Odds and ends

This caught my eye:

Chicago’s guaranteed annual stipend level as of now is $31,000. The new funding model begins next fall and will take two years to fully adopt. Once it is in place, all students will have paid health insurance premiums and full tuition coverage, in addition to the guaranteed stipend.


For all you millennials who think we boomers had it so much easier, here’s my experience at the UC during the late 1970s.  A total stipend of $1000 for three years, vs. $93,000 today.  No health insurance.  I had to pay full tuition.  I borrowed the money to pay my tuition and worked a job to pay for my food, rent, clothing, health costs, etc.  (No money from my parents.)  I bought almost no clothing during my three years there, my diet was basically hot dogs and bread, and I cut my own hair to save money.  I eventually paid back all of my loans.  So excuse me if I don’t get out in the streets and march in favor of forgiving all college debts.  

White supremacists sometime argue against interracial marriage, worrying that it will dilute the gene pool of their precious white race.  But it looks like multi-racial kids might be better students than white kids:

Here’s a story out of Indonesia:

Ivon widiahtuti’s job is, on the face of it, straightforward. As an auditor at the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Assessment Agency (lppom), an organisation in the leafy city of Bogor, Ms Widiahtuti reviews the applications of companies hoping their products will be deemed halal, meaning that their consumption or use does not break any of the strictures of Islam. . . . some applications concern products that aren’t edible. As she lists the musical instruments and sex toys that she and her team have inspected recently, she giggles at the absurdity of asking: is this vibrator halal?

This is rather surprising:

All of the world’s 73 residential towers over 250 metres high were built after the year 2000. Another 64 are under construction.

This is obvious when you think about it, but still seems odd:

The result is a paradoxical relationship of the left to industry and industrial workers. Democratic votes today, Rodden shows, are geographically correlated with manufacturing employment a century ago, while Republican votes are correlated with contemporary manufacturing.

From the same issue of the NYR of Books, there’s an interesting article on a white nationalist who later rejected this hateful ideology. Unfortunately, his family did not:

The redemption story of Stormfront’s former crown prince has been a quiet one. Derek Black still sees his parents, although there are deep strains when they talk politics. He has chosen to continue his graduate studies in history rather than, as so often happens in America, to make a new career out of his extraordinary change of heart. But he did allow himself to be interviewed on radio and television several times when Saslow’s book appeared, soberly taking responsibility for the violence he had helped stimulate earlier in his life, and saying that he was not entitled to any praise merely for having ceased preaching hate. In one TV appearance, he mentioned that his parents were now frequent viewers of Fox News: “My family watches the Tucker Carlson show once and then watches it on the replay because they feel that he is making the white nationalist talking points better than they have and they’re trying to get some tips.”

The Economist recent had a thoughtful and well-written piece on poverty, which still ended up being rather disappointing:

Severely reducing or eliminating child poverty through the simplest means imaginable—unrestricted cash transfers—can seem starry-eyed until one studies the details. David Grusky of Stanford University says that the state of California, which has the highest share of poor people after accounting for taxes, transfers and cost of living, could end deep child poverty with targeted cash transfers that amount to a mere $2.8bn per year. This is “insane”, he adds. It is a quarter of the sum the state spends on prisons.

I have a different view. I think it’s “insane” to believe that after everything we’ve learned since the 1960s, throwing money at poverty will solve the problem. It is insane to believe that a state that spends $600,000 building housing units for homeless individuals will be skilled enough to cure child poverty. Having said that, if they want to release every drug crime prisoner in California and divert the money to poor children, I’m all for it.

From the same issue of The Economist:

Yet all that is less reassuring than might be hoped. Post-crisis, both governments and markets have proved surprisingly tolerant of risky borrowing. Despite household deleveraging, companies have taken on enough debt to keep private borrowing high; at 150% of gdp in America, for instance, roughly the level of 2004. In America the market for syndicated business loans has boomed, to over $1trn in 2018, and loan standards have fallen. Many loans are packaged into debt securities, much as dodgy mortgages were before the crisis. Regulators have declined to intervene—remarkably, considering how recent was the crisis.

Remarkable? I suppose it seems that way if you believe the myth that the 2008 crisis was due to “deregulation”. I happen to believe that government regulators in the US like it when banks make lots of risky loans, which is why in the early 2000s the entire financial system was set up to encourage risky lending, and still is.

