Marianne Ferber was proud to have been a Canadian economist, if only for a little while.
The "Canadian" part was due to astute planning by her father, Karl Abeles. Marianne was born in Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, in 1923. Canada was exceptionally hostile to Jewish immigration in the 1930s and 40s - we accepted by some estimates just 4,000 refugees, far fewer than Australia, Argentina, or any other remotely comparable country. But the Abeles were dairy farmers, and Canadian immigration policy was as pro-agriculture as it was anti-Semitic. The Canadian Pacific Railway representative who visited the Abeles farm liked what he saw, and fast-tracked the approval of their immigration. The 39-member Abeles-Popper clan escaped Sudetenland in the nick of time, and made their way to Hamilton, Ontario.
The 2006 Canadian census asked people about their usual mode of transport to work or school. Only a small fraction of those answering the question reported that they cycle to work or school, and city with the highest percentage of cycle-commuters is....
Cars are boring; bikes are cooler. Here are the top 10 reasons why.
10. Cars are for stuff
People from the pre-computer era have books, DVDs, TVs, stereos, big photo albums, board games, and playing cards. They need cars to transport their stuff.
Cool people have digital stuff. They can fit their entire music collection in a bicycle pannier.
James Dean knows how to tell a story. These days he'll share his thoughts on Burning Man ["But Ed, you and I know you can't run an economy this way"] or on advising the South Sudan government how to set up its central bank.
But his best stories are from his days as a graduate student at Harvard in the 1960s, when he marched in Selma-Montgomery. James Dean wasn't just at the civil rights marches, he was in the thick of things; picking people up from the airport, and being harassed by police. He had a camera, and did the best thing he could possibly do to preserve his pictures for posterity: he dumped the negatives at his father's house, and forgot about them.
The headlines around the release of the National Household Survey have proclaimed "Many Canadians are losing their religion". Yet it is not obvious this claim stands up to serious scrutiny.
Canada's religious profile evolves in two fundamentally different ways. First, people immigrate or emigrate, are born or die. Every new Canadian has their own religious beliefs, and contributes these Canada's religious profile.
Second, a person's religious beliefs can change over time - they find God or lose their faith, or convert from one religion to another.
In aggregate, Canada-level data, these two effects are compounded. According to the results of the National Household Survey, "About 7,850,600 people, nearly one-quarter of the population (23.9%), had no religious affiliation. This was up from 16.5% a decade earlier, as recorded in the 2001 Census. But does this mean that people are losing their religion? Or that older, more religious individuals are dying, and being replaced by young Canadians and new immigrants who are less likely to have faith? Or - given that the NHS is a voluntary survey - does it reflect sampling bias?
While writing a short comment for today's Globe, I put together a table comparing the 2011 National Household Survey data on ethnicity with the 2006 data. As the raw numbers didn't make it the Globe article, I'm reproducing them here:
Take a look at the picture on the right. How much does one box of popcorn cost?
The correct answer, for this particular box, is $1.50. However it is not obvious that "two for $3" implies "one for $1.50". In other contexts, customers must make a minimum purchase to obtain a lower per-unit price. For example, if a shoe store has a "buy one pair, get a second pair free" sale, the customer who buys just one pair of shoes pays full price.
The actual per unit price of popcorn is not stated anywhere on the sign. Regular readers may recall a question from a financial literacy test used in a recent Statistics Canada Survey: True or false: By using unit pricing at the grocery store, you can easily compare the cost of any brand and any package size. In this case, the answer is false. The only unit price listed on the sign, 70.6 cents per 100 grams, corresponds to a price of $1.99 per 282 gram box, not the actual price of $1.50 per box.
On May 8th, the results of the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) will be released.
The voluntary nature of the NHS will compromise the quality of the data collected. For example, the National Household Survey asks people about their religious beliefs. Yet religion has a strong influence on volunteering and civic engagement. The National Survey of Giving Volunteering and Participating found that people who are religious volunteer more. Other studies argue that some religions discourage participation in civic life - but reinforce the message that religion matters.
There is, therefore, likely to be a correlation between a person's willingness to fill out the National Household Survey and the strength of their religious beliefs. How, then, can we possibly know whether the NHS information on the religious beliefs of the Canadian population is accurate?
Ratemyprofessors.com allows students to grade a professor's clarity, helpfulness, ease and - just for fun - rate their appearance as "hot" or "not". A professor with more hot than not votes is awarded a chili pepper on the ratemyprofessors.com web site.
