Monday, November 30, 2015

Climate change Q&A&D

The "D" in Q&A&D stands for "Despair" in this helpful piece by the NY Times. The Paris meetings appear to have given the Times carte blanche to make us blanch at the prospect of unaddressed climate change. By cracking a joke I guess I'm part of the problem, but I wish the tenor of the conversation hadn't suddenly become so despairing when confident exhortations are probably more strategically sound.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Real costs of gender pay gap

The headline grabs attention and is a very valid point, but I wish the methodology behind Hillary Clinton's citation of a position paper by the Institute for Women's Policy Research claiming the gender pay gap costs us $447.6 billion in GDP weren't so utterly misleading about the true costs of the gender pay gap.

The position paper lays out an accounting exercise that scales up the earnings losses attributable to unequal pay by gender across the nation, and then expresses that as a share of GDP. There is no scenario under which this is a reasonable claim to make. GDP is the product of our hours worked combined with our ingenuity and our capital formation. It won't change overnight by paying factors more, unless --- critically --- it raises their supplies.

That's the real policy issue, whether women are supplying their full potential to markets for labor and for ideas, or if they are held back by unequal pay, stigma, or other barriers. MIT's Esther Duflo has a nice J Econ Lit piece on these topics, and the subject has been discussed in the development literature for some time.

In probably a sign of its limited impact, I had a tough time tracking down a reference to a 2009 press event featuring Nobelists Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider in which they highlighted barriers to women in developing research careers. Not exactly a pay gap formally, but exactly the kind of thing we should be talking about as a barrier for advancement of female well-being and of national economic well-being more generally.

Fallout from 1-child change

Today the Times revisits the change in China's 1-child policy with a focus on the only-children themselves. Earlier the Times had reported Thursday, October 29, 2015 as the date of the official announcement ending the policy. In addition to a lack of siblings for the only-child generation, born between about 1980 and 2015, the policy has also resulted in a complete absence of aunts and uncles for the children of that only-child generation. It is often said that support of elderly parents falls to children in Confucian societies, but the deficit of uncles and aunts can't help.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Revisiting blood pressure guidelines

As a followup to a September piece in the Times on a blood pressure study halted prematurely, the Times reports on a NEJM paper out today. The study showed costs of systolic BP maintained at 120 or below compared to 140 or below;  not injurious falls, but hypotension, syncope (fainting), electrolyte abnormalities, and acute kidney injury or failure. But it also showed a hazard ratio of 0.73 (i.e., mortality was 27 percent lower) for the treatment group with a target of 120.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

More on the Berkeley soda tax

At APHA15, researchers reported a new study about the Berkeley soda tax. I posted a link to John Cawley's paper on the topic in an earlier post. The APHA paper appeared to show larger price effects than what Cawley and coauthor had found, and the Public Health Institute tweeted in response that it was the largest evaluation to date.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Case and Deaton on rising mortality at ages 45-55

Princeton's Anne Case and Angus Deaton deliver some shocking news: in a just-released PNAS piece, they show that among non-Hispanic whites aged 45-55, mortality rates have risen since 1999. Their table 1 in the paper shows that mortality fell slightly or strongly for blacks and Hispanics, and for whites with some college or more education. The story that emerges: accidental poisonings linked to opioid misuse and chronic pain (mis)management.