The 20th century really was special:

In no previous century had the human population doubled. In the 20th century it came within a whisker of doubling twice. In no previous century had world gdp doubled. In the 20th century it doubled four times and then some.

I suspect that in no future century will the world’s population even double.

In the UK, authorities recently discovered 39 dead bodies in the back of a truck. To people like Trump these illegal migrants are scum, lots of “rapists and murders” or “people from shit-hole countries.” But regardless of your view of illegal immigration (and there are good arguments on both sides) it’s important to be aware that these are real people:

The UK police had given “an initial steer” in the early stages of the investigation that the victims were believed to be Chinese nationals. But on Friday, Hoa Nghiem, a Vietnamese human rights activist, said that one of the people found dead in the truck might have come from Vietnam.

She said she had been contacted by the family of Pham Thi Tra My, 26, who were trying to determine whether she was among those in the truck after receiving text messages from her saying that she “can’t breathe” and was dying, saying: “I’m sorry Mom. My path to abroad doesn’t succeed.”

Just heartbreaking.



24 Responses to “Odds and ends”

  1. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    27. October 2019 at 12:15

    Re: multiracial kids, I remember seeing during the Harvard lawsuit that multiracial students (not Asians) were the most overrepresented racial group, something like 15% of the student body but only 3% of the US population (and probably even less when including international students). It would be interesting to study multiracial students and their success more. Are higher-class people more likely to have interracial marriages? Is growing up exposed to different cultures beneficial for kids’ development? Is something else going on?

    Re: the NY Review of Books article, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Democrats are at an electoral disadvantage because they are more concentrated in cities. The Liberal Party in Canada is concentrated in cities and yet they just won the most seats in the recent election despite losing the popular vote. The problem is that the Democrats have broader appeal than the Republicans, they still win 20-30% of the vote almost everywhere whereas there are many areas where the Republicans are in single digits. The narrative that Democrats are losing because they are narrowly concentrated in cities will lead the Democrats to adopt a suboptimal strategy of appealing to rural areas, when really going from 30% to 40% in a deep red rural district is just as wasted as going from 80% to 90% in a deep blue urban one.

    Re: the truck, very sad story, and this just goes to show that China is still a developing country with endemic poverty that people are willing to risk their lives to escape—people who want to slow the economic development of China (or any other developing country) are cheering for more of these tragedies.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. October 2019 at 14:08

    Mark, Both are true, your point about concentration of votes and the fact that Dems do well in big cities.

    Actually, this person was Vietnamese, but your point does apply to China as well.

  3. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    27. October 2019 at 15:03

    So, “hybrid vigour” applies to Homo sapiens .

    Children of African-American fathers and Euro-American mothers do as well on various indicators as the American average. Children of Euro-American fathers and African-American mothers show no significant difference from African-Americans in general.

    A result which is hard to square with “genetics! genetics!” or with “structural racism! structural racism!”.

    Anyone might think we Homo sapiens were the cultural species (and that mothers tend to be more important in transmitting culture, norms, expectations and social connections).

    On which matter, there is no difference between Euro-American and African-American homicide rates in rural areas, but a big difference in urban areas, which gets more intense the more urbanised the area.

    Also a result which is hard to square with “genetics! genetics!” or with “structural racism! structural racism!”. Cities being full of enlightened cosmopolitan liberals and rural areas with nasty conservative rednecks, as we all know.


    I really dislike American race talk. I think it is a blight on US society and, at best, a clumsy what to talk about ethnicity. The only thing race talk is really good for is racial stigmatisation. Something which applies just as much to “progressive” race talk. (Such as that incredibly creepy phenomena, “whiteness studies”).

  4. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    27. October 2019 at 15:04

    That should be “clumsy way to talk about”

  5. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    27. October 2019 at 15:12

    “I happen to believe that government regulators in the US like it when banks make lots of risky loans, which is why in the early 2000s the entire financial system was set up to encourage risky lending, and still is.”

    The Australian financial system is rather more deregulated than the US and did much better. To the extent there was a moment when the market capitalisation of Australia’s banks (pop 25m) equalled the market capitalisation of the Eurozone’s banks (pop 341m).


