Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Krueger on CEA stint

Here's a fun interview with Alan Krueger on his time in Washington at the CEA.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Could Congress pass Social Security today?

A great point by David Brooks today, that it's hard to see how a large safety net program like Social Security could ever pass in Congress today given the atomistic trend in American life.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Death rates by veteran status in California

The LA Times reports on death rates among Californian veterans and nonveterans under 35. Higher suicides and accidents among vets, but lower homicides and all other causes, the latter surely a "healthy warrior" effect. Lower risk of homicide was most interesting to me, and I wonder whether it's a deterrent effect, or maybe a place-of-residence effect.

New blood pressure guidelines

JAMA published new blood pressure guidelines from JNC 8 that moved targets somewhat higher for older hypertensive patients. A great quote in this NYT article covering the announcement mentions the old "folk medicine" that focused on systolic BP alone and aimed for "100 plus your age." Heaven help the centenarians!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Growth is indeed different than levels....

Yesterday in the WSJ the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer hailed "how Britain returned to growth," only the UK has yet to regain the level of GDP in early 2008.  Here is a graphic showing GDP in the US and UK as percentage points of peak levels, and while growth has been a little more rapid recently, the overall picture is really depressing, pun intended.

I'm not sure how one can ingenuously praise austerity measures for saving the day if it appears that they did not. It's also strange to see a call for greater foreign direct investment in the UK, or a capital account surplus, at the same time as a desire for increased exports, or a current account surplus as well. That's not going to be easy to pull off.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Obamacare bites blue

The Times reports on traditionally Democratic leaning New Yorkers whose health insurance plans are being canceled because of the need to balance the risk pool in the exchanges. I'd be bothered too if my insurance costs rose, and it's probably a good thing that some of the adjustment costs associated with reform are being felt by elites.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Geographic mobility takes a dive

New postwar lows in mobility, according to this article in the Times. I wonder how moves associated with college education or first job after college might have changes, or if that typically isn't a large part of it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Or they're hiring it done

In "The Case for Filth", novelist Stephen Marche provides a tidy overview of trends in time use and housework in particular. But I'm not sure whether a decline in female self-reported housework means women are in fact just living with filth, unless of course we're referring to a pejorative about lazy males, rather than increasingly hiring it done!

Obamacare, civic duty, and warm-fuzzy feelers

Today Ross Douthat questions whether enough eligible people nationwide will opt-in to Obamacare, doing their civic duty and feeling warm and fuzzy in the process.  He references Matt O'Brien in the Atlantic, who cites Martin Feldstein's perspective that the tax penalties may not be high enough to compel the young and healthy to opt-in.

How much compliance will there be?  Here's a fun graphic from USA Today depicting rates of uninsured motorists by state.  Compare that to this graphic from July 2013 showing acceptance of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. They certainly don't show the same geography of political economy, but there are some echoes and it's a fun juxtaposition.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Beer-thadone for alcoholics

Today's NYT reports on a beer-for-work program in the Netherlands inspired by similar efforts in Canada and ultimately by methadone programs for heroin users. It's a sad and uplifting read at the same time.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

P.J. O'Rourke, demographer

The WSJ ran excerpts of PJOR's latest book, which is about the baby boom, on Sunday. The book is out this month.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Moneyball + Cardiogram = Moneygram?

On Friday, Penn's Jason Karlawish wrote in the Times about the American College of Cardiology's recently issued new guidelines about cardiovascular health screening and statins, and its 2013 cardiovascular risk calculator based off of research using the Framingham Heart Study. Karlawish calls it a move away from "nuanced diagnosis and treatment" and toward "Big Data" and medicine's "becoming the science of an insurance actuary."

He references the Oakland Athletics and Moneyball as the parallel in baseball, but I'm not sure the comparison is complete. I like what Karlawish has to say about how people have a hard time understanding qualitative or quantitative assessments of risk. But I think that's an argument for using quantitative assessments rather than against, at least through the lens of the Oakland A's. The argument of Moneyball was precisely the point that subjective judgments tend not to be very good because the beholder sees what he or she wants to see.

It's certainly true that creating a statistical tool does not solve the problem of helping patients and their families understand the risk, just like how giving a laptop and a bunch of Sabermetrics to a baseball front office will not necessarily improve a team's record. But it seems to be a step on the road in the right direction.