Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Men, Woman, Cooperation and the Gender Pay Gap

Here is a working paper by Leonie Gerhards and Michael Kosfeld entitled I (Don’t) Like You! But Who Cares? Gender Differences in Same Sex and Mixed Sex Teams. The abstract reads as follows:

We study the effect of likability on female and male team behavior in a lab experiment. Extending a two-player public goods game and a minimum effort game by an additional pre-play stage that informs team members about their mutual likability we find that female teams lower their contribution to the public good in case of low likability, while male teams achieve high levels of cooperation irrespective of the level of mutual likability. In mixed sex teams, both females’ and males’ contributions depend on mutual likability. Similar results are found in the minimum effort game. Our results offer a new perspective on gender differences in labor market outcomes: mutual dislikability impedes team behavior, except in all-male teams.

Aside from that, the paper seems interesting though I should be fair and note I only had time to skim it. Still, if the paper holds up, it requires an explanation.

The first thing to note is that the paper deals with perceived likability rather than actual likability, and the measures come from how participants in the experiment rate photographs of other participants. However, these measures seem to be reasonably stable – an individual rated as likable by one person tends to be rated as likable by others.

Beyond this, we get to a very non-PC explanation for the results the authors found: men and women are said to approach social interactions differently. One often hears that men are more insensitive or otherwise don’t observe social cues the same way women do. There is also some evidence from biology that “males are predisposed to be more ready than females to repair their relationship.” Put another way – it would seem that in a group of people, men are less likely to have friction with others than are women. Two individuals who “get over it” are more likely to successfully cooperate than two individuals who maintain animosity toward each other. And even if only one person is unable to “get over it” that will negatively impact the team performance.

If this result replicates, and if it translates outside a lab environment, it may imply something about the gender pay gap. Playing well with others – coworkers, customers, and other third parties – is an important though often unstated part of every job.

As a sort of aside… I remember once watching a comedy sketch in which the comedian (sorry, I cannot remember who) talked about how, if two women found themselves at a party wearing the same outfits, they’d spend the rest of the rest of the party avoiding each other. On the other hand, according to the comedian, a man spotting another man at a party wearing the same outfit has a new best friend.

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May industrial production: no change in trend

May industrial production: no change in trend

This was a post I meant to put up Friday, but was pre-empted by the important housing news.

May industrial production came in unchanged. But that didn’t stop Doomers, who had been silent about April’s big increase in manufacturing, from trumpeting its 0.4% decline (go ahead, just try to find their acknowledgement of April’s good number. You won’t.).

So, let’s put industrial production in perspective. First, here is the overall stat:


The uptrend since a year ago is still intact.

Next, let’s break it down by manufacturing (blue) and mining (red):

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Mitch McConnell, Healthcare, and the ACA

I am always curious about why certain people make it a mission to get rid of things. I think it truly is about Addison Mitchell McConnell trying to erase the accomplishments of what the first black President Barack Obama did as the president. I did some rather easy digging and pulled up Wikipedia. here is what they said about Mitch.

As a youth, Addison (Mitch) McConnell overcame polio. He received “government-provided healthcare” in Warm Springs saving him from being disabled for the rest of his life.” Addison Mitchell McConnell

Given that you Senator McConnell received government-provided healthcare during your youth which saved you from being disabled, why do you feel the need to strip 24 million people of their healthcare? This healthcare may save their lives also.

Paul Ryan benefited from government survivor benefits which allowed him to go to college.

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Blue Dogs in NY State Legislature.

Diane Ravitch points to the New York State legislature in her blog this week. NY is a Blue State having gone Dem in presidential elections; however, the state legislature is divided with the Dems controlling the Assembly and Repubs the Senate.

What makes the New York state legislature interesting is the emergence of a Blue Dog Democrat segment of the State Assembly, which sides with the Senate Republicans on various issues. Blue Dogs (which I kind of like as a descriptor for them) conjures up thoughts of when the US Senate version were negotiating special deals before the ACA was finally passed. Not that there is a relationship between the federal and NY state variety of Blue Dogs, it still fits and the identity of Democrat is a misnomer.

The Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC) was formed by the Independence Party and is chaired by IDC chair Senator Jeff Klein. The SICC is a formal party campaign committee. The SICC as a party campaign committee allows donors to circumvent the stricter limits on direct donations to candidates as donations limits to party committees are much higher and the same as the limits on how much party committees can give to candidates.

Calling themselves the IDC or the Independent Democratic Caucus, they move to the influence of special interest groups. Now you would think the usage of the word “Independent” in their group name would imply they would not be swayed by any particular interest group, heh? Being the independent swing group in the NY State legislature, the IDC has power to dispense for the right donation regardless of its majority constituency. They could go with Republicans or Democrats based upon interest group influence or ideology. One would hope they would be swayed by the needs and the interests of an entire school population rather than a minority.

Charter School DonationsWhile it is not mystery to find it out, the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) shed some light upon the IDC’s source of funding. In its report Pay to Play,” the Alliance reveals how the IDC played off Democrats in both the Assembly and the Senate with funding schools, the funding it receives from individuals, foundations, and Pacs, and who the donations went to over a six year period.

From 2011 to 2016, the IDC received $676,850 from charter school political interest groups and individuals which was spread amongst multiple recipients. The detail of who donated and to whom it went to can be found in the first table.

NYS Student EnrollmentNew York State Charter school students make up 5% of the total student population. 2.6 million students across the state attend Public schools and approximately 100,000 students attend privately run charter schools.

In 2006 the COA ruled that state government was consistently underfunding schools in a lawsuit filed in 1993 (Campaign for Fiscal Equity). The court ordered the state to provide a remedy. The state legislature and Governor Spitzer “replaced the 30 funding formulas with a needs-based, wealth equalizing formula known as the Foundation Aid, and committed to providing a $5.5 billion increase in operating aid to schools across the state over the course of four years. Only two years of the phase-in were completed and most of the funding was cut during 2010 and 2011. The state currently owes approximately$3.6 billion of that money

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This is a Big Deal: housing permits and starts now a long leading negative

This is a Big Deal: housing permits and starts now a long leading negative

I’ll have more to say next week, but let me just drop this right now: this morning’s housing report was a Big Deal. FRED doesn’t have the graphs yet, but here are the numbers from the Census Bureau cite.

Graph of starts and permits:


Note both have turned down significantly this year.

Table of housing starts:

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Kaiser Health News on lead and baby foods

From Kaiser Health News points to other general sources of lead than paint and water:

The Environmental Defense Fund, in an analysis of 11 years of federal data, found detectable levels of lead in 20 percent of 2,164 baby food samples. The toxic metal was most commonly found in fruit juices such as grape and apple, root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots, and cookies such as teething biscuits.

The organization’s primary focus was on the baby foods because of how detrimental lead can be to child development.

According to the FDA, lead makes its way into food through contaminated soil, but Neltner suspects that processing may also play a role.

“I can’t explain it other than I assume baby food is processed more,” Neltner said.

The Environmental Defense Fund report notes that more research on the sources of contamination is needed.

FDA has set guidance levels of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for candy and dried fruit and 50 ppb for fruit juices. The allowable level for lead in bottled water is 5 ppb.

Concern over fruit juices flared up in 2012 when Consumer Reports found that 1 in 4 samples of apple and grape juices had lead levels higher than the FDA’s bottled-water limit of 5 ppb.

The Environmental Defense Fund report was ultimately directed at the food industry and FDA in the hopes of getting limits and standards updated.

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PBS and school privatization

Via Naked Capitalism comes Brett Robertson’s Why Is PBS Airing Right-Wing-Sponsored School Privatization Propaganda? (Media Matters).  I like Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and sometimes Car Talk while driving to places, if they happen to be on. Otherwise I tend to avoid listening to Marketplace and the news segments. This has been true for me for a decade anyway.  MA rejected increasing the cap on charter schools.   I found many unaware of the lack of oversight and accountability.  There are charter schools directly supervised by public officials, but I could not find many publicly discussed.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her department have pushed for an expansion of privatized school choice programs in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, particularly in the form of private school vouchers. Now a propagandistic three-part documentary series called School Inc. will help DeVos in her efforts to gain public support for expanded private school choice options. The series has already aired on PBS stations in some markets and will be shown on more this month.