    But we have a specific regulatory body for the financial system (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) that is completely separate from our central bank.

  6. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    27. October 2019 at 15:57

    On multi-racial students, it would be interesting to do a regression of students test scores on their parents scores with dummy variables for parents race along with interaction effects. It may be that these students are just more likely to come from above average parents.

  7. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    27. October 2019 at 17:42

    Presumably California could dramatically cut their poverty rate by making it much easier to build new homes, and do so in a manner that improves state finances.

  8. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    27. October 2019 at 17:47

    @Laurence of Australia

    Regarding relative homicide rates among African Americans in urban areas versus rural areas, I would suspect that there could still be a structural explanation. The difference in quality of policing among white neighborhoods versus black neighborhoods in urban areas may be way larger than in rural areas. That would be my guess, as I suspect that rural areas in the US don’t have the resources to differentiate their policing strategies much between whites and blacks. Of course, this is just conjecture.

  9. Gravatar of rb rb
    27. October 2019 at 19:08

    Really like the format of this post, hope you do more.

    Open ended, what are your immigration views?

  10. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    27. October 2019 at 19:59

    I would suspect that the multiracial kids category would be composed mostly of kids of biracial white/black or non-Hispanic white/hispanic kids, where you have kids raised in an upper middle class, mostly white environment getting a boost in their enrollment chances due to affirmative action but not living in ghettos and attending all black or all Hispanic schools.

  11. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    27. October 2019 at 22:38

    I’m guessing “has multiracial kids” is a proxy for affluence.

    It’s important to understand the direction of causation. Does multi-racial make everything better, and therefore is good unto itself? Or does affluence make everything easier, including both education, and mixing races, cultures, and values?

    Mark wrote: “multiracial students (not Asians) were…15% of the student body but only 3% of the US population”

    But higher than 3% among US pop aged 18-22?

    Mark wrote: “Democrats have broader appeal than the Republicans, they still win 20-30% of the vote almost everywhere whereas there are many areas where the Republicans are in single digits”

    This was true in the 1850s, too.

  12. Gravatar of rayward rayward
    28. October 2019 at 03:34

    Sumner: “I happen to believe that government regulators in the US like it when banks make lots of risky loans, which is why in the early 2000s the entire financial system was set up to encourage risky lending, and still is.” Yes, the financial system is set up to promote rising asset prices, low interest rates being a major contributor to speculation in rising asset prices. That we rely on rising asset prices for prosperity reflects, what? An inherent weakness in ideas from economic experts (our host being an exception)? In spite of efforts to stimulate investment in productive capital, it keeps not happening. The latest, “opportunity zones”, is a case in point: sure, it’s an opportunity, an opportunity for pigs to feed at the trough.

  13. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    28. October 2019 at 05:07

    I agree with rb—-I like when your mind roams. Your more polished thoughts are best suited for The Library of Economics and Liberty—-although I really enjoy both.

    Re: U of Chicago and stipend. I was at Columbia in grad school almost the identical time you were at Chicago. I paid my way, got some money, worked, and borrowed the rest—-no parental help either. But I never felt like I was scraping by. I told my kids when they each considered getting a doctorate to not even consider it unless they were getting paid to go——-and even then be very careful. Our University system as a whole is a societal rip off——subsidized by loans paid by others. But it has its good points too.

    Re: Tall Buildings. I mean, why not?

    Re: Multi-racial. Most humans are one of 3 races—-although some geniuses think there are 4—or even 5. Race, below the level of superficial physical features, has no fundamental biological meaning—as you know. The idea we keep track of “multiracial” education stats is fascinating, predictable, and absurd. Perhaps soon we will be reverting to the old New Orleans methods of counting Octoroons and so forth to make sure no sociological grouping goes unvictimized.

    Re: Party affiliation by Industry and the ghosts of industries past. Now that is a good one. We each are attracted to our own weird political factoids. My favorite one is that excluding LA County and New York City, Republicans generally have won the popular vote of last 5 presidential elections. They also have won approximately 83-85% of all counties—- (Snopes approved). I find that interesting.

