Mar 22, 2011

The best music years

The following graph is from this great paper by Joel Waldfogel. It tells you what share of the 500 best albums of all time were released in each year. Rolling Stone released its 500 best albums list in 2004. Entries “were chosen by 273 of the world’s pre-eminent musicians and critics ranging from Fats Domino to Moby”.  Notice the wonderful 60s, terrible 80s, and short-lived 90s revivals, which included the Pixies, Nirvana, and the Wu-Tang Clan.

ht: Lorenz

Mar 10, 2011

Geneva bashing

The only cultural legacy of centuries of stability [is] the cuckoo clock... Many exiles find [it] oppressive and miss London's variety. Some are bored... Problems that elsewhere might be solved by money are less tractable [as] the merely well-off are outgunned by the super-rich... Housing is pricey even compared with the posher parts of London... Flats for rent in the city centre are scarce. Expense is not the only problem. Leases often require newcomers to be vouched for by other tenants. Food and clothes are costly.... Petty rules are rigidly enforced outside work. Red tape is rife. Boredom [...] seems to hurt most. The snootiness and sameness [...] is dispiriting. Geneva is deserted in the evenings and at weekends. Shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays.
This is The Economist not mincing his words while bahsing Geneva in its article on bored and homesick London traders living in Geneva. All so true...

Mar 5, 2011

Why are high (real) wages bad?

Have you ever wondered why real wages (incomes corrected for local prices) are so low in NY and London and so high in Geneva?  Turns out the Glaeser book (see my previous posts here and here) has an answer. It suggests real wages are an effective tool for assessing urban amenities. If places have unusually low real wages, the quality of life must be high as people are willing to accept low real wages for the privilege of living there. If places have unusually high real wages, then something is wrong with those places... Hence, places with high housing prices relative to income must be pleasant. Glaeser provides empirical evidence from the US. Nine of the top ten most expensive cities are in coastal California, such as San Diego. Honolulu is the tenth. The cities with the highest real wages are Anchorage (Alaska), Detroit and Dallas. International empirical evidence anyone?

Mar 4, 2011

Why are people healthier in cities?

In his new book on cities (in which he argues building restrictions are bad for a city's creativity), Glaeser observes that people in NY and LA are healthier and have lower cancer rates than in the US as a whole. Even though he'd like to think vigorous city life makes you healthier, he says there's also a selection effect as old people are likely to leave cities to retire.

But I do think cities make us healthier, i.e. through intense mating competition. As Glaeser explains, cities are love markets and hence young single people magnets. This creates an intense competition for mates where people try to be as attractive as possible. In the country side, you settle for less as you know your chances of meeting someone perfect are slim. This is why girls in cities pay 42% more on clothers and 25% more on shoes than those in the country.

So maybe this competition for mates also makes you eat less junk food and ice cream and exercise more to look fit and hence stay healthy.  I often notice that people in cities are less fat than in the country side. That's true of NY and LA but also of London, Paris and Berlin. Pressure to stay fit and attractive may make you healthier.

Empirical evidence anyone?

Mar 3, 2011

Poor economics

This is a new book by Banerjee and Duflo which I think may become the bible for randomistas and for teachers of foreign aid impact evaluation. Check out the promotional webpage. It's really well done, with data, slideshows, material for teaching the book, and details about dozens of randomized filed experiments from around the world. It seems to cover everything we always wanted to know about the economics of poverty:

Why would a man in Morocco who doesn’t have enough to eat buy a television? Why is it so hard for children in poor areas to learn, even when they attend school? Does having lots of children actually make you poorer? 
The book answers these questions and covers many more topics such as microfinance, health, education etc... using the results of many randomized experiments. A must for studends and practitioners I would say.

Mar 2, 2011

Capetown, Georgia

UPDATE: It's actually Georgia the country, not the US state! Makes more sense. 

From BBC:
The government in Georgia has come up with a controversial idea to boost its agricultural industry. It's invited groups of white South African farmers to the country offering them incentives to settle and farm there. But the proposal has angered Georgian farmers.
I'm not sure what to think about such a policy. Isn't it a bad move from the US as it might hurt South Africa? I guess the farmers should be allowed to go farm wherever they want, so the South African government  should do more to keep them home.

ht: FV