Journalists as analysts

This is a great thread from Ben Casselman, economics reporter at The New York Times and formerly FiveThirtyEight, on working with data. Casselman is careful to note that he’s not an economist and that losing sight of that would lead him to err. But the approach he outlines — humble, integrative, quantitative — is why …

After social media

A couple pieces that made me a bit hopeful for the internet: Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us? – New Yorker Could the IndieWeb movement—or a streamlined, user-friendly version of it to come—succeed in redeeming the promise of social media? If we itemize the woes currently afflicting the major platforms, there’s a strong case to …

Econ 101 and model thinking

There was a bunch of Twitter discussion this week inspired by a Vox article by Dylan Matthews about Raj Chetty’s introductory economics course at Harvard. TLDR: The course is basically a review of recent, large-scale empirical work on important social problems like inequality. And it has little to no theory. I’ve watched some of the …

Prediction markets or crowdsourcing?

Are markets more accurate than polls? The surprising informational value of “just asking” Psychologists typically measure beliefs and preferences using self-reports, whereas economists are much more likely to infer them from behavior. Prediction markets appear to be a victory for the economic approach, having yielded more accurate probability estimates than opinion polls or experts for …

Skills gap, again

An excellent piece arguing against the “skills gap” hypothesis. The conclusion: There is no denying the importance of education and training to long-term outcomes for workers. But that does not mean the solution to stagnant or inadequate wage increases lies in addressing a skills gap. To address the wage problem, Congress and regulators need to ensure …

Technological change and fatalism

“Don’t blame robots for low wages,” writes Paul Krugman. “Automation just isn’t a big part of the story of what happened to American workers over the past 40 years,” he continues. “We do have a big problem — but it has very little to do with technology, and a lot to do with politics and …

Center-left neoliberalism and the Obama synthesis

Economist, blogger, and former Clinton-era Treasury staffer Brad DeLong made waves with a Twitter thread and subsequent interview with Vox in which he says center-left neoliberals like himself should “pass the baton” to more left-leaning Democrats. His argument is largely political; more on that later. But what about the policies? DeLong calls himself a “Rubin …

Inequality and public policy

From ProMarket: Indeed, the analysis shows that the share of public expenditures in GDP has a negative, significant, and large effect on inequality. For a given level of inequality of market income, a rise of public expenditures by an additional percent of GDP reduces the Gini coefficient of disposable income by 0.35 percentage points. Since …

Journalism, academia, and the worst of both worlds

I wrote last week that “Under the right conditions, it’s reasonable to think that the best analytical journalists will outperform at least the average academic.” Here’s a very different view, from Corey Robin at New York Magazine: When academic knowledge is on tap for the media, the result is not a fusion of the best …