outcomes enough to get referrals from OptumHealth again. Story here.


Question: What can search predict?

Answer: We [Goel et al.] conclude that in the absence of other data sources, or where small improvements in predictive performance are material, search queries may provide a useful guide to the near future.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Smart Readers

So I do have readers, and not all my comments are spam. Milton provides an excellent comment to my previous post on Pizza Hut gift cards. As Milton notes, paying extra is not at all irrational in this case because shipping is included in the ebay auction whereas it is not if you buy directly from Pizza Hut online. You could drive to a Pizza Hut but depending on where you are and how much you value your time that transaction cost is easily larger than the 2.50 extra the gift card costs. Of course to an economist this is still inefficient. After all you could just give the gift of 25.00 in cash. That way there is no loss in the transfer.  But then you might call me a scrooge. I wouldn't be the first economist to embrace that label.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Questions and Answers

I have long wondered why if China's exchange rate policy (ie. their peg) is so far away from the "true" market exchange rate, then how has that monetary expansion not lead to a rapid pick up in Chinese inflation? James Hamilton offers an explanation. Its there, just hidden in relative prices:

So why hasn't domestic inflation in China undone the stimulus from the exchange rate? I've been forming the opinion that U.S. inflationary dynamics may be more governed by relative price changes than was historically the case, and raise the possibility that China could be ground zero for this phenomenon. Specifically, I'm wondering if the pent-up inflationary pressure takes the form of inducing consumers and businesses in China to try to acquire any hard assets they can, with the result that rather than overall inflation we see remarkable increases in the relative prices of such items. I've commented before on this interesting account from last September:

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Economists are Cheap

I had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, the bartender asked if I was from out of town, I guess the Wisconsin accent is noticeable in the South. Anyhow, I asked her if she was ready for 10,000 nerdy economists. She said it sounded great because they would be big drinkers, and likely big tippers. I had to burst her bubble, as a group economists are not much for partying, even if my peer group is. The urban legend is:
True story. I'm riding up the elevator at the Boston ASSA meetings
a few years back. In the car with me is a woman who works in the hotel.
I ask her if economists are really as dull a bunch as they're made out
to be. She responds that she used to be stationed at the NYC branch of
the chain when the meetings were held there and that even the hookers had
taken the week off.

I wish I would have had the WSJ with me. I could have shared with her this article:

Economists are often cheapskates.

The economists make cities bid against each other to hold their convention, and don't care so much about beaches, golf courses or other frills. It's like buying a car, explains the American Economic Association's secretary-treasurer, John Siegfried, an economist at Vanderbilt University.

"When my wife buys a car, she seems to care what color it is," he says. "I always tell her, don't care about the color." He initially wanted a gray 2007 Mercury Grand Marquis, but a black one cost about $100 less. He got black.

Blogging the ASSA 2010

My New Year's resolution: I'm gonna try to write more, beginning with the ASSA 2010. This conference is my motivational retreat, where every year I promise myself to write more. It never happens. I need a commitment mechanism.

Like any good social scientist I enjoy coming to this conference if for no other reason than to people watch. Sure you see famous people on occasional, like the time Stan Fisher almost mowed me over in the lobby. Or the time Roland Fryer bummed my conference schedule to avoid having to register. But one of the moments I'll always treasure is the sight of wide eyed nerds stumbling down Bourbon St in New Orleans looking in on the strip clubs, while still wearing their conference badges. Not that you wouldn't have been able to pick out the economists without the badges, but they added a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. This year the AEA wants to make sure everyone knows how nerdy we are. Check out the badge holders they are distributing:

Really? People are going to be wondering where all the short buses are parked. To make matters worse the headquarters hotel is also full of college kids leftover from the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. At the moment staring wide-eyed at the onslaught of econonerds.

The preliminary program has links o some of the papers, I'll try to post during a few of the sessions.