Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stiglitz on inequality (and other stuff)

We can't talk about inequality without talking about Joseph Stiglitz.

Here is an interview at Rolling Stone. 

Here is a book review at the NYT

Here is a long article with lots of good economics at Vanity Fair

China moves to narrow inequality

Read about it here at the NYT.
Note the discussion of corruption and income reporting as well as the move to increase spending on health, education and social welfare programs.  This article is interesting in terms of creating a natural experiment that economists can study as time goes by. It also highlights the importance of the source of inequality... we can expect rapid economic growth to cause increased inequality, but here it seems that illegal skimming of income by those in power is also to blame.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Baby bust?

Here is an interesting piece from Jonathan Last at the WSJ. He discusses the problems that may be associated with declining fertility rates in the U.S.  We're going to talk about the relationship between population and economic growth and development in class later in the semester, and this article provides some interesting previews.  The author's premise is that declining fertility rates result in economic problems. He argues that a more sustainable level of human capital (e.g. fertility near the "replacement rate") will make these problems more manageable. The article is a mix of facts, empirical evidence, opinion and conjecture, so be sure to think carefully about what you're reading.

For the purposes of our course, I hope it's clear that causality flows in both directions here. The result appears to be a negative feedback loop (i.e. an action sets in motion a reaction that at least partially offsets the original action).  So I have to wonder if we're simply oscillating toward an equilibrium, rather than starting a new trend toward steady decline.

1. Economic growth may lead to slower population growth.
What evidence do we have in support of this?
What are the reasons here?  J. Last pins "universal" college education as the starting point - but where does that come from?

2. Slower population growth, in turn, may temper economic growth.
Again, consider the reasons for this. Could slow population growth foster economic growth?

3. If 2 is true, should this hit to economic growth then cause a slight uptick in population growth?
...and on, and on until we approach a steady state?

Last uses Japan to illustrate potential problems that arise from slowing fertility rates. He then discusses the importance of immigration in terms of "outsourcing fertility".
Here is a related article at CNN Money. Hatip: CM.

He then goes off on the price of college and then land rents and infrastructure. I'm not sure I follow all of List's logic, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.  Comments are welcome regarding any of these issues, but let's do our best to keep politics and opinion out of it.  As always, data (e.g Gapminder, nationmaster) and links to more reading are encouraged.

extra: Who are Esther Boserups and Julian Simon?

Bill Gates on using measurement and data

Bill Gates writes the most recent entry of the Saturday Essay for the WSJ, concentrating on the importance of measuring outcomes. The approach he describes (set goals, choose a strategy, measure outcomes, tweak the strategy) might be described as "adaptive management". Note his positive view of progress toward the MDGs.  I think he'd like econometrics.