A majority of people across the partisan spectrum oppose private school vouchers, programs that redirect public education money to pay for private school tuition. Vouchers are problematic for many reasons, including their history of allowing for discrimination against LGBTQ, disabled, and special education students, their impact on reducing public education funding, and their ineffectiveness in boosting academic achievement.

Despite these problems, private school vouchers are a long-standing priority of the corporations and right-wing funders backing the education privatization movement. The late Andrew Coulson, long-time head of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, was the driving force behind School Inc. The Cato Institute is a right-wing, libertarian think-tank that calls for the elimination of public schools in support of greater “educational freedom” to choose from a free market of privately run schools.

In addition to School Inc.’s roots in the radical, libertarian Cato Institute, education historian and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch found that the film was funded by a number of arch-conservative foundations with ties to the “dark money ATM” DonorsTrust and the Ayn Rand Institute. Ravitch has prescreened School Inc. and provided this scathing review to The Washington Post:

This program is paid propaganda. It does not search for the truth. It does not present opposing points of view. It is an advertisement for the demolition of public education and for an unregulated free market in education. PBS might have aired a program that debates these issues, but “School Inc.” does not.

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The Hidden Cost of Privatization

The Hidden Cost of Privatization by Nina Shapiro at Institute for New Economic Thinking  is an excellent read.

This conception of government, of course, is not new. “Small government” has been a hallmark of the Republican Party for decades, and the privatization of government properties and services has been increasing worldwide since the 1980s. In the earlier period it centered on the privatization of state-owned enterprises, but in more recent times it has shifted to government services (after the 1980s, there were not many government enterprises left to sell off). Privatization today is both more varied and extensive than it was in the past, and since its objective seems to be nothing less than the privatization of the state itself, the question of the state’s “agenda” is critical. We must address the questions about the government that Keynes raised almost a century ago, and we must address them, as Keynes emphasized, without the laissez-faire presumptions of his times and ours, for it is not the case, as he famously wrote, that “private and social interests always coincide.”

The public has interests in common, such as the extension of markets and protection of persons and their properties, and the justness of laws and law enforcement matters too, as do educational opportunities.

(Adam) Smith highlights the importance of an educated public in his discussion of the functions of government. The government must facilitate the instruction of the people as well as the commerce of the nation, and this was the case even though that instruction could be provided privately, as the charges for it could be, and were, exorbitant. The wealthy could afford them, but the public at large could not.

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Sunday thoughts on how awful

It’s Sunday, so I take a break from nerdy econ analysis and speak my mind.

Last November 9 we woke up to a living nightmare. The next four years were bound to be awful. The only question was, how awful?

The very tiny silver lining as of now is that, so far, it has been about as limited an awful as it could reasonably be.

The simple fact is, those things that the Executive could worsen all on his own, he is doing so. But those things that require Legislative action or Judicial approval have either not materialized or have been stopped in their tracks.

The Executive has almost unlimited freedom of action in foreign policy, so it was a foregone conclusion that China and Russia were going to seize the opportunity to expand their power and influence, and they are doing so. Taiwan is already suffering diplomatically, and it isn’t a good time to be one of the Baltic States either. The EU is looking aghast at Trump’s view of NATO, and will probably vivify their moribund “European Defense Force” at least until 2021.

It is also pretty clear that Trump means to erase Obama from the history books, if for no other reason than Obama humiliated him at the 2011 White House correspondents dinner. So every Executive Order or program undertaken by Obama is being systematically obliterated. This includes deferral of action against illegal immigrants/undocumented workers. There’s not much that can be done there, but even so, the Courts have occasionally stepped in, and Trump himself seems to want to allow the Dreamers to stay.

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