Hotness declines with age, but how quickly? To find out, I combined ratemyprofessors hotness scores with information on when professors acquired their PhD - the best available measure of a professor's age (this information was gathered jointly with my co-author, Anindya Sen, and his co-authors).
When I was an undergraduate, many of my professors were Canadian born and American trained. The demographic profile of Canada, and of Canadian economics classrooms, has changed since then, as our country has recruited high skilled immigrants from around the world. But has there been a corresponding change in the demographic composition of the professoriate?
As part of my on-going research project with Anindya Sen and Marcel Voia on hotness and earnings, I've been gathering data on the educational backgrounds of Ontario economics professors - where they received their first degrees, and where they studied for their PhDs. Some preliminary results are shown over the fold:
My colleague Lynda Khalaf's favourite saying is: Notation, notation, notation. Bad notation makes a paper difficult to follow. Papers that are hard to read and understand get rejected, or receive lower grades.
A key insight of behavioural economics is that people don't always do what is in their own long term interests. Our inner planner sets goals - complete that paper, write that referee's report, floss. Our inner doer - who has all the perseverance of Homer Simpson - fails to follow through, and sabotages the planner's best intentions. As a review of Nudge by Tim Leonard puts it:
Too often, our impulsive, myopic, unreﬂective reptile half seizes the levers of choice from our resolute, farsighted, thoughtful human half. The upshot: we are more Homer Economicus than Homo Economicus.
Last fall I stopped talking about the economics of gender, and began talking about the economics of sex. It was wonderful.
So much can be discussed under the rubric of economics of sex. Take, for example, the pick-up artist phenomenon, described in books like The Game. It's like Cesar Millan's Dog Whisperer books, urging men to be alphas, take a leadership role, and ignore begging and requests for attention. The major difference as far as I can see is that pick-up artists aim to make women come to bed, rather than dogs come to heel.
The Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) is the only university under direct federal control, thus recent developments there indicate the Harper government's vision for post-secondary education.
This CAUT-commissioned report, whose authors include eminent economist Robin Boadway (an RMCC grad and ardent supporter of the college), describes a number of developments that merit close attention.
Paul Krugman has recently taken aim at the rhetoric of the US right:
From the enthusiastic reception American conservatives gave Friedrich Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom,” to Reagan, to the governors now standing in the way of Medicaid expansion, the U.S. right has sought to portray its position not as a matter of comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted, but as a courageous defense of freedom.
That got me to thinking. When I read or watch the US media, I hear lots of talk about freedom - much more than in Europe, say. But do Americans actually feel freer than people elsewhere?
Female Science Professor's blog recently featured a discussion of annoying things students do, like asking "Did I miss anything important" or "Is that going to be on the test" (the two questions FSP's readers voted the most annoying.) The purpose of the FSP posts is, in part, to generate good practical advice for students, and they do. For example, when in doubt, start an email to a professor with "Dear Professor X..." When sending a file to a professor, use a title like "MyName_resume.doc" rather than "resume.doc".
In theory, it's safe. Everyone knows which side of the pathway they are supposed to be on. Having a yellow line in the middle of the pathway reduces the chances that cyclists will plow into each other, causing a nasty accident.
Note: I have re-written this post in response to comments from biostatistician Thomas Lumley below.
It made headlines around the world: Facebook ‘likes’ can reveal users’ politics, sexual orientation, IQ. According to Michal Kosinski, the lead researcher, information on "gender, race, political views, religion, sexual orientation, personality, IQ and so on," can be extracted from the knowledge that a person likes Lady Gaga or Harley-Davidsons.
The study noted that many of the most predictive "likes" weren't obvious ones. For example, fewer than five per cent of users labelled as "gay" were connected with gay groups such as the "No H8 campaign." Instead, likes such as "Britney Spears" and "Desperate Housewives" were "moderately indicative of being gay."
Meanwhile, the "likes" most correlated with high intelligence were thunderstorms, The Colbert Report, science and curly fries...
I don't know.
Ontario's salary disclosure legislation, which requires that all salaries over $100,000 per year be made publicly available, was introduced by the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris. That government had a somewhat unenthusiastic attitude towards MUSH (municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals) and the public service. The aim of the legislation was, presumably, to build support for policies to restrict and limit public sector salaries, and put downwards pressure on salary growth.