Monday, April 30, 2012

The UK's double dip?

Much ado was made last week about a second straight quarter of contracting GDP in the United Kingdom, and Paul Krugman's blog pointed in the direction of a helpful writeup by the UK statistical office. Krugman reprints their shocking graphic showing the rebound is more sluggish than was the UK's emergence from the Great Depression. Frightening stuff, but the UK was also relatively less battered by the Depression than the U.S.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Coin shortage in Zimbabwe

A few days ago, the Times updated us on the monetary situation in Zimbabwe, where coins are in short supply in that dollarized economy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Krugman berates Bernanke

This weekend's upcoming Times Magazine includes an excerpt of Paul Krugman's forthcoming book, End This Depression Now, in which he criticizes the Fed's recent monetary policy as too timid, and in particular too timid relative to the implications of Ben Bernanke's research prior to joining the Fed.

This week I showed the Q&A's from Bernanke's March 2012 lectures at GWU in my intermediate macro class at Queens College.  What stands out now that Krugman's raised this point, that Bernanke appears to have significantly moderated his views on Fed activism, is a mildly reverential invocation of Paul Volcker's and Alan Greenspan's commitments to price stability in the 1980s and 1990s, which appears toward the end of lecture 2. It reminds me of Paul Volcker's hawkish op-ed last fall, which I mentioned here.

VA is asked by vets to look ahead

Here's an NPR article about bottlenecks in mental health service provision for veterans. It quotes Patrick Bellon, an activist with Veterans for Common Sense: "You don't see the real cost in human terms until 20 to 30 years after the conflict has ended," Bellon says. "Only recently have we seen an attempt to increase resources to deal with that cost."

It's nice to see this sound bite fact referenced again, mirroring VA Secretary Shinseki's similar statement a few weeks back. We put it in our Institute of Medicine report in 2010.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

VA looks ahead

An article in the Times about expanding VA hiring quotes VA chief Eric Shinseki: "History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended.... As more veterans return home, we must ensure that all veterans have access to quality mental health care."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sometimes a null result is publishable!

The Times reports on several studies about obesity by Roland Sturm and others that find no relationship between the availability of healthy foods in neighborhoods (e.g., grocery stores) and child and adolescent obesity.  I've heard it said that near subway stops in New York, junk food is easier to find than healthy food, a characteristic that I doubt is easy to measure well in large-scale studies.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Reverse migration

The Times also reports on outmigration of highly skilled foreign born (or second-generation immigrant American citizens). No doubt these anecdotes are fueled in part by continued macroeconomic weakness and credit market impediments here in the U.S.

The fertility transition in Nigeria

The Times reports on the state of the fertility transition in Nigeria. In the World Bank's WDI, Nigeria's total fertility rate is around 5.6 births per woman or so, down from a high of 6.8 around 1980 but still relatively high even by developing standards. On the second page of the article appears a statement by a mother interviewed in a women's health clinic about the "quantity-quality" tradeoff. Other parts of the article emphasize the history of polygamy, women's roles, and religious views both Catholic and Muslim.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Battle shock" and suicide in the Confederacy

Another Binghamton historian contributes to the Disunion blog, this time about "battle shock" (or "shell shock"), stress, and suicide among mostly Confederate soldiers.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Inside the debt deal negotiations

There have been two articles about the debt ceiling negotiations last summer between the President and the House, one in the Washington Post, and the other in the New York Times. The former seems to suggest it was the unfortunate timing of an announcement by a bipartisan working group in the Senate that caused Obama to backpedal, feeling he couldn't agree to more spending cuts and fewer tax increases than the Senate. The latter article implies on its first page that it places more blame on House Republicans.

Hacker's new Civil War death toll

An article in the Times describes David Hacker's work on counting Civil War deaths using Census data courtesy of the great repository at IPUMS. The old estimate was 622,511 in the Historical Statistics of the United States;  Hacker's guess is between 650,000 and 850,000.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Rethinking economics education

There are several helpful perspectives in a recent Room-for-Debate from the Times: a call to reemphasize the importance of information asymmetries and their destructive consequences for prices and market equilibria, and a call to refocus attention on economic history. My favorite? A call to teach gardening instead of financial engineering.