Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Reinhart and Rogoff on U.S. recovery

Another helpful post by Ezra Klein leads us to a discussion of the recent recession and recovery in historical context, courtesy of Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, who also provide an apples-to-oranges rebuttal of a recent blog post by John Taylor.

It's hard to disagree with either Reinhart and Rogoff that the level of GDP (per capita) is ultimately what we really care about, or with Taylor's implicit point that to get a higher level you need a faster growth rate during recovery. The level of GDP has remained low, unemployment high, and the growth rate of GDP hasn't been very rapid following this recession. But I think the time series graphs of levels of GDP provide a more compelling comparison than Taylor's growth rates.

It reminds me of how mystified undergraduates often feel in intermediate macroeconomics when they learn that growth is rapid in the neoclassical model following a cataclysmic destruction of capital.  I think their basic intuition, about why that's almost beside the point, is noteworthy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

RIP Arlen Specter

Former PA senator Arlen Specter succumbed to his fight with cancer after a long career marked by judiciary committee spats and staunch support of the National Institutes of Health. The NIH budget seems not to be exactly the apple of Congress members' eyes these days, but probably not much is.

Social mobility in rare names

A shout out to my colleague at Queens College, Neil Cummins, whose work with Greg Clark on families with rare surnames was profiled in this Economist article on social mobility. I was wondering which way they'd land with their findings, not much mobility or more than one might expect (it's England, after all, not exactly a classless society), and it sounds like at least the Economist folks feel they results indicate much inheritability of SES.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Measuring mortality and privacy

The Times reports on a year-old change in how the Social Security Administration publicly reports deaths. Studies without generous (often government) funding are now finding it difficult to cough up the cash for access to the CDC's National Death Index, the only alternative to the previously free SSA data that I gather is now much less complete. 

It's hard to know exactly what motivated SSA to change its protocol, but it sounds like part of it may have to do with popular attention to reports of identity theft focused on young decedents. I wonder if there might be room for a compromise that disclosed data based on advanced age at death; that wouldn't help all researchers, but those focused on aging would have an easier time of things.