    Re: 39 dead people in London—-I am glad you are aware that these are, as you said, “real people”. What is bizarre, is you somehow felt the need to tell your readers that. You must believe many of us are dead souls. Maybe you were just reminding yourself. We all need reminding from time to time. Your throw away line on Trump was fascinating—-amazing actually. As if he was in the background directing traffic. If only we could just unload him and all who voted for him, the world would be pure again. Pathetic—-bordering on immoral—-but I will just call it temporary stupidity—-we all are stupid quite often.

    Re: Economist and giving money away. Clueless ideas never go away. However, “fixing” problems such as homelessness in LA for example, say, by next year, does seem difficult. The “fix it now” need always involves force—-not violence—-but force. And we don’t like force—generally. Longer run, don’t know. I assume systems which create bad incentives——even for mentally ill—-exacerbate the problem. Somehow, it all seems inevitable that many people will always suffer. But, that excuses no one.

    Re: deregulation causing economic chaos. That always was ridiculous. However, your idea that bad monetary policy is at the root of most economic evil seems remarkably simple. (In our current western economies—-obviously you take that as a given). I want to believe it very much. So easy to implement—

  14. Gravatar of LK Beland LK Beland
    28. October 2019 at 07:16

    c.f. $31k stipend + healthcare + tuition

    That’s roughly what I received during grad school in Canada (I was an above-average student, and received a number of federal and provincial scholarships).

    I have a STEM background. Even accounting for this generous stipend, grad school paid less than an entry-level STEM job. But it was enough to live a lower-middle-class lifestyle. The opportunity to spend 5 years as a research and teaching apprentice was worth it for me. Had my stipend been lower, I would probably have chosen to find a STEM job instead.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    28. October 2019 at 09:05

    Lorenzo, You said:

    “I really dislike American race talk.”

    You aren’t the only one.

    rb, Thanks. I do these posts every few months. I am pro-immigration; I’d like to see as much as the public would accept. (I understand the public won’t accept open borders right now—too disruptive—but I think we could have substantially higher levels of immigration.)

    Michael, You said:

    “Most humans are one of 3 races”

    That’s a fair claim, but it’s also an arbitrary definition, as you presumably know. There are no sharp boundaries between races. Someone who claims there are 4 or 5 or 20 is not “wrong”.

    On the 39 victims, yes everyone views this as sad, presumably even Trump. My point is that when using dismissive rhetoric people temporarily forget that these are real people with dreams of a better life for themselves and their families. I am making a point about rhetoric and empathy, not policy.

    You said:

    “your idea that bad monetary policy is at the root of most economic evil seems remarkably simple.”

    Yeah, that would be a stupid idea. Fortunately I don’t believe it to be true.

  16. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    29. October 2019 at 03:05

    OT, but so fascinating. Such a big swing in attitude in just a few months.

    From Nouriel Roubini (a skeptic):

    “In fact, views from across the ideological spectrum are converging on the notion that a semi-permanent monetization of larger fiscal deficits will be unavoidable – and even desirable – in the next downturn. Left-wing proponents of so-called Modern Monetary Theory argue that larger permanent fiscal deficits are sustainable when monetized during periods of economic slack, because there is no risk of runaway inflation.

    Following this logic, in the UK, the Labour Party has proposed a “People’s QE”, whereby the central bank would print money to finance direct fiscal transfers to households – rather than to bankers and investors.

    Others, including mainstream economists such as Adair Turner, the former chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority, have called for “helicopter drops”: direct cash transfers to consumers through central-bank-financed fiscal deficits.

    Still others, such as former Fed vice chair Stanley Fischer and his colleagues at BlackRock, have proposed a “standing emergency fiscal facility”, which would allow the central bank to finance large fiscal deficits in the event of a deep recession.

    Despite differences in terminology, all of these proposals are variants of the same idea: large fiscal deficits monetized by central banks should be used to stimulate aggregate demand in the event of the next slump.”


    Mario Draghi, outgoing EBB chief, today called for some sort of institutionalized fiscal-monetary coordination, a Euro-pot that could spend money when needed.

  17. Gravatar of Nick Nick
    29. October 2019 at 03:10

    It’s always puzzled me the way we talk about “US Banks”, or “Australian Banks”, when these companies are generally pretty international and often times have balance sheets comparable in size to the GDP of a country they are notionally from. What is the case is that they are US regulated banks, or EU regulated banks which i think is more important.

    On deregulation, i think its often more dangerous to have uneven regulation rather than over or under regulated. eg US Mortgages, highly positively distorted by regulation. EU Sovereign debt, highly positively distorted by regulation. in both cases regulators assign especially low risk weights to the assets (presumably for political reasons). people in financial markets who dont have their own capital at risk can leverage returns disproportionately, if they are right they get paid large salaries/bonuses. if they are wrong the institution loses money, but possibly gets bailed out.

    the idea of sov wealth funds financed with cheap sovereign debt looks very attractive to the sovereign, and possibly for the society. however one would have to ensure it doesn’t act politically, and one might also want to consider some aspects for why this is the case and correct those rather than apply a fudge to a fudge. in europe one reason is large defined benefit pensions that essentially are forced to buy long dated sovereign bonds and still very low risk weights for soverign bonds.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    29. October 2019 at 08:04

    Nick, Just to be clear, I am NOT a fan of sovereign wealth funds, for some of the reasons you cite. Rather my claim is that they are less bad than fiscal stimulus. Better yet, do neither!

  19. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    29. October 2019 at 08:46

    It’s somewhat surprising that Draghi is increasingly calling for fiscal stimulus. There isn’t even a recession and he wants fiscal stimulus. What happened to monetary policy? He apparently doesn’t believe in it himself. No wonder there is too little inflation if even the inflation creator does not believe in his power.

    The monetary politician calls for fiscal stimulus, what comes next? It’s as if a firefighter says you should call anybody else but him, because it’s pointless to call a fire protection authority regarding fire prevention.

  20. Gravatar of Oleg Oleg
    29. October 2019 at 10:21

    Goal of white racialists, not to tell everyone that white race is the best, but to preserve unique types of humans, so much as possible. In your case, multi race students are better than Africans as well, this imply African human type should be diluted, for the sake of school scores? We should be asking, what the admixture profile of the multiracial students. Are many of them not the white fathers with high IQ and social anxiety marrying the East Asian women with high IQ, who want the blue eyes and tall? No surprise, and not suggesting a universal hybrid vigor between all possible crosses. If you want to preserve diversity of human types, disposition of test scores not primary concerns. We know East Asians performing at high level on the tests, we also know mixed race people from Central Asia and South America not generally performing high, cannot say general statements about this “mixed race” group, need more controls.

  21. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    30. October 2019 at 12:43

    “If you want to preserve diversity of human types, disposition of test scores not primary concerns.”

    Er, o.k. That is tautologically true (*if* you care more about preserving “diversity of human types”—whatever that means—*then* it follows that you care less about raising test scores), so I can scarce contradict you. That said, *why* would any sane person care more about “preserv[ing] diversity of human types” than about raising test scores?

    There are multiple pay-offs to higher test scores (economic growth, reduced crime, more entertaining films, etc). By contrast, the most that one can hope to attain from “preserv[ing] diversity of human types” is to supply some ineffable aesthetic satisfaction to some subset of the overall human population. If there is to be postulated a tension between the two goals of (1) raise test scores and (2) “preserve diversity of human types,” it seems to me a no-brainer that society as a whole should prefer #1 to #2.

    That said, I share your evident suspicion (“[w]e should be asking, what the admixture profile of the multiracial students”) about a causal relation here between “mixed race” and “higher test scores.” Correlation is not causation.

  22. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    4. November 2019 at 14:21

    P Burgos: “The difference in quality of policing among white neighborhoods versus black neighborhoods in urban areas may be way larger than in rural areas. ”

    And it is a longstanding pattern than has entrenched bravado culture in urban communities. See the essay I linked to.

  23. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    4. November 2019 at 14:28

    Way early days yet, but polling suggests Biden is the nominee if the Democrats want to beat The Donald.

    I stand by my position that The Donald is an electorally weak candidate, that any Republican would have beaten Hillary and (any other Republican) would probably won the popular vote too and that, if the economy holds firm, he remains odds on to be re-elected. In the unlikely event he is impeached and removed from office (2/3 of Senate seems a hard call) President Pence would be even harder to beat in 2020.

  24. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    4. November 2019 at 14:30

    Also, eyeballing the scatterplots in this very informative article, there seem to be rather more anti-immigration votes up for grabs than pro-immigration votes.

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